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Business Excellence Award 2023

The Keith Corporation is a full-service commercial real estate firm

The Keith Corporation is a full-service commercial real estate firm

Entrepreneur of the Year 2023

As a substitute for stocks and bonds, many investors look for real estate investment opportunities. Even in difficult economic times, commercial real estate in particular has the potential to provide the capital growth and consistent returns that most investors seek.

We introduce you to The Keith Corporation (TKC). With headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina and projects all across the world, TKC is a privately held, full-service commercial real estate company. Their extensive client list is made up of a variety of businesses, including Fortune 500 global firms, premier hospitals, Department of Defense contractors, industrial juggernauts, and fast-growing startups. Customers make use of their development knowledge so they can concentrate on their main line of business.

We had a discussion with Graeme M. Keith, Development Partner, to understand his perspective of business and ways to gain entrepreneurial success.

Q. How do you deal with fear and doubt?

I firmly believe that the greatest impediment to success is the inaction that fear enables. I consistently ask myself “How would I feel if someone else accomplished the goals I’ve set for myself because I allowed fear to stifle the pursuit of that goal?” For me, the answer usually results in a vigorous and repugnant feeling inside that immediately removes any visibility to fear or self-doubt and my competitive spirit takes over. I strongly believe that action creates traction, even if that action is minimal to begin with.

Q. How do you set your business apart from others in your industry?

All of the businesses I am involved in have one (1) thing in common: we are obsessed with serving our clients and providing the best possible experience. Each client is different; some want to be involved in the entire process, while others just want you to complete the exact scope of the project on time and at, or below, budget. If it weren’t for our clients, we wouldn’t have successful businesses and we are acutely aware of that. Our clients are directly responsible for our success and we never, ever take that for granted. We have to earn our client’s trust and respect every day and carry forward that mentality throughout the entire project.

Q. What is the hardest part of being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur is very challenging. Most people only see the results of a successful entrepreneurship venture, but very few people have visibility into the trenches. Most people don’t realize that when you’re starting a business, much of your time is spent on non-income-producing activities and non-core business activities. For example, before you have a full team in place, an entrepreneur is often dealing with things like making sure you have adequate insurance, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, working on form contracts, negotiating Master Service Agreements with vendors and partners, etc. In the early days, all of those items must be juggled with actually providing the good or service your business was created to provide in order to ensure commercial viability and longevity of the business.

Q. What qualities do you think every entrepreneur should possess?

I personally believe the three greatest traits for entrepreneurs are discernment, persistence and a short-memory. Discernment is important because you can have the greatest team in the world with the greatest go-to-market plan that’s ever been written, but if you’re betting on the wrong idea, it doesn’t matter. Discerning the right opportunity in business is crucial and irreplaceable. Assuming you are able to discern the right business opportunity and you avoid any major pitfalls (which is a lot more challenging than it sounds like it would be), persistence then becomes a predictor of success. I love the law of compounding effort, which says miniscule changes in input can make a macroscopic difference in output. The best illustration is by simply adding 1% on a daily basis results in HUGE dividends.

(1.0)^365 = 1.0


(1.01)^365 = 37.7

Finally, not everyone is going to want what you’re offering. In fact, most people won’t. However, many great businesses have been built in niche sectors. As an entrepreneur, you cannot get caught up in all of the people who aren’t buying what you’re selling; focus on the ones who are or may be consumers. There’s also a great quote from Henry Ford: “if I would have asked people what they wanted, they would have told me a faster horse” which reminds me that when you’re trying to solve big problems, often times people won’t understand or will tell you can’t be done. Do it anyways.

Q. How have you grown personally from becoming an entrepreneur?

When I first got started in my business career, I rode the roller coaster of emotions. I would experience high highs and very low lows. I’ve learned that you need to stay steady and consistent, first for your mental health, but also because your team looks to the leader of the organization for guidance on how to act. If they see their leader freaking out when things go wrong, chaos ensues. When things are going well, it’s important to celebrate with your team, but also that they know that success is expected. You build the right team with the right product or offering, you should be successful, so winning is doing what you’re supposed to do when there’s a confluence of people, place and opportunity. It’s important to be honest and forthright with your team, but it’s also important to ensure you’re setting the tenor of things: when bad things happen, it’s not the end of the world, but when good things happen, it’s exactly what you expect to happen.

Q. What have been some of your biggest learning experiences in running a business?

One thing that really surprised me was how different people are motivated. I work with people whose motivations range from money to vacation time to awards and accolades to simply being told they’re doing a great job. I remember giving one of my early employees a bonus and she responded: “you don’t have to do that, I don’t need a bonus” and I remember being completely shocked. After learning more about her over the course of the following year, I offered her a fully-paid vacation to a region she’s always wanted to visit for her next bonus and you would have thought she won the lottery. It’s important to learn the “Why” behind why your employees do what they do. That will help you learn to be a better manager and reward them more in line with what’s meaningful for them.

Q. What advice would you give to someone just starting their own business?

There are no shortcuts to success. I’ve been honing my entrepreneurial skills since I was 7 years old when I was arbitraging Krispy Kreme donuts on Saturday mornings in my neighborhood. Despite the allure to take shortcuts, there is no amount of success that is worth your character. Thomas Paine has a quote that says: “Character, unlike money, is much easier kept than recovered” and that is a great North star to keep in mind when in business.

A brief bio of Graeme M. Keith

Graeme is the proud father of Graeme “Graeson” Keith IV, born in 2018. He graduated from Wake Forest University followed by Charleston School of Law and is licensed to practice law in the state of South Carolina. From a real estate standpoint, Graeme has completed over $500 million in deals and won multiple “CoStar Power Broker” awards. One of his other companies, MedChat, has been honored as a Fast50 recipient, as well as being honored for being #515 on the Inc. 5000 list of the Fastest Growing Companies in America. He was selected as the Cover Feature for Top-100 Magazine’s “Innovators and Entrepreneurs” edition. He was also named “Transformational Business Leader of the Year” by Exeleon Magazine for 2022. Graeme also serves his community through various Boards, including: Good Fellows Club, McCallie School and Youth Commission International.

“In addition to our sustainable building practices, we also partner with state and local economic development agencies to facilitate growth in areas that need employment opportunities.”

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