Community improvement at heart of Conrad’s goals

Emphasis on Commercial Real Estate profile for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 2, 2013

Since Kemp Conrad, principal with Cushman & Wakefield/Commercial Advisors LLC, took the position as president of Commercial Advisors’ asset services – a leading third-party provider of leasing, property management and project management services – revenues have increased by 215 percent.

No small feat. But when you consider he took the reins in 2007, and much of this time was during a recession led by the real estate market, the firm’s growth is even more impressive.

Originally from Atlanta, Conrad came to Memphis to attend Rhodes College, where he played basketball and majored in history. He graduated in 1996 and, knowing he wanted to work in business, went to the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University for his Master of Business Administration.

He worked in the technology sector during the dot-com craze of the late 1990s. When that bubble burst, he was in his late 20s and did a “gut check” as far as possible careers to pursue.

“I had a couple of different criteria,” he said. “I wanted to become a subject matter expert in a community-centric field that was very entrepreneurial and you had the ability to build wealth. Commercial real estate was the industry that best checked all those boxes.”

Back in Memphis, he worked with Trammell Crow Co. for five years before moving to his current job.

Commercial Advisors’ main focus is business real estate services, a 25-year-old business begun by Larry Jensen, president and CEO of that side, and one that “has always been steady growth,” said Conrad who moved in to lead the asset services business representing landlords.

“The timing was just right when I had come over,” Conrad said. “That business was younger, they had started it about five years earlier. … We had the right people but we had to get the right people in the right positions. We did that and we recapitalized the company and just focused on our strategy, which is that we’re relationship-oriented, not deal-oriented, and just try to add value to what our clients are doing. It’s been a good run.”

On the tenant side through the Cushman & Wakefield relationship, Conrad acts as broker for large clients such as heavy hitters Smith & Nephew, Adams and Reese LLP and Five Below, those with a revenue of $50 million to $5 billion and total portfolio of approximately 20 million feet globally . . . (read more)


Chandler takes center stage as GPAC executive director

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

Nov. 1, 2013

For Paul Chandler, all of Memphis is a stage. The executive director of the Germantown Performing Arts Center has made a career of bringing talent to the city and helping to showcase the homegrown sort, as well.

Born and raised in Memphis, Chandler attended Christian Brothers High School and began working at his father’s advertising agency, Chandler Ehrlich, at a young age.

“I thank him for that because it created a hell of a work ethic. I’ve done just about everything from taking art directors’ work to clients to running errands to filing more paperwork than I ever want to file from 14 years old to 18,” he said.

He got into film production, both in and out of town, working a variety of positions. By his count, he worked on 353 projects in roughly seven years. These included corporate videos, television commercials and music videos.

“I would drive to Nashville often. I’d stay 10 days with friends; I’d work on a country music video every day for 14 to 20 hours a day, come home and sleep for two weeks, and then go back.”

He enjoyed the work but became burned out at a young age due to the grueling hours and pace of the industry.

“In that time, I learned a skill that I use every day in the entertainment industry,” he said. “I can talk to a grip and a gaffer and a loader on the loading dock or on the set and then, in the same breath, turn and talk to the CEO of a company or a superstar. I just learned how to communicate with all types of people.”

It would serve him well when, in 1995, he worked for Memphis in May, charged with the handling of the diplomatic and entertainment visitors from the honored country, Thailand. In addition to other duties, he transported and fed the 78-person Royal Thai Ballet, producing their two-day show, as well, which included building the risers and sets in the Cook Convention Center . . . (read more)


Cleveland brings legal skills to PeopleCap

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 31, 2013

Howard Cleveland has brought a unique set of skills and perspective to his role as principal of PeopleCap, the boutique human resources firm he co-founded in 2012.

Cleveland knew his PeopleCap colleagues Anna Holtzclaw and Meg Crosby while growing up, and he attended Rhodes College with Coleman Johnson and Andy Nix.

“It’s fun to be working with real friends,” he said.

Cleveland entered Rhodes with the intention of a pre-med path until, he said, he “ran into the buzz saw which is organic chemistry.”

Switching to a major in psychology, he became fascinated with the subject. Specifically, he grew interested in the psychology of juries during a time when newsmakers such as John Gotti and William Kennedy Smith were on trial and all over television.

“It was always that ‘why things work’ aspect of it that I enjoyed,” he said.

After Rhodes, he headed to the University of Tennessee College of Law, where he was executive editor of the Law Review and graduated cum laude.

Back in Memphis, he began in the field of civil and criminal general sessions work while with Glankler Brown PLLC. He moved to Kiesewetter Wise Kaplan Prather PLC, a firm committed to “creating a culture, a strong culture, where everybody was on the same team trying to do the same thing as far as providing excellent client service,” he said.

It would become a benchmark taken into future endeavors, including the environment of PeopleCap and its clients. While at Kiesewetter Wise, Cleveland transitioned into employment litigation defending companies in lawsuits but also union avoidance work.

“The reason they initially called us was to figure out how to keep the union out, but what we would do was go in and interview people and help them understand what the factors were that were driving the fact that the employees went and contacted the union anyway, figure out what the real drivers were,” he said . . . (read more)


Coach’s dream of playing professional football refocused on helping children

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 27, 2013

Legacy outlives fate

When Montel Starnes passed away at Baptist Memorial Hospital-East on June 13, Leonard Elion lost his “go-to guy.” The East Memphis Vikings youth football team lost a favored coach. And Lynice Trotter lost her only child.

Starnes, 38, seemed born to play football: It was all he talked about since he learned to speak. He had been a star player at Fairley High School and had spent two years on the Lambuth University football team when illness struck, ending his dream of playing professionally.

But his love for football continued and grew after he began focusing his passion for the sport on helping young players learn the character-building lessons of the game and life.

And even death has not stopped the giving.

In his mother’s small Hickory Hill apartment, the wound is still fresh. There is evidence of her son everywhere, and as Elion and Trotter talk about Starnes,

they gesture toward a makeshift memorial with framed photos and the program from his funeral.

Trotter was only 16 when Starnes was born. He weighed more than 10 pounds. “He came out almost like a football player, a child that came out just ready to play,” she said.

She recalls the days of his boyhood as busy ones, neighborhood children knowing they were safe and welcome at the “house on the hill” at the corner of Shelby Drive and Horn Lake Road, where she lived with her parents, Tommy and Virginia Harris, for 33 years.

“Anybody from Geeter (Junior High School) could come across there,” Trotter said. “You could leave your child at the Harris house, and that child was going to get fed, taken care of, protected until you got off work. We had a yard full of children every day.”

A village helped raise Starnes. There were the firefighters at nearby Fire Station No. 38, the Vietnamese owners of the neighborhood store where he was allowed to run a tab for milk and snacks, and his uncle, local lawyer Ricky Wilkins. “My son loved his uncle Rick,” Trotter said.

Starnes began playing football at age 6, a passion nurtured by his uncle Robert Harris and later at Geeter before he moved on to Fairley as an inside linebacker under the watchful eye of coach Isaac White. “He was a great player, good leader,” said White, now principal at Westwood High School.

From Fairley, Starnes went on scholarship to Lambuth with dreams of playing professionally. When Trotter suffered a subdural hematoma, her son came home to be with her. It was on that trip that Starnes himself fell ill, complaining of severe headaches. Trotter persuaded him to go to the emergency room. He was 21 years old and diagnosed with kidney failure, a diagnosis that would end his football career . . . (read more)

Lynice Trotter assembles a memorial to her son, Montel Starnes, at the football field behind McFarland Community Center where Starnes coached the youth league football team, the East Memphis Vikings. Starnes passed away in June from kidney and renal failure. He was Trotter’s only child. She decorates the tree with memorabilia of the Steelers and Grizzles, Starnes’ favorite sports teams, as well as photos of Starnes with his family, friends and kids he coached.<br />


Lynice Trotter assembles a memorial to her son, Montel Starnes, at the football field behind McFarland Community Center where Starnes coached the youth league football team, the East Memphis Vikings. Starnes passed away in June from kidney and renal failure. He was Trotter’s only child. She decorates the tree with memorabilia of the Steelers and Grizzles, Starnes’ favorite sports teams, as well as photos of Starnes with his family, friends and kids he coached.



Yuletide Office Solutions adapts to changing industry

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 26, 2013

Paperless office. It’s a phrase to strike fear in the heart of any office supply provider.

“I used to sell ‘While You Were Out’ pads in the two-part books every day,” said Chris Miller, president of Yuletide Office Solutions. “I might sell a dozen ‘While You Were Out’ pads once every three months now.”

Despite this environmental shift, Miller has risen to the challenges and changes in his business to embrace it as opportunity. For instance, what he doesn’t sell in note pads and printer paper now, he more than makes up for in office furniture.

Chris Miller, president of Yuletide Office Solutions, said the company has evolved over the years as businesses’ office needs have changed.

(Photo: Andrew J. Breig)

Though furniture long has been available in the company’s catalog, the focus switched to full-service design in 2012 when Yuletide’s new showroom was opened on Sycamore View Road at Interstate 40. Two designers were hired to keep up with increasing demand, and the team works from the beginning to the end of projects with clients and architects to provide layouts for existing space and new construction. Because of such attention to detail and their longevity in the business, Miller said, “We were up 55 percent last year in our furniture segment.”

Yuletide was begun in 1972 by Miller’s father, Paul Miller, whose family has owned Miller Wood Trade Publications, a niche publisher for the forest products industry, since 1927. The elder Miller, says the younger, began the office supply company to “teach all of his sons a sales background so that they could go into his publishing businesses, and then he was going to close it.”

Miller began work at 16 and began running the supply venture in 1985 at the age of 28. His first order of business was to join a national buying group, which allowed him to buy more inventory direct from the manufacturer at lower prices, and pass those savings along to his customers. Yuletide now has 34 employees and a client list that includes notable local entities such as Duncan-Williams Inc., Vining Sparks IBG, Delta Medical Center, Porter-Leath and the Memphis-Shelby County Airport Authority . . . (read more)


Chafetz helps businesses navigate financial straits

Feature profile in Emphasis on Public Companies for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 26, 2013

When the economy took a swan dive five years ago, many companies found themselves on the bargain basement rack.

They weren’t all eager to be sold, however, nor were those flush with cash willing to immediately open the corporate pocketbook.

“On both sides there has been wariness,” said Sam Chafetz, a shareholder with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz PC, who helps companies both public and private navigate such prickly pathways.

Chafetz said the wariness from both parties is understandable.

On the buyer’s side, there is the need for assurance that the company being looked at for purchase is able to weather a recession. Such a buyer has also been holding onto cash to ensure surviving the recession in good form. Yet it also understands that prices for companies have dropped, tremendously in some cases, and it wants to take advantage of the bargains.

At the same time, the seller is wondering why it should let itself go at such deep discounts and are hoping to wait out the recession for a chance at better pricing as competitors fold. These sellers know that companies hoarding cash for purchases will be anxious to make up for lost time.

“Now we’re in the position where sellers, having climbed out of the recession, have an immediate past history of relatively poor results and want to be able to show at least a year or two of good results so they can get the best prices possible,” Chafetz said. “Indeed, some competitors have been wiped out and those that have survived, and survived well, will get much richer prices than they would have gotten during the recession.”

Chafetz was born and raised in Memphis and went to the University of Michigan for undergraduate studies followed by Harvard Law School. He practiced in New York City before returning to Memphis to work as in-house counsel for Cook Industries, then the world’s largest cotton trading company and the world’s third-largest grain trading company. From there he went to work for Waring Cox for 30 years, joining Baker Donelson in 2000 . . . (read more)


Diverse background helps Garrard find career calling

Memphis Standout profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 25, 2013

Mike Garrard has popped the top on a new career as executive director of the Silvercreek Senior Living Center in Olive Branch.

For many years, during school at the University of Memphis and after, Garrard worked in the food and beverage industry, first for a chain of grocery stores and then a decade in sales for national food brokerage firms Acosta Sales & Marketing and Advantage Sales and Marketing.

Garrard segued into sales with industry leaders such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi, at one point in management overseeing seven states for Pepsi alone.

Though he would remain in management, the switch to a different industry in October 2011 came through networking. A spiritual man – Garrard attends Central Church in Collierville – he said he “sent out a basic prayer request-slash-networking to all our family and friends through email, text, phone calls, whatever it may be, and just said, ‘please pray for us, please pray for vision for an opportunity in a whole different industry.’”

The message was sent out on a Friday and by Monday morning his future boss at Silvercreek, who happened to get that message, called and offered him the job only 10 months after the facility had opened.

“It was just an unbelievable opportunity and has hopefully been my last career update, to be honest with you, because I love it here,” Garrard said.

He had come from management where he was working with teams of up to 180 employees, and would continue in such a capacity, initially managing 20 when he first began with Silvercreek.

“The main thing, I think, was getting to understand taking care of senior adults,” Garrard said. “So the curve in the road for managing this building, managing people, was no problem. Managing senior adults, yeah, that’s a new industry and that was a 180-degree turn.”

It was a challenge Garrard jumped into headlong, calling on his years of experience to learn quickly and to excel in his new position . . . (read more)


Technology retreat is what this vacation offered

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 23, 2013

It’s survival of fittest in technology vacuum

When I was a boy, I was drawn to stories such as “Robinson Crusoe,” “The Swiss Family Robinson” and “Tarzan.” Later, it would be the real-life adventure of Thor Heyerdahl and his oceanic voyage on the homemade Kon-Tiki, and Sir Ernest Shackleton’s exploration of the Antarctic. These are tales of being alone and cut off from the world. I am gripped by stories of adventurers at the mercy of the elements, relying only upon their strength and wits.

Why, then, was I at my wits’ end during our recent fall break spent in Mountain View, Ark., with no Wi-Fi or cell phone reception?

We drove there without knowing we were entering a technological vacuum. What far-flung locale, what Bermuda Triangle of a vacation home doesn’t have an Internet connection? A cabin at the top of a mountain doesn’t.

It appeared from the get-go that we’d driven three hours just so the children could argue with each other in a different state. It turned out to be some sort of withdrawal they were experiencing, though. A sort of cyber detox we were all going through as even the adults every so often pulled phones from our pockets to tap on their unresponsive faces.

It didn’t take long before conversation led to how we might survive if civilization ended while we were in that vacuum. And how me might find out. It became obvious that, unlike the Swiss Family Robinson and Crusoe, once our food ran out, we would perish. There was a brief discussion of that other tale of survival, the Donner Party, and who among us might pair best with s’mores. I slept with one eye open the rest of the trip.

Soon enough, though, we all acclimated and noticed there were trees and birds and a friendly toad. There was the White River below and a beautiful sunset above. The one thing more entertaining than a Kindle Fire was an actual fire. The only thing more awe-inspiring than a large-screen television were the larger-than-life constellations in the inky night sky.

For three days, we were unaware of the world beyond the Ozarks. The only evidence that the government was still shut down was that Blanchard Springs Caverns was closed. We paid no mind as we had ice cream from Woods Pharmacy & Soda Fountain in town and we shopped at the Army-Navy store. We flew down the mountainside on a zip line and listened to bluegrass music around the town square. We read books — actual books.

Like a science-fiction movie, we’d been thrust into the past. Mountain View is only three hours from our house in Memphis, yet it might as well have been a half-century removed.

We tuned in an old knob-and-dial radio for any information on how civilization was faring, but we could only pick up a station playing the hits from decades ago. It was the perfect soundtrack as we sat in front of a fire playing a card game in which the loser, if it came down to it, would meet his fate on a bed of graham crackers.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


Jehl stands up for those unable to defend themselves

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 24, 2013

Attorney Cameron Jehl has ventured out on his own, opening the Jehl Law Group PLLC at 60 S. Main St. in Downtown.

Jehl most recently worked for 13 years for the firm of Wilkes & McHugh PA, a Tampa-based national firm that handles cases of nursing home negligence. He worked in the firm’s Little Rock office for a year before moving back to Memphis to open an office here.

The firm’s rented space was in the office of another local defense firm. Over time business increased, requiring the hiring of staff and additional attorneys to handle the workload.

“We continued to grow the operations here and then I worked out a deal with Wilkes & McHugh to take over the practice here in Tennessee,” Jehl said.

In August, Jehl and Wilkes & McHugh amicably parted ways, with Jehl essentially buying out the Tennessee business. It’s been a win-win for both parties and, Jehl says, they “have a great working relationship” with each referring clients to the other.

As far as entrepreneurship goes, the switchover has been a “smooth transition,” he said, with the safety net of ongoing cases pulled taught below. This isn’t to say there haven’t been challenges, but those have mainly fallen within the parameters of the more typical hurdles any small-business owner knows. In addition to Jehl, two other attorneys – Carey Acerra and Deena Arnold – work with the firm.

Jehl was born and raised in Memphis, leaving for college with the ambition, not of a career in law, but of one in advertising.

“I had an interest in advertising just growing up because I liked the creative side of things,” he said.

Going away to the University of Mississippi, Jehl was one of only two to receive a Bachelor of Science offered in the relatively new academic field. He enjoyed it and appreciated the creative outlet, and even spent his first college summer in London as an intern in the industry. In the end, though, it would be law that grabbed his interest and held it.

His family’s business was the Jehl Cooperage Co., founded in 1898 by his great-grandfather. After issues with government and EPA regulations took its toll, it was closed by Jehl’s father Ila in 1992 . . . (read more)


McCullough blends right ingredients with ‘Chef Jenn’

Small Business Spotlight for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 21, 2013

Jennifer McCullough, the white chef’s coat behind the brand Chef Jenn, began cooking up a dream in her home kitchen.

The recipe for success would take equal parts culinary expertise and marketing savvy, and since the end of September her selection of gourmet seafood dips can be found in 116 Kroger stores throughout Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi.

And she isn’t finished yet.

“I’m working on line extensions now,” she said. “I have two products ready to go and others I’m developing that are still seafood-based, entertainment-based.”

It’s a heady and exciting time for McCullough, who grew up in Memphis and attended The Hutchison School for 14 years. She left home for the University of Texas at Austin

and a bachelor’s degree in history, followed by a master’s in educational psychology from the University of Colorado at Denver.

She came of age around great cooks and was always in the kitchen as a child. It was while in Austin, though, that she says she “fell in love with the restaurant culture.”

Back in Memphis, and without a business background but with a passion for food, McCullough began preparing soups in her kitchen and selling them to friends, which evolved into a supper club of premade dinners that families could reheat and serve.

She decided to focus on those “entertainment-based” offerings for customers who were foodies, she said, with experienced palates. She found that as they put all of their efforts into the main course for a dinner party, they were going out to purchase the hors d’oeuvres, and they were looking for a more sophisticated offering than the standard Ro-Tel dip.

“They’re just unique and flavor profiles that people haven’t experienced before, and it just gives people another choice,” she said of her selections.

As demand grew, and the time and ingredients – she was chopping 50-pound bags of onions by hand – threatened to take over, she moved into a commercial kitchen with a manufacturing permit and her clientele included shops such as Palladio Antique and Art, Miss Cordelia’s, Bluff City Coffee and local farmers markets.

She was operating then under an exemption by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the regulation and inspections of the Food and Drug Administration and Tennessee Department of Agriculture. But she had a vision and was being held back by those regulations and by not being able to wholesale or sell across state lines . . . (read more)