Karen Floyd: What is your current position and the entities you oversee?
Tara Sherbert: President and owner of a development firm, an asset management firm, and an investment firm, all of which I head up. We focus primarily on historic renovations nationwide. My husband owns and runs and operates a CPA firm.
Q: Is your sweet spot the Southeast or nationwide?
A: We really focus on states that have state subsidies in addition to the federal subsidies that focus on historic rehabilitations. South Carolina has very much become top of our list because it’s a growing state. It is full of energy coming from all directions, and it is really pro-development.
Q: Historic renovations? Are they predominantly mill-related, or is it anything or any development that fits within a tax credit historical district?
A: They’re different nationwide based on what happened in that region a hundred years ago. For example, we do a lot of work in Iowa, and you have a lot of main downtown buildings. And then North and South Carolina are predominantly mills, just due to the heavy mill operations here.
Q: I want to score your achievement by asking if there are any other women that are doing something professionally comparable.
A: There are. We are very much a predominate male industry. I would say that the females really excel in the investment and asset management arenas; that they’re much more predominate there. When it comes to boots on the ground and hard hat, that is very limited on the female side and mostly focused on the male side. Though I think that trend is going to quickly change.
Q: Do you have any brothers or sisters?
A: One deceased brother.
Q: And your parents are where?
A: My parents are in South Carolina. They are great parents. They’re very supportive of my husband, and me and our businesses, and they basically have just followed right along with us geographically as we’ve moved through our careers. And so they’re down here in South Carolina really supporting us and being a part of what we do. They actually work with us in our offices. Well, my father, he is also an accountant and he came out of the manufacturing business. So he really spiked my interest in mills and manufacturing from a very early age and in an operational standpoint because that was his focus, and it’s very intriguing to him to come in and see these plants now being re-purposed for a different use. So it’s kind of a full circle.
Q: How old were you when your brother passed away?
A: Freshman in college. Very much a life-changing event. He was in a car accident my freshman year, and then he died a couple years ago, but he was dealing with a lot of physical issues. He was paralyzed from the car accident. So a lot of energy went into his situation. Time and focus from the entire family went into taking care of him and making sure that he was able to have a life that meant something in his physical condition, and that changes the entire family dynamic.
Q: Did your brother live in South Carolina?
A: He did in the end years, yes. He grew up in Pennsylvania and then also moved down to South Carolina and North Carolina when we mobilized down here about 15 years ago.
Q: And did you excel in your formative years?
A: I would say, on education, I really started to excel once my brother’s accident happened because we needed to, as a family, really come tight and focus so much time and effort on him. That really encouraged me to take any type of focus off of me and do what was needed to really push things along in general. So that’s really what changed my dynamic completely — I wanted to make everything perfect and right and good and worked hard.
Q: How old are your children?
A: Fourteen and sixteen.
Q: And do they work?
A: They’re workers in the sense that they train and dance 20 to 30 hours a week. So they’re very intense. Our entire family’s a working family.
Q: Did your mother have any professional degrees or anything that she’s now lending to your companies?
A: She really focused on being a great stay-at-home mom and teaching me that component and just being there for us anytime and everywhere that we needed her to be.
Q: And so she now fills a hole, when you’re out traveling, and doing this with your kids?
A: Absolutely. She has been instrumental in everything I do. She even — she knows my weak spot. She knows I’m terrible with dates and remembering birthdays and anniversaries, and she’s always there. Tara, you know …
Q: Could you have been as successful without your mom?
A: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.
Q: So your parents really have dedicated their lives to their family?
Q: And do you envision or do you — is that an expectation that you have carrying forward with your kids?
A: Yes, it’s just a different dynamic with the mom constantly traveling and away and not being that stay-at-home function that my mom served, and it is a very important role. So it’s going to be interesting to see how things unfold when my girls get older, whether they’ll — which route they’ll decide to take, the more aggressive work route that I’ve always taken or the more home caring route. I think, given their work ethic and how many hours they put into a week with their dance and studies, I would see them going more the work route, but time will tell.
Q: Recently there was a Wall Street Journal article that said women are working a fourth more than men, cumulatively, because when the workday is over, they come to a second series of home-related tasks. Do you believe that to be true?
A: I believe a woman that makes a decision to have a high intense work life when their children are young doesn’t — her job never ends. I mean it starts in the morning, and it ends when she literally passes out in bed at night. I believe that we are working harder because we want to prove something mostly to ourselves, especially when we go into industries that are predominantly male, and that we want everything to be perfect on both sides of the spectrum. We want it all, and that’s hard to have, but we’re gonna work to try to get that all, and we’re gonna work ourselves to death to get there.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
A: We met on the first job coming out of college. I worked with him, and we both started the same day and one day — my parents had set me up with a great apartment coming out of college, and they said we’re going to set you up for three months. It’s fully furnished. It’s everything you need. But, in three months, it’s all gonna disappear. So you need to remember, go out and get furniture. You’re making enough money to do this. But I got so busy in my job, those three months came and went away pretty quick, and one day I came home and that furniture and everything that was pretty and perfect was gone, and I broke down. And Bill showed up, who was my friend at that point in time, and he did what he’s done every day for the rest of my life. He said, “Tara, it’s going to be okay.” I mean I was in a complete breakdown. Everything was not where it needed to be, what was I going to do now? So that was really truly how I met him, and that was the beginning of our life together.
Q: You’re the managing principal of Sherbert Consulting, and when was that founded?
A: That was founded when I broke off from my old firm, the Reznick Group in 2003.
Q: So boots on the ground, you have a reputation of being very very engaged with the projects. And, because of that, frankly, you’ve excelled, and your projects have excelled. Talk to me a little bit about the difference between good and great in your mind.
A: With respect to development? It’s the details. In the construction world, which, again, is a predominately male environment, I think having — and my contractor will always say or will say to anybody she is the most detailed and most involved owner than what we have ever seen, and we’re talking top three contractor in the nation. So it’s absolutely breaking things down to their simplest components, making sure that everyone is engaged in making decisions to make sure the details are indeed perfect and thought out, and I think, when you’re dealing with these historic projects such as Drayton, for an example, that have such community support and passion behind them just because of their historical nature and they’re beautiful buildings in and of themselves, you’ve got to get the details right. You’ve got to bring out the perfection really that the building already holds in and of itself.
Q: Is there a signature that you have, other than this attention to detail, which you do have that reputation for — that personifies you?
A: I would just say classic and very high end is what we shoot for. Something that people walk in and they say — most times people walk in and say, “Wow, the attention to the detail.” Everything fits and works together.
Q: I will give you three choices and I want you to rank them in terms of what you prefer to do with your time: financial, development, striking the deal.
A: I would say the development.
Q: And then second?
A: Striking the deal.
Q: And then, finally, the accountant last? The more traditional work?
Q: Charlotte Business Journal voted you one of the Top 25 Women in Business. Was that a surprise to you?
A: A little bit. I knew I was nominated. It was when I was a little bit younger in my career, and it’s when I had started up the consulting practice for my old firm doing very much what I do now. Big honor.
Q: What’s your favorite destination or vacation spot, and do you actually take vacations?
A: Rarely take vacation, but my absolute favorite vacation spot is Sunset Beach. It’s not a luxurious place, but it’s a – we’ve been going there for 30 years. It is a very quiet beach. There’s no commercialization allowed on the beach. So it’s just homes and wonderful sand, and it’s great.
Q: What is your most productive time of the day?
A: It would have to be the morning between 5 and 6 a.m.
Q: And why is that?
A: It provides quiet time. If I’m in the office, it’s quiet. If I’m out running, it’s quiet. If I’m just getting ready or drinking my coffee, it’s really the only quiet time of the day.
Q: And how important is quiet time for you?
A: Not very important. Quiet time makes me a little bit nervous if it’s in excess.
Q: So you’re an extrovert?
Q: When you are tapped out, do you want to be with other people or be alone?
A: When I’m tapped out I want to be with my family.
Q: Who do you go to for advice?
A: My husband.
Q: You mentioned early on the death of your brother and really the accident with your brother. In your life, was that your culminating pivotal moment, that one thing that shook your world the most?
A: That along with his accident, yes. It was all very defining.
Q: If you had one lesson that you’ve experienced that you would want to partake, but you would want other people to know of without having to have gone through it, what would that be?
A: I’m a big fan and believer that all things happen for a reason. You have to have faith that, when things seem really really bad, to not get caught up in that moment because that doesn’t do any good for anybody. Just breathe through the situation, believe in what you’re doing, and have faith that it always does work out.
Q: Is there a stretch goal that you have with the second half of your life?
A: Probably being there more for my family and for my girls and helping them grow and expand their careers certainly is a goal for the second side.
Q: What’s your favorite word?
Q: And what’s your least favorite word?
Q: What inspires you?
A: Honestly what inspires me is when people tell me I can’t do something and when I’m told no. That’s when I curl up and I pitch a little fit and then, a couple hours later, I come out bigger and stronger. So that’s a big part of what drives who I am.