Florida (1036)

FINALIST – Health Care

Shari Dingle Sandifer

founder and CEO

Avant Healthcare Professionals

Shari Dingle Sandifer didn’t always plan to start her own business, much less as a staf?ng agency. It was her experience as a nurse that drove her to ?ll a key industry need — the need for quality foreign health care professionals.

As the head of a foreign short-term nurse sourcing division, Sandifer saw a major gap between the supply and demand of medical professionals.

At the time, the United States was experiencing one of the largest shortages of nurses in its history. This inspired her to found Avant Healthcare Professionals, a health care professional staf?ng company that creates a global pipeline of talent for health care organizations.

Leading the company as CEO, Sandifer uses her strong communication skills and industry expertise to overcome the many challenges of operating in the health care ?eld.

For example, because Avant’s business model depends on foreign-based workers navigating the complex government regulations over immigration is a major area of focus for the organization.

Sandifer not only invests signi?cant resources toward health care reform, she supports industry practices that support foreign health care practitioners.

Sandifer attributes much of the company’s success to the quality of the company’s professional people.

Before the company sends its professional practitioners to a work site, it ensures that they undergo a four- to six-week long orientation at the company’s headquarters. This training includes technical and personal skills training.

By ensuring foreign professionals learn skills such as how to drive in the U.S., the company promotes a better job experience for clients and medical professionals.

Sandifer ?nds that transparency about the company’s expectations with foreign nurses also helps them make a smooth transition, creating a happier work environment.

HOW TO REACH: Avant Healthcare Professionals, www.avanthealthcare.com

PARTNER - Florida

Oscar Suarez

Florida market leader

Ernst & Young LLP

For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities.

The hours, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators.

Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize this passion for excellence and to build an in?uential and innovative community of peers.

We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional award recipients into our entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast all of the ?nalists and their commitment to succeed.

We applaud them for launching start-up companies, opening new markets and fueling job growth. So let’s celebrate their achievements, their perseverance and their tireless pursuit of business excellence.

Oscar Suarez is the Florida market leader for Ernst & Young LLP. Reach him at (305) 415-1305 or oscar.suarez@ey.com

Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:01

Richard L. Sanchez, president and CEO, Advantica

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FINALIST – Health Care

Richard L. Sanchez

president and CEO

Advantica

Richard L. Sanchez takes a “people first” approach when it comes to how he runs his business.

As president and CEO of Advantica, Sanchez recognizes that the company would never be one of the largest vision health care providers if it wasn’t letting its employees and its customers know they’re valued.

As a result, Sanchez led Advantica’s growth from a company with seven employees and one location to more than 85 employees in six offices.

This is even more impressive, considering that he acquired the business by taking out loans against his own home and refusing to take a salary for the first two years. Today, the company serves approximately 3 million members in more than eight states.

Sanchez knows that treating his employees with respect and rewarding them for a job well done is the key to ensuring the company’s customers always come first.

So he empowers his more than 85 employees to handle any customer issue on the spot, trusting them to remove the stress or concern expressed by the customer successfully and professionally.

Whether it’s recognizing their hard work by rewarding them with tickets to Advantica’s box at Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Rays games, offering Tuesday afternoon chair massages or giving employees days off when they’ve put in extra hours, he lets them know that the company doesn’t take their efforts for granted.

To ensure that the company takes care of its customers, Sanchez also studies the market constantly, looking at how health plans manage their eye care services and vision benefits offered by Advantica’s competitors.

This has helped him lead strategies that expand its services for customers, including the company’s acquisition by Delta Dental in 2010.

HOW TO REACH: Advantica, www.advanticabenefits.com

AWARD RECIPIENT – Health Care

Michael M. Earley

chairman and CEO

Metropolitan Health Networks Inc.

In 2003, the board of directors for Metropolitan Health Networks Inc. asked Michael M. Earley to take over the CEO role at the primary care network for seniors. Earley packed his bags to begin what was intended to be a short journey to help turn the company around.

Almost 10 years later, Earley is still at the helm of Metropolitan as chairman and CEO and has transformed the company into a pro?table, customer-centric organization.

When Earley took over, Metropolitan suffered from mismanagement and had not turned a pro?t since its inception in the mid-1990s.

Within just nine months of Earley’s leadership, Metropolitan was pro?table. Within 24 months it was debt-free due to an understanding of the business and which segments to divest and which to grow.

Under Earley’s guidance, Metropolitan has grown from 130 employees to more than 1,100 employees and became the ?rst health care organization in Florida to be recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as a Level Three National Physician Practice Connections — Patient-Centered Medical Home.

In October 2011, the company completed the acquisition of Continucare Corp., a managed care company in South Florida with 19 medical centers.

The acquisition has brought new tools and techniques into the company. Earley takes each company’s best practices on a broad scale so Metropolitan can be one united entity.

Although Earley turned the company around, he often heard, “You don’t understand health care.” His belief is you only have to understand the transaction ?ow to succeed in business: who the customer is, how to best serve the customer and how the company makes money.

With that philosophy in mind, Earley changed the way Metropolitan thought about health care and encouraged his employees to think outside the health care box to revitalize the business.

HOW TO REACH: Metropolitan Health Networks Inc., www.metcare.com

Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:01

David and Michael Miller, Brightway Insurance

Written by

FINALIST- Financial Services

David Miller

co-founder and CEO

Michael Miller

co-founder and CMO

Brightway Insurance

Creating an enjoyable insurance purchasing experience is an oxymoron to most people.

However, through dedication to quality customer service and carrying a diverse portfolio of types of insurance to ensure the lowest possible price, brothers David and Michael Miller created Brightway Insurance, the ?rst retail insurance provider of its kind.

Under the Miller brothers’ leadership, Brightway does not focus on the bottom line but rather attempts to provide lasting value to its customers, insurance providers, franchisees and employees.

As such, the brothers have a strong conviction that success is a byproduct of a quality offering and the success of those around them.

This business model is bene?cial to agents and customers. For customers, it provides more convenient servicing options than are currently available in one location and from a wide range of providers.

Furthermore, Brightway has dedicated professionals whose sole job is to deliver quality customer support. For agents and the company, the model allows laser focus on growing a book of business and being rewarded with higher commission structures for doing so.

The Millers have relationships with more than 100 carriers, which means a customer has dozens more options for better pricing and the best available solutions for unique and speci?c insurance needs.

In addition to their work with Brightway, David, CEO, and Michael, CMO, are active in the community as leaders and volunteers of various nonpro?t organizations.

This includes nonpro?t boards for Leadership Jacksonville, the United Way of Northeast Florida and the Jewish Community Alliance.

They support River Garden Home for Senior Adults, American Cancer Society, Jacksonville Area Sexual Minority Youth Network and a variety of other causes. They also serve on insurance industry and private company boards that direct funds to benevolent causes.

HOW TO REACH: Brightway Insurance, www.brightwayinsurance.com

Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:25

Honoring the best of the best

Written by

For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities.

The hours, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators. Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize this passion for excellence and to build an in?uential and innovative community of peers.

We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional award recipients into our entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast all of the ?nalists and their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for launching start-up companies, opening new markets and fueling job growth.

So let’s celebrate their achievements, their perseverance and their tireless pursuit of business excellence.

OSCAR SUAREZ is the Florida market leader for Ernst & Young LLP. Reach him at (305) 415-1305 or oscar.suarez@ey.com.

Honorees

Lifetime Achievement

William D. Morean, Timothy L. Main, Jabil (Winner)

Corporate Innovator

Jordan Zimmerman, Zimmerman Advertising (Winner)

Hannes Hunschofsky, HOERBIGER Corp. of America Inc. (Finalist)

Distribution and Manufacturing

Janna Ronert, Dr. Marc Ronert, Image Skincare (Winner)

R. Charles Murray, PPi Technologies Group (Finalist)

Amin Rahman Ramjee, BEL USA LLC, dba DiscountMugs.com (Finalist)

Emerging

Jorge A. Plasencia, Republica (Winner)

Bobby Harris, BlueGrace Logistics (Finalist)

Jose Prendes, PureFormulas.com (Finalist)

Financial Services

Eric R. Castro, Robert T. Castro, Albert C. Crawford, Bankers Healthcare Group Inc. (Winner)

T. John Jerger Jr., American Traditions Insurance Co. and Modern USA Insurance (Finalist)

David Miller, Michael Miller, Brightway Insurance (Finalist)

Health Care

Michael M. Early, Metropolitan Health Networks Inc. (Winner)

Richard L. Sanchez, Advantica (Finalist)

Shari Dingle Sandifer, Avant Healthcare Professionals (Finalist)

Real Estate and Construction

Charles Puccini, Bauer Foundation Corp. (Winner)

Michael I. Kaufman, Kaufman Lynn Construction (Finalist)

Craig Perry, Centerline Homes (Finalist)

Retail and Consumer Products

Rhonda Shear, Shear Enterprises LLC (Winner)

Oscar Horton, Sun State International Trucks LLC (Finalist)

Jesse Stein, SportsMemorabilia.com (Finalist)

Services

Harvey Massey, Massey Services Inc. (Winner)

David Clarke, BGT Partners (Finalist)

Steven A. MacDonald, myMatrixx (Finalist)

Technology

John Duffy, 3Cinteractive (Winner)

Carol Craig, Craig Technologies (Finalist)

Will Fleming, MotionPoint Corp. (Finalist)

FINANCIAL SERVICES,  FINALIST

The years 2005 and 2006 proved devastating for the insurance industry in Florida. Many national insurance companies moved their businesses out of the state, away from hurricanes and other risks, and John Jerger could have followed suit. But he had a better idea.

Instead of ?eeing to greener pastures, Jerger jumped at the chance to meet the needs of the existing market. In 2005, he founded American Traditions Insurance Co. to provide expertise in writing insurance for the state of Florida, speci?cally focusing on mobile homes. He went on to form his second company, Modern USA Insurance, to join ATIC two years later.

Together, ATIC and MUSA insure some 84,000 policies throughout Florida and are the ?fth-largest writer in the state for mobile homes. But leading multiple companies in the insurance business has not been easy for Jerger. A key challenge for his insurance businesses is operating in Florida, where the inherent risks of location combined with poorly written laws make it more dif?cult to ensure ?nancial stability. To create an environment that helps local insurance businesses thrive and steer clear of frivolous lawsuits, Jerger dedicates his time to help educate state legislatures on how to write clearer laws. In a state that has potential for numerous natural disasters each year, Jerger also knows that it’s dif?cult to plan for long-term growth of his companies. He has taken steps to mitigate the effects of these catastrophes on the businesses by developing a tailored reinsurance program to protect his companies through multiple disasters.

While most other Florida companies are insured for only one annual catastrophe, this program lets employees and customers know that Jerger is committed to longevity and not just short-term pro?t.

HOW TO REACH: American Traditions Insurance Co. and Modern USA Insurance, www.jergermga.com

FINANCIAL SERVICES,  AWARD RECIPIENT

From an early age, Eric and Robert Castro were pondering how they could make their mark on the world. When they met Albert Crawford at a networking event in 2001 and they recognized their combined expertise in the health care ?nancing industry, they saw it as an opportunity to create something that hadn’t been done before. Using the little capital available to them, the three colleagues founded Bankers Healthcare Group Inc., a business that provides quick working capital promissory notes at high interest rates to U.S. health care professionals.

Within the ?rst three months, the company enjoyed quick success. And the three founders have taken careful steps to overcome any roadblocks to growing their entrepreneurial venture over the years. To do this, its leadership maintains a constant focus on the customers, from the doctor to the dentist, veterinarian, chiropractor and other health care providers.

An especially trying year for Bankers Healthcare Group was the year 2011. Realizing that the company was losing about 40 percent of its potential customers, who were turned off by the high interest rates on their loans, the leaders knew that they needed to adapt. They responded by introducing two new services for customers — Fund-Ex loans and the Business Healthcare Group Visa credit card.

With the Fund-Ex loans, the co-founders offered their customers a longer turnaround time and lower interest rate than in the past, which appealed to a broader group of consumers in the marketplace. And by designing a new credit card option with physicians in mind — perks include a rewards program that can be used toward malpractice insurance or medical equipment — the company continued to build its reputation with health care providers, ensuring a path for future growth.

HOW TO REACH: Bankers Healthcare Group Inc., www.bhg-inc.com

Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:14

Jose Prendes, founder and CEO, PureFormulas.com

Written by

EMERGING, FINALIST

José Prendes’ success in building his entrepreneurial vision into a tangible reality has not come without its challenges. Shortly after moving his ?rst venture operations into a larger of?ce and warehouse, his plans for the growth and expansion were devastated by the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

Unable to fully recover the business, Prendes displayed an exceptional entrepreneurial spirit by turning his greatest challenge into an opportunity and focused his attention on the creation of PureFormulas.com, a vitamin and nutritional supplement e-commerce retailer. As founder and CEO of PureFormulas, Prendes leads with a hands-on, always-present style, and a personable and humble persona. He de?nes his company’s success not through traditional, ?nancial measures but through the satisfaction of simply having built something that works.

Looking forward, Prendes plans to continue investing in IT innovation and logistics operations to help improve the company’s ability to best serve its growing client base. The company plans to utilize a new e-commerce platform to enhance inventory management, offer auto-shipping services and provide for re?ned search capabilities on its website through search-based navigation.

PureFormulas believes its most valuable differentiating factor is its unyielding commitment to offering excellent customer service. Continuous process and technology improvements have provided a solid platform for sustainable growth.

Product line expansion, the addition of another ful?llment center, more aggressive advertising and increased ef?ciency through technology will eventually allow Prendes to become more actively involved in the long-term sustainability of the company overall. The success of PureFormulas has recently led to the doubling of its workforce within the past six months. The company has enjoyed a great deal of loyalty from the members of its workforce and its clients, resulting in the continued growth of the business.

HOW TO REACH: PureFormulas, www.pureformulas.com

EMERGING, FINALIST

Bobby Harris represents the true spirit of an entrepreneur. Four-and-a-half years ago when his employer went out of business, and with a wife and two small children at home, he took a huge risk and opened his own company in the freight and logistics industry. In an uncertain economy, there was no way for a start-up company to get ?nancing. So he pulled together all of his personal wealth, including all of the money from his 401(k) and savings, and invested what he had to get BlueGrace Logistics off the ground.

With only eight employees to start, Harris, president and CEO, began his mission to reach what he believed was an untapped market of logistics for small to medium-sized companies. BlueGrace is now a leader in its industry and was selected as a ?nalist for the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Best Places to Work in Tampa Bay.

One of the reasons BlueGrace earned that distinction is because regardless of the company’s growth, Harris continues to keep an open-door policy with all of his employees. This drives a strong corporate culture where employees feel connected to BlueGrace through their relationship with the CEO. Harris keeps a refrigerator in his of?ce stocked with energy drinks, and employees are encouraged to grab an energy drink whenever they want, which inevitably results in a conversation.

Community involvement is very important to Harris. His cherished philanthropic organization is the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, where he volunteers both his time and money. In 2011, the BlueGrace corporate of?ce paired off against each other for a contest to see who could bring in the most food for the society. The employees collected 7,000 pounds of food. He also implemented a program where his employees are paid for and allowed time off work to donate time to the charity of their choice.

HOW TO REACH: BlueGrace Logistics, www.mybluegrace.com