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Daniel, Ratliff & Company • RPA Design • Charlotte Checkers • Goodman, Carr, Laughrun, Levine & Murray

november 2006

Charlotte’s New Epicenter Ghazi Raises the Bar for Grandeur

Afshin Ghazi President The Ghazi Company, LLC


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HOOD HARGETT BREAKFAST CLUB

Charlotte T

hroughout the year, the Hood Hargett BCA hosts a series of business-to-business development events, business entertainment events and business training events exclusively for its members and their employees and customers. These are membership events, not available to the general public. You must join or be invited as a guest of a breakfast club member.

2006-2007 Speakers: November 10, 2006

Q

William Shipman Social Security and Retirement Finance Expert

February 9, 2007

James Carville Media Personality and Political Strategist

April 13, 2007 Liz Murray Inspiration for

Quality speakers. Quality leaders.

Homeless to Harvard A Remarkable Journey

Quality leads.

January 12, 2007 Mike Singletary NFL Hall of Famer

Assistant Head Coach San Francisco 49ers

March 9, 2007 Ron Insana CNBC Senior Analyst and Financial Expert

May 4, 2007 Jim Nantz Broadcaster CBS Sports

September 14, 2007

October 12, 2007

November 9, 2007

Rich Karlgaard Publisher Forbes Magazine

Michael Powell Former Chairman FCC

Lloyd Trotter Vice Chairman, GE President & CEO, GE Industrial

HOOD HARGETT Breakfast Club America gives “Wake up and smell the coffee” full-bodied meaning!

To attend or learn more or to find out about membership,call JenniferSnyder at 704-602-9529 • jenn@hoodhargett.com

w w w.c har lotteb c a.c om ©2006 Galles Communications Group, Inc.


in this issue

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The Ghazi Company Profitability and fun are the measures Afshin Ghazi professes to use as he picks projects. At 35, those precepts have served the president of The Ghazi Company well. Ghazi’s current project is the EpiCentre, named for its location near Charlotte’s heart, which is a $275 million mixed-use complex where the city’s old convention center stood. Its buildings include offices, entertainment, dining and a condominium tower.

departments

& Company Daniel, Ratliff & Company are more than just accountants; they are their clients’ business partners. Over the past three years the number of its employees has doubled and its client base has swelled to more than 700. What's at the core of this enviable growth? Something most people wouldn't equate with accounting: passion.

28 RPA Design RPA Design, an architectural firm specializing in hospitals, health care facilities, and senior living facilities, works against the grain of expectations in an effor t to demonstrate that the design of the firm itself is as unique as the work it produces. Instead of creating just buildings, RPA strives to create projects for people.

32 Charlotte Checkers Michael Kahn, the alcohol distribution executive who bought Charlotte’s minor league hockey team in July, has a passion for achievement, at work and at play. With the Charlotte Checkers, he’s combined the two. Kahn hopes to help the team build a better relationship with the community as well as put an exciting product on the ice.

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cover story

16 Daniel, Ratliff

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publisher’s post

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employers biz

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Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers

workforce biz

7

CPCC Takes Construction Training to the Next Level

on top

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bizXperts

14

Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions

biznetwork

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bizview

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The Charlotte Region: The View from Another Perspective

executive homes

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Luxury Homes above $350,000 on the cover: Afshin Ghazi President The Ghazi Company, LLC

38 Goodman, Carr, Levine, Laughrun and Murray

Photography by Wayne Morris.

Goodman, Carr, Levine, Laughrun and Murray has seen it all – and then some. Choosing the right law firm can mean the difference between having that night morph into one of the worst nights of your life or just a bad memory. If you’ve got a shot at redemption, they’ll find it for you.

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A GIFT THAT GIVES SO MUCH MORE.

With every Pink Ribbon Giftcard you purchase, you’re not only giving someone you care for a welcome gift, you’re also giving hope. Because for each Pink Ribbon Giftcard purchased, $1 will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Available at Simon Guest Services. SouthPark is located on the corners of Sharon & Fairview Roads in Charlotte. Shopping Line® 704.364.4411. The mission of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation is to eradicate breast cancer as a lifethreatening disease by advancing research, screening and treatment. For breast health or breast cancer information, visit www.komen.org or call 1.800 I’M AWARE.®

$3.00 handling fee per card. For every Pink Ribbon Giftcard purchased, $1.00 will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. A minimum of $10,000 will be donated by Simon. Terms and conditions apply, including a $2.50 monthly administrative fee beginning in the 13th month after the month of card purchase. Other fees may apply. Cards may expire after 20 months. Complete details available at participating Simon® malls, online at www.simongiftcard.com, and in materials that accompany each card. The Pink Ribbon Giftcard is issued by MetaBank, Sioux Falls, SD.


[publisher’spost] Population Growth – Boom or Doom? Last month, the United States Census Bureau estimated that the U.S. population exceeded 300 million individuals. It was only 39 years before that the U.S. population reached 200 million people in 1967. According to the Census Bureau, one American is born every seven seconds, one dies every 13 seconds, and one immigrant arrives every 31 seconds. When you add those together, our population grows one person every 11 seconds. At this pace, it will take us 37 years to reach 400 million people in the United States. We also learned from the Charlotte Observer’s analysis of Census Bureau data that the Charlotte region grew by approximately 80,000 new residents within the last year. During the last 39 years, much of America’s growth came from baby-boomers and the postwar years. During the next 37 years, population growth will expand largely as a result of immigration. According to the Center for Environment and Population, an independent research body, demographic trends suggest that the American population is shifting from the Northeast to the south and west. North Carolina is one of the ten fastest growing states in the U.S. The influx of people from the north and east is clearly evident from local and regional analysis of population growth. Since 1970, nearly 84 percent of population growth has occurred in the south and west. While growth stimulates greater economic activity, growth also taxes our public systems. Expanded housing, schools, roads, transportation systems, water and power supplies as well as sewers, waste removal and treatment systems will need to match that population growth. As a result, taxes will also grow to pay for the expansion of those systems. Even the air we breathe and the environment we enjoy will be affected by that growth. By the year 2050, it is estimated that we will have 420 million citizens. By 2030, the 65and-over population will be about 20 percent of the total, up from 12 percent in the year 2000. That means that we will have huge increases in the costs of Social Security and Medicare. An annual migration rate of one million will also transform our population. By 2050, Hispanic Americans will be about 25 percent of the total, about double their share from 2000. Asian Americans will also double to about 8 percent by 2050. Non-Hispanic whites will drop from 69 percent to around 50 percent. African Americans will remain at about 14 percent. Are these changes good or will they have a negative impact on our nation and our quality of life? Unless or until we confront immigration in an aggressive manner, the numbers will not change. Unless or until we confront our concerns about social security, Medicare and health care costs, the costs will not change. Unless or until we change the way we produce energy and divide our water resources, we will witness the costs of power and water becoming exorbitant. Historically, the United States experienced a dramatic growth from in-migration from Western Europe between 1790 and 1870 and from Eastern and Southern Europe between 1870 and 1925, predominantly from Polish and Italian origins. Fears about immigration abounded, but the diversity that was created has become an important element to our culture and our communities. The current debate about immigration will continue. There are no simple solutions. We seem to be ready and willing to accept more immigration as these workers contribute to our economy. At the same time, immigration is creating more social concerns. In fact, many Hispanic workers are poor and have few skills. Their weekly wages average ($389) are about two-thirds the average of all workers ($577). How they assimilate and move to the middle class is an important question to confront in the coming years. It is important to remember that our national character and our culture have changed dramatically over time. Nevertheless, Americans have maintained a spirit of enterprise, a strong religious heritage and a patriotism that keeps us united against adversity. As our population changes, we need to build upon that foundation of values to stay strong and preserve prosperity. biz

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november 2006

November 2006 Volume 7 • Issue 11 Publisher John Paul Galles jgalles@greatercharlottebiz.com

Associate Publisher/Editor Maryl A. Lane maryl.a.lane@greatercharlottebiz.com

Creative Director Rebecca G. Fairchild rfairchild@greatercharlottebiz.com

Editorial & Sales Assistant Janet Kropinak jkropinak@greatercharlottebiz.com

Business Development Sandy Rosenfeld srosenfeld@greatercharlottebiz.com

Account Executives Michelle Killi mkilli@greatercharlottebiz.com

Mimi Zelman mzelman@greatercharlottebiz.com

Contributing Editor Susanne Deitzel Contributing Writers Ellison Clary Susanne Deitzel Lisa Hoffmann Contributing Photographer Wayne Morris Galles Communications Group, Inc. 5601 77 Center Drive • Suite 250 Charlotte, NC 28217-0736 704-676-5850 Phone • 704-676-5853 Fax www.greatercharlottebiz.com • Press releases and other news-related information, please fax to the attention of “Editor” or e-mail: editor@greatercharlottebiz.com. • Editorial or advertising inquiries, please call or fax at the numbers above or e-mail: info@greatercharlottebiz.com. • Subscription inquiries or change of address, please call or fax at the numbers above or visit our Web site: www.greatercharlottebiz.com. © Copyright 2006 by Galles Communications Group, Inc. All rights reserved.The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, Galles Communications Group, Inc. makes no warranty to the accuracy or reliability of this information. Products named in these pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies.Views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Greater Charlotte Biz or Galles Communications Group, Inc. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher. For reprints call 704-676-5850 x102. Greater Charlotte Biz (ISSN 1554-6551) is published monthly by Galles Communications Group, Inc., 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0736. Telephone: 704-676-5850. Fax: 704-676-5853. Subscription rate is $24 for one year. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Greater Charlotte Biz, 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0736.

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[employersbiz]

Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers

Health-care premiums rose 7.7% in 2006; compared to wages rose only 3.8% This year shows the slowest rate of health care inflation since 2000, although premiums still increased more than twice as fast as workers’ wages (3.8%) and overall inflation (3.5%), according to a survey released in September by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Educational Trust. Health care premiums grew 7.7% this year, down from 9.2% last year. Small employers saw larger premium increases than large employers. Family health coverage now costs an average $11,480 annually, up from $10,880 last year, and single coverage costs $4,242, up from $4,024 last year. Foundation President Drew Altman says, “While premiums didn’t rise as fast as they have in recent years, working people don’t feel like they are getting any

relief at all because their premiums have been rising so much faster than their paychecks.” Workers paid 16% of premiums for single coverage and 27% of premiums for family coverage this year, with their employers paying the rest. That share hasn't changed in recent years. The average monthly employee premium contribution was $52 for single coverage and $248 for family coverage this year. About 59% of workers are covered by employersponsored health plans this year. The survey finds modest enrollment in consumer-driven health plans, with 2.7 million workers in high-deductible plans with a savings account. About 4% of covered workers are enrolled in a consumer-driven health plan this year, which is about the same as last year.

Foundation Vice President Gary Claxton, says, “We don’t know yet whether workers and employers ultimately will embrace consumer-driven health plans in big numbers, but it certainly hasn't been a tidal wave. When you look at the total costs, the savings from these plans may not be enough to overcome consumer concerns about higher cost sharing.” (Benefit news) biz The Employers Association is a nonprofit Charlotte organization providing comprehensive human resources and training services. Founded in 1958, the Association maintains a broadbased membership of over 700 companies from all industries in the greater Charlotte region. The above excerpts were taken from The Management Report, the Association’s monthly newsletter. For more information, please call Laura Hampton at 704-522-8011 or visit the Web site at www.employersassoc.com.

2006/2007 Wage & Salary Budget Adjustment Survey for Charlotte, N.C. & surrounding areas SECTION 2 - FORMAL PAY PROGRAMS

SECTION 1 - BUDGET Employee Category

Non-Exempt Hourly Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Manufacturing Non-Manufacturing Public Sector Total Non-Exempt Hourly Production, Maintenance, Service - Union Manufacturing Total Clerical/Technical Non-Exempt Office & Technical Manufacturing Non-Manufacturing Public Sector Total Supervisory, Managerial & Professional Manufacturing Non-Manufacturing Public Sector Total Executive & Officer Manufacturing Non-Manufacturing Public Sector Total All Employees* Manufacturing Non-Manufacturing Public Sector Total

Actual: 6/1/05 – 5/31/06 Projected: 6/1/06 – 5/31/07 Average Adjustment (%) Average Adjustment (%)

Formal range changes for the 2005/2006 year were 3.5%. The projected range change for 2006/2007 is 3.8% The following chart is a summary of the prevalence of various types of formal pay programs: Pay Program by Employee Category Number of Responses Percent of Employers With Various Programs(%) Pay Program by Employee Category

3.1 3.8 3.5 3.4

3.1 3.7 4.0 3.4

2.8 2.8

2.6 2.6

3.2 4.0 3.7 3.7

3.2 3.7 4.2 3.5

3.6 4.7 4.6 4.2

3.2 3.9 5.2 3.6

3.6 4.7 4.6 4.2

3.3 4.0 5.0 3.8

3.4 4.3 4.9 3.9

3.2 3.8 4.6 3.5

*Total will not equal 100%, due to multiple responses per company to account for different employee categories.

Merit Pay Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Clerical/Technical Supervisory, Managerial, Professional Executives Step Progression Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Clerical/Technical Supervisory, Managerial, Professional Executives Combination Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Clerical/Technical Supervisory, Managerial, Professional Executives No Specific Response Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Clerical/Technical Supervisory, Managerial, Professional Executives Single Job Rate Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Clerical/Technical Supervisory, Managerial, Professional Executives Unstructured Plan Production, Maintenance, Service - Nonunion Clerical/Technical Supervisory, Managerial, Professional Executives

Percent of Employers With Various Programs(%)

26.0 54.2 58.9 38.0 7.8 2.6 2.6 1.6 12.0 1.8 5.7 4.7 4.7 2.1 0.0 0.0 11.5 15.6 18.8 17.2 38.0 17.7 14.1 38.5

SECTION 3 - VARIABLE/BONUS PAY PROGRAMS: 20% of respondents reported having a performance based variable pay program in their company

For additional information on this survey, contact Tara Farrar at The Employers Association at (704)522-8011.

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Workforce Training and Development

[workforcebiz]

CPCC Takes Construction Training to the Next Level This fall Central Piedmont Community College implemented a new Associates Degree in Construction Management Technologies to address the growing demand in the construction industry for skilled managers. According to Tony Platt, noted University of North Carolina Construction Economist, the greatest challenge facing the local construction industry is not a lack of projects or the rising cost of materials, but attracting and

What: CPCC has announced a new two-year associates degree in construction management.The Construction Management Technology curriculum is designed to prepare individuals for careers in the construction management field including project management, superintendence, estimating and skilled foreman. Coursework includes safety, planning, scheduling, cost control, productivity, human relations, estimating, building codes and construction technical skills.

Scholarships Available: CPCC’s Construction Institute offers scholarships to qualified students, sponsored by the Subcontractors Association of the Carolinas, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Women in Construction, and the North Carolina Masonry Contractors Association.

greater charlotte biz

retaining qualified construction workers. As a result, the new Construction Management Technology curriculum at CPCC is designed to prepare individuals for careers in the field of construction management in both residential and commercial. The two-year program covers extensive general education requirements along with courses in total safety performance, planning and scheduling, cost and productivity, human relations, blueprint reading and estimating as well as professional construction supervision. In addition, coursework includes Spanish for the workplace along with co-op and intern work experience. According to Jay Potter, administrator at CPCC’s Harper Campus, the new program has been extremely successful. “Our Institute of Construction Technology has had a tremendous impact on training skilled workers in the construction industry in this area,” stated Potter. “At the Harper campus, we provide a full range of training in construction technology to meet the growing demand. Our new Construction Management Technology Associates Degree is our latest response to the need for skilled managers in the field.” The new degree is designed to provide the novice as well as the skilled trade person the opportunity to move into management from areas of specialization such as HVAC, Welding, Plumbing, Electrical, Carpentry and Masonry. In order to fulfill the workforce needs of the construction industry, CPCC has also developed a fast track Carpentry Certificate within the Construction Management degree. This certificate requires a full-time commitment from the student and can be completed in one semester. Courses include Introduction

The new Associates Degree in Construction Management is another example of how the college is responding to the needs within our community.

~ Jay Potter, administrator

to Carpentry, Carpentry I, and Blueprint Reading for Construction. In addition, the program will offer a Certificate in Project Supervision that is built into the Construction Management degree. “CPCC continues to be on the cuttingedge of workforce development,” explains Potter. “The new Associates Degree in Construction Management is another example of how the college is responding to the needs within our community.” The Construction Management program and the Applied Technologies Division are located at the CPCC Harper Campus at 315 West Hebron Street, between Arrowood and Nations Ford Road. For more information, contact the program chair at 704-330-4421 or the division office at 704-330-4445. Additional information can also be found on the Website at www.cpcc.edu/construction. biz This section is intended to highlight workforce training and development programs and initiatives delivered by community colleges within the Charlotte region. Community colleges are invited to submit substantive content ideas to editor@greatercharlottebiz.com.

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[ontop]

Networking Services “No business is too small”

If you are looking for a company that gives a personal touch and honestly cares about their clients, then give us a call!

©2006 Galles Communications Group, Inc.

Local & Wide Area Networks Wiring Routers Switches Servers Wireless Workstations We are an innovative, high tech company, specializing in local and wide area networking to the small and medium business market. We provide complete turnkey solutions from concept to reality. For more information call: Walt Fields at 704-560-4897 or Dwayne Stone at 704-560-4900 FieldStone Networking Services • 16041-G Johnston Rd. #161• Charlotte, NC 28277

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Awards & Achievements The Charlotte chapter of the Public Relations Society of America has named Dr. Tony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College, as the winner of its Tony Zeiss 2006 Pegasus Award. Data center operator and managed services company Peak 10 has been presented with the 2006 Entrepreneur of the Year Award for large companies by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce. The United Way of Central Carolinas has honored First Charter with its United Way 2005 Community Spirit Award. Advertising & Media Internet productivity and online marketing firm, CC Communications, Inc., has won a 2006 Standard of Excellence WebAward from the Web Marketing Association. Luquire George Andrews has hired Adrienne Volin as an account coordinator and Kristi Sweeny as an account executive. Signage and graphics company SouthWood Corporation has been honored as one of the North Carolina Family Friendly 40 Companies by Carolina Parenting and Charlotte Parent magazine. Welcomemat Services has named Austin McRoberts a salesperson of the month, and has hired Brian Miller and Erin Franckewitz as marketing account managers. Western North Carolina marketing firm Gotham Images has been awarded a two-year contract to provide strategic marketing consultation and design services to the Hickory Metro Higher Education Center. Business & Professional The 2007 edition of The Best Lawyers in

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Education & Staffing Pat Rodgers, president and CEO of Rodgers Builders, Inc., has been appointed by the Governor to the Central Piedmont Pat Rodgers Community College board of trustees. Central Piedmont Community College has received three BioNetwork Innovation Grants from the North Carolina Community College System totaling nearly $170,000. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has celebrated its 60th anniversary. Ashley W. Oster has joined the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as director of Community Affairs in the division of University Relations and Ashley Oster Community Affairs. The University of North Carolina at Charlotte has changed the name of the College of Information Technology to the College of Computing and Informatics, and has dedicated two new buildings on its Charlotte Research Institute campus: Duke Centennial Hall and William H. Grigg Hall.

greater charlotte biz

Artwork • Fitz & Floyd • Children’s Items • Handbags • Accent Pillows • Boxes

America has recognized attorneys at several Charlotte firms: 52 attorneys at Kennedy Covington; 33 attorneys at Nexsen Pruet, LLC; and one local attorney at Fisher & Phillips, LLP. The Charlotte office of Wishart Norris Henninger & John Northey Gideon Moore Pittman, P.A., has added John Northey and Gideon Moore to the firm. Attorneys Ralph McMillan and Daniel Terry have joined Hedrick Eatman Gardner & Kincheloe, L.L.P. Enventys, a product design and development firm, has hired Meredith A. Beck as the company’s new Meredith Beck public relations specialist.

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Garden Accents • Chandeliers • Tablecloths • Wine Accessories • Party Napkins

[ontop]

Gifts • Home Accents • Holiday Items • Vera Bradley • Stationery • Lamps • Mirrors

Jewelry • Egyptian Cotton Sheets • Furniture • Florals • Ceramics • Christopher Radko

• Audit & Accounting Services • Retirement Plan Compliance & Design • Real Estate Development Strategies • Merger and Acquisition Planning

• Tax Compliance & Planning • Comprehensive Tax Review • Multi-State Tax Structuring • Company Formation Strategies

Accountants First, Advisors Foremost Located in Providence Park at I-485 and Providence Road 10700 Sikes Place, Suite 100 • 704-841-9800 • Fax 704-841-9802 www.bbwpllc.com

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[ontop] Robin Leslie has been named vice president of finance at Pfeiffer University. Malcolm Campbell, Robin Leslie Davidson College biologist and director of the James G. Martin Genomics Program, has won top awards from two professional organizations for his initiatives in teaching genomics: the Bruce Alberts Award for Excellence in Science Education and the international Pirelli Award for the Best Work for Educational Institutions. Joanne Zukowski has joined the Queens University of Charlotte as the new director of the Center for Lifelong Joanne Zukowski Learning, and Cherie Swarthout has been named the new sports information director and sports complex site coordinator. Executive staffing company CEO Inc. has hired Amy Chin as assistant to the president, Eric Murphy as a recruiter in the accounting and finance division, and Michelle Rhoades Lehrach, as senior consultant.

People are critical to your success. Get the right people aligned with the vision, train them to perform and set clear expectations, and you’ll be amazed at the outcome. We’ll give you tools to do just that.

“BSI provides us with a regularly scheduled reason to work ON the business, not IN it.”

“Being a member of BSI saves me time and effort... The fact that I have continued to be a member for over 6 years is proof that they deliver!” ~ Laurie Leonard SUITE 1000

©2006 Galles Communications Group, Inc.

~ Katharine Monk Lucas-Forman, Inc.

Engineering SEPI Engineering Group has named William Piver, PE, president of site development. The Charlotte office of Clark-Nexsen has hired Greg E. Chesson as a structural designer and Richard S. Grubbs as a senior architect. LandDesign, an urban planning, civil engineering and landscape architecture company, has hired two new engineers, Chris Capellini and Nate King, in its Charlotte office. Mulkey Engineers & Consultants has promoted Carla Starr to director of administrative services.

Our meetings are packed with practical information you can use to improve your business and reach your goals. Join today and become part of this exciting and worthwhile group. For specific dates, times, locations and membership information visit www.business-success-institute.com or call Denise Altman at (704) 708-6700. Shelley Walsh

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november 2006

Financial & Insurance Working Mother magazine has named Grant Thornton LLP as a 2006 Working Mother 100 Best Company. Shelley M. Walsh has

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[ontop]

NAVIGATING ROUGH WATERS? Compass Career Management can help your business through rough waters!

joined Hinrichs Flanagan Financial, a MassMutual General Agency in Charlotte, as a financial services professional. George Dick has joined First Charter as marketing director, and the bank has promoted Sarah Malloy and Tracy Brigham to banking officers. Michael Matthews, Derek Riccelli and Joe Burgholzer have been named mortgage consultants for HomeBanc Mortgage Corp.’s Charlotte store.

greater charlotte biz

Organizational Development • Outplacement • Acquisitions • Consolidations • Plant Closings • Downsizings

©2006 Galles Communications Group, Inc.

Government & Non-Profit James E. Rogers, president and CEO of Duke Energy, has joined Ken Lewis, chairman, president and CEO of Bank of James Rogers America, and Ken Thompson, chairman, president and CEO of Wachovia Corporation, to lead the private sector campaign to support new and expanded cultural facilities in Uptown Charlotte. Charlotte Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess has been elected to membership of the Women’s Forum of North Carolina. The National Kidney Foundation of North Carolina has named Leanne Skipper Leanne Skipper as chief executive officer. G. Keith Middleton, a longtime resident and community volunteer in Charlotte, has been selected as a vice president for Keith Middleton Optimist International. The Arts & Science Council has appointed Morayo Orija as program director of ASC South, a regional office of cultural development for Matthews, Mint Hill and Pineville. The Nature Conservancy has announced the closing for 76,500 acres in 11 counties in the state’s Coastal Plain from International Paper, completing one of the largest land protection transactions in North Carolina’s history. The Mecklenburg County Council of the

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[ontop] Boy Scouts of America has appointed Jack Burke, CEO of Burke Communications, as its vice president of marketing. The National Legal Aid & Defender Association has announced that U.S. Congressman and chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus Mel Watt will be the keynote speaker at Charlotte’s NLADA 2006 Annual Conference. Health Care Carolinas HealthCare System has been recognized by Hospital & Health Networks magazine for three straight years as one of the nation’s “most wired” systems, and has also been recognized for technological innovation by the editors of Information Week. A.J. Patefield, M.D. has been promoted as the new senior vice president for strategy and growth and chief medical officer of the Southern Piedmont Region of Novant Health, the Winston-Salem-based parent company of Presbyterian. Herbert W. Clegg, II, M.D. has been seated as the new president of Presbyterian Medical Group. Manufacturing Continental Tire North America, Inc. has announced that President Alan Hippe will be joined by Matthias Schönbergas as CEO and Andreas Gerstenberger as executive vice president of sales and marketing. Gregg W. Pearce has joined global anilox supplier Harper Corporation of America as its new corporate purchasing manager. Real Estate Commercial/Residential Stephen H. Mauldin has joined Crosland Inc. as senior vice president of mixed/ multi-use development. Weichart Realtors Rebhan & Associates has named Larry Larry Rutledge Rutledge as the company’s new director of training and development. Tamara Haney has joined the Charlotte office of AOS USA, a global provider of Tamara Haney

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[ontop] corporate real estate and facility management solutions, as regional sales manager. Steve Bell has been named broker-incharge of Cameron-Bell Realty, a new residential real estate firm specializing in mountain, resort, and select Charlotte-area properties.

trust+strategy+integrity+planning+insight+experience We're not your typical CPA firm. Instead, we go beyond traditional accounting services, adding valuable insight and guidance to your growth process. Think of us as the business development partner you always wished you had - a Champion for your business!

it all adds up!

Our Philosophy We believe we are rewarded only to the extent that we add value to those we are privileged to serve. At Daniel, Ratliff & Company, we are here to serve you, to help your business achieve its goals. We do so by learning your business and the challenges you face, then working with you to guide you toward success.

Steve Bell

“I have used them both professionally and personally for over 20 years. Their advice and counsel have played an integral part in the success of our business!” ~ Verl Purdy CEO, Agdata,LP, a data management company ©2006 Galles Communications Group, Inc.

Retail & Sports & Entertainment Daytona International Speedway has selected Q&A Entertainment Inc./JHE Production Group, Inc. to oversee all DIS entertainment production for the Speedway’s pre-race and fan hospitality activities as well as the annual Sprint Tribute to America. JHE Productions’ Food Lion Speed Street has received top honors in the Best Live Entertainment category at the annual Gold Awards Gala hosted by TRIP Magazine. Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Charlotte has appointed Paul McGowan as general manager for its new location in Uptown.

At the lake:

Uptown office:

Daniel, Ratliff & Company 107 Kilson Dr., Ste. 205, Mooresville, NC 28117

Daniel, Ratliff & Company 301 S. McDowell St., Ste. 502, Charlotte, NC 28204

704.663.0193

704.371.5000

www.danielratliff.com

Paul McGowan

Technology Verizon Wireless has appointed Dean Antonilli to director of business sales for the Carolinas region. Ryan Stroupe, label technical specialist at WorkflowOne, has joined The Phoenix Challenge Foundation board of directors. SkillStorm, Inc., a government and commercial technical services company, has opened a new regional office in Charlotte, N.C. Tourism & Travel US Airways has been named the official airline of the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center and the presenter of six Stanford Broadway Lights shows. biz To be considered for inclusion, please send your news releases and announcements in the body of an e-mail (only photos attached) to editor@greatercharlottebiz.com, or fax them to 704-676-5853, or post them to our business address – at least 30 days prior to our publication date.

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bizXperts: Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions

bizXperts biz

maybe you really don’t need a plan!

“Mary, your business model will never work. Entrepreneurs don’t like to plan anyway, so they sure aren’t going to pay you to help them to do it.” The colleague who issued that warning twelve years ago meant well. Fortunately, his words did not deter me from focusing my start-up enterprise on helping owners plan for business growth opportunities. What I have found, is the opposite – in fact, most entrepreneurs love to plan. Therein lies the dreaming. They are so fond of planning that they have many plans – and change them frequently. This opportunistic, flexible approach to planning is now being emulated by many larger public corporations as they try to survive today’s rapidly changing environment. Entrepreneurs don’t mind planning – they just hate to write it down. By documenting your goals, you make a commitment to your self. Taking the next step and sharing that written record of your intentions with others makes it even more real. It’s a combination of scary (“What if we fail to reach the goal?”) and confining (“What if we miss other opportunities while pursuing this plan?”). Plus, we all know that there are surprises out there on the horizon. So why bother anyway? There are clients that brag they have never had a formal plan or “budget” – won’t even let us use the “B” word in their presence. A few of them have been very successful in spite of this planning allergy. What do they have in common? They share six characteristics:

1. Outstanding performance. The business has an exceptionally high profit margin; so unexpected blips in performance are not a threat. 2. Large war chest. These owners have very deep pockets, little or no debt and a stellar credit rating. Cash can be available on a moment’s notice. 3. Very stable environment. No significant changes are expected in product/service direction, technology, marketplace competition, operational expansion or staffing. 4. Tight financial reins. All commitments to spend money or discount price flow through an owner. 5. Minimal delegation. Employees don’t need to know where the enterprise is going when the CEO or owner is personally directing their daily efforts. 6. Charismatic leadership. The CEO is a pied piper, able to hold people accountable and continually improve performance without setting tangible goals or linking their compensation to achievement. If this does not perfectly describe your business, I hope you are developing a written plan and budget for 2007! Mary H. Bruce of Kaleidoscope Business Options, Inc. specializes in advising business owners on building the value of their enterprise. Contact her at 704-375-1970 or www.kboptions.com.

ignore it and it will go away… While some people have this philosophy about problems, that’s not what we’re talking about today. With problems, we’d be happy if they would go away because we ignored them. What we’re talking about today is people – good people. If we ignore them, they will go away, and that’s NOT a good thing. Think about your organization. Who in your team gets the most attention? Often it’s the problem employee – the one who’s always messing something up. Sometimes it’s the outgoing employee that clamors for attention. Many of your good employees keep a low profile, and keep rocking along getting work done. You don’t feel the need to spend as much time with them, so you don’t. There is something very wrong with that picture. Your good, less boisterous employees need attention, too. They need to know that you notice their good work and appreciate it. They need to be nurtured so that they can continue to grow and improve. “No news is good news” is not a good management philosophy. I worked with a manager recently who was seriously frustrated

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because he couldn’t get answers from his boss. He had asked for a piece of information on several occasions and was finally promised that an answer would be forthcoming by the end of that week. Two weeks later, he still hadn’t heard anything. He’d come to the point that he wasn’t going to ask the question anymore. He felt ignored and unvalued. In his mind, if he wasn’t important enough to the boss to at least get a response to his request, it was simply time to look for another job. I know this manager’s boss, and I doubt that he realizes that he’s “ignoring” this employee. He’s busy, I’m sure, putting out fires and dealing with pressing issues. His actions (or inactions in this case), however, are creating another fire. He’s about to lose a good manager. Who in your organization needs your attention today—not because they’re causing trouble or clamoring for attention, but because they’re NOT. Be careful. If you ignore them, they might truly go away. (Denise Altman is president of Altman Initiative Group, Inc. and the Business Success Institute. Learn more at www.altmaninitiative.com or www.business-success-institute.com.)

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the succession planning process: part III In over 30 years of representing business owners we have developed a Five Step Process which has proven very effective in determining an “optimum” solution to the question of what should happen to the business after the departure of the original owners or founders. In last month’s article we discussed the first three steps of our process: 1) assemble the team of advisors, determine the goals of the process, and identify the stakeholders; 2) perform due diligence on the business to determine exactly what the current situation is for the business and; 3) separately interview all stakeholders in order to identify their interests and objectives. The remainder of this article will discuss the last two steps of our Five Step Process. Step Four: Generation of Options. The fourth step includes the generation of all available options to meet the interests of all stakeholders. Creativity is the key in this phase of the process. There is no “one size fits all.” Without exception, the factors you encounter (including legal, tax and social factors) will lead you to discard many “normal” options and will force you to generate new ideas and options to fit the particular needs for each situation. Absolutely critical to this phase of the process is to have a team of advisors helping you who have the expertise and experience to identify optimum solutions in your case. Many succession plans have failed simply due to the inability of the team of advisors to identify all of the options. Without real succession planning experience among members of your team of advisors, an “optimum” solution to the succession planning issues will not likely be the result. Step Five: Implementation. The fifth step involves implementation of the options selected by the owners. Only at this point in the process should the various legal documents be drafted to carry out the plan. Even with the best advisors and best options, many business Succession Plans fail because a critical piece of the plan could not be implemented. The most critical piece of succession planning is the identification and development of potential successors in the leadership and management roles. According to a U.S. Trust Survey, the greatest tension in succession planning is the transfer of management and control from the current owners to their successors. Effective shifting of management and control of the business requires: 1) Determining criteria for choosing potential successors (which criteria normally include leadership ability, entrepreneurial spirit, high standards of quality, integrity, honesty, trustworthiness, technical capability, ability to increase sales, stable personal lives, and being a team player); 2) Identifying these successors; 3) “Grooming” successors (giving successors “real” authority and responsibility and training them in areas where they are deficient); and 4) Gradually transferring power and control. Often it is desirable to transfer ownership (the value of the business) first and transfer control last when certain financial benchmarks set by the owners are met. This can be done in a

greater charlotte biz

number of ways including recapitalizing ownership interests of the company into voting and nonvoting shares or units. The voting shares normally constitute a small percentage of the value of the company (no more than 10%) but they constitute 100% of the control of the company. Also, it is common to have “snapback” provisions that can cause the voting control to “snapback” to the owners from the successors upon the occurrence of certain events (such as termination of employment, death, disability, or nonperformance). The individuals chosen as successors are generally a small, narrowly defined group of people. These people should normally be tied to the business through significant, financially attractive incentive awards that both transfer ownership of the business (equity awards) as well as cash (non equity awards) and non competition covenants that effectively prevent competition with the business. Whether you are implementing a sale to insiders or a sale to outsiders, the value of the business will be less, the owner will be less financially secure, and the owner will be required to stay past his or her expected retirement date if the owner is necessary for the successful operation of the business and there is not a good management structure that removes the owner from the day to day operations of the business. Management and key employees must be viewed and treated as assets that increase the value of the business and make the business better able to be sold regardless of their status as ultimate successors. Further, owners must delegate central business functions to other members of the management team in order to create a business that is attractive to any potential buyer (whether an “internal” or “external” buyer). In summary, therefore, the good news is that the creation of a succession plan for your company which best meets the interests and objectives of all stakeholders (therefore having the commitment of all stakeholders) is ultimately the very Best way you can maximize the value of your business asset. Whether you ultimately decide to “exit” the business through a transfer of ownership or control to “insiders” or sell your business to “outsiders,” creating a business that can survive and thrive without you will absolutely maximize the value of your business. Robert Norris is managing partner of Wishart, Norris, Henninger & Pittman, P.A., a law firm which focuses on helping business owners define and achieve their business and personal objectives. Contact him at 704-364-0010 or www.wnhplaw.com. If you are interested in contributing to bizXperts, contact John Galles at 704-676-5850, ext. 102, or jgalles@greatercharlottebiz.com.

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pictured (l to r): Terry D. Corriher, CPA; Deborah A. Daniel, CPA; John G. Ratliff, CPA; Shareholders Daniel, Ratliff & Company

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by lisa hoffmann

[bizprofile]

IT ALL ADDS UP

VALUE

+ GROWTH

DANIEL, RATLIFF CHAMPIONS SMALL BUSINESSES

W

Walk through the offices of Daniel, Ratliff & Company lately and you’ll get a unique view – clear through to the other side of the building. In between elegantly appointed conference rooms, spacious executive offices and carefully laid out work stations there are gaping holes in the walls and thick plastic sheets serving as doors. Half the back wall in John Ratliff’s office is nothing but exposed steel beams. “It gets a little noisy in here sometimes,” he says with a chuckle. Daniel, Ratliff & Company, busting at the seams in its 3,500-squarefoot office, is expanding to encompass half the fifth floor of the Camden Brown Building uptown. The number of its employees has doubled in the past three years and its client base – what the shareholders refer to as “client families”– has swelled to more than 700. What’s at the core of this enviable growth? Something most people wouldn’t equate with accounting: passion. Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts The shareholders at Daniel, Ratliff & Company are passionate about supporting closely-held businesses, family-owned companies and new entrepreneurial endeavors. They’re more than just accountants; they are their clients’ business partners. In addition to the typical auditing, accounting and tax services offered by most CPA firms, Daniel, Ratliff & Company helps companies create business development strategies, build “human capital” and encourage team development. They also

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provide business start-up support. Smaller clients do sometimes require a lot of handholding and reassurance, but when asked whether that’s a source of irritation, everyone just smiles. “Not only don’t we mind offering extra support, we welcome it,” says Ratliff, the firm’s vice president and regional client service director in Charlotte. “We often wish some of our clients would ask for more advice so we can help them be more successful.” “We really care about our clients,” emphasizes Debbie Daniel, president of the firm. “We want to see them prosper and grow. That’s how we will grow – right a long with them. We’re very much focused on working in a consultative nature with our clients.” Daniel, Ratliff & Company serves a highly diverse group of clients. In addition to many small companies, the firm consults with larger firms such as Monroe Hardware, FreemanWhite, a national healthcare architecture firm, and AgData, a database management and program fulfillment firm, which has been working with Daniel, Ratliff & Company since the firm’s inception in 1996. As they’ve grown, some of the firm’s smaller clients have become its biggest. The firm’s own growth parallels its clients’ growth, often putting the accountants in the unique position of being in the same shoes as their clients. They’ve faced and overcome the same challenges growing their ®

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own business that their clients are facing, giving them a depth of understanding and experience that an accountant from a larger firm may not have. “We can literally tell clients that we feel their pain,” Daniel says. Serving larger companies forces Daniel, Ratliff & Company to offer the array of services a larger client needs and allows them to offer that same array of services to smaller clients. “There are not many players out there that bring the depth of resources we do to that company that may only have five to 10 employees or may only be a two-person firm but has lots of growth potential,” Daniel says. “We do financial studies, consulting work throughout the year, tax planning. We stay in tune with clients all year long,” explains Corriher, a vice president and regional client service director in Mooresville. “We do about 16 different compliance projects a year for a company in Hickory. We’re serving it almost weekly. That’s an example of how we partner with our clients.” In the past five years Daniel, Ratliff & Company has pursued and completed three mergers that have lead to more high-level personnel to increase the management-to-employee ratio. Where most firms have 10 to 20 employees per partner, Daniel, Ratliff & Company has a partner for every six employees or so. When you count management as part of the upper level, the ratio changes even

more favorably. This allows the accounting firm to offer the broad range of services only seasoned professionals can provide while bringing less experienced employees up the ranks. Two long-term employees, Martha Michael and Matthew Miller, became shareholders this year to help keep that ratio in check. The partners’ focused plan is working beautifully so far. The firm has enjoyed 15 to 18 percent growth per year over the past few years and is projecting more than $3 million in revenue as it celebrates its

Daniel, Ratliff & Company 301 S. McDowell St., Ste. 502 Charlotte, N.C. 28204 Phone: 704-371-5000 Principals: Deborah A. Daniel, President & Co-Founder; John G. Ratliff,Vice President, and Regional Client Service Director, Charlotte & Co-Founder;Terry D. Corriher,Vice President, and Regional Client Service Director, Mooresville & CoFounder; Martha Michael, Shareholder, Mooresville; Matthew Miller, Shareholder, Charlotte Employees: 31 Established: 1996 Additional Location: Mooresville, N.C. Business: A full-service public accounting firm offering auditing, accounting, tax, business development and information technology services as well as human capital and team development and start-up support. www.danielratliff.com

10-year anniversary this year. That’s a 250 percent increase from when the firm first began and right on the money for the partners’ steady growth plan. One Plus Two Equals More Before establishing Daniel, Ratliff & Company, Debbie Daniel would head in one direction each morning and her husband, John Ratliff, would head in another. Daniel was busy managing an accounting and tax practice offering a small range of services to small business owners and Ratliff was working for Daniel Professional Group (no relation to Debbie Daniel). Daniel and Ratliff had met years before when Daniel was a Daniel Professional Group (DPG) employee too. Corriher, a long-time friend and colleague, was managing Daniel Professional Group’s Mooresville office. Daniel regularly called upon DPG to fulfill auditing and compilation work for her clients. In turn, Ratliff consulted with Daniel regarding tax issues his clients faced. “One day we looked at each other and said ‘why are we doing this separately?” Daniel says. Daniel, Ratliff and Corriher sat down together and hammered out a business plan. In 1996 they purchased DPG’s Charlotte and Mooresville offices, merged in Daniel’s smaller practice and Daniel, Ratliff & Company was born. Today, Corriher manages the Mooresville office with Martha Michael and Daniel, ®

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Ratliff and Matt Miller concentrate their efforts in the Charlotte office. Ratliff brings more than 30 years of audit and review service experience to the table and Daniel’s been in accounting for more than two decades. Corriher, who has about 20 years’ experience as well, grew up in China Grove and is intimately familiar with the Mooresville area. Being a satellite office of sorts presents few challenges, he says. “It goes right back to my relationship with John and Debbie,” he says. “We worked together for about 10 years before we started this company, we’re friends first and we’re all on the same page. We’re one firm. Our procedures and policies are the same and if I get a referral that’s better suited to the Charlotte office, then that’s where it’s handled.” “Some professional firms operate on an ‘eat what you kill’ basis,” Ratliff adds. “Not us. It’s all about what’s best for the client and there’s not one of us who knows everything.” Right from the start the partners sensed a need for more well rounded services for

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the small to medium enterprise (SME) market sector and continually finetunes its ability to offer clients a full range of services and superior quality. It is a member of RAN-ONE, a company specializing in the design and development of business solutions and training for accountants, consultants and business advisers. RAN-ONE offers the tools and training necessary for effective business consulting and strategic services. Daniel Ratliff & Company is also part of Upstream Academy, whose mission is to “create a network whose members are recognized as the most professional and best run CPA firms in the world.” The firm is also having an independent company conduct in-depth surveys with a select group of clients to determine whether they are providing the level of service they aspire to, whether the firm is offering the services clients need and what types of services clients see themselves needing in the future. Multiplying the Talent Base In order to ensure that everyone at

Daniel, Ratliff & Company is just as passionate about meeting their clients’ needs as they are, the firm’s shareholders keep their fingers on the pulse of the corporate culture every step of the way. Their steady growth over the years presents a few challenges in this regard. “When you have new people coming into an organization you have to really work hard at maintaining your culture,” Ratliff explains. “Sometimes you bring someone in who’s focused on what’s important to them and it’s our job to teach them to focus more on the big picture, on what’s important to everybody.” Providing an exceptionally high level of service to clients, showing mutual respect for clients and colleagues and maintaining a unified focus are touchstones in the corporate culture at Daniel, Ratliff & Company. The partners offer an open-door policy to both clients and employees and never screen calls. Employees’ ideas are heard and responded to and part of the firm’s culture is keeping employees’ personal and business lives in balance. Every summer, the firm

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gives each employee eight days off to enjoy with their families in addition to regular vacation time. Respect flows in all directions. Although the customer is clearly king at Daniel Ratliff & Company, there are lines even clients can’t cross. Last year, the partners had to release one of their larger clients because they treated Daniel and another high-level employee rudely and disrespectfully. “You can’t tolerate that sort of behavior – even from a client,” Ratliff says. “As strongly as we feel about our clients, that’s how we feel about our employees too.” The partners clearly communicate their philosophy and expectations to employees right from the time they walk through the office door and find that new staff members respond favorably to the corporate culture. The firm has a very low turnover rate. The real challenge lies in finding the right people for the job. It’s more difficult now than ever before to find qualified CPAs, according to Ratliff. Educational changes have increased the CPA course of study from four years to five, discouraging some students from

I

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entering the field. The Enron debacle and similar events tarnished the profession’s reputation and also caused large firms to increase hiring, leaving an even smaller candidate base for smaller firms. The profession’s reputation is turning around, though, and, in an ironic twist, more young people are being drawn to accounting in a quest to unearth fraudulent practices. Even so, Charlotte’s dynamic business environment still makes it difficult for Daniel Ratliff & Company to find qualified candidates. “We’re not just competing for candidates with other CPA firms, we’re up against banks and other thriving businesses that are looking for accountants,” Ratliff says. “The competition is very tight. Recruiting is an ongoing thing for us and a continual challenge.” Once the construction team closes up the walls and hangs the doors, Daniel, Ratliff & Company will have added 1,300 square feet of office space including file storage space, two new management level offices, a small conference room and additional work stations. That’ll hold them

for a while, but not forever. “We’re working toward our big, hairy, audacious goal or ‘BHAG,’” Daniel says with a laugh. “We determined during our manager’s meeting in 2005 that we would shoot for 20 partners and $20 million in revenue in 20 years. That basically equates to 15 to 18 percent growth each year, which is more of a challenge as the numbers get higher.” In a nod to their dedication to worklife balance, Daniel and Ratliff, avid hikers, are building a second home in Montana, near Yellowstone National Park. Part of their goal for the future is to be able to hand off more responsibilities to their colleagues so that the firm succeeds their involvement. “I can’t stress enough how much any success we have is a joint effort,” Daniel says. “We would not be able to pursue these goals without the exceptional people we’ve got. We’ve got a solid group of leaders and they all serve to unify and strengthen the whole firm.” biz Lisa Hoffmann is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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photo: Wayne Morris

Afshin Ghazi President The Ghazi Company, LLC

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by ellison clary

Charlotte’s New Epicenter

[bizprofile]

Ghazi Raises the Bar for Grandeur

Profitability and fun are the measures Afshin Ghazi professes to use as he picks projects. At 35, those precepts seem to have served the president of The Ghazi Company well. The precocious commercial developer says he has doubled his revenues annually for a decade and he smiles easily as he traces his success. His casual demeanor at his casual offices belies the din of construction on his multiple developments, one of which is within a stone’s throw of The Square. The EpiCentre, named for its location near Charlotte’s heart, is a $275 million mixed-use complex where the city’s old convention center stood. Its buildings include offices, entertainment, dining and a condominium tower called 210 Trade Street, being developed by Flaherty & Collins, that will rise 53 stories. Four floor plans already are sold out. There’s also a 12-floor hotel. Ghazi points out EpiCentre features unique to Charlotte, among them a half-acre park five stories up. Opening onto ®

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sidewalks from lower levels will be dozens of retail venues such as restaurants at various price points, coffee shops, wine bars, sports bars, nightclubs and a multi-screen movie theater. “You can’t really compare the EpiCentre to anything else in our region,” Ghazi says. “You can go to Chicago, New York, Miami or Las Vegas and you can find a full block that has all these elements, but in the EpiCentre you’re talking about something on the magnitude of the Time Warner Center in New York. “EpiCentre is actually a nice blend of restaurants and shops and entertainment that creates the right ambience in the heart of downtown,” Ghazi adds. George Cornelson, president of the Cornelson Company development firm, is a partner with Ghazi on EpiCentre. His voice cracks with excitement as he points to the convergence of light rail, Bobcats arena, high-rise office towers and uptown condos at the EpiCentre block bounded by Trade, College and

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Fourth streets as well as mass transit tracks. “We’re able to attract tenants, that’s the main thing,” Cornelson says. He credits Charlotte-based Bar Management Group with recruiting entertainment and dining concepts, some of which will open as soon as spring 2007. The company, which started Charlotte’s center city entertainment renewal a decade ago with Bar Charlotte, is negotiating with prospects nationwide and considering some

notions it could operate on its own. “We’re thrilled to be a part of this project,” says Bob Durkin, president of Bar Management Group. “When Afshin and I started speaking about EpiCentre, I saw a striking synergy between BMG and The Ghazi Company. By combining our strengths, we’re building a project that will play a major role in making Charlotte a regional dining and entertainment destination.” BMG will operate its own businesses in EpiCentre, Durkin adds, and will assume a management role for the entertaining and dining portion of the development. Durkin says his company operates ventures in other mixed-use centers around the country. It’s this experience, he says, that BMG is using to help Ghazi attract top local, regional and national operators. Circuitous Route To Charlotte As he reflects on how he got to his catbird perch, Ghazi recalls the route. His U.S. Air Force father died when he was a month old and his mother Mariam brought him with her as she escaped the revolution that toppled the Shah. They flew into Washington, landing on Bicentennial Day, July 4, 1976. They ended up in Louisville, Ky., where his mother married a medical doctor and Ghazi grew up fascinated with the residential home building business operated by the father of a friend. He majored in marketing with a minor in management at the University of Kentucky, and then moved to Charlotte in 1993 to open a haircut franchise in nearby Weddington. Ghazi smiles and rubs his slick pate when he reveals that he kept that business while he built his commercial real estate

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empire, selling it only a year ago. The Weddington Corners shopping center, where he opened his hair-cutting salon, is also where he met John Collett of Collett & Associates and Cornelson, who were his landlords. He calls them his mentors. “Afshin’s got a ton of good things about him,” says Cornelson. “He’s intelligent, he’s personable and he’s hardworking as any two people I’ve met. He has a fantastic out-of-thebox mentality.” For example, Ghazi used a $10,000 graduation gift from his mother to acquire a southeast Charlotte duplex where he lived in one unit while he renovated and then rented the other. Pretty soon, he was living in a house he owned and had a hair cutting business that was bringing in $35,000 a year. “I was used to living on $15,000 year,” he chuckles. Ultimately, he sold the duplex and made $100,000. “My rule was,” he grins, “Take 10 percent off the top and blow it. I bought a used BMW. The rest I reinvested 100 percent. That rule worked great until about two or three years ago when the deals started getting too big.” Ghazi’s passion for real estate that originated from his teenage brush with residential home building steered him into the commercial sector. He formed what is now The Ghazi Company in 1993. “In the commercial business,” he explains, “anybody with a small amount of money and a good vision can go out and buy a corner block and rent it and have a nice little income stream.” Catching The Wick On Fire On a larger scale, that’s how Ghazi started. He thinks back to “the deal that really caught the wick on fire.” Through persistence, he convinced a national restaurant chain to sell him a parcel near the intersection of Sharon and Fairview roads where a closed Bennigan’s restaurant stood. Then he bought a bank branch next door. He ended up creating “a nice little commercial center” called the Terraces at SouthPark. ®

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pictured back row (l to r): Armin Ghazi, Seth Wilfong,Tom Evans, Jennifer Basara, George Cornelson, Shawn Wilfong; front row (l to r): Amy Quarles, Afshin Ghazi, Jill Valverde

From there, he produced centers such as the Park Towne Village on Park Road and the Promenade I and Promenade II at North Tryon Street and Harris Boulevard. All were sites where previous development made success problematic. Ghazi concedes that it took creativity to make these developments work. Shawn Wilfong, who along with his

brother Seth is a partner with Ghazi in the EpiCentre, praises Ghazi’s vision. “He really understands the smaller nuances of real estate development that I think a lot of developers get wrong – how to service the buildings, how they actually function,” says Wilfong, who owns Wilfong Properties with his brother. “He’s extremely logical.

He has been able to take a macro project and move down to the micro nuances that are going to make the thing successful.” Coming up with the EpiCentre project required no small portion of Ghazi’s creative acumen. He wanted to do a development at the site all along but settled for partnership with Spectrum Partners. When the office market softened, Ghazi took over the entire project. He paid upwards of $15 million to Bank of America, Wachovia and the City of Charlotte for the right to demolish the long vacant convention center and start over with a retail and residentialdominated plan. Ghazi and the Wilfongs are partners in other projects such as Franklin Square in Gastonia and Huntersville Business Park. Cornelson, too, is often a Ghazi partner on other developments.

The Ghazi Company, LLC 5625 Fairview Road Charlotte, N.C. 28209 Phone: 704-366-7459 Principal: Afshin Ghazi, President Established: 1993 Frequent partners: George Cornelson, Shawn Wilfong, Seth Wilfong 210 Trade Street Development: To be built at the site of Charlotte’s Old Convention Center, this development will be on one of the largest city blocks in Uptown Charlotte.The development will include an exciting new entertainment/retail development – the EpiCentre – along with over 400 luxury residential units to be developed by Flaherty & Collins of Indianapolis (and marketed locally by BSI, a division of Allen Tate Company), which together will stand as the second-tallest tower in Uptown Charlotte. Business: The Ghazi Company has strived for over a decade to be on the cutting edge of real estate development.A major element of its mission is to stray from conventional doctrines of design and development and lean towards fresh and innovative concepts. It projects must be profitable, but also fun. www.theghazicompany.com

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“I have a good group of independent contractors and consultants that work for us,” Ghazi says as he explains how he operates. “We are a family more than a company. We outsource everything. There’s no way I could exist without a cell phone and a computer.” Given the nature of his business arrangements and that he is financially secure and single, many might imagine bigger cities luring Ghazi away. He admits he travels the world, but he is adamant that his roots are in Charlotte. Asked for his vision for the Queen City, he speaks of how much it has grown in recent years and what it can become. He ticks off huge projects created since he moved here. Interstate 485 and the Ballantyne development are dramatic evidence of the area’s vitality, he says. Charlotte Can Be World Class “I think Charlotte has huge potential to become world class,” he says, citing financial backing from huge, homegrown banks, quality developers who live in the region and municipal government that supports intelligent growth. In 20 years, Ghazi sees Charlotte as a new city that is building a history, one that could have 100,000 or more people working in its urban core. Maybe it will resemble Portland, OR, or even San Francisco, he speculates. He sees obstacles, such as a difficulty the development community has in getting plans approved and obtaining building permits from local government. It’s harder here than in many places, he says, and he chalks much of it up to growing pains. “That’s something we need to get a handle on,” he says. “Developments can’t take six months to get plans approved. We can go to war in that time. Timing is everything in real estate.” If Ghazi sounds a bit like a politician, he’s quick to douse that idea. “I speak my mind,” he says, “but I’m not very political. I’m more black and white. I think politicians need a little bit of gray. I’m not a gray person.” But does he want to influence the

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way Charlotte grows? “Absolutely” is his rapid-fire answer. He’s on the board of Charlotte Center City Partners and is active in the Charlotte Chamber. Ghazi likes the idea of having a

Triple A baseball stadium in center city, but he also wants a big, urban park. “If this city has a shortcoming, it’s the park system,” he says. “If downtown is going to be vital and support 100,000 people, they need a place to walk the dog and play with their kids. There’s got to be a park downtown and I don’t mean one or two acres. Anywhere inside the I-277 loop, it doesn’t matter.”

What about his own future? “This company started as a hobby,” he muses. “I never had a job. I’m not planning on getting a job.” Maybe he’ll simplify his life, he says. “I play around with starting a residential home building division. That would be going back to what I actually wanted to do originally,” he says. Then his mind is back on the EpiCentre, which he calls “one of the most complicated projects in the whole country.” Still, he assures a listener that it’s fun and he’s pretty sure it will be profitable. biz Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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back row pictured (l to r) David Reichard, Jennifer Tuttle, John Tabor, front row pictured (l to r) David Ramseur, Rick Peterson; Principals RPA Design, PC

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by susanne deitzel

[bizprofile]

Business-by-Design

RPA Works Against the Grain of Expectations The ethos of business-by-design is upon us.The staid and proven course of left-brain, administrative-driven processes are giving way to a new brand of thinking.Words like “iterative,” and “abductive reasoning,” are replacing yesterday’s yarn of “thinking outside the box.” And interestingly, nowhere is this better illustrated than in the conference room of RPA Design, an architecture firm that for all practical purposes looks its part, but delivers something considerably more. Tucked into 112 South Tryon Street in a building declaring its historical relevance with a gold embellished alcove perched over the sidewalk, RPA Design occupies the uppermost floors with CAD tables, design palettes, blueprints, sketches and a glass-paned conference room. But where the large marble table and polished suits around it would normally confer an air of formality and academic gravitas, RPA Design’s smiling principals, David Ramseur and Rick Peterson work against the grain of expectations. Convivial and welcoming, both men do not need to speak long to demonstrate that the design of the firm itself is as unique as the work it produces. A Strong Foundation

Ramseur and Peterson met while working in a large architectural firm, which specialized in designing health care facilities. They worked together for ten years ® greater charlotte biz

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“Inevitably you are going to before determining to create an have different points of view, architectural firm that satisfied but when you can discuss all their similar interests and shared the options and have a tangibusiness philosophy. ble representation of those Among these was the desire, ideas to review within a as Peterson explains, “not just to short period of time, there is create buildings, but to create no disputing what is in front projects for people. Both David of you. The design you are and I had a strong core of experidiscussing becomes a lot ence in health care and senior more concrete, while the living projects, and the desire to RPA is currently working on expanding CMC-Mercy Hospital.The existing facility is being conversation becomes more use our profession to serve peo- transformed to include more outpatient facilities, medical offices and parking decks. fluid. The end result of this ple. Along the way, we have time. The illustrations are posted for feedis consensus,” explains Peterson. developed a business that we think satisfies back and organized into a charette, which those two caveats.” is in architect-speak, ‘a process of visual Design Elements In 1997, the pair began to fashion brainstorming.’ RPA’s conference room is wallpapered unique collaborations on many different This mode d’emploi has many vital diswith these Scenario Planning illustrations, fronts, and this method has become a halltinctions and benefits, according to and again, there is little evidence of an mark of their practice. Using what they call Ramseur. “By generating the schematics AutoCAD in sight. These drawings are old‘Scenario Planning,’ Ramseur and Peterson from the information gleaned in the planschool marker sketches with drafting script have formulated a highly interactive design ning sessions, you can be proactive and details, and the effect is calming, if not model using the input and insight of their immediately incorporate your client’s needs downright nostalgic. clients, consultants and their design team. into the design. This also gives the stakeExplains Rick Peterson, “We try not to In this instance, ‘interactive’ has holders ownership in the design, rather overuse computer generated designs when refreshingly little, if anything, to do with than just having a blueprint set down in communicating with our clients because touch screens, styluses, or fancy computfront of them.” they give the impression of rigidity. With the er interfaces. The interactivity is the simIt also appears to separate ego and softer lines and warmth of a sketch, the idea ple communication between talented, strong opinions from the basic facts. appears easier to interpret and revise.” solution-oriented designers, and the But, despite the use of these techniques, resources they use to determine the best RPA Design is not ‘retro.’ Their process is a answer for everyone involved. RPA Design, PC complex amalgam of years of experience The procedure involves a bottom-up, 112 Tryon Plaza paired with cutting edge analytical data, rather than top-down approach. For examSuite 1600 design techniques and the ever-evolving ple, if a health care facility is being created 112 South Tryon Street sociological, operational and financial or expanded, RPA will bring its team, led Charlotte, N.C. 28284 Phone: 704-887-3500 implications of health care and senior livby Ramseur and Peterson, for an intensive Principals: David Ramseur,AIA; Rick ing environments. three-day scenario-planning workshop. Peterson,AIA; John Tabor, Director of This is where the design comes out of Every party with a stake in the building’s Business Development; Jennifer Tuttle, the ivory tower and into the moat. Another design is encouraged to attend, from hosDirector of Interiors; David Reichard, exacting differentiation between RPA and pital board members, to physicians, nursDirector of Healthcare other firms is the lengths to which they are es, and administrators. RPA presents backBusiness: Architectural firm specializing in hospitals, health care facilities, and senior willing to go swim with the alligators. ground on the proposed facility based living facilities. Explains Peterson, “Sometimes you upon its experience with comparables and Employees: 40 feel as though you know almost as much then conducts exhaustive Q&As, generates Regional Projects of Interest: about some facets of the health care envineeds and wants lists, and develops pros Mercy Hospital ronment as the people that are going to and cons of each scenario. Assets of each Laurelmont at Blowing Rock Independent be working in it. By working in this area circumstance are considered, and when Living Retirement Community Huntersville Oaks Nursing Home for so many years, and through skillful possible, married, to generate schematics Carolinas Medical Center collaborations, we get the information for the final design. Charlotte Eye, Ear, Nose, and Throat and expertise to create well-informed, While this is happening, either Associate Western Wake Medical Center efficient and useful spaces.” Ramseur or Peterson is leading the discusMaster Plans Lutheran Services for the Ramseur and Peterson credit their many sion, providing suggestions and tempering Aging affiliations with other firms and health care divergent views, while the other is sketchwww.rpadesign.net consultants as powerful resources. “Cogdell ing various scenarios so that the stakeholdSpencer Advisors, Inc. provides valuable ers can see the result of their ideas in real

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and an adjacent ambulatory insight into the capital and surgery unit owned by an LLC financial climate of health care, of physicians. Its top floor will and we are pleased to be their be medical office space, to preferred architect. As well, accommodate resident physiLantz Boggio Architects (LBA), cians and specialists. In addibased out of Denver, Colorado tion to its original plan, the and led by Dennis Boggio is a space to locate the facility has pioneer in the design for senbeen arranged on a piece of ior living spaces, and brings a property that will allow for lot of insight to the process. plenty of expansion. RPA We are fortunate to have severCarolinas Health Care System's Huntersville Oaks. CHS broke away from traditional al relationships with firms nursing home models and initiated a more community focused neighborhood model. Design is working directly for Cogdell Spencer Advisors who whose work we value highly,” Alamance Regional Medical Center chose as comments Ramseur. his experience. Together we are working to the healthcare facility developer. Peterson says much the same of their find even better alternatives to fulfill the A current project hitting extremely close in-house team. “Everyone in the organizaneeds of those with modest, or nonexistent to RPA’s uptown home is the expansion of tion is highly integrated to assure the best income. There are high-priced options out CMC-Mercy Hospital. The firm is engaged use of our talent. When everyone has the there for those who can afford it. But not in transforming the existing facility to ability to work as a team, ideas get even everyone can pay tens or hundreds of include more outpatient facilities, medical sharper. For example, our Director of thousands of dollars in entry fees and offices and parking decks. It is in an expanInterior Design, Jennifer Tuttle, came to us thousands of dollars a month on top of sion like this that the scenario planning and explained that interior design shouldthat. We are here to provide solutions, in process again proves invaluable. “We started n’t be limited to finishes and decorations. terms of both tangible building design, and doing Scenario Planning for Mercy three She presented us with a powerful case that suggesting some of the more intangible years ago, not just to get the proper design, interior design should be part of the commechanisms to finance them.” but to create plans that would keep the plete architectural design, and she sold us. Comments Peterson, “We believe in hospital operational and attractive in the Now many of our people are fluent in both building beautiful buildings, and we enjoy process. Now we are close to breaking languages as a result.” building award-winning structures. But ground, and expect to have everything This will probably pay off in more ways while many firms stress the aesthetics of complete by 2008,” says Peterson. than one, because RPA is about to get pretty their enterprise, our philosophy is underBut Peterson says that it is not just the busy. With more than 70 million baby standing our client’s business and providbig projects that get the principals blood boomers coming down the pipeline, hospiing solutions to make their job easier, and pumping. “Most of the clients that we tals and senior living facilities are bracing for more productive.” have started with one small project and the inevitable surge of humanity. Says eventually grew into long term relationPeterson, “Not only are there a lot of people Good Composition ships. That is what we are looking for at that are living longer, and more people Ramseur and Peterson offer, by example, the end of the day.” needing care, but these folks are also part of Carolinas Health Care System’s Huntersville He adds, “As a firm, we can be as big or a consumer culture that is used to having Oaks. “CHS abandoned old nursing home as small as we need to be, on a project by higher expectations. You can already see models and initiated a community neighproject basis. That is another great advanthis in today’s hospitals. Gone are the green borhood model with common living and tage of our collaborative relationships.” tiled corridors; now we have skylights and dining spaces and courtyards, as well as a It could be this kind of agility that susatriums and healing environments.” town center where residents can get their tains RPA for the long term. In the rapidly This extends to senior living as well. hair done, shop at the country store or go accelerating and wildly unpredictable field Ramseur’s nine years of experience on the for a walk. It is a new paradigm where senof health care as well as the evolving terrain Board of North Carolina Lutheran Services iors can regain variety and freedom of of senior living facilities, form must follow for the Aging has given him deep appreciachoice,” says Ramseur. function in lightning quick succession. And tion for the situation that many aging The Alamance Regional Medical Center the results matter. Americans are experiencing. “The only (ARMC) in Mebane, North Carolina is The substance demanded by their option the aged used to have were nursing another example of designing for the future. clients will be dictated by a mass of 70 homes, which was terrifying. They were Mebane is a small town located close to million people, and the chorus of those like warehouses for the elderly. Today we Burlington, N.C. anticipating its own state voices will continue to determine the have better options.” of the art medical facility rather than having style for RPA Design. biz He continues, “Our partner, Dennis to travel to larger cities for care. The ground Boggio, spearheaded the assisted living floor of the facility will be an urgent care movement and we have learned a lot from unit and diagnostic center owned by ARMC, Susanne Deitzel is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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Michael Kahn Owner Charlotte Checkers Professional Ice Hockey, LLC

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by ellison clary

[bizprofile]

Slapshot for

Success

Checkers Shoot for Profitable Season Driven is an apt adjective for Michael Kahn. The alcohol distribution executive who bought Charlotte’s minor league hockey team in July has a passion for achievement, at work and at play. With the Charlotte Checkers, he’s combined the two. The owner of what industry analysts say is the nation’s 15th largest beer and wine distributor lists two goals for the Queen City’s hockey franchise – in interesting order. “I want us to build a better relationship with the community,” Kahn says, “and I want to put an exciting product on the ice, one that Charlotte can really be proud of.” He muses about last year’s Checkers squad. “The team was okay on the ice, but the players didn’t participate a lot in the community,” he says, adding that he’s sure people are more inclined to support the team when they see the athletes helping in civic projects. ®

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“Most of these players are from Canada,” he says, “and this is just a step for them toward the National Hockey League, but they need to learn community involvement. It will be required of them wherever they go, anyway.” Kahn, himself, supports community betterment efforts of organizations that fit his outlook and family situation. “I work with charities,” he says matter-of-factly. “My 11-year-old son, Max, goes to Fletcher School. It’s for children with learning disabilities. I’m on the

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board at Fletcher. I also work with The Family Center and with Alexander Children’s Center.” In addition to sitting on the board at Fletcher, Kahn is a major contributor and has a building named in his honor on its new campus. Susan Culp, admissions director at Fletcher, confirms Kahn is an active parent and board member. “He’s one of the kindest men I’ve ever met,” Culp says. “He’s very philanthropic. We’re grateful to him. His heart is in our pocket.” She’s not surprised that Kahn

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wanted to own the Checkers. “He has such an interest in sports,” she says. “He views it as a family opportunity. He’s a very strong family person, a father.” Kahn has a younger son, Michael, who is two and his wife Wendy soon will give birth to another child. Additionally, Kahn is proud of a daughter his first wife brought to their marriage and that he has played a strong role in raising. Danielle Adkins is 22 and will get her master’s in Marketing from the University of Georgia in December. Family considerations have shaped Kahn’s business life, as well. His grandparents cashed in a life insurance policy in 1940 to buy a small alcohol distributorship in Atlanta. His father worked in the business but, at 4, Kahn lost both parents in a fire during a family vacation. The distributorship prospered and Kahn and his younger brother David grew up working in it. “I always assumed I’d be in the alcohol distribution business,” Kahn says. Preferred Working He studied business for two years at the University of Georgia, but says he

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take our personal relationship. That’s important to me.” Kahn adds that he and his brother have a strategic plan for the company’s continued growth. “If you’re not growing, you probably are going to get bought up, because this is a consolidating industry,” he says. “My brother and I consider ourselves to be young,” says the 46-year-old, “and we don’t plan on going anywhere.”

warehouse in Durham. The North Carolina operation accounts for roughly half the 700 employees in all of Kahn Ventures, with about 100 in Charlotte. Kahn Ventures is estimated to do more than $350 million in revenue this year, Kahn says. Michael and David Kahn bought out all other Kahn family members in 1998. “My brother David is not only my partner, he’s my best friend,” Kahn says. “We have always been committed to not allow disagreements in business over-

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preferred working to school. After a short time with an Atlanta mortgage broker, Kahn spent two years with the Gallo wine company in California, completing its management-training program. “That was my real schooling,” he says. “I still rely on budgetary processes they taught us.” He also learned how to plan and implement programs to reach goals, he says. “And being creative,” he adds. “That’s one thing they’ve always been good at.” He was back in Atlanta by 1986, helping run what had become Empire Distributors Inc. His uncle had taken the reins of that entity. Their holding company, Kahn Ventures, Inc., started a Tar Heel arm in 1984 and Kahn moved to Charlotte in 1989 to run Empire Distributors of North Carolina, Inc. “I really fell in love with North Carolina,” Kahn says. “I would never leave here.” Besides headquarters near CharlotteDouglas International Airport, Kahn’s Tar Heel operation includes offices in the Asheville suburb of Arden, Morrisville near Raleigh, and Castle Hayne, which is close to Wilmington. The firm is building a

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Kahn is also a strong supporter of the University of Georgia. On fall weekends, Kahn attends every football game, home and away, and is friends with head coach Mark Richt and his staff. He’s a regular on the Georgia sidelines. A heavy contributor to the school’s athletics, Kahn was honored in a first-game ceremony this season when a Sanford Stadium gate was named for him. Kahn has also funded both academic and athletic scholarships. For his interview, Kahn is dressed in a Georgia Bulldogs golf shirt and relaxes in his Georgia football desk chair. Football is first, but Kahn supports other sports at his alma mater. His reason sounds simple. “I can be fairly soft when it has to do with kids and young men,” Kahn says. “At the University of Georgia, hopefully I’m doing something to help them become better men when they graduate.” As for hockey, Kahn grew up a fan of the old Atlanta Flames, a National Hockey

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League franchise that moved to Calgary, Canada. Then he followed minor league hockey in his hometown until the NHL put the Atlanta Thrashers there. Charlotte’s hockey history is also rich, dating to 1956 when the Baltimore Clippers moved their minor league franchise here. Eventually, the Clippers became the Checkers. But the city was without hockey from 1979 until 1993, when Carl Scheer and Felix Sabates reincarnated the Checkers. The pair sold the team to a minority partner who, in turn, sold it to George Shinn and Ray Wooldridge, owners of the former Charlotte Hornets in the National Basketball Association. In 2002, Scheer and Sabates repurchased the team. They moved it into Bobcats Arena for the 2005-06 season. The team’s financial troubles had them thinking of shutting it down, but they ultimately sold it to Kahn for an estimated $1.5 to $2 million dollars. Scheer, whom Kahn retained as a special consultant to the team, likes what he sees in the Checkers’ new owner. He calls Kahn “a terrific leader.” “I didn’t know Michael before he bought the team,” Scheer says. “He’s very down-to-earth, a solid businessman and modest and humble about his accomplishments, which are considerable. This young man is going to make his mark in Charlotte.” Kahn says he considered buying the Checkers in 2002, but decided he needed to spend more time on his business. “Now I’m a little more settled,” he says. “The company is running well. I don’t have to be as hands-on as I used to be.” Concentrating On Hockey That means he can concentrate on hockey, a sport that appeals to him for its speed and for the dexterity of players who compete on ice skates with blades no more than a quarter of an inch thick. Kahn took over a team that lost $500,000 last season although its average attendance of 5,800 was fourth highest in the 26-team East Coast Hockey League. The move to the uptown arena helped to increase attendance by 16 percent. Kahn wants to see that aver-

age rise to 6,100 or higher this year. Showing his drive, Kahn says may be the most difficult part of his Checkers association is learning the ropes of selling tickets. Putting aside his experience in an industry and a company that values aggressive sales initiatives, Kahn is coming to terms with the different reality of filling seats. “It’s not a decision you can push somebody into,” Kahn acknowledges. “It’s entertainment. That’s the toughest thing for me.” This season, Kahn likes the Checkers’ schedule that includes 18 home matches on Friday and Saturday evenings, the best for attendance. Last year, the team drew four crowds in excess of 10,000 and Kahn thinks the potential is great for more of those nights. Asked if owning the Checkers is as much fun as he anticipated, Kahn pauses

Charlotte Checkers Professional Ice Hockey, LLC 212 South Tryon Street, Suite 575 Charlotte, N.C. 28281 Phone: 704-342-4423; 800-495-2295 Principal: Michael A. Kahn, Owner/Governor Background: Born and raised in Atlanta, Michael Kahn has been involved in the family-owned wine and spirits business all his life. He is vice president/COO of Empire Distributors Inc., which is owned by he and his brother, David, and was founded by their grandfather in Atlanta in 1940. Employees: 12 Business: The East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) is a professional minorleague double-A hockey association based in the United States and Canada. The Charlotte Checkers hockey team is a member of the ECHL American Conference and is an affiliate of both the National Hockey League’s New York Rangers and the American Hockey League’s Hartford Wolf Pack.The Checkers began playing in Charlotte in 1956 in the Eastern Hockey League. Felix Sabates and Carl Scheer purchased the team in 1993, bringing hockey back to Charlotte after a 16-year hiatus. Michael Kahn purchased the team in June 2006. www.gocheckers.com

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briefly and then explains. “I’ve had to make some tough decisions,” he admits. “The team wasn’t in the best financial shape. We’re trying to restructure some things, dealing with financial problems and moving forward.” The Checkers will make money, he says, but maybe not this year. He praises the Charlotte Bobcats management for being open to making changes in the lease under which the Checkers play

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home games in their center city arena. Kahn has kept Derek Wilkinson, Checkers coach-general manager, and President Jeff Longo. Both have signed contract extensions through 2009. He’s impressed with Wilkinson’s hockey connections with the New York Rangers, the NHL team with which the Checkers are affiliated, as well as with the Hartford Wolf Pack, which is the Checkers’ connection to the American Hockey League, a rough

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equivalent of Triple A baseball. Longo, he says, “is a tireless worker. My job is to give him the proper tools to make the Checkers successful.” He looks forward to letting Longo have his head. “At this point, I’m fairly involved in the operations,” Kahn admits, “because of where I want the franchise to go. Because of where we’ve been financially, I’m kind of looking right over his shoulder – a little more so than I hope to in the long run.” Kahn says he puts in a workweek of about 70 hours. Typically, he devotes a day and a half out of each seven to Checkers matters. But his management of the team stops at the edge of the ice. From his youth in Atlanta, Kahn recalls when Ted Turner, former owner of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves, briefly sat on the bench and managed during games. “I won’t be like Ted Turner,” Kahn chuckles. “I’m not going to kid anybody that I know enough. biz Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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back row pictured (l to r) Miles S. Levine, Michael J. Greene, George V. Laughrun II; front row pictured (l to r) R. Andrew Murray, Michael P. Carr; Attorneys-at-Law Goodman, Carr, Laughrun, Levine & Murray, P.A.

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by lisa hoffmann

[bizprofile]

Defenders With Integrity

Goodman, Carr Has Quite a Record Think you’ll never need a defense attorney? Think again. In fact, think back only to the last party or Carolina Panthers game you attended. Did you have a few drinks? Did you drive home? It doesn’t matter if you felt fine or drove fine. If you had gone through a sobriety checkpoint you might be facing criminal charges. Not only would you face mountains of inconvenience, a financial drain and personal embarrassment, but you might also find yourself in jail with a permanent criminal

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record. The results can be devastating. As you’re walking a straight line and touching your nose, having a competent defense attorney suddenly becomes priority number one in your mind. Choosing the right law firm can mean the difference between having that night morph into one of the worst nights of your life or just a bad memory. The law firm of Goodman, Carr, Laughrun, Levine & Murray has seen it all – and then some. If you’ve got a shot at redemption, they’ll find it for you. ®

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Client-Centered Care Goodman, Carr doesn’t advertise. The attorneys figure their works speaks for itself. If they do a good job, their clients will pass their names on. If they don’t, they won’t. Considering that they all have very full client schedules, it’s a good bet those cards are changing hands. George Laughrun, one of the firm’s partners, simply gives each client two business cards, one for the client and one for a friend. Many clients do a double take when they realize Laughrun’s home number is on the card. “I don’t mind giving out my home number. Our founder, Arthur Goodman, always stressed the importance of us being accessible to our clients,” he explains. The firm’s clients come from all walks of life, from top executives, doctors and highprofile local athletes who find themselves in sticky situations to teenagers in trouble and repeat offenders. They all deserve their day in court, Laughrun asserts, and a defendant’s chances of getting a fair shake increases with an experienced, client-centered lawyer by his or her side. The firm handles criminal charges; family, divorce and child custody issues; corporate law; civil litigation; personal injuries; and real estate transactions for businesses and private citizens. Even in the simplest cases, having a good lawyer, one who can see the future ramifications of each decision, can make a real difference in the outcome. If you get a speeding ticket, hiring a lowpriced lawyer may be less expensive to start but it often ends up costing you more in the long run. The attorneys at Goodman, Carr always focus on the best long-term outcome for their clients. If you have a speeding ticket then your lawyer may successfully request a “prayer for judgment,” (PJC) which won’t count as a conviction, but the

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courts will only allow one PJC per household every three years. So if your teenager already has one on record, it’s all for naught. What’s more, if you drive for a living the Department of Motor Vehicles will not recognize a PJC for a commercial license. The bottom line is that new lawyers may not be aware of all the nuances of the law and may steer you toward a quick solution that will only lead to headaches in the future. Goodman, Carr looks out for its clients’ best interests in other ways, too. If you put a call in to the firm, expect a call back from

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what’s best for the client.

~ George Laughrun, Attorney-at-Law

your lawyer, not a receptionist, paralegal or even another attorney. The lawyers meet with clients early in the morning and late in the evening to schedule around typical working hours. Consistency and accessibility are what often sets this firm apart from other local law firms. The attorneys offer most services at a flat rate, rather than on an hourly basis. They also work with clients on payment plans and don’t charge for initial consultations. If you wind up paying a little more in the front end, you often make it up after the case is closed. “A DWI conviction can cost a client $10,000 over the course of a few years,” Laughrun says. “Once they get past the attorney’s and legal fees they’re facing cab fare for a few weeks, higher insurance premiums and may even lose their job or not get a job because of the conviction.” Although media attention is good for a law firm, it’s bad for clients and Goodman, Carr works hard to stay out of the spotlight. They don’t take a case to trial unless they’re relatively sure they can win (or a client insists on it) and they keep their cases out of the media whenever possible. “The best lawyering job comes when the case never makes it to the papers,” Laughrun says. “We have to put our egos

aside and do what’s best for the client.” Invaluable Experience Arthur Goodman Jr. and Sol Levine (father of current partner Miles Levine) founded the firm in the 60s and vowed right from the start to build it on experience and trust. Carr joined the firm in 1969, Miles Levine joined in 1977, Laughrun joined in 1982, Murray joined in 2000 and Greene came on board in 2003. Combined, the firm’s attorneys have more than 130 years’ legal experience. Interestingly, Laughrun, Murray and Greene all started out as prosecutors. This gives them a distinctive edge in the courtroom, Laughrun says. For one thing, they know how the system works from the inside out. They know the judges, the police officers and the district attorney’s staff. Laughrun has been on a series of police ride-alongs to see first-hand what happens when drivers are stopped for a variety of reasons. “I know exactly what they’re looking for in a DWI case,” Laughrun says. “They’re looking for slurred speech, red, glassy eyes, trouble getting out of the car or fumbling while looking for your driver’s license. I also understand how the whole process works when they’re prosecuting someone. I get cases heard expeditiously and get a good deal from the prosecutor. I can get a bond hearing done in 24 hours and I know how to get a warrant stricken so a client doesn’t get picked up and held over the weekend. Experience goes very far in this business.” Laughrun and his colleagues are also well acquainted with law enforcement officials through their extensive Fraternal Order of Police defense work. They’ve served officers who shot suspects, were disciplined or fired. This relationship building allows the attorneys to get to know the officers, which serves their clients well in the courtroom. Laughrun stresses that all the partners hold a deep respect for the police force. “I’ve seen what they do first hand and I’m here to tell you I wouldn’t want their job,” Laughrun says. “Although we’re often on different sides in the courtroom I have a lot of respect for the work they do.” Experience has also taught the partners exactly what the district attorneys are looking for to ensure their clients are treated

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Goodman, Carr, Laughrun, Levine & Murray, P.A. 301 S. McDowell St., Ste. 602 Charlotte, N.C. 28204 Phone: 704-372-2770 Principals: Michael P. Carr,Attorney-atLaw; George V. Laughrun II,Attorney-atLaw; Miles S. Levine,Attorney-at-Law; R. Andrew Murray,Attorney-at-Law; Michael J. Greene,Attorney-at-Law Employees: 12 Established: 1960s Business: A full-service law firm assisting individuals, families and businesses with legal issues involving criminal charges; family, divorce and child custody issues; corporate law; civil litigation; personal injuries; and real estate transactions. www.gcllm.com

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not checking criminal records? A one-time offense in college – underage possession of alcohol for example – can prevent you from getting a job after you graduate.” Stigma Strife Not everyone thinks the attorneys at Goodman, Carr are heroes and the partners are well aware of the image they can sometimes carry with organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). Laughrun is friendly with Cheryl Jones, president of the Charlotte chapter of MADD and realizes that her heart is in the right place. He just wishes anti-DUI organizations would focus more on treatment than punishment. The way he sees it, even a first offender would gladly trade seeking treatment for having to face legal proceedings. If he has a substance abuse problem, it’s nipped in the bud. If he doesn’t, he’s got nothing to lose and will be discouraged from driving under the influence again. Nearly three quarters of those convicted of driving while impaired are either heavy drinkers or alcoholics, according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, and most collision fatalities occur with drivers who have at least one prior conviction. Mandatory substance abuse assessment and treatment for DUI offenders is listed as one of the center’s preferred preventative measures. Stigma is not the only challenge Laughrun and his colleagues are facing. DUI laws are set to become much more stringent in December. As it stands now, if a driver blows a .08 or higher on a Breathalyzer test that’s considered part of the evidence against him but doesn’t necessarily lead to conviction. After December 1,2006, changes in jurisdictional discretion will almost guarantee conviction for people who register over the legal alcohol limit, regardless of how they behaved or preformed during field sobriety tests. In fact, Laughrun, a certified Breathalyzer operator, suspects sobriety tests other than the Breathalyzer will be used much less frequently at traffic stops. “It’s hard to say how this will affect people stopped at sobriety checkpoints, but I am worried that more people who were not clearly intoxicated will be convicted after this legislation comes into

effect,” Laughrun says. Goodman, Carr has faced may law changes over the years and will meet this one head on and, as always, with the best interest of its clients in mind. The firm opened 4,500 cases last year, its best year yet, and has seen a healthy 10 to 15 percent growth curve over the past few years. As the partners look toward the future, they are committed to keeping the practice small enough to maintain a personalized feel. They are considering bringing in a bi-lingual lawyer next year who would specialize in offering services aimed at Charlotte’s growing Hispanic community, including handling immigration law. The current attorneys have got enough to keep them busy for now, though, although Laughrun’s not complaining. “I’m here by 6:30 a.m. most mornings and I work about 65 hours per week,” he says. “I also work at least a little bit most weekends. But that’s OK with me. I’m lucky enough to be able to say that I truly love my work.” biz Lisa Hoffmann is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

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fairly. A good, thorough lawyer will verify that a case has credible witnesses, a valid search and or valid reason for a traffic stop. Without those things, the case is full of holes. Laughrun has also learned over the years not to burn any bridges in the district attorney’s office or within the police department. If something is revealed to him out in the hallway, he doesn’t use it to embarrass or humiliate an officer once he has him on the witness stand. “Not only would the lack of integrity ruin my relationship with that one officer but there’s a ton of other officers that are going to hear about it and they’re not likely to give me much in the future,” he says. “I think we’ve got the respect of the officers and that they’re going to treat us fairly.” The partners at Goodman, Carr are not easily intimidated, something that’s important in this media-savvy age. Clients need someone to ensure that the district attorney’s office doesn’t have a knee-jerk reaction to public pressure. We have one of the fairest district attorneys in the country, in Laughrun’s estimation, but constant media bombardment can be very powerful in people’s minds. Having a criminal record is difficult to conceal these days, too. “We keep in mind that people can check our client’s criminal record in minutes online,” Laughrun explains. “Heck, employers are checking to see if candidates are posting on Myspace.com you think they’re

Industrial

704.892.8252 Each office independently owned and operated.

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Aerial, Architectural and Stock Photography Larry Harwell 704-334-7874

The Charlotte Region:The View from Another Perspective

[bizview]

In the center of this skyline photo is the site for Epicentre Complex, formerly the Old Convention Center, located between College, Trade and 4th Streets, adjacent to the new light rail line. On the right is the new Bobcats Arena and the blue-roofed building is the transportation center.


Featuring Executive Homes in the Charlotte Region DESIGNER MASTERPIECE Rock Hill, South Carolina This spectacular, Old World, European-designed residence features only the finest quality craftsmanship. The magnificent home includes almost 6,400 heated square feet and approximately 8,000 square feet under the roof. A tremendous screened porch with arches on three sides compliments the elegant, inground, heated pool. 5BRs/4.1BAs MLS# 1034184 - $1,950,000 Property Address: 2658 Claxton Drive

Linda Snipes - 803-817-9600 www.allentate.com/lindasnipes

GORGEOUS FOXCROFT RESIDENCE Charlotte, North Carolina Located in a fabulous community, just minutes from SouthPark, rests this exquisitely designed home with a gated entry and fourcar garage. Custom built to entertain, this residence offers mainlevel master and guest suites and a covered terrace overlooking the outdoor kitchen, fireplace, heated pool, spa and bathhouse. 6BRs/7.1BAs MLS# 624235 - $2,750,000 Property Address: 2513 Red Fox Trail

T AC R T ON C R DE N U

Connie Nuttall - 704-367-7249 www.allentate.com/connienuttall

HUNTERSVILLE ACREAGE Huntersville, North Carolina This French country home, situated on 8.15 acres, is the ultimate in country living. Enjoy views of the rolling pastures and amazing gardens filled with perennials, azaleas and flowering plants. Inside this picturesque home is a French country kitchen with island which overlooks the impressive Huntersville acreage and wonderful two-stall barn. 4BRs/2.2BAs MLS# 598419 - $995,000 Property Address: 6410 Stephens Road

Lee Ann Miller - 704-896-5141 www.LeeAnnMiller.com

ESTATE LIVING York, South Carolina Quiet country living is embodied in this picture-perfect, 22acre estate. Two stocked ponds, walking trails and various fruit trees add to the charm. A two-story farmhouse with wraparound porch and three-car garage is nestled within the property, as well as a separate guest house/office. 4BRs/4.1BAs S.C. MLS# 1033016 - N.C. MLS# 604521 - $1,180,000 Property Address: 2711 Old York Road

Kay Westmoreland - 704-913-6547 www.allentate.com/kaywestmoreland

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Featuring Executive Homes in the Charlotte Region WOODED WONDERLAND Charlotte, North Carolina This traditional home is nestled on a one-acre, heavily wooded and landscaped, corner lot. Spacious rooms are accented with new paint, crown molding, paneling and built-in bookcases. Extensive updates include new Silestone counters, faucet and sink, plus refinished cabinets in the kitchen. A beautiful sunroom overlooks the large pool, decking and patio. 4BRs/3.2BAs MLS# 619690 - $549,900 Property Address: 5372 Five Knolls Drive

Russell Wing - 704-291-8908 www.thewingteam.com

PERFECTION IN MEADOW LAKES Rock Hill, South Carolina This executive home offers distinctive lighting, faux paint and beautifully proportioned rooms, including main-level master suite with 18foot ceiling.The superb kitchen offers custom cabinets and granite. Five bedrooms and bonus offer plenty of space. Other extras include surround sound, central vacuum. Screened porch and three-car garage complete the home. 5BRs/3.1BAs S.C. MLS# 1034898 - N.C. MLS# 621971- $525,000 Property Address: 1618 Blanchard Bend

Kay Grigsby - 803-322-7024 www.kaygrigsby.com

PRIVACY IN BRIDGEHAMPTON Charlotte, North Carolina Enjoy the everyday elegance of this stunning home. It features traditional living spaces, such as the library and two-story great room that is open to the kitchen and breakfast rooms, along with modern luxuries, including exercise and media rooms. Outdoor extras include a deck and covered porch with views of the private yard. 5BRs/5BAs MLS# 606117 - $650,000 Property Address: 16103 Bridgehampton Club Dr.

David Deal - 704-362-6386 www.allentate.com/daviddeal

EXQUISITE RENOVATION Charlotte, North Carolina All the work has been done to update this delightful home. No detail was overlooked during the renovation, which included new hardwood floors and heavy custom moldings, light and bath fixtures, custom cabinets, granite countertops and more. The additional three-car garage could be a possible inlaw/teen suite or guest apartment. 4BRs/2.1BAs MLS# 600466 - $549,900 Property Address: 5310 Lancelot Drive

Kelly Ross - 704-609-3159 www.charlotteresidental.com

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Greater Charlotte Biz 2006.11  

Greater Charlotte Biz