Growing From One Generation to the Next

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACousins Danny and Jonathon Kadis function in a rather unique role as co-leaders of their real estate management and development company, Centrex Properties Inc. The company was founded in the early 60’s by their fathers, Harold and Bobby Kadis, and over time has acquired and developed neighborhood shopping centers, office buildings, apartment complexes and limited service hotels in North Carolina, with a focus on the Research Triangle area.

The family story of business ownership goes back a long way.

“Our great-grandfather on our father’s side came over from Eastern Europe,” says Jonathon. “He came down to the Carolinas and landed first in Durham and then finally in Goldsboro, where we had family. They had a furniture store business going and he started peddling horse and cart selling goods, and eventually that grew into a downtown Goldsboro retail business selling clothing and appliances, which our grandfather started.  He built it up into seven stores in eastern North Carolina.”

Harold Kadis, Jonathon’s father, went into that family retail business and later joined forces with Danny’s father, Bobby Kadis, switching gears to the commercial real estate field and starting Centrex Properties Inc. together.  Over the last several years, Harold and Bobby Kadis have transferred the majority ownership and day-to-day operations of the company to their sons, with Jonathon serving as CEO and Danny as President.  In 2006, the two cousins moved Centrex’s offices from Goldsboro to Raleigh where they have continued to grow and diversify the company.

Danny explains that joining the family business wasn’t in his original plans. He had intentions to work in the environmental field, but in 1995 while contemplating taking a larger role with BFI as regional recycling manager, fate seemed to step in.

“It was sort of the dream opportunity with a big company,” says Danny.“But one night at a dinner party my friends looked at me and said, ‘You’re crazy.  Why do you want to work for a trash company?  You should be working for your dad.’ Something about what they said and why they said it got to me, and I talked to my dad and went down and started working there.  And the week I started working for Centrex is the same week I met my wife.”

Jonathon’s route into the family business was a little more direct. He had always been in real estate and had been working in Atlanta for an RTC contractor.  When that assignment came to an end, Jonathon felt he’d reached a turning point in his career.  He came home to work with Centrex Properties Inc. in 1994.

“I was in my early to mid thirties and thought that if there was ever a time for me to come back and go into the family business, this was the time.  Also both my father and my uncle were still in the business and it was a good opportunity and good timing for me to learn from them.”

Danny points out that while he knows the co-CEO model is rare and hard to make happen, he feels that he and Jonathon have succeeded in that area due to their balance.

“Find the yang to your ying,” he advises. “I think that one of the strengths that I’ve come to appreciate, and I think Jonathon would agree, is that there are many days and times when it’d be nice to be the dictator, but there are so many advantages to having that other person keep you in check and bounce ideas off.”

Despite the company’s big reputation in the marketplace, Danny says he considers Centrex Properties Inc. to be a small business, referring to it as a boutique real estate development company.  Today the company focuses on office, retail and hotel development, as well as the management and leasing of all their own properties.  Its two main types of client are hotel guests and commercial tenants.

Both Jonathon and Danny acknowledge their dedicated team as integral to building Centrex’s success.

“You get the best people you can and you do everything you can to hang on to them,” says Danny.  “The tenure here speaks for itself.  We’ve got two employees who are on their twenty-sixth year this year, and then a handful at the fifteen-year level.  There are a few more, just surpassing ten years.  That is a tremendous asset.”

He also points out that the Goldsboro staff that has stayed with the company is not of the same generation as the Kadis fathers, but rather closer in age to Danny and Jonathon.

“I think they were a great bridge for the generational transfer from our fathers to us.  And that made it a lot easier for us, instead of having to deal with staff that had been around from day one with our fathers.  There was a tremendous amount of trust and work history there with these folks, and they saw that we were much like our fathers in a lot of ways and we try our best to maintain the pleasant and desirable working experience like them.”

The two also credit their fathers with the efficiency in which they’ve executed their succession plan.  While transitioning over the financial side has been tricky, Jonathon explains that his and Danny’s fathers have been ready and willing to let their sons lead and plan for the future of the company.

“The biggest benefit that we had is that we had great teachers and a lot of patience,” explains Jonathon. “They knew how to take their time.  They involved me and Danny in all aspects of decision making within business, really from day one.  That helped us gain a great perspective of the company and how they ran it. To me, it was a text book business transfer from one generation to the next.  Not only had they planned for it structurally with the different company entities, but Harold and Bobby were two men who recognized that one day someone else would be running the company, and they were willing to step aside.”

As for the company’s horizon, Jonathon says that he feels current business challenges are one, staying energized and two, finding opportunities in today’s market place.

“I think it’s just extremely challenging, especially in real estate because we’ve been hammered so badly in the last couple of years,” he says.  “But we’re very fortunate. We are stable, and we continue to look for opportunities.”

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