Alofa Porter

In 2019 a conversation with a local business owner turned into a unique opportunity that set me down the path of purchasing a business.

I am proud to be a native Knoxvillian. After college, my husband and I moved to Atlanta, then Dallas, and finally returned home to raise our family and advance our careers. My background is in property management. I spent over 17 years managing A-Class apartment communities and overseeing portfolios of communities throughout East Tennessee. I loved what I did and would probably still be doing that line of work were it not for several events that led me to Corporate Quarters Inc.

Corporate Quarters is a locally owned corporate housing provider, which means we offer fully furnished housing options with flexible lease terms. We serve a wide variety of clients that include corporate relocations to Knoxville and the surrounding areas, folks in between real estate transactions, people displaced from their homes due to fires or other disasters, traveling medical professionals — the list goes on. In 2019, the current owner, Kim Taylor, and I began the conversation of her retiring, me coming on board as vice president to learn the ins and outs of the business, then ultimately purchasing the company.

This process has afforded me the opportunity to learn quite a few lessons about business acquisitions that I might not have learned from a business class or a podcast.They are the kind of lessons that are learned firsthand, through some trial, some error and even some tears.

Lesson 1: If you don’t know what you’re doing, find people who do! I have never bought a business before, but a close friend and mentor, Josh Smith, had — multiple times. His time and advice were worth more than I could ever afford or repay. I was introduced to attorneys and reached out to CPAs who specialize in business acquisitions. This team, along with my husband, were my advisors and my cheerleaders.

Lesson 2: Be patient! Like the saying goes “Anything worth doing, is worth doing right.” And doing something right takes time. Our closing date has been a moving target three years in the making. Buying a company is an intricate process with many moving parts. Every little detail needs to be properly worked out for both the buyer and the seller’s benefit. I knew it would not be a simple process, but through this I have learned patience and perseverance.

Lesson 3: I am where I am today because three strong women before me paved the way. My mom, Tele Fine, left Samoa for Tennessee so her children could have opportunities she never had. My mom has always modeled hard work and dedication. Sherry Williams started CQI in Knoxville in 1994. Her daughter, Amy, and I are best friends, and we watched the company form in our early teen years. Sherry successfully ran and grew the company for many years before selling it to Kim Taylor.

Lastly, I owe this opportunity to Kim, a strong businesswoman who led the company through its toughest years. She believes in me and has entrusted me to continue the legacy of Corporate Quarters being a women-owned small business for 28 years now. Three “generations,” if you will, of women ownership is something I will always be proud to be a part of; thanks to the ones who went before me. I look forward to the day, many years from now, to continue this legacy.

Alofa Porter is the VP of Operations for Corporate Quarters Furnished Apartments & Realty Service Inc. She is a graduate of the Leadership Knoxville Class of 2022.