Most people in their early thirties are consumed by their own finances, bank accounts, and budgets. At 31 years old, Derek Kahn was consumed by the finances of the entire Lane Co. in Atlanta. An A-to-Z multifamily operation, Lane is a complicated company with an extensive set of subsidiaries from development to investment to management, and Kahn was in charge of the cash.
Now 34, he's served as CFO of Lane Co. for more than three years and continues to reside over a major transitional period as the firm moves from entrepreneurial to institutional. Known as “CF-Know” to his boss and colleagues, Kahn has established himself as the go-to guy for quick assessments of complicated issues.
“He's smart as a whip,” says Lane Co. CEO Bill Donges. “He was one of the young guns I brought in to change Lane culture.” Before moving up to Lane's CFO, Kahn worked as a consultant at Faucett-Taylor with entrepreneurial real estate companies, Lane among them. His efforts on a sidebar consulting project that examined the financial aspects and benefits of consolidating Lane Co.—which at the time was made up of five separate entities—brought his talents to the forefront. “That's the key to him: He's able to assess things quickly and tell what will make or break deals,” says Donges.
So when Kahn first joined the company, the name of the game was consolidation. “It was really going around and shoring up each of the entities,” he says. “A lot of it was putting out fires and making sure they wouldn't come back.”
Now, as Lane looks to the future and aims to increase development and owned assets, Kahn has new problems to solve. More projects call for more solid funding, and historically, Lane has been very fragmented in terms of its capital structure. All service-level companies were financed separately from projects. Attempting to recapitalize the entire company, Kahn, along with a hired placement consultant and a general counsel, is spearheading a search for new investors and a partner.
“He has allowed us to raise more money,” says Dan Haefner, chief information officer and senior vice president of Lane. By targeting larger institutional relationships in order to bring in bigger investments, Kahn has gone outside the box of “friends of the family” capital—funding from personal relationships of Lane or the board members. “He's very good at figuring out the pieces,” Haefner says. “He likes the brain tease of figuring out deals.”
A quick study, Kahn understood the multifamily market early on. But instead of adhering to the status quo, he constantly pushes for change. New to the industry and free of an ingrained perspective, he doesn't hesitate to ask why things are done a certain way. “Development is all about solving problems,” says Kahn. “[It's about] being able to think quickly on your feet ... giving up preconceived notions on the way things have to happen, and coming up with new and creative solutions.”
And Kahn's creative solutions are definitely paying off for Lane.