Atlanta (1302)

Tuesday, 27 September 2005 06:38

Fulfilling your vision

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Do you know the difference between a fantasy and a vision? Most people don’t. Both fantasy and vision involve imagining who we want to be and what we want to do. But the difference is profound — a vision is real and a fantasy is not. What separates them is the answer to a single life-changing question: What are you prepared to do?

Many people believe they have a vision for their career, their marriage, or their role as a parent or a friend, but because they never follow through on the actions required to fulfill their vision, they reduce it to nothing more than a fantasy. And a fantasy is worth nothing. At the end of your life, you will find no joy in all that you meant to do.

The people who lead great lives, who challenge and inspire us to be like them, are the people who actually do something to make their vision a reality.

There are three key distinctions between a fantasy and a vision that can move you from imagining the life you want to live to actually living it.

The first distinction is clarity. Do you really know what you want? Have you taken the time to thoughtfully define what you want from life? If not, remember this: fantasies hide in the mind, visions pour out onto paper. If you want it to be real, write it down. When I took the time to write all that I would want my children to say in a eulogy for me, I went from hoping to be a great dad someday to actually being one.

The second distinction is progression. Almost nothing of significance can be completed in a single step. In business, we’re familiar with breaking large projects into smaller goals or milestones, but we seldom apply this to our lives.

My vision of being a great dad includes spending time one-on-one with my kids, and this year, I’ve set the goal of planning a one-week wilderness adventure with each of them.

Last year, my goals were different, as they will be next year. But over the course of a lifetime, the cumulative completion of these goals has enabled me to become the dad I wanted to be.

I like to express my goals as newspaper headlines because of the extra energy I get when I read them. Headlines such as “Scott and Dad complete week-long rafting trip in 2005” not only give me a clear goal, but one that I can’t wait to accomplish. Setting at least one goal for the year in each major area of your life will give you the focus and the clarity to take action toward achieving it. The third distinction is regular investment. Even if you’ve set a goal for the year, you still must take the time to plan what to do each week.

Every Sunday for the past 22 years, I’ve spent a few minutes choosing actions that will take me toward my vision in the coming week. In the world of investments, this is known as the drip method. Alone, each weekly action might seem insignificant, but cumulatively, they add up to something great.

So, if part of my vision to be a great dad is to take a long rafting trip with my son, then my investment this week might be simply to research various rivers out west or to buy a map. By reducing this big goal to small, weekly investments, I can make steady progress while still balancing all my other responsibilities.

What are your fantasies? Do you want to be a great leader? A loving, engaged spouse or parent? A trusted and dependable friend? Fit and healthy?

Whatever it is you want from your life, it will not happen until you determine what you are prepared to do and then do it. Your fantasy can be transformed into a vision-filled life by simply deciding today to take action. Will you do it? Just think of the possibilities.

Jim Huling is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services company that was recently recognized as one of the 25 Best Small Companies to Work For in America by the Great Place to Work Institute. Contact him at Jim_Huling@MatrixResources.com or (770) 677-2400.

Monday, 26 September 2005 13:23

Movers & Shakers

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Crawford & Co. named P. George Benson to its board of directors.

Benson has been dean of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business since 1998. Previously, Benson was dean of the Rutgers Business School at Rutgers University, and before that, he was on the faculty at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. In 1997, Benson was appointed by the U.S. secretary of commerce as one of nine national judges for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The Baldrige Award recognizes the highest achievements in performance excellence by U.S. companies.

In 2004, he was appointed to a three-year term on the board of overseers for the Baldrige Award. This year, he was named chairman of the board of overseers.

In 2002, Benson was named a fellow of the Decision Sciences Institute, the institute’s highest honor.

He led the establishment of two new research centers at UGA, the Institute for Leadership Advancement and the Center for Information Systems Leadership.

He also fostered the development of several innovative executive education programs, including a nationally accredited Directors’ College for current and prospective corporate directors.

UNISOURCE WORLDWIDE INC.
Unisource Worldwide Inc. hired Gordon Glover as CFO.

Previously, Glover led the financial operations of office products company Corporate Express Inc. Before that, he was director of mergers, acquisitions and divestments for Amsterdam-based Buhrmann NV, which owns Corporate Express.

PRG-SCHULTZ INTERNATIONAL INC.
PRG-Schultz International Inc. board of directors elected James B. McCurry president and CEO. McCurry was previously senior vice president of FedEx Kinko’s.

McCurry brings more than 25 years of retail experience to PRG-Schultz. He co-founded specialty retailer Babbage’s Inc. and led the company as its chairman as it grew from a single store start-up to a publicly-held retailer with more than 300 stores throughout North America.

McCurry is also a former partner with Bain & Co., where he served as a senior consultant helping to develop successful competitive strategies for companies in a variety of industries, including retail, consumer products, restaurants and food service. McCurry was recruited into Kinko’s in 2003 to serve as CEO of ImageX, which had been acquired by Kinko’s, and to integrate the three businesses of which ImageX was comprised into Kinko’s.

He also led multifunctional project teams integrating Kinko’s with FedEx after its acquisition in 2004.

McCurry is a member of the board of directors and chairman of the Audit Committee of Interstate Hotels and Resorts. He earned an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, and received a bachelor of arts degree with high honors from the University of Florida.

The board also elected David A. Cole chairman of the board.

Cole has more than 25 years of experience working with key retailers around the world. He is chairman emeritus of Kurt Salmon Associates, a global management consulting firm serving the retail, consumer products and health care industries, and he was chairman of the board of directors of KSA from 1988 until he retired from there in 2004.

He is a member of the board of directors and chairman of the compensation committee of AMB Property Corp.

HOMRICH & BERG
Homrich & Berg hired Mark Rogozinski as COO.

Rogozinski is a veteran within the financial industry. Previously, he was COO at Lydian Wealth Management and senior vice president and CFO for Atlantic Trust Pell Rudman.

Rogozinski earned a bachelor of science degree in finance/investments, entrepreneurial studies and communications from Babson College.

FIDELITY SOUTHERN CORP.
Fidelity Southern Corp. appointed James Daniel Preston Jr. SBA division director of Fidelity Bank. Preston has more than years of lending experience in the Atlanta Small Business Administration market.

He is a founding board member of the Georgia Lenders Quality Circle and a member of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders.

WORLDSPAN LP
Worldspan LP appointed Jay Rein vice president of e-commerce.

Rein is responsible for advancing Worldspan’s global market leadership in providing global travel distribution, transaction processing services and IT solutions to online travel retailers, travel suppliers and other online distributors.

Before joining Worldspan, Rein spent more than 15 years in marketing management, customer relationship management and finance. He spent several years with AMR Corp., where he managed business development and financial planning for The SABRE Group. Most recently, Rein was senior director, CRM and strategic marketing for GTSI Corp. He also was a principal of Motorola Professional Services, vice president and general manager, client services for Epsilon Data Management, and held management positions at Logica, AT&T Solutions and Accenture.

Monday, 26 September 2005 12:37

Muscling his way to success

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Ken Keymer found out you can go home again.

Home, in this case, is Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits. Keymer, who has been president since last June, was named CEO of AFC Enterprises, the quick service restaurant’s parent company, on Sept. 1.

His first stint at Popeyes was as vice president under different ownership from 1984 to 1986, and despite a change in ownership since then, Keymer was reluctant to return. A recruiting friend tried to draft him back into the organization, and he turned her down three times before agreeing to meet with the management team.

“To be real honest, I was disappointed in where Popeyes had come in the last 20 years,” Keymer says. “(When) I was at Popeyes (the first time), it was kind of like a Wild West show. ... (Founder) Al Copeland had the company at that time. It was fairly small. It was an entrepreneurial organization trying to grow. It had no systems and was missing a lot of the things you would expect to see in any company, certainly a company you expect to become public.”

Keymer spoke with some of the company’s franchisees, many of whom he knew from his first go-around, and identified three opportunities for the company going forward.

“Here was a brand that has kind of fallen into disarray,” he says. “It wasn’t being well communicated, but it’s a strong potential brand, and nothing was being done with it. The second opportunity really was to pull together a management team and then participate in this collapsing of AFC into Popeyes, which I thought would be an absolute blast from a business standpoint.”

Keymer also recognized that the company had neglected its 350 restaurants spread across 22 other countries.

“The fact that we have that few stores scattered over that many areas is probably a solid indicator that we didn’t have much of plan,” he says.

Keymer’s task as new CEO is to develop a plan to follow the divestment strategy initiated by AFC Chairman Frank Bellatti of selling off three of four the companies — Cinnabon, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Church’s Chicken — in the AFC portfolio.

“Popeyes is the brand; Popeyes is AFC,” Keymer says. “That was a very deliberate decision that Frank and the board made almost two years ago. It was not providing the type of return it needed to be providing to the shareholders.” The problem was that a large corporate center was providing services to all the companies, and the model was simply ineffective. The board decided it made more sense to focus its resources and energy on one company.

“They took a look at the brands they had in the portfolio and really decided, based on how much Popeyes was contributing by itself, that was the appropriate brand to retain and to start spinning off the other brands that were in some form being supported by Popeyes’ performance,” Keymer says.

The carefully crafted divestment structure left Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits the sole entity in the AFC portfolio. Now it’s Keymer’s job to bring value to the shareholders by refocusing and differentiating the company’s brand and expanding its scattered international presence.

Getting started
Keymer learned the important of differentiating the brand during his time at 50-year-old Sonic Inc., the country’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants.

“You start by articulating where you want the company to go,” Keymer says. “As an organization, we pulled all our officers and directors together. We spend a lot of time to make sure we’re clear about what the objectives are. We visit those objectives quarterly. And frankly, on a daily basis, we spend a lot of time talking about things that are consistent with where we’re trying to go. It’s constant communication about how well we’re doing against those objectives and goals.”

Keymer’s first task was to change the message the company presented to the public.

“When I joined Popeyes a year ago, the brand was ill used,” says Keymer, a former PepsiCo executive. “I don’t think we were talking about what made us special. I don’t think we were executing against what made us special. We tried to walk away from that to look like KFC or to look like McDonald’s or somebody else. We were walking away from what I think were the greatest strengths of the company.”

Keymer immediately focused on getting the company back on track.

“We aligned our brand communication, everything from our creative agency to our public relations agency, and we’ve actually started to make some significant progress in that,” he says. “That’s what is going to take this company really where we want it to go.”

“With our chief marketing officer and VP of menu development, we basically sit down and we talk about where we’re going with that. We have identified where we want to take the brand, the brand messaging strategy that we’re trying to use — we’ve extended that throughout the organization so people understand it. We’ve done the same thing with the menu. We have a three-year menu plan.”

That’s reflective of Keymer’s consultative management style.

“I like to talk to people and I like to understand what’s going on,” he says. “I think everybody that I work with is pretty darn smart. They have good ideas and good questions. I’m a big believer in the more people that you have that can provide a different point of view, probably you’re going to make a better decision, ultimately. I don’t reach decisions by consensus. It’s my responsibility to make the decisions, but I’m not going to make a decision without the benefit of the great people I’ve got around me.”

Once the decisions are made, it is time to act.

“Part of it is setting up the expectation in terms of where we want the organization to go and then building from those strengths,” he says. “(It’s) the same thing with QSR support. We work very, very hard to improve the quality of support for our franchisees so they can be successful. ... And we have a tremendous amount of discussion around our folks in the field.”

Once the message is clear, Keymer is ready to take the next step.

“(The goal is to) take that differentiated brand, make it come alive so consumers can take a look at that brand, understand that brand to the point that it is clearly something different, and set it apart and above from what the competition provides,” Keymer says. “Sonic was incredibly successful in doing that. When I first joined Sonic, there were a lot of similarities with Popeyes. One of the issues was that brand evolution hadn’t really happened.”

Taking the lessons abroad
With the brand under control, Keymer is ready to turn his attention to the long-neglected foreign markets.

“For a company our size to have an international presence, it is incredibly more complicated than us just continuing to build domestically,” Keymer says. “We have, as an organization, probably not been as dedicated or deliberate as we needed to be in developing our international markets.”

The company recently invested nearly $5 million to more than double its field staff to better support the stores both domestically and internationally. Each country poses unique challenges, and until recently the company, hasn’t been in a position to address their individual needs.

“If you think about operating in 22 different cultures, you’ll find that Popeyes has a little bit different personality in each one of those countries, and it probably needs to,” Keymer says. “Dietary requirements are different in each of those countries. So, it is incredibly complicated with a company of our resources.”

Keymer plans on focusing on the existing international territories before expanding into new countries. To do that, the company recently hired a chief operating officer for international to manage overseas operations.

“We recognize it’s one of those deals where we’re already there, (so) we’ll do a better job with it,” he says. “We’re developing a new strategy for international. In the short term, what that means is we’re not going into any new countries or territories. We’re going to identify which countries or territories need our priority and start to take the resources we have for international and place them against that so we can get better penetration in those countries.”

When he can, Keymer likes to simplify things. It’s something he learned as CEO of Noodle & Co., a chain of 100 restaurants across 10 states.

“When you get into an entrepreneurial situation, you find that you boil things down to what the essence of the issues are and where you’re trying to go,” he says. “You have fewer resources; you have less data, and the business tends to be more intuitive. And you make very significant decisions because small companies don’t have the opportunity to make large mistakes. It was a refining process for me. And it was very exciting.

“The way you go about making decisions is very different, but it does underscore the fact that you have to get to base issues, base questions and base strategies very, very quickly. That sense of urgency is something you can take from a small, entrepreneurial company and bring to a larger organization.”

That sense of urgency is something that Keymer is trying to bring to Popeyes.

“There’s a common understanding of what it is we’re trying to achieve,” he says. “There’s a common understanding of the mores of the organization. So, what you end up doing is, by creating that management culture, everybody is on the same page. Decisions can happen very, very quickly. That’s exactly what you want to have in an organization.”

HOW TO REACH: Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, http://www.popeyes.com or (404) 459-4450

Sunday, 21 August 2005 20:00

Money matters

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Money is generally available to good companies and good ideas. However, it’s important to really examine what money your company should seek or accept.

Many start-up venture management teams believe that any money will do just to get the company up and running. While it is true that owning 100 percent of nothing is never as good as holding 30 percent of a great success, even start-ups should be particular with their funding sources.

Similarly, established companies, especially closely-held businesses, will need to evaluate their options in order to maintain their control, if that is what is important to them.

Business owners or managers should ask themselves several key questions.

Accept an equity partner or take on debt?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, so determine what is most important to your company.

With equity investors, you will give up some control, but eliminate structured repayment terms. (As the investor grows in sophistication, there may be repayment terms or redemption clauses, but they typically occur down the road.)

With debt, you will retain all control that you previously had but will be subject to requirements such as repayment terms and debt covenants. Evaluate the costs and benefits of each to your particular needs.

Equity options
If you decide to accept an equity partner, where do you find investors? Sources of equity abound, but there are pros and cons to each.

  • Friends and family — Either your biggest supporters or your biggest detractors
  • Angel investor — A wealthy individual who believes in your product, service or mission, but may not have much else to keep his or her attention other than the day-to-day management of your company
  • Venture capitalist — A knowledgeable, sophisticated and well-connected investor whose primary mission is to make money for the venture-capital firm’s investors
  • Competitor — Joining forces with an opponent in commerce can create a powerful alliance or just bring your company down.
  • Customer — Can provide for a captive market, but might also limit your growth potential
  • Vendor — Can provide for secured resources, but might also eliminate cost efficiencies gained by shopping around

Business knowledge
Does the lender or investor know your business? Your lender or investor should understand business ups and downs from seasonality or selling cycles and be willing to stick with you when the cycles swing down.

Most important, your lender or investor should help your business beyond just dollars. A savvy lender or investor can also bring valuable introductions to professional advisers, customers and vendors, and work as a partner to meet your challenges.

Working relationship
Do you want to work with the lender or investor? A solid working relationship is critical.

You must trust and be able to communicate honestly with your lender and investor. Work with those who have high standards and value your company’s relationship.

The other side
Finally, you must understand what the other party is seeking. It is safe to say that your bargaining position with a lender or investor will be strengthened with three key assets.

  • A seasoned management team. Inexperience can be supplemented with experienced advisers — attorneys, accountants, consultants, etc.
  • A thoughtful and sound business plan. It should cover the uses of cash, your market penetration strategy, etc.
  • Passion for your business. No funding source will hand over cash to someone who does not believe in his or her company’s potential.

Karen Fortune (kfortune@tbcpa.com) is a senior manager with Tauber & Balser P.C. in the Forensic Accounting & Litigation Services Group. Her experience is comprised of both public and private practice. She possesses extensive experience in financial reporting, auditing of both public and private companies, addressing complex accounting issues, and evaluating and designing internal controls. Reach her at (404) 814-4968.

Monday, 22 August 2005 06:06

Perception is reality

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Perception is a funny thing. It is not universal; when you make decisions, you should take into account the fact that the way you perceive things is often not how other stakeholders in a situation perceive things. So whose perception is reality? The answer is pretty simple: whoever writes the check is the clear winner.

Perception is not only external to your organization, it is also internal. As a leader, you can have a direct impact on how your customers perceive your company and on how your employees appraise the quality of their work.

So let’s take a look at this dilemma through examples.

Take a homebuilding company that is nationally ranked among the best, but whose customer satisfaction survey results are significantly below where they should be. Why is that? The builder signed a contract to produce a quality home, for $500,000, on a specific date. As the date arrived, it produced a home with minimal defects, on time and at the contract price. The customer should be ecstatic, right?

In reality the homebuyer bought a home, not for $500,000 but for a half-million dollars, which to the homeowner sounds like a lot more money. The builder finished the home on time, but for the buyer that was just part of the contract. Next we move to the fact that there were minimal defects. To the builder that may be a positive, but to a new homeowner with a half-million dollars in debt, any defect is unacceptable.

From an employee/employer perspective, almost the exact same scenario unfolds. If an employee produces their work on time and with minimal flaws, this is nothing more than the employer expects. But in this scenario, many employees will expect higher ratings on evaluations.

These are merely different views of the same events. As the leader of a company or organization, the most important thing that you can do is make sure that employees know that they must educate their customers (both external and internal) about the true value of their efforts. Presentations and facts can be the tools that change perceptions. Let your customers know what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Many companies struggling with perception problems realize they are accomplishing the work; they just aren’t educating their clients or selling themselves. In the example above, the builder may be building a home with products that are well above what is required by code. Most homeowners would not know this, and would not be able to appreciate the value that is being added to their contract unless it is pointed out to them.

This is a trap that nearly all professions fall into. You know the intricacies of what you do, but the average consumer does not.

As the leader of your organization, it is an absolute necessity to educate not only your customers but also your employees. Your employees are the resources that face your customers, and they need to be educated about the importance of selling not only the product but added value. This is what differentiates you from the competition.

The bottom line is that whether it is your boss or your customer, how they perceive you is what they take away. Never forget that your customer’s perception becomes your reality.

OK, I take it back, perception is not a funny thing; in business it can mean the difference between success and failure. How do people perceive your company?

Timothy Duffy is the director of managed services — New England area for Siemens Business Services Inc. He is also the president of Fighter Associates LLC. Reach him at mailto:timothy.duffy@fighterassociates.com

Thursday, 11 August 2005 13:21

Franchises create fortunes

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One evening in 1983, Daniel Burgner went to a business associate’s house for a friendly dinner. After the meal, the associate proudly pulled out a small sports card with a picture of his son on it. The card intrigued Burgner and sparked an idea.

“I’ve been in athletics all my life, and I’ve never seen a little sports card with a 7-year-old on it,” he says. “And it got me thinking about what is lacking in the youth sports photography industry.”

That thought led to many more, until Burgner came up with an entire business plan for a youth sports photography company. That same year, he and co-founder Carl Hansson bought a lab and started making sports cards and other memorabilia for youth sports, and The Sports Section was born.

The Sports Section started slowly but has been growing rapidly since 1990. Revenue increased from $17.5 million in 2001 to $25 million in 2005, and the company employs approximately 1,200 people who work in more than 200 franchises throughout the United States, Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Smart Business spoke with Burgner about how to perfect an idea and maintain a company’s original vision while it grows at a rapid pace.

With franchises opening every year, how do you ensure that customer service is not compromised?

About 10 years ago, we made a company decision that we are basically turning into a full-service company rather than a manufacturing or selling company. We have a pretty good size staff in the office that will not let any of our franchises fail.

They go out and find business for them, they create leads, they fix their cameras and they show them how to better take pictures. Only a small portion of our staff actually sells franchises. All the rest are service-oriented.

We have a 24/7 hotline that anyone around the world can call and we can answer a problem for them. That decision was one of the best decisions we have ever made. That is why we’re growing so fast.

We also have what we call Sports Section University about six times a year, where our people can come in and learn how to take better pictures, how to get into school markets, how to make presentations, how to have good product selection on their envelopes, how to sell and how to market. We have conventions twice a year and regional seminars about 20 times a year.

If there is anything that a Sports Section franchise wants to know about how to make money, they can call us, and we have the answers.

With employees spread across several countries, do you have trouble keeping your vision from becoming diluted?

Never. Our people are so dedicated. The only trouble we would have is other businesses coming in and wanting us to sell their product or line of business.

We made a decision long ago that this is our niche, and it has just materialized into perfection. This is the big reason that people buy this franchise rather than go out and start on their own.

It is very tough. It took us seven years to basically figure out how to work this franchise. I wish we could have done it earlier, but there was no template — there was nobody else doing what we were doing. We only sold an average of three franchises a year for those first seven years because we did not know exactly what we were doing.

When 1990 hit, we began selling 30 franchises a year, and we have never stopped.

Jumping from three franchises a year to 30 is huge. What challenges accompany such rapid growth?

The challenge is producing more programs, keeping interest with more product selection and keeping prices down so that it stays affordable for the customers. We have overcome these challenges. That is why we keep growing.

We will sell 48 franchises this year — up almost 15 from what we did last year. And it is because we have perfected and we keep continually perfecting what we are doing. We could sell 50 to 100 franchises a year if we wanted to and still stay on top of it.

But we are going to limit it to 40 or 50 a year so that we do not lose the vision of keeping our existing franchises happy.

What are your growth goals for the future?

We have quite a few territories open in the United States, and we would like to fill them all up by the year 2010. We would also like to add at least four more foreign countries. We are already the dominating youth sports photography company in the world. There is nobody else bigger than us. So that goal is already accomplished.

We also want to cover all aspects of youth photography. About 80 percent of our business is youth sports photography. We are getting into schools now, which we haven’t before. We are also getting into young adults.

We are really broadening our base and not limiting our franchises to just youth sports.

HOW TO REACH: The Sports Section, (678) 740-0800 or www.sports-section.com

Tuesday, 26 July 2005 13:42

A (safer) investment

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Thousands of newspaper and magazine column inches have been used to paint a gloomy future for real estate in this country. Reporters and experts alike have warned of a real estate bubble burst and a real estate market decline.

But just the opposite is happening in the metro Atlanta real estate market. Because of real estate’s ability to outperform the stock market in recent years, it has become a viable and increasingly popular investment alternative.

What this means to Atlanta residents is that any current real estate owned will continue to increase in value at a rate above most stock market returns. The national average for the annual increase in home values is 7.8 percent; in Atlanta, it’s around 4.4 percent and rising.

As a real estate company owner, I have a vested interest in keeping a close eye on the economy and anything that will affect the real estate market. What I see is a growth in second home and investor properties that now makes up 8 percent to 12 percent of the national home market. Historically low interest rates and a greater selection of mortgage alternatives are another positive influence on investing in real estate.

Real estate ownership offers tax benefits, with mortgage interest being tax deductible, and this is also true for second home mortgages.

Many people have pulled dollars from the stock market and invested in real estate because it is offering a better return. With Enron, the Sept. 11 attacks, a stock market posting flat returns for the last several years and 401(k) plans that are falling far short of expectations, the American public is looking for a better alternative.

As people have been disillusioned with the stock market, the mortgage industry has made money available for lending through low rates and creative loan programs. The demand for housing continues to exceed everyone’s expectations.

Real estate bubble talk is being driven by the increase in the average sale prices of homes in certain markets. Prices in real estate markets are affected by supply and demand, accounting, in part, for these drastic increases in home values. Increased construction cost per square foot to build new homes is another factor driving the increase in average sales price. Supply and demand is also creating an excellent list-to-sales-price ratio in Atlanta of around 95 percent.

Projected growth in metro Atlanta will also affect the real estate market. The Atlanta area expects to add 2.3 million people in the next 30 years. This growth will fuel both demand and supply, as well as have a positive effect on the continued growth in sales price.

In summary, there is no impending real estate bubble about to burst over our collective heads. Instead, real estate sales are creating a healthy and diversified economy. One in three jobs today is somehow related to the real estate industry. Industry sales have, collectively, helped maintain the economy during the aftereffects of the Sept. 11 tragedy.

If anything, we are positioned to have an even better real estate market as people recognize real estate as a safer investment. What this means for those desiring to be investment-savvy or hoping to diversify your investment dollars, is that real estate is an excellent investment alternative.

DAN FORSMAN is president and CEO of Prudential Georgia Realty (www.PrudentialGeorgia.com), a 1,300-plus agent company with 21 locations in metro Atlanta and North Georgia. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Forsman is a CPA and served as 2003 president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors. In 2004, he was named Realtor of the Year by the Atlanta Board of Realtors. Prudential Georgia Realty is the tenth largest Prudential Real Estate affiliate in North America, selling $2.3 billion in real estate in 2004. Reach Forsman at dforsman@PrudentialGeorgia.com or (770) 992-4100.

Tuesday, 26 July 2005 12:33

Choosing the life you want

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How many tomorrows do you have? Thousands? One? The answer is that you don’t know.

But the real question is about how you are living your life. Are you living on the assumption that there will always be a tomorrow to do what you want to do, to become the person that you want to be?

Three days ago, I was having dinner with my wife and daughter at a favorite restaurant and life couldn’t have been more perfect. A few hours later, I was in an emergency room with my blood pressure crashing and my family watching a monitor that no longer registered a heartbeat for a full three seconds.

Did I wish for the chance to send one more e-mail, review one more report or attend one final meeting? Of course not. But what about you? Isn’t that what you do day after day as you’re working late, taking cell phone calls at dinner and canceling your vacation? We consistently make these decisions based on the conscious or unconscious assumption that there is always tomorrow to create the life we want. And then one day, our tomorrows are gone.

Wouldn’t it be better to live each day making sure that we aren’t missing the things that matter most to us? Over the years, I’ve been able to combine a successful career with a phenomenal marriage, being a great dad to my kids, backpacking, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, earning a third degree black belt, becoming an author and a speaker, and now being Papa to my three grandchildren. And I possess no greater talent, ambition, drive or luck than you do.

The difference is that I had a plan. Start right now to build your own plan by choosing an area of your life that is one of the most important to you, such as your role as a spouse, parent or friend. Now, think about what you really want in this role. What kinds of experiences do you want to share? What do you want the relationship to have meant throughout your life?

Stephen Covey recommends a powerful exercise in the “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” for gaining a vision of all that you want from a particular area of your life — writing a eulogy. I want to warn you, this is not for the faint of heart.

Picture the face of the person who is the focus of this role for you. Imagine them standing before your friends and family one day when your time with them has passed. Hear them saying, “I’d like to tell you what my relationship with my dad/mom/husband/friend meant to me.” And then write the words that come from your heart.

As you do this exercise, use real language, resisting the temptation to settle for lofty words such as “He was a great person who dedicated himself to the highest use of his talents and to serving the common good.” Not only is this meaningless, it carries no emotional content. Without emotional content, you’ll be missing the spark that will inspire you to want to live it out.

In my eulogy for my daughter, Sarah, to give about me, I started by writing “My dad was always there for me.” It was a sentence that changed my life. I then went on to write about how much we loved each other, the times we shared and all the things we would do together. Today, I have a written statement of what I really want from my roles as Donna’s husband, Scott’s dad, CEO of my company and many others.

This is the plan that gives my life focus and a sense of meaning, the plan that lets me live knowing that I’m creating the life I want. In an emergency room three days ago, I was reminded that none of us is guaranteed a single tomorrow. Start today to win at the business of life.

Jim Huling is CEO of MATRIX Resources Inc., an IT services company which has received the Turknett Leadership Character Award and several other top employer recognitions. Reach Huling at http://Jim_Huling@MatrixResources.com or (770) 677-2400.

Monday, 27 June 2005 05:55

The Richenhagen file

Written by

Born: 1952, Cologne, Germany

Education: Universities of Bonn and Paris, with degrees in theology, French literature, culture and history; did a correspondence course in economics (similar to an MBA) and participated in a trainee course

First job: High school teacher in Cologne

Career moves: Executive vice president, Forbo International SA, a manufacturing firm specializing in flooring materials headquartered in Switzerland; before that, served as group president, CLAAS KgaA mbH, a global manufacturer of agricultural equipment headquartered in Germany. Prior to 1995, senior executive vice president of field operations, Schindler Aufzugefabrik GmbH, Germany

Boards: I gave up all the board seats I had in Europe in order to focus on the business here.

Residence: Duluth

What is the greatest business lesson you've learned?

The most important one is it's much better to talk with people about their problems than with other people about the people (with the problems) -- communication is very important -- straightforward communication and proper feedback.

What is the greatest business challenge you've faced, and how did you overcome it?

The biggest challenge I had was when I worked in the elevator industry in Berlin, and I had to close a factory with a couple of hundred people, knowing they wouldn't get a job -- just sending them into unemployment.

Whom do you admire most in business and why?

That's a tough question. I don't want to mention a name because I think most of the people I know ... you hear about people and then you meet them and you are a little disappointed.

I'm always impressed by pragmatic people who walk the talk. And what I don't like are those who write books or make speeches, and when you talk with people who worked for them, you find out the reality is totally different. Of course, I admire very much the founder of Agco, Bob Ratliff. That's the reason I'm here.

Friday, 24 June 2005 10:15

Movers & Shakers

Written by

Church's Chicken named Farnaz Wallace chief marketing officer. With 18 years of experience in QSR marketing and advertising, including the past 11 years with Church's, Wallace is responsible for developing brand strategies to drive sales and profits, and deliver on both short- and long-term initiatives.

In addition to leading all corporate marketing and national advertising agency initiatives, Wallace oversees all R&D, QA and field marketing initiatives, which includes two regional advertising agencies. This is the first time in years that all marketing functions are fully integrated, reporting to Wallace.

"Farnaz's extensive QSR knowledge and experience in field marketing and advertising agencies affords her a valuable macro view of the industry that encompasses various marketing aspects from brand positioning and strategic planning to market research, menu creation, promotion analysis and media management," says Church's president and CEO Harsha V. Agadi. "We are excited about the addition of Farnaz to our executive team and believe that her extensive marketing experience and trusting, long-lasting relationships with the franchise community will contribute greatly to the success of the brand."

Wallace began her career at Church's Chicken in field marketing. As vice president of field marketing, she pioneered many multicultural branding initiatives, including cluster marketing, which propelled the brand in maximizing transactions and check average among demographically diverse trade areas. Prior to joining Church's, Wallace spent five years on the advertising agency side of the business in media planning and placement and two years with KFC.

ARCAPITA INC.

Arcapita Inc. hired Charles "Chuck" L. Griffith as executive director. In this position, Griffith oversees Arcapita's 15 portfolio companies, including TLC Healthcare Services and Loehmann's.

Previously, Griffith was an executive vice president at Texas-based computer firm Electronic Data Systems Inc. He also was president and CEO of Ingersoll-Dresser Co., a global producer of pumps, motors and industrial equipment. Before that, he was president of Allied Signal's FRAM/Autolite automotive business and president of Allied's Carbon Materials' business unit. Griffith earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Colorado-Boulder and his master's degree from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.

NATIONAL DISTRIBUTING CO.

Atlanta-based National Distributing Co. promoted Peter Madden to senior vice president/corporate wine director, and named Ken Rosenberg vice president/assistant corporate wine director.

Madden's primary responsibility is to support all NDC houses with wine initiatives that ensure coordinated direction and success. Madden also works closely with NDC's suppliers, helping them by maintaining NDC focus on their goals for cases sold, proper distribution levels and brand standards.

Rosenberg reports to Madden and assists all NDC markets with their wine initiatives.

Rosenberg has more than 10 years of experience with NDC. Most recently, he was the off-premise sales manager, wine -- Richmond, for the NDC-Virginia location. He has also worked for NDC's Colorado and South Carolina houses.

SCHWEITZER-MAUDUIT INTERNATIONAL INC.

Schweitzer-Mauduit International Inc. elected Manuel J. Iraola to its board of directors. Iraola serves as an unclassified director until he stands for election by stockholders at the annual meeting of stockholders in April 2006.

Iraola is president and CEO of Homekeys, a developer, integrator and provider of innovative Web-based information tools and services for the real estate industry. Prior to launching Homekeys, Iraola served on the board of Phelps Dodge Corp. as president of Phelps Dodge Industries. During his 16-year tenure at Phelps Dodge, Iraola held several senior executive positions and was on the boards of several Phelps Dodge Corp. ventures and related companies. Iraola also held positions with ITT Corp., KPMG Consulting and Andersen Consulting during his career.

MAIN STREET BANKS INC.

David W. Brooks II joined Main Street Banks as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Brook is an 18-year veteran of Wachovia Corp., where he most recently served as senior vice president and group executive. His career with Wachovia Corp. also included responsibilities for treasury, funds transfer pricing, interest rate risk management, earnings forecasting, capital planning and balance sheet structure.

As chief financial officer, Brooks is directly responsible for all of the company's financial operations, including accounting, treasury and finance. As part of the company's senior management team, he also provides direction to and influence over strategic direction and tactical implementation of all of the company's operations. Brooks also has responsibility for Main Street's investor relations function.

SOUTHERN CO.

Southern Co. named Kim Greene assistant treasurer. Greene assumes this responsibility in addition to responsibilities as vice president of finance for Southern Co. Services. Greene's new role is among several responsibilities that were held by Tommy Chisholm, secretary and assistant treasurer, who retired.

Greene joined Southern Co. in 1991 as a mechanical engineer and progressed through various areas of responsibility in engineering, strategic planning and finance. Greene earned a bachelor's degree in engineering science and mechanics from the University of Tennessee, a master's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and an MBA from Samford University.