For Troy Taylor's Coca-Cola Beverages, rocketing growth proves things still go better with Coke

Published February 10 2017
Updated February 14 2017

TAMPA — You can appreciate why Friday morning's remarks by Coca-Cola Beverages Florida CEO Troy Taylor, a recent arrival to the Tampa business community, prompted an instant sellout at a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce event held at the downtown University Club.

It's tough to find an example — anywhere — of a private company that starts with a staff of ten in 2015 and is now about to employ 4,800 on annual revenues topping $1 billion.

Say what? That's the equivalent of hiring more than six people a day, every day of the week, for two years straight.

"I did not expect we'd expand this fast, but I'm embracing it," said Taylor while sipping — of course — a bottle of Coca-Cola.

"I'm living the dream."

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Taylor's Tampa-based Coca-Cola Beverages Florida is one of those rare businesses built around its exclusive right to sell brand name Coke products in Central Florida, in North Florida east of Tallahassee and — soon — in South Florida once a merger is completed later this month.

We're talking about Taylor's firm selling up to 300 different Coca-Cola products to millions of Floridians. Taylor estimates his business moves close to 200,000 cases daily. He says close to 99 percent of the Coke-related products sold in Tampa Bay are supplied by his operation.

Taylor emphasized one of the reasons for his company's rapid growth in Florida is the state's diversity.

"The multicultural population is driving our business," he said. "If you are not tapping into the diverse market, you are probably not going to grow."

After this remarks, the audience peppered Taylor with a variety of questions. Here's my condensed version:

Q: Who was your greatest mentor?

Taylor: My grandfather who urged me to work hard and take care of my family.

Q: What book have you read recently?

Taylor: The Bible.

Q: That doesn't count.

Taylor: Yes, it does. I read it every morning.

Q: How does your faith shape you?

Taylor: "It informs me on a daily basis how to treat people."

Q: What decisions did you make growing up that helped you become successful?

Taylor: I tried to listen to my parents and teachers. I credit my "praying mother, who prays for me on a regular basis even now." And athletics (the 6-foot-5 Taylor played basketball for Marshall University) taught me how to "work hard and stick to it."

One key topic raised by attendees at the chamber gathering was how Taylor can possibly meld a company that is adding thousands of people so soon after launching.

The CEO said he makes sure to hire people smarter than he is, and embraces a "three-pillar" culture of passion, partnership and performance.

Emphasizing those values occupies much of Taylor's time as he consolidates the state under one corporate umbrella. "I'm kind of a glorified HR (human resources) guy now focusing on building culture."

Contact Robert Trigaux at Follow @venturetampabay.