Eric Barton, 35
By Laura Ayo
Knoxville News Sentinel
Eric Barton likes to talk and move fast.
“I love to be doing 40 things at once,” he says.
One of the reasons he stepped aside in November as president and CEO of Relyant is so he has more time to dedicate to other ventures, including a $6 million horse farm he operates in Lenoir City with his family, as well as an overseas training and manpower organization.
“I’ve got Relyant healthy and now I need to get these other companies built up,” he says.
As chairman of Relyant, a company that provides construction, spray foam insulation, life support, vehicle maintenance and a variety of other services to government and commercial clients in the Middle East and elsewhere, Barton will facilitate the board of directors’ long-range strategic planning.
“This is a way for me to not have to report every day to an office and be free to go wherever I’m needed most,” he says. “Our goal now is to diversify and work with other large businesses.”
He credits the leadership skills he developed while in the U.S. Marine Corps with helping him make Relyant a success.
In 2002, Barton traveled to Africa as a senior analyst for the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa National Intelligence Cell.
“I was able to go into that part of the world and learn about it because it was my job, but I also learned about the people and the opportunities there for business and about a different way of life,” he says.
The experience, he says, changed his perspective and solidified his faith.
He learned of Americans for African Adoptions Inc. and later adopted two sons from Ethiopia through the organization, which he supports today as a board member.
He has returned several times, scouting out business opportunities and helping to remove more than 100 children and women from dangerous working conditions in a rock quarry last fall.
Barton, who holds four advanced degrees and several professional certifications, felt called to be a chaplain after his military tour. He moved his family to Atlanta to pursue a master’s of divinity from Columbia Seminary.
But with mounting bills to pay, he signed with a recruiting agency and went to Iraq in 2005. By 2007, he had teamed with colleagues to form Relyant and the company landed a $17 million vehicle maintenance contract. Contracts for relocatable buildings, spray foam insulation and demining services soon followed.
“Now it’s my turn to step away and start looking at it from a corporate health perspective,” Barton says of his new role. “The real test is long-term sustainability.”