For these game changers, vision is only the beginning
EY has long celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who have followed and achieved their dreams. Over almost three decades, we have applauded their commitment to innovation and perseverance in the face of enormous risk. They saw a different future and made it happen.
The EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program provides an enduring legacy to these dynamic leaders, recognizing their vision and impact. By uniting them in a lasting network of peers who thrive where so many others have failed, we have helped to build an influential community of innovative entrepreneurs.
Each June, we host celebrations in 25 U.S. cities to toast the vision and impact of the men and women who are regional finalists. These leaders have changed the lives of countless others by building their businesses and giving back to their communities.
Join us in celebrating their passion, innovation and tireless pursuit of business excellence.
Congratulations to all of our finalists!
EY Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2015 Florida
CORPORATE INNOVATOR Robert M. Dutkowsky, Tech Data Corporation
DISTRIBUTION & MANUFACTURING Marcelo Young, Transnational Foods, Inc. | Gary Enzor, Quality Distribution | Mark Shaw, UltraTech International, Inc.
EMERGING Daniel Cane, Modernizing Medicine, Inc. | Scott Harris, DeliverLean | Tony McGee, HNM Global Logistics
FAMILY BUSINESS Tom Brown and Jerry P. Brown, Florida Food Products, Inc. | Michael Benstock, Superior Uniform Group, Inc. | Geoff Neuhoff, GSP
FINANCIAL SERVICES Kenneth E. LaRoe, First GREEN Bank | Max Eliscu, LSQ Funding Group, L.C. | David F. Siracusa, Employee Leasing Strategies
HEALTH CARE & LIFE SCIENCES Ricky Caplin, The HCI Group | Derek Hennecke, Xcelience | Dr. Boris Reznik, Biorasi
HOSPITALITY & RETAIL Robert M. Beall, Beall’s, Inc. | Don L. Harrill, Holiday Inn Club Vacations | Abe Ng, Sushi Maki
REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION Ron Antevy, e-Builder | Michael Kaufman, Kaufman Lynn Construction | Buddy Raney, Raney Construction
SERVICES Jamarlin Martin, Moguldom Media Group | Ted A. Fernandez, The Hackett Group, Inc. | Todd M. Wilcox, Patriot Capital, LLC
TECHNOLOGY Sam Zietz, TouchSuite | Anabel Perez, NovoPayment | Norman Worthington, Star2Star Communications
Robert M. Dutkowsky
Tech Data Corporation
Rather than building companies from the ground up, Robert M. Dutkowsky can take an established company, troubled or solid, and rebuild it better and stronger.
He spent the first 20 years of his career at IBM, which included a stint as CEO Lou Gerstner’s executive assistant. In that position, Dutkowsky remembers thinking, “I’m not Lou, but I could be a CEO of a company.”
After a successful track record of navigating underdog companies through rough waters, he stepped in to fill a founder’s shoes at three different technology companies, the latest of which is Tech Data Corporation.
When Dutkowsky joined Tech Data in 2006, it was focused on desktop hardware products. The company had no footprint in the data center and mobility markets, which Dutkowsky felt would explode in the coming years, so he made it a goal to penetrate those sectors.
He always tries to stay one step ahead in an attempt to pinpoint the next big product and best strategic move. The most difficult aspect of Dutkowsky’s job is keeping his finger on the market’s pulse — determining which vendors to work with, deciding what mix of business to do with each and maintaining strong relationships with key vendors.
Tech Data’s business is about being able to offer its customers the products they want, when they want them.
As CEO, Dutkowsky takes pride in the fact that the company ships virtually all orders the same day they are requested. Every morning, he receives a report showing orders that haven’t shipped. The report is almost always blank.
By reinstilling a sense of urgency in the company, it has led to the impressive efficiency that the company operates with today. Dutkowsky believes the combination of Tech Data’s people — their industry knowledge, persistence, personality and responsiveness — along with strong vendor relationships differentiates the company from its competitors.
Distribution & Manufacturing
Founder and CEO
Transnational Foods, Inc.
Marcelo Young began his career with Molinos Rio de la Plata, Argentina’s largest branded food company.
At age 32, Young was in charge of exporting ready-to-eat packaged food. He undertook the task to travel and find distributors by providing samples of MRP’s products. In his 13 years at MRP, he distributed products in 70 different countries.
But Young wanted to move beyond bulk production to finished goods, so he quit MRP to start his own venture in the U.S., Transnational Foods, Inc.
The task of starting his own business proved more difficult than originally anticipated; nevertheless, after six months of perseverance, the first container of olive oil made its way to Miami.
Twelve years ago, the U.S. market was brand conscious, so Young had trouble making connections with big retailers. But over time, he developed relationships with discount stores like Dollar General.
After demonstrating the ability to source quality products to its initial clientele, the company developed its own branding under the name Pampas.
Currently, Transnational Foods operates six distribution centers within the U.S. and sources product from both Latin America and Asia.
And as American consumers have converted from brand loyalty to price consciousness, the company’s reputation of being a one-stop shop for Latin American products has created a competitive advantage.
Transnational Foods shares a lot of profit and success with its employees. Amidst the prosperous times, Young, CEO, and his colleagues have given back to the community both on a local and international level through their involvement with Fundación Manos del Sur.
Also, Young and his wife raise hundreds of thousands of dollars annually by organizing charity events in Palm Beach. The money is donated to an organization for underprivileged children in Latin America.
These initiatives form part of the company’s overall objective to promote the autonomy of the respective Latin American communities.
Chairman and CEO
Gary Enzor has transformed Quality Distribution from a near-bankrupt history lesson to the largest chemical bulk and intermodal-trucking provider in North America. QDI’s stock price today is five times where it stood in the beginnings of Enzor’s tenure as CEO in 2007.
The company, however, had a troubled past. Shareholder lawsuits plagued the initial public offering. QDI had been historically loaded with pricey debt and a private equity investor was unwilling to help restructure the capital more favorably.
But Enzor, who also became chairman in 2013, had a vision to transform a capital-intensive business into an asset-light company. He located affiliate owners, independently owned third-party businesses with industry experience, to partner and operate the company-owned and independently-owned terminals.
This reduced costs, which helped QDI increase revenues despite the downturn that crippled the trucking industry. QDI expects to spend 1 to 2 percent of its annual operating revenues on future capital expenditures, compared to the industry average of more than 10 percent.
The independent contractor model might seem risky, but Enzor has been instrumental in maintaining only the highest quality affiliates. He also has employed QDI resources to connect troubled affiliates with those who are more successful.
Through these changes, Enzor has lead by example, focusing on three traits: intelligence, collaborative skills and the desire to win.
Enzor also has emphasized safety. According to the Department of Transportation, QDI operates at an incident rate 30 percent lower than the industry average. This is not coincidence. QDI has been at the forefront of implementing safety-improving technology, including electronic logging devices, despite no regulatory requirement to do so.
Co-founder and CEO
UltraTech International, Inc.
At age 23, Mark Shaw decided to save the world from toxic waste.
Around this time, the Love Canal disaster occurred in New York, which revealed that a city was built on top of an old, emptied canal that had been filled with more than 21,000 tons of chemical waste. The leak of the chemicals caused countless health issues and birth defects.
This incident significantly affected Shaw, who was among the first pioneers in waste spill containment.
After a couple of years of unsuccessfully attempting to build capital, he told his wife he would try to secure the capital needed in 14 days. If that failed, he would search for a job. But after several days of traveling the country, he connected with his first investor.
Shaw began UltraTech International, Inc. in 1993, after going through a parent company bankruptcy. He didn’t take home a paycheck for two years.
The company has grown to more than 500 products and more than 70 patents.
One patent, macroencapsulation, truly tested Shaw. This process successfully contains hazardous waste during transport and storage via the thick polyethylene macro containment inner liner, metal outer container and the fusing of the lid to the container in a two-hour process.
Shaw would showcase his spill containment solution at conferences — without much success for more than 25 years. After reapplying for the patent, the Department of Energy realized a need for the product and adopted the technology. It’s now contracted to be used in seven Department of Energy facilities.
Shaw, co-founder and CEO, considers himself more the “idea” guy in the business. He enjoys pushing his team to find solutions, while his wife has developed the successful corporate culture. For example, each year, an employee is given three new focus areas within his or her field to master. This helps to retain employees — even better than compensation.
Co-founder and CEO
Modernizing Medicine, Inc.
In 2009, during a routine skin exam with dermatologist Dr. Michael Sherling, Daniel Cane and Sherling talked about the lack of an effective electronic medical records system, which could save time, be more efficient and ultimately allow physicians more time with patients.
Together they co-founded Modernizing Medicine, Inc., where Cane is CEO. They brazenly entered an industry with more than 900 competitors and created the flagship product, Electronic Medical Assistant®.
Cane knew funding would prove difficult at best, so he and Sherling sought to prove their concept through a small group of beta testers to provide candid feedback. Those testers ultimately became the initial investors.
EMA is now used by approximately 30 percent of U.S. dermatologists, and Modernizing Medicine provides specialty-specific offerings in multiple markets to more than 1,500 physician practices.
This is not the first time Cane helped transform an industry. As an undergraduate student, he co-founded what became Blackboard, Inc. to allow students to access course notes in a digital format through an online repository.
At Modernizing Medicine, Cane needed to build a solution that contains all necessary medical information in an adaptive learning engine that anticipates the physician’s individual style of practice.
Modernizing Medicine is built on the philosophy that “it is easier to teach a physician to code than it is to teach medicine to a coder.” So, the company employs 18 physicians as coders who take two to four days a week away from private practice to program software.
Modernizing Medicine is truly revolutionizing health care as a data outcomes and analytics company. EMA’s partnership with IBM Watson and collaboration abilities allow physicians to find answers and consult with peers on a real-time basis about patient needs and concerns.
Furthermore, Modernizing Medicine’s ability to aggregate medical outcomes has provided useful data to both physicians and drug companies alike.
Founder and CEO
CEO Scott Harris founded DeliverLean in 2011, but the idea came to him when he owned and operated a call center soliciting mortgage loans. Harris noticed that employees spent a lot of time on lunch and were tired and unproductive when they returned.
His employees — like many Americans — didn’t make healthy lunch choices and filled up on quick, starchy comfort foods. Harris set out to improve employee productivity and boost office morale by thinking of ways to influence employees’ lunch choices.
He hired a private chef to cook complimentary healthy lunches for the call center employees and noticed how everyone’s performance improved.
Eventually, Harris teamed up with a couple of chefs and started delivering precooked meals in the area.
Customers order and prepay for gourmet meal plans online. Food is delivered to the door three times a week in thermally insulated cooler bags. All customers have to do is heat the microwaveable container and enjoy.
Today, DeliverLean makes an average of 1,600 deliveries per day and has been expanding in hopes of becoming a nationally recognized brand.
Not a chef or nutritionist by profession, Harris relies heavily on his team to deliver quality products to customers. His company’s motto is “Teamwork makes the dreamwork.”
Although the market has easy entry, not every local meal plan delivery business can expand and compete on a large scale. Harris is constantly evaluating propositions to merge with other companies as a solution to expand into other states.
In addition, DeliverLean wants to develop Florida as a job market. The company doesn’t post job openings on publicly accessible websites like Craigslist; instead, it notifies local assistance programs to allow underprivileged community members access to employment opportunities.
Harris also is working with the mayor to make Miami the healthiest city in the U.S.
HNM Global Logistics
Everything Tony McGee has accomplished — from getting a scholarship playing football in college, to getting drafted into the NFL, to starting his own business — has been because of his incredible work ethic and drive, despite the odds against him.
The average NFL career is only 3 ½, but McGee worked hard and smart — doing preventive maintenance to protect himself from injuries, enabling him to play for 11 years.
Using this same long-term thinking, McGee took a risk and tapped into his NFL savings to self-finance and start his own business.
Originally focusing on real estate investments and flipping properties, before transitioning towards logistics, McGee knew he needed a talented and experienced support team at HNM Global Logistics to compete against well-established, billion-dollar companies.
It took nearly the entire first year to obtain all the necessary licenses and permits, but the hard work is paying off. HNM has seen year-over-year explosive growth, with 2014’s growth of more than 460 percent placing the company as the 12th fastest-growing company in the entire state and the third fastest-growing company in Central Florida.
HNM has carved out a niche with custom-tailored and specialized solutions, particularly for coordinating freight movement of challenging shipments such as dangerous goods and charter flights that require a lot of upfront coordination — an area bigger companies may neglect.
On a personal level, McGee, CEO, owes much of his success to the men from his community who stepped up to the plate and showed him that if he worked hard enough he could get out of poverty.
As a result, he makes it an effort to sponsor youth football and basketball teams, and he founded the Tony McGee Foundation — hosting free football camps for at-risk youth, focusing on developing leadership skills and teamwork through sports.
Vice president marketing
Jerry P. Brown
Florida Food Products, Inc.
Jerry P. Brown, president, and Tom Brown, vice president marketing, enjoy being on the cutting edge of developing products at Florida Food Products, Inc.
The family-owned business has been an early adopter and first to market with citrus concentrate, aloe vera extracts, carrot juice concentrate, bio-friendly pesticides, vegetable nitrites and vegetable fiber textures.
The brothers believe that they have been able to overcome so much adversity because there is peer pressure not to let the other one down.
Having entered the family business during its first major crisis in the early 1980s when many citrus trees were destroyed, the brothers encountered more complications in the mid-1990s when key Asian carrot juice markets were oversold, a major aloe vera customer defected, a joint venture focused on cabbage color extracts failed and the farmland for their local carrot supply was condemned.
The company had to cut staff, rationalize inventory, intensify sales efforts and move some family members to Washington in search of alternate process opportunities.
Florida Food Products has had numerous opportunities to fail, yet the Browns have used their determination, ingenuity and frugal nature to ensure the success of the business. The two brothers complement each other. Jerry works with suppliers and the business operations, while Tom is the face of the company, traveling to potential customers and trade shows.
Today, the brothers continue to look for the next product that will be new to the market or create a paradigm shift for consumers.
The company has withdrawn from its successful INVITE EC product line and sold the long-standing aloe vera business to invest in and introduce FiberColloids, which uses vegetable fiber to provide desired gelling and thickening abilities to a wide range of textural applications. The aim is to offer a cost-saving solution to food manufacturers with consumers who demand vegetarian, gluten-free and clean-label products.
Superior Uniform Group, Inc.
CEO Michael Benstock began his career at Superior Uniform Group, Inc. when he was 8 years old, working part time for his dad.
He was exposed to hardworking individuals at an early age, and as a young man he served three years in the Israeli Defense Forces, traveling the world. These experiences have helped him establish a culture of teamwork and innovation at Superior Uniform Group.
The company began in 1920, when Benstock’s great-grandmother loaned two men $1,500 that they couldn’t repay. She insisted they give her controlling interest in Superior Surgical and give her son a job. Benstock’s grandfather eventually became CEO.
The business evolved from medical supplies to medical apparel and then to uniform apparel for various industries — and moved to Florida.
Benstock began his career as a customer service representative and still retains his first paycheck of $414. He also was instrumental in starting and running the company’s first factory in Costa Rica.
As Benstock recognized his entrepreneurial skill and vision, he sought ways to use technology as a problem-solver. In the 1990s, Superior Uniform Group became the first apparel industry company to implement a robotic warehouse.
In 2003, Benstock became CEO, and Superior Uniform Group’s annual revenue has more than doubled during his tenure.
The company still maintains its core uniform business, but it has expanded its client base and now offers total customer care center services and promotional products. It serves industry leaders such as Walgreens, CVS, Arby’s, Denny’s, Taco Bell, Sonic, Publix and Hilton.
The customer care service line the company expanded into was in response to its own need for a high-quality call center. Having difficulty hiring locally, Benstock opened a small office in Central America. The company designed such an effective system, it’s been able to offer customer care solutions to others.
In the early 2000s, GSP founder Paul Neuhoff brought his son Geoff Neuhoff back into the family business as COO.
The company was experiencing hardships with a key client attempting to bring its print marketing in-house. With a sharp decline in volume and revenue, GSP filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in 2004.
Geoff served as the corporate representative for the bankruptcy proceedings and managed to settle in just four months, all while maintaining high morale and customer satisfaction. GSP only lost two employees, and Geoff personally funded some aspects of operations to keep the business moving forward.
Geoff eventually accepted the CEO role in 2009, where he has rebranded GSP, established a strong executive team and has grown the business to solidify its position as an innovator and leader in the point-of-purchase marketing space, specializing in the convenience store industry.
GSP has generated consistently positive financial results with promising opportunities for future growth. Geoff’s management style puts a focus on all elements of the business — new customers, customer retention and increasing the company’s bottom line.
With his forward thinking and analytical approach, Geoff meticulously monitors operating results, including nonfinancial measures, which contribute to informed decision-making and early identification of risks and opportunities.
GSP is also intensely focused on providing the highest quality work product, which is a differentiator among the competition and has been a key part of its success. Geoff implemented the GSP Q program, which focuses on accuracy of ordering, design and output to reduce rework costs and increase the company’s profitability.
Kenneth E. LaRoe
Founder, chairman, president and CEO
First GREEN Bank
In 2006, Founder, Chairman, President and CEO Kenneth E. LaRoe set out on a soul-searching journey across the U.S. in a recreational vehicle.
Along the way he began reading, “Let My People Go Surfing,” by Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia. Chouinard’s philosophical approach convinced LaRoe that a profit-making business could have a positive impact on the environment and society.
When he returned, he decided to put his newfound philosophy to work.
LaRoe started First GREEN Bank in 2009 — a time when many U.S. commercial banks were closing — receiving the last bank charter granted in Florida.
First GREEN Bank is also one of the only U.S. banks with an environmental and social mission. Ultimately, the goal is for 20 percent of the bank’s loans to be for eco-friendly projects.
While restricted by Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. limits on growth for its first seven years, the company grew to five branches and attained profitability in a mere 19 months.
The bank’s customer base is not just those who care for the environment, but also those who care about hometown commitment and personal service.
LaRoe believes that people are more productive when they enjoy the company they work for, reinforced by the company’s 90 percent employee retention rate.
Employees are given unique benefits, such as a cash incentive for hybrid vehicle purchases, complimentary use of a hybrid employee loaner vehicle for any purpose, a personal trainer at the on-site gym, reimbursements for off-site gym memberships and all medical premiums paid by the company.
First GREEN Bank also offers paid sabbaticals for any social mission and 100 percent tuition reimbursement.
In 2014, LaRoe instituted a new policy to establish living wages where starting salaries are based on an amount high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.
President and CEO
LSQ Funding Group, L.C.
Max Eliscu, president and CEO of LSQ Funding Group, L.C., is one of those rare people in business who inspire others to accomplish more than they knew possible through passion, vision and example.
He reaches solutions to problems before most even realize that there is a problem and he doesn’t care how things are conventionally done.
At age 25, only three years into a career at Bank of America, all major financial institutions began adopting credit scoring as a method to optimize the delivery of credit to small to medium enterprises. Eliscu understood the outcome would be a systemic working capital financing gap for small enterprises.
He set to work assembling a team, founding LSQ Funding Group. Eliscu convinced the investors he should be the majority owner and only took half pay until the company got off the ground.
One of the first obstacles was a legacy of mistrust between small businesses seeking funding and the alternative lending industry. Eliscu saw this atmosphere as an opportunity to do something different, something better, something good.
He designed a process to provide financing to those unable to access conventional bank financing, without accepting undue credit risk.
With a commitment to service excellence and rapid funding, he and his young company laid the groundwork for becoming one of the country’s largest privately held alternative lenders.
Eliscu’s curiosity and entrepreneurial spirit also led him to start a second business in 2011, Viewpost. It started as a means to help LSQ better manage its customers and vendors, but quickly turned into a broader technology service.
Both companies have developed and nurtured strong relationships with local colleges to offer undergraduate internship opportunities.
Also, to broaden his engagement with employees, Eliscu initiated a town hall-style forum. The monthly sessions have grown into opportunities for team building through collaborative charity events and competitive games.
David F. Siracusa
Employee Leasing Strategies
David F. Siracusa is the founder and owner of Employee Leasing Strategies, one of the fastest growing and largest professional employer organization brokerage firms in Florida.
While working for another professional employer organization brokerage firm, Siracusa decided to create his own firm to attempt a unique and innovative focus of serving an untapped area of the market.
In 2011, Siracusa and his co-founder began providing brokerage services to the “bluest of blue collar workers” for which insurance coverage is typically hard to obtain, such as roofers, tree trimmers, construction workers and other companies involved in high-risk physical activities. Siracusa also established relationships with statewide insurance agents to attract prospects through references.
Siracusa invested upfront in the skills of the ELS sales force, removing the typical layers of administration. He wanted to create an assembly line process for sales that allowed sales representatives to have minimal paperwork.
Training manuals are provided to each new sales employee and the sales manager assists them before they are required to make a sale on their own. By the time a new sales employee is on the job for two weeks, they are typically able to work independently and provide knowledgeable service.
One crucial benefit of this style of training and management is that ELS’ employees are dedicated and the company has suffered little turnover. This contrasts greatly with the professional employer organization brokerage industry in which sales representatives tend to get burned out.
Over the past two years, ELS has experienced a 300 percent increase in total sales. With the professional employer organization brokerage market continuing to be red hot in Florida and across the country, the company shows no signs of slowing down.
Health Care & Life Sciences
The HCI Group
Ricky Caplin, CEO of The HCI Group, finally achieved his dream of starting his own business in 2009. Healthcare Clinical Informatics or The HCI Group provides a diverse stream of consulting services based on the implementation and use of health care information technology.
The new business quickly took off, but then Caplin’s former employer sued him for the alleged violation of his noncompete agreement.
The business was put on hold for 18 months while Caplin spent most of his time and money defending his name and young business until the case was dismissed.
The experience of having to defend himself helped to shape Caplin’s unique perspective on business. He learned to trust his instinct and not overthink or second-guess his decisions.
Today, this fast-growing company is truly global, with offices in the U.S. and the United Kingdom, and an established presence or solid plans are underway in most of the seven continents.
Thanks to the depth of leadership in upper management and on the board of directors, The HCI Group has forged long-term relationships with strategic business partners and health care IT professionals in the highly competitive and risky health care IT sector.
Caplin believes that healthy competition is the key to success. At The HCI Group’s headquarters, flat-screen televisions display metrics related to their consultant’s periodic goals. This atmosphere helps create excitement about goals and lets each employee understand how he or she contributes.
Caplin also has started other successful businesses that provide a variety of services from civil engineering to venture capital investments for new entrepreneurs.
He even supports the entrepreneurial spirit in his own employees. For example, Caplin helped a manager who recently left The HCI Group develop a business plan, while providing capital funding and renting office space to the new business.
President and CEO
In 2004, President and CEO Derek Hennecke was tapped by MDS Pharma to oversee its Tampa, Seattle and Quebec plants. Eight months after assuming this role, MDS closed the Tampa plant and other locations.
Hennecke saw an opportunity and orchestrated a management buyout of the Tampa plant through a sale and leaseback arrangement, local investors and a line of credit. The customer base was retained and increased. The buyout closed in 2006 and Xcelience was born.
The linchpin in Hennecke’s strategic model is innovation. The company is constantly researching new processes, acquiring new equipment and, with the help of its customers, developing new medications.
This dedication to innovation and a concentration on specialty and orphan drugs has allowed Xcelience to produce an average of 40 new drugs a year, while competitors only produce one or two new drugs per year.
During the recession, to reduce costs, Hennecke decreased management salaries by 10 percent instead of laying off employees. He also formed new relationships with customers, whereby the customer would provide the specialty equipment needed to complete the requested products and Xcelience would charge a lesser fee for the services provided.
The company’s success is primarily attributable to its reputation and ability to provide services centrally. It continues to be selective in clients and projects pursued.
Many of the company’s managers have had successful careers elsewhere but had the desire to implement what they’ve learned on a larger scale. Also, retention is about hiring the right people from the start, so Xcelience recruits directly from the University of South Florida to attract the brightest and best minds.
Hennecke’s dedication to the continued success of Xcelience is evident by the recent acquisition of a new 70,000-square-foot facility that will double the laboratory and research and development space, and house the entire management team under one roof.
Dr. Boris Reznik
Founder and chairman
Using his decades of experience in supply chain optimization, Dr. Boris Reznik has led Biorasi to its current success, helping pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies bring therapies to market.
As a young man in Moscow during the height of the Soviet Union, Reznik was unwilling to let boundaries affect his burning desire to succeed. He turned to education as a means to something greater, and after seeing his pregnant wife move to Western Europe in search of a better future, they reunited and moved to America with only $100 in his pocket.
A pioneer of the just-in-time philosophy of supply chain management, Reznik worked in a couple of corporations before deciding to take another chance on himself. He founded his first company, which he sold for a profit 12 years later.
Afterward, Reznik shifted his focus from technology to biotechnology, which is where he continues his entrepreneurial success as founder and chairman of Biorasi.
Reznik knew the key to making an impact in the industry was to combine the skills and experience of his team with a system that could guide the optimization methodologies. Biorasi’s proprietary platform is an innovative system that leverages interactive training, culture, processes and systems to achieve results.
Within the company, each employee is responsible for the articulation of individual goals and aspirations and how to achieve these goals while maintaining accountability.
In addition, to recognize employees who exemplify the entrepreneurial spirit of Biorasi, Reznik not only offers employees an ownership percentage unprecedented in the industry, but encourages them to be innovators.
Employees can develop their divisions to become spinoff candidates, where the employee can become the CEO.
Hospitality & Retail
Robert M. Beall
For 45 years Robert M. Beall, chairman, has been an integral part of Beall’s, Inc.
Through his perseverance, patience and hard work, Beall’s, Inc. has grown from seven stores when he joined the company to 80 department stories in Florida and more than 400 outlet stores across the U.S.
Beall’s, Inc. was the first company in Florida to have outlet stores, which have been the company’s greatest success.
Back when Beall’s father asked him to return to Bradenton upon opening the seventh store, Beall knew the company couldn’t survive in its current state. With no infrastructure or internal organization, he began implementing the first automation through the open-to-buy inventory system, and over time built up the company’s internal organization.
He also convinced his father to open several stores in Arizona. For a number of years the stores didn’t turn a profit, which created a point of contention. Beall’s father wanted to close the stores, but Beall convinced his father to give them a little more time.
After several years, the stores turned a profit and have done well since. Beall believes his commitment to seeing the Arizona stores succeed is the reason Beall’s, Inc. is now a national company.
Beall’s conservative nature and attention to detail have served him well in adapting to customer wants and needs as well as never hindering the company’s success by leveraging too much debt. For example, the company currently holds debt for only two to three months each year, so it’s never put in a potentially harmful position because of third-party funding.
Another example of Beall’s leadership comes from when e-commerce was first introduced in 2000. By running its e-commerce business out of already existing stores through kiosks, the profits and success could be tested before making a huge financial commitment.
Don L. Harrill
Holiday Inn Club Vacations
When CEO Don L. Harrill joined Orange Lake Resorts, a family-owned business, he found a stagnant company with plateauing sales, employees handcuffed by outdated technology and a corporate culture that micromanaged its employees rather than empowered them.
Utilizing his leadership skills and entrepreneurial spirit, Harrill set out to reinvent the timeshare sales development company.
He immediately began to recruit the most talented industry professionals to not only improve operations but also break down the previously restrictive culture. At his direction, the company also made a massive investment in a new technology platform and set out to find ways to grow the business.
Since 2005, the company has grown from having one resort to 13 resorts in Florida, Nevada, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin and has seen double-digit sales growth.
Harrill has introduced a variety of new products like flexible points and created a strategic partnership with the International Hotel Group to broaden the sales reach and customer base.
When the timeshare industry was hit by the credit crisis, rather than laying off employees and halting construction, Harrill maintained the company’s growth strategy and added 300 employees.
Now known as Holiday Inn Club Vacations, the company culture is focused on the people: team members, customers, shareholders and the community. Harrill and his executive team take great care in making sure communication lines are open and that team members are excited about their jobs and rewarded for their efforts. He believes “a happy employee equals a happy customer.”
He empowers his management team by giving them a runway for their ideas and believes in assisting team members in developing plans and empowering them to execute such plans.
Harrill also has helped create a corporate culture that promotes philanthropic activities. From 2013 to 2014, charitable corporate giving increased 87 percent, including a 22 percent increase in charitable donations from employees.
President, founder and CEO
President, Founder and CEO Abe Ng finds the most rewarding part of Sushi Maki to be the purity with which it operates. He doesn’t feel the need to rush to hit certain financial landmarks. Sushi Maki has become an extension of Ng’s family so he is able to make decisions by thinking about how those decisions affect more than just profits.
Traditionally, sushi has been thought of as mysterious, complicated and intimidating. The goal of Sushi Maki was to be an approachable, affordable sushi bar that people would trust by taking painstaking care in its food, preparation, ingredients and image.
Ng founded Sushi Maki in 2000 after his first entrepreneurial food venture failed, and he put himself and his personal finances on the line.
Sushi Maki taught him to trust his own taste and build something he would like. He continues to follow this when looking to combine different types of food and culture, like the Poke bowl that blends Asian and Latin flavors.
Forced into new measures of innovation due to the economic downturn, Ng began forging new outlets with public schools, hospitals, universities, airports, sports venues and Whole Foods.
As a relatively young company, Sushi Maki has been lucky enough to grow with its employees. People starting at the bottom have developed their skills alongside the company as it expanded.
While Ng appreciates this system, in recent years he has been bringing in outsiders who have already succeeded elsewhere. It has been a challenge and an investment, but Ng believes the company needs to hire for the standard of business it hopes to achieve in the fast-casual arena, rather than for its current level.
Ng also wants to make sure the startup company retains its soul and grows slowly and thoughtfully, being careful not to outgrow what the infrastructure is able to support.
Real Estate & Construction
CEO Ron Antevy has been the driving force behind the success of e-Builder, which was founded by his brother.
It’s not always easy to educate potential clients about using software like e-Builder to manage its construction projects. So, to serve e-Builder’s more than 300 clients and 50,000 users, it takes a team of people working together.
e-Builder focuses on customer service and experience, and a team of more than 120 employees works around the clock to provide a great customer experience. Because adopting e-Builder takes time and resources on behalf of the user, Antevy knows his people must be available 24/7 if need be.
Antevy is hands-on and deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the company, investing a significant amount of time on the front line acquiring new clients and marketing the business.
The company has increased revenue by 30 to 40 percent per year, even during the recession. While construction did not cease during the downturn, cost savings was paramount. With e-Builder’s record of saving customers an average of 4 percent, the demand for the e-Builder tool increased.
When Antevy first joined e-Builder, he was an analytical thinker that didn’t stress culture in the workplace. Over the years, Antevy has learned the importance of people.
He now hosts training for his leadership team members every two weeks to sharpen and hone their people skills. He also conducts all hands-on meetings with the entire company every month to promote feedback and honest assessment.
The majority of e-Builder’s clients are hospitals, government agencies and universities. Antevy has witnessed the additional contributions these clients can make to the community via the money saved from using e-Builder.
In addition, to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary, e-Builder is donating money to 20 charities on behalf of 20 of its customers.
President and CEO
Kaufman Lynn Construction
In 1989, Michael Kaufman, president and CEO of Kaufman Lynn Construction, found himself out of work with a wife and four children. Instead of giving up, Kaufman took on odd jobs fixing homes.
Eventually, he was offered a subcontracting job to finish concrete work in Miami. The job, however, required an eight-man crew that would cost $8,000 a week. Without enough capital to fund the additional labor, Kaufman borrowed the money from his mother-in-law.
This was the birth of Kaufman Lynn Construction — a $12,000 investment, one construction truck and a beat-up Mazda. Through hard work and skillful management of cash flows, Kaufman was able to leverage that first project into other opportunities.
Now, Kaufman Lynn is a highly trusted construction company, providing services for public and private sectors throughout Florida, including senior living, municipalities, schools, universities and colleges, country clubs, health care, multifamily housing, faith-based, cultural, retail and commercial entities.
Kaufman’s response to the economic downturn is a prime example of his willingness to take calculated risks in the face of uncertainty. Rather than “hunkering down,” Kaufman recognized an opportunity to break into the next level of construction. He invested in talent, upgraded systems and rolled out internal initiatives to elevate performance and continue to draw strong talent.
Kaufman also has implemented a unique managing initiative — inquiry management. This mentorship program requires the mentee discuss directives in a nonjudgmental environment.
Kaufman practices an inclusive type of leadership. He communicates common goals to employees and emphasizes financial transparency.
During the recession, he had all employees on-board with cost-cutting measures, and rank-and-file and executives alike took salary cuts. He promised his employees if the company emerged profitably by the end of the fiscal year, he would return the profit. True to his word, the little profit they had went back to the employees.
After working construction jobs throughout the southeast and becoming a superintendent, Buddy Raney founded Raney Construction in 1997 with two men and a pickup truck.
In the early years, Raney, president, learned how to run a business through the help of his business advisers, facing uphill battles to form strong supplier and customer relationships and find financing in the tumultuous construction industry.
Then, during the 2008 financial crisis, bank lending vanished, Raney’s loans were called in, his credit lines dried up and he faced an expiring lease for his warehouse.
Raney reinvented the business by moving to a new warehouse and focusing on vertical integration through building componentization. He created a distribution line for sheeting and framing components through the use of automated saws and assembly line equipment that have minimized human error and manual construction time on the construction site, while still providing framing components of the utmost quality.
Today, Raney Construction is broken into two companies, Raney Construction and Raney Components, which together employ about 300 people.
Raney Construction also is expanding due to its new Hundeggar SPM saw, the first of its kind in the U.S. It will be the only supplier of precut roof sheeting in the country.
Raney has always been the face of Raney Construction, handling all business development himself and meeting face-to-face with customers. He strongly believes in a personal approach.
Raney reviews job reports daily to determine if they receive a “passing grade” on quality standards from the operations managers. Raney visits each location that isn’t meeting the 85 percent benchmark to understand the dynamics of why quality standards aren’t being met.
It was Raney’s leadership, determination and devotion to God, family and the community that has allowed his company to survive and flourish to what it is today.
Founder and CEO
Moguldom Media Group
While working as a paralegal, CEO Jamarlin Martin started a blog as a hobby. As he procured advertising funds, Martin came across an article that detailed the large sums of money advertisers were spending to be featured in pop culture ventures.
So, armed with a $6 domain name, Martin launched Bossip — a pop culture blog tailored toward the African-American market.
Martin’s company, Moguldom Media Group, has grown to include nine websites aimed at niche multicultural markets, from 24WiredTV, labeled the “African-American Hulu,” to Latina Madre, a lifestyle site for Latina mothers. Martin catapulted Moguldom to the global stage with the addition of an African business news website and African travel blog.
Moguldom’s sites collectively attract more than 16 million unique visitors each month, which is more traffic than BET, Interactive One, Vibe and Essence combined.
Martin also has broken into the film industry with Moguldom Studios, producing a series of documentaries — with 15 set to release in 2015.
Employing 150 people and having offices in New York, California and Florida, Martin attributes his success to contributions from his core leadership — many have been with him since 2006.
In 2010, Martin questioned whether he should bring in a more seasoned CEO. During that process he realized his uncertainty was triggered by other circumstances, so he divested unprofitable business areas and reorganized his development team.
Martin has tailored his employee training opportunities — such as providing a training course to an editor with a strong desire to enhance editorial skills for a blog marketed toward the Asian population — to allow employees to start in one position and end up in a completely different role.
Martin is also passionate about education, encouraging the African-American community to attend college by annually contributing to ECLIPSE, creating his own scholarship program and mentoring young people.
Ted A. Fernandez
Chairman and CEO
The Hackett Group, Inc.
Against the advice of almost everyone he knew, Chairman and CEO Ted A. Fernandez left the opportunity to become chairman at a Big Four accounting firm to create his own strategic advisory and technology consulting firm.
With 900 employees, it has become one of the leading consulting firms in the world.
The new company — Answerthink, which would eventually become The Hackett Group, Inc. — was profitable and taken public in less than a year. Fernandez pioneered the idea of taking an advisory firm public at a time when most firms used the traditional partnership structure.
The Hackett Group’s growth hasn’t been without its challenges. The tech crash in 2000 caused revenues to experience double-digit declines for three consecutive years before Fernandez realized he had underutilized the company’s brand and services.
The company’s culture cultivates leaders within the company who relish the opportunity to compete against bigger rivals. There is a collaborative feel that focuses on maximizing an employee’s areas of strength.
Fernandez has created a dynamic team that complements his strengths and is built for the intensity of the short revenue cycle, which is inherent in the consulting part of the business.
He gives his employees leeway to act but expects them to be able to report back with their results and accept his regular, honest feedback.
Fernandez places the most value on effort and commitment, valuing those over raw intelligence or natural abilities. These traits are exemplified in crises, where he finds the importance of making decisions quickly, getting into the details with team members and then moving onto the next item.
The unique culture has caused an astounding number of boomerangs — one-third of their new hires are former employees who decide to return.
Todd M. Wilcox
Patriot Capital, LLC
It takes a risk-taker to run an organization like Patriot Capital, LLC, and CEO Todd M. Wilcox is just that.
He attributes his leadership style of disciplined execution to his military background. Wilcox separated from government service in 2006, after serving as a CIA agent and U.S. Army Special Forces Officer.
Since Patriot Capital’s beginning in 2006, Wilcox has expanded the company from a 10-by-10-foot subleased space in the Orlando area with two employees to offices in Orlando, San Francisco, Tucson and Washington, D.C.
Though Patriot Capital is a government contractor, under Wilcox’s leadership, it has not only survived spending cuts and government shutdowns but thrived.
Despite intense competition and a saturated market with large players, Patriot Capital is still growing. This is a direct result of Wilcox’s ability to be an industry pioneer and network with others to find the right opportunities in niche areas that are not easily repeatable by the competition.
Today, the company has grown to three segments. Patriot Defense Group provides advanced training solutions to the U.S. military’s most lethal and strategic units and law enforcement — the first nongovernment provider of this type of training.
Strategic Risk Management provides business intelligence and specialized corporate security services to the defense, energy, media, financial and legal sectors.
Innovative Logistics specializes in logistical support in hostile environments and emerging markets.
Patriot Capital also differentiates itself from its competitors by the quality of service it provides, thanks to a talented, high-performing team. In order to keep this competitive advantage, Wilcox makes calculated, careful hiring decisions.
Founder and CEO
Sam Zietz, founder and CEO of TouchSuite, recognized the electronic transaction processing space was becoming increasing commoditized.
Small businesses didn’t have the same access to point of sales, processing systems, capital markets and customized technology, due to high costs and a lack of ease of use, that large companies did. So, he focused on providing customized technology to small businesses.
Zietz constantly tasks his team to improve efficiency and productivity for their clients, striving for a work hard, play hard environment. He also uses sport analogies to motivate his teams to continue to be leaders in the marketplace. Throughout the TouchSuite office, quotes are written on the walls to empower Zietz’s employees.
In the past two years, TouchSuite has grown tremendously, with year-over-year sales growth of 80 percent in 2013 and more than 40 percent in 2014. In 2014, the company also doubled in profitability over the prior year.
TouchSuite was one of the first companies to offer affordable credit card terminals and free equipment to encourage repeat customers. It also was the first point of sale system in both the U.S. and Canada that was integrated for Europay, MasterCard and Visa, a now global standard for operation of integrated circuit cards.
As his business developed, Zietz utilized his securitization background and created a “reverse factoring” arrangement to provide capital to companies with repayment terms based on a percentage of sales, not a monthly fee.
Unlike most of its competitors who focus on either merchant processing, sales of POS systems or alternative funding, TouchSuite operates in all three arenas to create unmatched value.
In 2014, TouchSuite launched the first commercial Android-based POS system, where business owners could manage operations and execute customer transactions from anywhere via a desktop system and networked tablet. TouchSuite has also developed a groundbreaking tool for predictive business forecasting.
Co-founder and CEO
The World Bank estimates that more than 60 percent of adults in Latin America don’t have bank accounts, and it is estimated that 30 to 40 percent of economic activity in Latin America is off-grid (e.g., informal cash markets).
Through NovoPayment, Co-founder and CEO Anabel Perez has stepped in to solve this problem by pioneering a variety of non-cash and e-payment options.
Prior to Perez’s first run at entrepreneurship, she helped develop an electronic payment substitute for Venezuelan welfare paper-based payment vouchers. As the first in the market with this service, her employer, a Venezuelan bank, gained market share.
Perez realized the venture needed to remain innovative and operate outside the confines of the bank. She and her team advised the bank’s directors and officers to obtain shareholder funding for a new company — NovoPayment.
Today, NovoPayment has become a successful financial technology company that develops programs and cloud services to connect people and businesses with financial institutions, retailers, telecommunications and payment networks, companies and governments.
As one of the company’s largest stockholders, Perez has demonstrated significant investment risk and personal commitment, having more than once deferred her compensation for the good of the company.
She also has established a culture of personal accountability through monitoring daily transactional, sales and customer services activity and by “walking the front lines” to demand and encourage others to strive for excellence.
Perez believes the future of NovoPayment rests in data science and analytics. On a daily basis, the company receives enormous amounts of data from its users, which it hopes to structure into valuable packages and products. These consumer profiles for previously unknown populations will serve as archives-purchasing behaviors.
After starting several successful companies, CEO Norman Worthington had an employee present an idea to improve the way businesses communicate by creating a box, now Star2Star Communications’ flagship StarBox, that would connect businesses’ telecommunications systems.
Worthington and a couple of close partners worked tirelessly out of a garage in Sarasota to engineer that vision.
Once they had a working product, they sought out bandwidth and telephony partners to get the connection needed to provide services to their customers.
But when they realized these partners were unreliable and that dropped calls and severe connection issues would sink Star2Star, they brought the issue of connectivity in-house. They developed a blended architecture, essentially creating a cloud to provide better service to their customers, a structure that is unique among industry competitors.
Following the national financial crisis, Star2Star’s sales rose because it could compete in the low-cost market at a time when companies were interested in cutting costs.
Worthington has always been interested in surrounding himself with the top minds and top talent at his different technology companies. This is a top priority, and he uses the company’s proximity to beautiful beaches and warm weather, along with the challenge and excitement of doing innovative work, to attract talent.
He looks for people who share his passion, and are in the business for the joy, challenge and excitement of doing something truly innovative. This is evident in the grit and determination of the three men, headed by Worthington, who built Star2Star Communications from a rough idea that originally didn’t work to a company listed on the Inc. 500 list four times in a row.
And in the next five years, Worthington believes his company has a lot of room to expand in the business communications industry.
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