Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Business

Tampa Bay's top business leaders inspire employees

At Tampa's Kforce, St. Petersburg's American Strategic Insurance (ASI) and Tampa's St. Mary's Episcopal Day School, you can sense a business version of the Lake Wobegone effect. That's a reference to Garrison Keillor's fictional town where "all the children are above average."

Amid these three business cultures, all employees are superior. The companies hire smart, work hard and play harder. Most of their workers tend to be rewarded in pay or perks, in promotions or at least in praise, for typically outperforming competing companies.

That "you're special" message is a big reason why the top executives at these three firms stood out for outstanding leadership in the 2012 Top Workplaces survey. With Tampa Bay crawling out of a deep recession, executives who garner enough employee loyalty to win leadership awards bear some scrutiny. What's their secret?

Kforce CEO David Dunkel won in the survey's large company size. While the media-shy Dunkel declined to be interviewed about leadership, his employees apparently like what they see, according to our annual workplace survey results. Fortunately, Dunkel speaks often to investor groups, analysts and C-12 — the Tampa Bay chapter of Christian CEOs where he is a member — to glean insights of what matters to him.

ASI CEO John Auer is the first executive to repeat as a leadership award winner (he first won in 2010) for the mid-sized business category. He explains that business environments may change but leadership principles do not.

"I recall a (former Florida State University football coach) Bobby Bowden quote when somebody asked about the quality of coaches," Auer says. "He basically said the team with the best players wins despite who the coaches are."

It's vintage Auer. He is part of a leadership team, he says, whose job is to explain to the company what is "critical to succeed and what we need to be doing."

In the small business/organization category of leaders, Scott Laird wins as St. Mary's headmaster. Remarkably for the third straight year, St. Mary's is the top workplace among small organizations. No other company can claim that level of success.

Each of these executives has created a winner mentality in the workplace. Each company lavishes attention on their employees. Some use mentors to make sure newcomers get up to speed quickly (and to monitor those not cutting it). Some use team approaches to get jobs accomplished. Some, like St. Mary's, assure teachers get the best classroom equipment and access to top continuing education opportunities.

It's not quite Hogwarts. But as St. Mary's teacher Lori Jungers told a Times reporter, "It's just a magical place."

At Kforce's campuslike setting, a young, go-getter workforce often celebrates staffing and recruiting victories. The publicly traded company also emphasizes community involvement — what Dunkel calls "stewardship" — as shown by Kforce's recent commitment of money and staff hours to help Tampa's Hope Children's Home for abused and orphaned kids.

The company slogan sounds like one Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon might endorse: Great People = Great Results.

Contact Robert Trigaux at [email protected]

 
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