Top Tampa Bay leaders: Senior Connection Center, KnowBe4 and Power Design CEOs recognized

Published April 6, 2018

A nonprofit that aids the elderly, an internet security firm and an electric company may all have different missions — but the Tampa Bay leaders behind these businesses have more in common than what's on the surface.

Not only are they loved by their staffs, but the three share a lot of the same guiding principals that have landed them on our list of top local executive officers.

So what makes a good leader? We chatted with the heads of the Senior Connection Center, KnowBe4, Inc., and Power Design, Inc. — the winners of our best leaders awards — to learn what makes them so effective. e_SClBSmall workplace e_SFlbSenior Connection Center

m Charlotte McHenry, president and CEO

Employees: 58

Charlotte McHenry remembers what it felt like whenever she saw her boss in the parking garage while she was just starting in her career. Her stomach would turn, her body tensed.

"I did not want anyone to feel that way about me," she said.

And it doesn't seem like anyone at Senior Connection Center does, according to their survey responses.

McHenry aims to keep herself accessible. She regularly has lunches with small groups of different employees as a way to get to know each other and workshop new ideas.

"I really don't like having a big chasm between upper management and other staff," she said.

SCC, a nonprofit, helps those who are aging or disabled live independently by connecting them with the local services they need.

McHenry and her team revamped the company mission to something simple each of her staffers could remember: Help older adults and persons with disabilities live with independence and dignity.

"She has the best intentions at heart when making decisions and wants every staff member to grow and develop into their full potential," wrote one employee.

She's created an emerging leadership program, reminds her employees to be the best version of themselves and surrounds herself with strong managers.

Her biggest piece of advice to other leaders?

"Everybody needs to lead themselves," she said. "We all make mistakes but the key is learning form those mistakes."e_SClBMidsize workplace
KnowBe4, Inc.

m Stu Sjouwerman, president and CEO

Employees: 345

Stu Sjouwerman has hundreds of employees — but he wants each to feel like they're an owner of the internet security awareness and training company.

He keeps the books open and is transparent about company's performance — something his employees raved about in their survey responses.

"I want them to have all the information as if they were an owner," Sjouwerman said.

He said he fosters a corporate culture where having fun while working hard is rewarded, but that doesn't mean his employees are goofing off.

"You work hard, you get great results, you feel great about yourself," he said. "You do fun things with your team."

When his employees beat designated financial goals, Sjouwerman will dole out crisp $100 bills rather than a traditional bonus. On Halloween, everyone who dresses up in costume marches to a nearby Starbucks, where baristas are ready as Sjouwerman orders up hundreds of drinks for his staff.

"There's no us and them," he said. "There's only us."

He recommends other CEOs have that point of view so their employees want to continue working for them.

"I treat every employee with respect," he said. "And I understand the only thing you really have is people's willingness to be part of the team. If you lose their willingness… you have lost the spirit of the company." e_SClBLarge workplace
Power Design, Inc.

m Mitch Permuy, CEO

Employees in Tampa Bay: 526
Employees total: 1,412

Mitch Permuy is a busy guy. As the head of Power Design, Inc., Permuy is leading one of the top electrical contract companies in the country.

Yet he remains approachable and involved, according to his staff's surveys. But most important to him? Giving his employees the space they need to thrive.

"It's always been our philosophy to hire smart, motivated people, give them what they need, and get out of their way," he said.

Permuy said he promotes a "work hard, play hard culture" that allows for team building and a healthy work-life balance.

One employee called him an "every-man" and Permuy ensures staff and management are working well together.

"The chairman wants to be an employee of his own company too," wrote one employee. "He treats everyone the same and lets everyone in on the success and the failures of the company."

Permuy asks other leaders in his company to work on keeping teams focused on the overall mission, and not as much on the day-to-day grind. Though he admits, that's easier said than done.

"We have always made it our first priority to hire well and do business with our values as our compass," he said.

Contact Sara DiNatale at
Follow @sara_dinatale.