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October 17, 2012 | Tom Ballard

Carroll imagines what a company could be

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a two-part series about local business executive and entrepreneur Mike Carroll.)

There’s a method to the manner in which Mike Carroll selects companies for his portfolio. He imagines what could be.

During an extended interview with, Carroll described his approach as fairly simple but distinctive.

“When we are contemplating an idea, we try to imagine the transactions that will come from the business plan,” he said. “We study whether a ‘soccer mom’ will spend $150 for brake lights,” using one of his companies and its technology to underscore the point.

Carroll says the portfolio has evolved from a concentration in technology and manufacturing to now include healthcare, nursing and senior services. It was clear from the interview that Carroll is particularly passionate about the latter.

“Seniors should be challenged and grow, not just offered comfort and safety,” he says in describing one of his newest ventures to offer more than traditional healthcare services for seniors. He readily admits that “the market (for the service) has not been demonstrated,” but he is undeterred.

The company offers services for seniors to grow in areas like exercise, nutrition, mental acuity, cognitive ability and social interaction.

A key part of Carroll’s strategy is to have the companies share overhead. One entity, for example, will provide payroll, human resources, marketing and quality assurance. Sales, however, is handled by each company individually.

Carroll is also passionate about an emerging area where he is “building really cool solar-assisted electric vehicle charging stations.” They are located in the Theater District in Chattanooga, at Vanderbilt in Nashville, and on Shelby Farms in Memphis. He says the Nashville and Memphis sites are already up and running, while the Chattanooga site is being commissioned this month.

Getting into the solar area reflects the leverage that Carroll can realize from his portfolio of companies.

“We started looking at solar to heat water,” he said, citing a heating, ventilation and air conditioning company he owns. This work led him to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), to the Tennessee Valley Authority and eventually to local utilities.

“EPRI wants the information about how much energy is coming off the grid and then being put back on,” Carroll explained

The installations are similar in design except for the number of charging stations. Capacity varies in each location, but averages 10.

Carroll says the portfolio is growing as aspiring entrepreneurs come to him with ideas.

As he reflected back on nearly 30 years in the business world, Carroll admitted that he “loves the (business development) stage where you are really dreaming productively and drawing on the white board.” He says his “sweet spot is making something out of nothing.”

It’s clear that he has with his portfolio of companies.


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