Top Workplaces 2023

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Inflation. Supply chain woes. How Tampa Bay companies overcame 2022 to prepare for 2023. Page 4Y



How the Lightning treat all team members like champions. Page 18Y



Businesses resilient despite challenges

Employers across Tampa Bay have faced unprecedented challenges over the last three years. From a global pandemic and working from home, to the Great Resignation, “quiet quitting,” supply chain issues and inflation. And now, they face growing fears of a recession. Despite these obstacles, many companies across the bay area have told us they are more resilient than ever.

partners with Energage to be our research partner on the project.

These employees work at highly rated nonprofits, government agencies, small businesses and large corporations. They were eager to share their experiences with us.

Workers expressed gratitude and loyalty to their employers, who made them feel valued and appreciated.

Top Workplaces 2023


Editor, Economy and Growth

The 2023 Top Workplaces may be the most inspiring one yet. Each year, the Tampa Bay Times surveys employers in the region to get an understanding of what it’s like to work in a variety of industries, and from a number of companies, to come up with our annual ranking.

We received a record number of nominations this year: nearly 100,000 local employees agreed to take part in rating their places of business. We surveyed 209 companies to come up with our Top 100. Eighteen companies made the list for the first time in 2023. Then there are eight employers who’ve made the list every year since we started.

The majority of companies who made the our rankings in 2022 and 2023 grew their workforce.

For the past 14 years, the Times has conducted a Top Workplaces survey. The Times

“Simply put, we are one,” wrote one employee about working at American Integrity Insurance Group in Tampa. “AIIC is a company that cares about its employees, genuinely. Its customers, its community.”

At KnowBe4, the security awareness training company in Clearwater, employees echoed the same sentiment: “I get to do what I am already good at,” several wrote in. “While also being challenged to improve and grow into new areas.”

Teamwork was a top trend among our survey results.

“Everyone works together to help each other succeed,” said one employee at PuzzleHR, a human resources firm in Tampa.

“Executive leadership — they are transparent, ethical and they truly care.”

Now, let us tell you about some of the Top 100 Tampa Bay Workplaces of 2023.

Contact Justine Griffin at jgriffin@tampabay. com or 727-893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

Here’s how the Top Workplaces awards are determined

Great workplaces aren’t created by accident. They are built and nurtured. The Top Workplaces awards recognize the employers that do it well in the eyes of their employees.

The heart of the Top Workplaces award is the employee survey process. Energage administers a 24-question survey to employees, who are the sole deciders of whether a company culture merits recognition.

There is no cost to participate in Top Workplaces and no obligation to purchase any product or service. For 2023, 2,451 organizations were invited to survey their employees. The top 100 employers that surveyed have earned recognition as Top Workplaces.

In the current job market, companies continue to focus on recruiting, retaining and motivating employees. It’s more paramount than ever for companies to be intentional about a culture that prioritizes employee appreciation

and recognition, Energage CEO Eric Rubino said.

“We really need workplaces that inspire employees,” he said. “You have to really acknowledge employees genuinely and consistently.”

The award is open to any employer with 50 or more employees in the Tampa Bay area. Survey results are valid only if 35% or more employees respond; employers with fewer than 85 employees have a higher response threshold, requiring responses from at least 30

employees. Energage tabulates the survey results. Employers are grouped into small, midsize and large to best compare similar employee experiences. Employers earn Top Workplaces recognition if their aggregated employees feedback score exceeds national benchmarks. Energage has established those benchmarks based on feedback from more than 27 million employees over 17 years. They are ranked within those groups based on the strength of the sur-

ONLINE: More on the Tampa Bay Times’ 100 Top Workplaces at

vey feedback. Why isn’t a particular company on the list? Perhaps it chose not to participate. Or, its employee survey feedback might have fallen below benchmark scores. Energage runs tests on survey feedback and in some cases may choose to disqualify organizations based on irregularities in survey feedback. To participate in the 2024 Top Workplaces awards, or for more information, go to the nomination page at

2Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
Small (150 or fewer employees) 1. Natural Designs Landscaping Sector: Landscaping & Lawn Care Employees: 103 Years ranked: 5 2. Care Team Inc. Sector: Home Health Care Services Employees: 52 Years ranked: 4 3. Quiet Professionals Sector: Defense Contracting Employees: 53 Years ranked: 1 4. Engel & Völkers Sector: Real Estate Franchising Employees: 56 Years ranked: 5 5. Precision Garage Door of Tampa Bay Sector: Home Repair Employees: 90 Years ranked: 5 Midsize (150-499 employees) 1. Century 21 Beggins Enterprises Sector: Real Estate Employees: 407 Years ranked: 14 2. Florida Executive Realty Sector: Real Estate Employees: 171 Years ranked: 1 3. American Integrity Insurance Group Sector: Real Estate & Insurance Employees: 245 Years ranked: 10 4. Integrity Express Logistics Sector: Logistics Employees: 245 Years ranked: 5 5. Smith & Associates Real Estate Sector: Real Estate Employees: 358 Years ranked: 8 Large (500+ employees) 1. KnowBe4 Inc. Sector: Security Awareness Training Employees: 1,283 Years ranked: 8 2. Chadwell Supply Sector: Maintenance Supplies Employees: 525 Years ranked: 4 3. BHHS Florida Properties Sector: Real Estate Employees: 1,050 Years ranked: 1 4: Kforce Sector: Staffing services Employees: 593 Years ranked: 7 5. Progressive Sector: Insurance Employees: 5,349 Years ranked: 8
Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 3Y

Three years after the pandemic’s onslaught, economic scars linger.


Across Tampa Bay and around the country, many business leaders find themselves in a phase of trial and error that comes with high stakes.

They face a competitive talent pool, lingering global supply chain complications, a pressure to control costs amid economic uncertainty and an ever-evolving technology landscape changing how employees communicate, collaborate and innovate.

Companies large and small are investing in their workforce and office culture, still learning to adapt to cater for shifting employee expectations in the wake of the post-pan-

demic new normal.

Executives at a Pasco County engineering firm ponder how to recruit talent for in-person positions as virtual work cements its appeal. A general manager at a Gulf Coast beach resort struggles to find massage therapists, wondering how to rebuild the business of touch after a no-touch era. And across the bay, managers continue to adjust to the security ramifications of widely distributed workforces as new technologies usher in changes to the way workers are surveilled and monitored.

Just as last year, employers that made the Tampa Bay Times 2023 Top Workplaces rankings said there’s a retention push to keep

4Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES COVER STORY
She Bien, a legal assistant, enjoys a lunch break at Lykes Gaslight Park on Aug. 1 in downtown
employees at her office
to working five days at the office in March 2022. See COVER, 6Y
Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 5Y

workers thriving in their jobs.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group, one of five real estate firms voted Top Workplaces for the year despite dealing with rapidly shifting economic conditions, managers place an emphasis on professional development and financial management to help staff become bonafide entrepreneurs.

Agents, ranging in age from 19 years old to over 80, are treated not just as sales people, but as small business owners.

“We’ve worked for many, many years to create an environment that is welcoming and collaborating,” said co-owner Dewey Mitchell. “We’ve never settled for anything less.”

When the pandemic shuttered office doors and Zoom became the water cooler, some employees found an irrefutable loneliness in all the talking through screens. Working from home feels more like living in the office, they said, with work forever one click of a button away.

Others found freedom in the new age of flexibility, with hybrid work offering a sort of chooseyour-own adventure. Remote work options have also increased applications for federal jobs from women, minorities, disabled people, rural residents and military spouses, Kiran Ahuja, director of the Office of Personnel Management, testified to Congress earlier this month.

The pandemic pushed chief executive Thomas Feindt into a new kind of leadership mode, managing the workforce of Tampa-based Grow Financial Federal Credit Union from afar. He launched a weekly town hall videoconference series to communicate with teams and highlight what they were doing well under difficult circumstances.

Much of what he learned during the pandemic, he said, Grow has embraced permanently. The company now has employees working remotely in 15 states, and the virtual town hall series is ongoing.

At Clearwater-based cybersecurity firm KnowBe4, the virtual shift has opened the company

to a bigger talent pool with the opportunity to hire highly skilled, remote employees, chief human resources officer Ani Banerjee told the Times.

“While the majority of KnowBe4’s team still resides in the Tampa Bay area, when trying to hire for hard-to-fill or high-volume roles, it can be very beneficial to look for talent both within and outside of Tampa Bay,” he said.

Today, just 5% of employees work fully in the office.

Still, investors and developers are clamoring for the rare chance to grab commercial land in Tampa and St. Petersburg.

“Enough people are moving here and there are enough corporate relocations that there are tenants looking to take available space,” said Mack Feldman, a vice president with commercial real

estate development firm Feldman

Equities which owns about 1.7 million square feet of office space in Tampa Bay.

Hedge fund Citadel recently became the latest big name in finance to cement a presence in the region, with a 3,200-squarefoot office in Water Street Tampa in the works.

Feldman described the market as a “tale of two office worlds.”

Centrally-located buildings with amenities like gyms and nearby restaurants remain in demand, while suburban, office park models are fading to extinction, he said.

Among the biggest challenges he said the industry is facing at the moment: “skyrocketing insurance and construction costs.”

After months of soaring salary offers, nationwide wage growth began to slow at the end of last year but Tampa Bay wages continued to rise, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Tech salaries in Tampa have risen at a higher percentage than in Silicon Valley, according to a recent report from career company Dice. But the cost of living is climbing, too.

Rents in Tampa Bay continue

to rise above national average, according to a new report from the real estate company Redfin. And the region’s current inflation rate sits at 8.9%, about the national average of 6.4%.

Inflation is top of mind for employees, with 64% citing it as their top concern in a survey of 2 million hourly workers featured in a recent report from Homebase, a company that helps businesses with their staffing and operations. Rising prices could also improve retention: 56% of hourly workers do not plan to look for a job in the next 3-6 months, according to the report.

High housing costs, recession fears and a slowdown in household formation have made people less likely to move. New Port Richey-based manufacturing company FACTS Engineering has faced trouble filling some specialized, nonremote positions.

“The recruiters told me: ‘Once we let candidates know that these are not full-time remote positions, we lose over half of them,’” Walker said. “They don’t even want to know what the salary is.”

Layoffs across the industry and the rising cost of living, he added, have also made people hesitant to relocate. “There’s a lot of fear,” he said. “The economic conditions just have been too scary to make a big move.”

The proliferation of artificial intelligence also has some business leaders nervous. According to the World Economic Forum’s “The Future of Jobs Report 2020,” AI is expected to replace 85 million jobs worldwide by 2025. But for others, like Karl Bartling, director of paid advertising at St. Petersburg-based marketing company Hoth, the combination of AI and human intelligence stirs excitement. He said he’s not worried it’ll be a competitor since it’ll always need to be edited and checked by people. He sees it as a tool that can help him with writing and idea generation.

“And I personally think, right now with AI, you can still create better content yourself, right?” he said. “Because there’s no creative side to AI, just yet.”

Contact Olivia George at Follow @OliviaCGeorge.

6Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
COVER continued from 4Y
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times (2022) Engineering tech Cory Chase writes code for the testing of analogue input modules in March 2022 at FACTS engineering in New Port Richey. FACTS has had trouble filling nonremote positions. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times Employees are pictured at Hoth, a SEO marketing company, on March 13 in St. Petersburg.
Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 7Y


8Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
Regional Years Consecutive Rank Company Founded Ownership Sector employees on list years on list Large (500-plus local employees) 1 KnowBe4 Inc. 2010 Public Security Awareness Training 1,283 8 8 2 Chadwell Supply 1977 Private Maintenance Supplies 525 4 4 3 BHHS Florida Properties Group 1959 Private Property Management 1,050 1 1 4 Kforce 1962 Public Business Services 593 7 4 5 Progressive 1937 Public Insurance 5,349 14 14 6 Grow Financial Federal Credit Union 1955 Cooperative/ Mutual Financial Services & Insurance - Credit Union 547 12 12 7 Baldwin Risk Partners 2011 Public Insurance & Risk Management 516 11 3 8 Capital One Financial Corporation 1994 Public Banking 1,641 14 14 9 Raymond James Financial, Inc. 1962 Public Financial Services 5,000 12 7 10 MetLife 1868 Public Insurance and Financial Products 2,053 4 4 11 Power Design Inc. 1989 Private Construction 1,247 12 12 12 Suncoast Credit Union 1934 Nonprofit Credit Union 1,785 9 8 13 ConnectWise 1982 Private Software & Information Technology 591 11 2 14 CareCentrix 1996 Private Health Care 531 5 5 15 T-Mobile US 1999 Public Wireless Communication 760 14 14 16 BayCare Health System 1997 Nonprofit Hospitals & Health Systems 28,953 9 9 17 The Auto Club Group 1916 Private Financial Services & Insurance - Other 676 2 2 18 TradeWinds Island Resort 1957 Private Resort 530 7 2 19 Crown Automotive Group 1969 Private Auto Dealership 748 3 3 20 Jabil 1966 Public Manufacturing Services & Product Management 1,757 3 2 21 Hillsborough County Aviation Authority 1945 Public Government 660 7 6 22 AdventHealth Carrollwood 2010 Nonprofit Hospitals 1,612 6 1 23 H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute 1986 Nonprofit Nonprofit Cancer Hospital & Research Center 7,190 12 2 24 Lithia Motors, Inc. 1946 Public Auto Dealership 1,000 1 1 25 ClaimCor, LLC 2013 Public Insurance 591 1 1 Midsized (150-499 local employees) 1 CENTURY 21 Beggins Enterprises 1992 Private Real Estate 407 14 14 2 Florida Executive Realty 1992 Private Agents / Brokers 171 1 1 3 American Integrity Insurance Group 2006 Private Residential Property and Casualty Insurance 245 10 7 4 Integrity Express Logistics 2007 Private Logistics 245 5 1 5 Smith & Associates Real Estate 1969 Private Real Estate 358 8 7 6 PuzzleHR 2019 Private Outsourced Human Resources 287 1 1 7 Healthesystems 2002 Private Pharmacy and Ancillary Benefits Management 240 9 4 8 Arrow Exterminators, Inc 1964 Private Pest Control 160 3 3 9 Homes by WestBay / Casa Fresca Homes 2009 Private Real Estate - Other 196 3 1 10 GTE Financial 1935 Cooperative/Mutual Credit Union 452 9 7 11 Wise Inc 2011 Private International Financial Technology 443 4 2 12 Kobie Marketing 1990 Private Loyalty Marketing 294 1 1 13 Achieva Credit Union 1937 Nonprofit Credit Union 419 11 11 14 Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP 1979 Partnership Law Firm 230 8 8 15 Monin, Inc. 1912 Private Food / Beverages Manufactuing 243 13 13 16 Marsh McLennan Agency 2009 Public Insurance Consultants & Brokers 205 14 14 17 Stingray Chevrolet LLC dba Stingray Chevrolet 2008 Partnership Auto Dealership 234 2 1 18 Avalon Healthcare Solutions 2013 Private Laboratory Benefit Management 190 4 4 19 Ruth Eckerd Hall, Inc. 1983 Nonprofit Performing Arts Center 240 2 1 20 Tampa Bay Lightning 1992 Private Sports and Entertainment 225 7 2 21 Banker Lopez Gassler P.A. 2008 Private Law 275 14 14 22 The Bank of Tampa 1984 Private Banking Services 285 5 3 23 Valet Living 1995 Private Real Estate Services 158 6 1 24 HealthPlanOne 2006 Private Financial Services & Insurance - Other 281 2 2 25 SouthEast Personnel Leasing, Inc. 1986 Private Insurance 251 14 14


Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 9Y
Regional Years Consecutive Rank Company Founded Ownership Sector employees on list years on list Midsized (continued from Page 8Y) 26 Ceridian HCM 1932 Public Technology 230 5 5 27 Arbitration Forums, Inc. 1943 Private Nonprofit 184 5 4 28 Bristol Myers Squibb 1845 Public BioPharmaceuticals 473 6 4 29 RSM US LLP 1926 Public Public Accounting 268 1 1 30 Total Quality Logistics - TQL 1997 Private Third Party Logistics 451 11 3 31 GeoPoint Surveying 2009 Private Building Construction 190 1 1 32 Sandpearl Resort LLC 2007 Private Hotel 260 10 2 33 DataLink Software 2001 Private Healthcare 167 3 3 34 PulteGroup 1956 Public Home Construction 240 5 5 35 ChenMed 1994 Private Primary Care Medical Center for Seniors 323 1 1 Small (50-149 local employees) 1 Natural Designs Landscaping 1976 Private Landscaping & Lawn Care 103 5 1 2 Care Team Inc. 1988 Private Home Healthcare Services 52 4 2 3 Quiet Professionals 2013 Private Defense Contracting 53 1 1 4 Engel & Völkers 2005 Private Real Estate Franchising 56 5 5 5 Precision Garage Door of Tampa Bay 2007 Private Home Repair 90 5 5 6 FACTS Engineering 1987 Private Manufacturing & Industrial Technology 50 2 2 7 Maxar 2017 Public Data Analysis & Research 55 7 7 8 Spoor Bunch Franz 1971 Private Certified Public Accountants & Consultants 86 4 4 9 NAC Group Inc. 1996 Private Distribution of Electronic Components & Inspection 115 6 6 10 ReEmployAbility, Inc. 2003 Private Workers’ Compensation 83 2 1 11 University Area CDC 1998 Nonprofit Nonprofit 51 5 1 12 LRE Foundation Repair 1989 Private Foundation Repair 103 2 2 13 Velocity Resource Group 2001 Private Staffing - Services 68 2 2 14 Vantagepoint AI, LLC 1979 Private Financial Software - Market Trend Analysis 74 6 6 15 Symphonic Distribution 2006 Private Digital Music & Video Distribution & Marketing 57 1 1 16 Klement Family Dental 1979 Private Private Dental Practice 75 6 6 17 Fairway Independent Mortgage Corporation 1996 Private Mortgage Lending 57 1 1 18 The HOTH 2010 Parent company Search Engine Marketing 80 3 3 19 J.CON Salon and Spa 1978 Private Full-Service Salon and Spa 73 10 2 20 Wallace Welch & Willingham 1925 Private All Lines Independent Insurance Agency 130 7 3 21 OWT Global 2010 Private Government - Other 82 2 2 22 Senior Connection Center, Inc. 1981 Private Human and Social Services 74 8 8 23 DITEK Corp 1988 Private Manufacture - High Tech 86 14 14 24 Imprivata 2002 Private Healthcare IT 107 1 1 25 Elite Insurance Partners 2014 Private Supplemental Medicare Coverage 88 2 2 26 Focus School Software 2006 Private Information Technology - Other 120 1 1 27 Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort & Spa 2010 Public Resort 129 8 1 28 Progressive Dental Marketing 2009 Private Marketing, Advertising and Consulting In Dentistry 55 2 2 29 The Beck Group 1912 Partnership Construction, Architecture 81 9 1 30 RELTCO 2013 Private Title & Closing Services 54 5 2 31 FBC Mortgage, LLC 2005 Private Mortgage Lending 76 2 2 32 Bluestone Physician Services 2006 Private Physicians Practice 52 2 2 33 Mission Health Communities 2006 Private Skilled Nursing Facilities 85 3 3 34 Wade Trim 1926 Private Civil Engineering Consulting 51 1 1 35 Barbizon Modeling and Acting 1939 Private Recreational Education Center 100 7 7 36 Halff 1950 Private Engineering and Architecture 54 1 1 37 Success 4 Kids & Families 2005 Private Human and Social Services 76 9 3 38 American Landmark Apartments 2016 Private Real Estate 135 4 4 39 SOMA Global 2017 Private Public Safety 65 1 1 40 Florida State Fair Authority 1904 Government Amusement / Theme Parks 75 1 1

You don’t get to be a top leader in your field if you don’t know how to inspire others. But as a leader, where do you find your own inspiration?

That’s the question we put to three CEOs of small, midsize and large Tampa Bay companies singled out for their leadership in this year’s Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces survey. Employees praised Thomas Feidnt of Tampa’s Grow Financial Credit Union, Willy Nunn of Tampa home builders Homes by WestBay and Casa Fresca Homes and John Connolly of St. Petersburg electronic components distributor NAC Group for their approachability, their insight and their down-toearth outlook.

We caught up with Feindt, Nunn and Connolly to find out who inspired the tools and methods they use to earn employees’ respect and grow their companies.

Here’s what they said.

The QB of the company

Sports culture is everywhere in the offices of NAC Group, a 115-employee St. Petersburg firm that provides semiconductors and other components to the manufacturers of some of the world’s biggest products.

The conference rooms are named for Tampa Bay’s professional teams. There’s a basketball goal and fitness equipment in a warehouse break area. And John Connolly’s business card, which he hands to every new employee, ends with “TB-199.”

As in Tom Brady, the 199th pick in the 2000 NFL Draft.

“His whole career was about being the underdog,” Connolly said. “Our company is built with a street-fighter mentality, that everybody looked over or passed over us; (we’re) not the Harvard grad or whatnot. So we give out an award every year, the TB-199 award, to the guy that’s got a little bit of grit, or the girl that’s got a little bit of grit.”

Connolly, a former college baseball player, peppers conversations with all types of sports metaphors — MVPs, starting fives, winning championships — as a way of keeping his company focused on teamwork. NAC Group rewards

Top leaders share their secrets to success

Three CEOs of Tampa Bay-area companies singled out for their leadership in our Top Workplaces survey tell how they learned to take command.

high performers with bonuses and even cars, and has a well-stocked snack room for everyone. And if the company hits a specific weekly sales quota, everyone gets to go home, fully paid, at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. Reach the next level, and it’s 2:30 p.m. The next level, and it’s noon.

“I’m just obsessed with cre-

ating a winning culture here at NAC,” he said. “I say this time and time again to our employees: the most important thing in any organization drives up to the parking lot every day. That’s the people.”

The TB-199 award actually predates Brady coming to the Buccaneers in 2020. That’s how much

the quarterback’s story means to Connolly.

“Every single day, he’s trying to kill you,” he said. “He doesn’t have to work anymore. He didn’t have to work five years ago. He didn’t have to work 10 years ago. But every year, he figures out a way to be there first, to stay there late, and to continue to figure it out.”

Learning all the way up the ladder

If Thomas Feindt hadn’t started where he did, he might not be where he is today.

Feindt began his credit union career as a loan processer and loan officer. From there he became a

10Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
NAC Group John Connolly, the president and CEO of St. Petersburg’s NAC Group, rewards successful employees with bonuses, cars and the TB-199 award, named for quarterback Tom Brady. Grow Financial Credit Union Thomas Feindt, the CEO of Tampa’s Grow Financial Credit Union, was among the business leaders singled out for their leadership in the 2023 Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces survey. See


continued from 10Y

branch manager and eventually department head before becoming CEO of Grow Financial Federal Credit Union in 2020.

“I was not one of those young people that was born with a clear definition as to who I wanted to be when I grew up,” he said. “But as I found the value of leadership and the opportunity to make an impact on my team, then I decided that the road to CEO was ultimately what I was shooting for.”

The pandemic quickly pushed Feindt into a new kind of leadership mode, one that required him to manage Grow’s workforce of 563 from afar. He launched a weekly town hall videoconference series to communicate with teams and highlight what they were doing well under difficult circumstances.


Nearly 70 years after forming at MacDill Air Force Base, Grow Financial Federal Credit Union has more than 200,000 members doing business at 25 locations, including 23 in Tampa Bay.

Employees in Tampa Bay: 547

Location: Tampa



• “Thomas is a very down-to-earth leader that directs the company in very relatable way that fosters trust and inspires the best out of me.”

• “He has an open-door policy; he also has the open chat and keeps us all in formed through the town hall meeting and encourages all to join. He listens and respects our opinions.”

• “Thomas communicates his expectation clearly and will answer any questions a team member has. He is not afraid to make bold decisions that may not always be popular.”

Much of what he learned during the pandemic, he said, Grow has embraced permanently. The company now has employees working remotely in 15 states, and the town hall series is still going.

“It’s one of those things we kind of just lucked into, never realizing the real opportunity to use it as a platform in a small amount of time to be very specific with the messages that are shared across the organization,” he said.

Feindt didn’t learn everything on the fly. He points to mentors inside and outside of Grow, as well as local networking opportunities. He participates in leadership training programs like the Center for Creative Leadership and the Credit Union Executive Society, which tap experts from schools like Wharton and Cornell to help executives develop strategic thinking.

All of it augments his experience within the company, and is knowl-


Homes by WestBay builds new upscale houses in residential developments at price points ranging from $600,000 to $1.3 million. Subsidiary Casa Fresca Homes, which began in 2018, focuses on houses in the mid-$300,000 to high $400,000 range.

Employees in Tampa Bay: 196

Location: Tampa



• “He’s always calm, even in the midst of chaos.”

• “Very down to earth but highly intelligent. He understands the business from a micro and macro level.”

• “I am surrounded by good people who care. This is the healthiest work environment I have ever experienced.”

edge he hopes to pass on to other employees.

“Unequivocally, I’m a better leader because of the roles and the experience I’ve had, not just in one part of the house, but in a multidimensional aspect,” he said. “We work on that even here at Grow. We try to create rotational opportunities, and we have our own internal development programs. Especially as you move up higher in the organization, we try to promote that it’s not about knowing one part of the business. It’s about, how do you think about the business as an ecosystem, collaborative across all levels?”

Taking Buffett’s lessons to heart

Willy Nunn always read a lot of books and articles on business. Then one day he saw an interview in which Warren Buffett outlined his nine essential rules for run -


NAC Group distributes semiconductors and other electronic components to manufacturers of products around the world.

Employees in Tampa Bay: 115

Location: St. Petersburg



• “Ownership treats the employees like gold, provides an environment for success, and genuinely cares about its employees and gives back to them in some cases beyond where it should to show their appreciation for time and efforts being put in.”

• “He stands on the righteous rock of the truth. It’s his consistent message of ‘just do the right thing.’”

• “I work for a company that, even on my worst day, they have my back.”

ning a small business.

“After reading that article, that was pretty much it,” he said. “I was never going to read another business book.”

It’s worked out so far. The privately owned West Bay Homes and Casa Fresca Homes, a subsidiary focused on building less-expensive houses, surpassed expectations with $450 million in revenues last year, Nunn said. Part of that is due to the ongoing influx of new residents in Florida — Nunn said the company’s outof-state buyers have tripled since the pandemic. But part of it may be due to Nunn’s business philosophy. Three of Buffett’s tips are “keep it small,” “keep your focus” and “keep calm in the face of volatility.” With 197 employees, WestBay Homes isn’t small. But Nunn has kept it focused on his company’s core slice of the marketplace.

WestBay employees have equi-

ty in the company, and Nunn has no interest in changing that by taking it public. And while Casa Fresca’s launch in 2018 proved to be a huge success, he doesn’t envision expanding to build even more homes at even more price points.

“We focus on execution and what’s in front of us, and understand that the future brings very unexpected scenarios,” he said. “There’s way, way too much effort in business culture on essentially fortune telling to predicting the future, rather than efforts to go into execution, which is what we focus on, which is delivering an outstanding customer experience, and an outstanding team experience for our team members. I think that’s the differentiating factor for us.”

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@ or 727-893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 11Y
Homes by WestBay
Willy Nunn, the CEO of Tampa’s Homes by WestBay and Casa Fresca Homes, says that reading Warren Buffett’s nine essential rules for running a small business became his inspiration.


Real estate firms that weathered 2022

The white-hot market experienced a cool down in the second half of the year.

For many real estate agents in Tampa Bay, 2022 felt like a “Jekyll and Hyde year,” said Doug Loyd, broker and owner of Florida Executive Realty.

For the first half, homes were getting snapped up in the blink of an eye, with sellers receiving dozens of offers over asking and buyers foregoing their rights to inspections. Then by the third quarter, things began to slow as rising mortgage rates priced many buyers out of the market.

Despite dealing with rapidly shifting economic conditions, these five real estate firms across the Tampa Bay area say their agents are prepared to weather the storm. Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Florida Property Group, Century 21 Beggins Enterprise, Engel & Völkers, Florida Executive Realty and Smith & Associates Real Estate were all ranked among our 2023 Top Workplaces. Here’s what they’re doing to make sure their employees remain successful even in a transitioning market.


At Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, agents are treated not just as sales people, but as small business owners.

“Many agents who come to us don’t have past experience in the business world,” said Casey Bryan, president of BHHS Florida Properties Group. “Now they’re managing portfolios for customers that are worth potentially millions of dollars.”

The company places an emphasis on professional development and financial management to help agents become bonafide entrepre-

neurs. They learn everything from how to file taxes to monitoring their cash flow.

None of the brokers sell properties themselves. That allows them to direct all their energy to managing and coaching agents.

Location: 20 different offices including Clearwater Beach, South Tampa and Wesley Chapel

Employees: 1,050

Website: bhhsfloridaproperties. com


• “I love my job because I am my own CEO and still have the backing, marketing and continuing education from BHHS FLPG.”

• “Leadership and ownership truly seem to care about concerns that come up. You get a chance to voice your opinions and they are seriously considered. There’s room for collaboration and advancement in the company.”


Each Monday and Friday at Century 21 Beggins Enterprises starts off with a team meeting. Agents, staff members and sales managers alike come together to discuss what’s going on at the company, talk through questions and concerns and learn from each other.

Craig Beggins, the president of the group, said it’s important for himself and his team of managers to lead from the top down and

take a hands-on approach to the job.

“That holds our agents accountable and gives them a reason to get excited to come into work,” he said.

Whether they’re throwing quarterly events to celebrate the top earners or providing a shoulder to cry on for employees who have had a difficult month, managers at the company agreed that Century 21’s strong network of support has driven the group’s success.

Location: 8 different offices including Apollo Beach, Indian Rocks Beach and Madeira Beach.

Employees: 407

Website: c21begginsenterprises.


• “I have been a Realtor 18 years at Beggins. I have the ability and education I need to be a Top Realtor and make as much income as I need. I am encouraged to work towards my goals. When the market changes we change with it.”

• “I have a great President and Managers that care about our business. And always go the extra mile to cover all the topics in Real Estate Market. I believe that all the education is important.”


Real estate can be a crowded field, with thousands of agents vying for a limited number of listings. Cherie Pattishall, license partner and broker of Engel & Völkers’ offices in South Tampa and Madeira Beach, said her company teaches broker associates to set themselves apart by building expertise in a specific area of real estate.

“We really encourage them to develop a niche that gives them a competitive edge over someone who may be more of a generalist,” she said.

For Jeramiah Bustin, that niche is waterfront property. Though he had nearly 20 years of real estate experience before joining Engel &

12Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group Employees from Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group gather at the Florida Aquarium for a workshop in November 2022. The company has 20 different offices. Beggins Enterprises Craig Beggins, president of Beggins Enterprises, said it’s important to take a hands-on approach to the job.

Völkers, he said the company has still helped him to develop as a professional.

“I’m continually learning things about the business and absorbing new information that will help my clients,” he said.

Location: 3 offices in Bellair, Madeira Beach and South Tampa.

Employees: 56

Website: madeirabeach.


• “I am free to work as I feel, not required to follow corporate scripts when contacting a client. I never feel excluded and there are no dumb questions. I am respected for the work I do. My broker is a leader and not a boss.”

• “I feel a part of something bigger and have the tools necessary to provide my clients with the best possible service.”


When dealing with an industry that’s constantly fluctuating, “we need to be ahead of the market, not chasing it,” said Shannon Calcines, vice president of operations

for Florida Executive Realty.

To achieve that goal, her company started to invest more into the analytics department. Calcines said the move helped Florida Executive Realty predict and prepare for the current market cool down.

Dee Strom, an agent who has worked for the company since 2014, said having access to a wide array of predictive tools and market statistics has helped her to better serve her community.

“We want to help people make the most informed decisions for their family,” she said. “That’s why we study the market.”

Location: 6 offices including Brandon, Carrollwood and New Tampa.

Employees: 171

Website: floridaexecutiverealty. com


• “Being highly trained to assist our clients is very rewarding when we come to the closing and beyond.”

• “I have incredible mentors, my best interests are their best interests.”


When Abby Grimaldi started selling real estate nearly six years ago, her end goal was always to become a Smith & Associates

agent. That dream came true in 2021.

“Working at Smith means being surrounded by the best in the industry,” she said.

As a family-owned business, Smith & Associates has strong ties within the Tampa Bay community, said vice president of real estate,

Nikki Phillips. The company’s deep network opens up new doors for many agents and gives them a competitive edge.

Phillips noted that her agents average around $7.6 million in sales. “That’s much higher than what’s typical in the market,” she said. For Grimaldi, the best part of working at Smith & Associates has been the collaborative environment.

“Through the highs and lows of the business we all come together to lift each other up.”

Location: 6 offices including South Tampa, St. Petersburg and Westchase

Employees: 358



• “The people care about each other and there is a culture that promotes excellence, integrity and community involvement.”

• “I feel Smith embodies what family is all about in a corporate setting.”

Contact Rebecca Liebson at

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 13Y TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES
REALTY continued from 12Y
Engel & Völkers The team from Engel & Völkers attends an awards ceremony. The company employs 56 people. Florida Executive Realty Employees attend a meeting at the Florida Executive Realty office. The company has six locations. Tampa Listing Lab | Smith & Associates Smith & Associates employees attend a celebration at the Tampa Garden Club in January 2023. The company employs 358 people.

Nonprofit strives to give neglected community a voice

After they planted the community garden in what had been a scrubby vacant lot not far from the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus, people broke in at night to steal the fruits and vegetables.

So the nonprofit University Area Community Development Corporation put up signs to tell the neighborhood: This place is yours. The food is free.

“After that, people started to come in,” said Sarah Combs, CEO and executive director of the UACDC, an acronym the organization is known by. “The banana trees, one of the residents planted. We were like, ‘There’s no way we’ll grow bananas.’ Now we have shoots everywhere.”

Today, the garden at Harvest Hope Park on North 20th Street — formerly a property littered with drug needles and housing a pond with a rusty old dishwasher in it — thrives. Friday mornings, locals come to garden amongst the strawberries, bok choy and green onions, to learn about soil and composting, to take home seedlings. At harvest time, there’s a block party cookout.

“I feel like most companies ought to do outside work at least once a week,” said Julian Gines, the UACDC’s business services manager, who was checking on the yellow calendula flowers, which he said can be used to make a “nice tea.”

On a recent morning at the 7-acre park — its pond now stocked with tilapia — the plants were getting a good watering, parents pushed kids on swings and a line of families moved steadily toward a tent providing free groceries. Inside the park’s building, kids painted at long cafeteria tables.

“It’s a rocket ship,” 8-year-old Jeremy Green said, showing the space scene he drew. “Up into the sky.”

Not far away on North 22nd Street is the organization’s University Area Community Center Complex. The sprawling 50,000-square-foot brick multipurpose facility is a beacon in the

neighborhood of apartments and low-slung duplexes where the vast majority of residents rent rather than own.

At the community center, people can seek eviction protection and rental assistance as well as free tax services. There’s GED prep, English classes for those who speak other languages and help in pursuing college degrees. Art and exercise classes are available. The facility has a fitness center and basketball courts. The UACDC, a


Location: The University Area community near the University of South Florida’s Tampa campus

Employees: 51



• “Just the gratitude you get from work is extremely rewarding.”

was white, the children Black — and also brought focus to one of the county’s neediest communities.

The wider area around USF, including the old University Mall that’s morphing into what they’re calling an innovation district, has recently become known as Uptown.

Ross Fabian — Coach Ross, who coaches football and cheerleading — has lived here 40 years. He also sits on the UACDC board.

“It’s huge to see all this,” he said that morning at Harvest Park. “It actually needs to be done through all inner-city communities. The relationships built are second to none.”

So what’s it like to work for this sort of organization?

Erica Moody started as a yoga instructor, “fell in love with UACDC,” and is now director of operations.

One employee benefit: Two weekly workouts while they’re on the clock. (Pickleball is popular, and there’s yoga Tuesdays and Thursdays.) Moody says it helps that Combs, the boss, participates:

• “Just, having a purpose, to go along with the day-to-day work. Every day I go home knowing I helped at least one person, and that’s a really good feeling.”

• “Working for a nonprofit is a chance to give back, make an impact, make a mark.”

a 3% IRA match.

For Valentine’s Day, they walked to the park and had a cookout in the garden.

Moody said employees’ family members come for lunch. “For me, that’s a big thing, for my family to see what I do and know the people I work with,” she said.

Said Combs: “I think it’s important we treat our employees like family, because that’s what they are.”

Then there’s the work itself.

Troy Alston, a graphic designer who’s worked for private companies, now oversees UACDC community outreach efforts including its flyers.

“Working for a nonprofit is a chance to give back, make an impact, make a mark,” he said.

There’s still much to be done: The neighborhood needs sidewalks. Decent affordable housing is scarce. When a HART bus stop was taken away, they rallied to get it back. In a neighborhood so known for being transient it used to be nicknamed Suitcase City, UACDC employees talk about residents going from saying they “stay” here to they “live” here.

public-private partnership, works with the county, corporations and partners with nonprofits to get its work done.

In the University Area, even after nearly 20 years, tragedy lingers. In 2004, four siblings, ages 2 to 13, were crossing a dark street when they were hit by a car driven by a teacher from a nearby elementary school who then drove away. Two of the children were killed, two injured. The incident stirred issues of race — the driver

“I’m like, OK, if the CEO can take a break, I can take a little breather,” she said. Vacations and breaks are encouraged, Moody said, and they get time off between Christmas and New Year’s.

“It’s just a good motivator,” she said.

There’s gardening and employee walks on company time. A Sunshine Committee celebrates weddings, anniversaries and babies. The organization just implemented a cost-of-living increase for staff beyond annual and merit increases, and there’s

“Before this, I was a business manager, a food broker, an office job,” said Gines. COVID changed his outlook and made him want to give back, he said.

“Just, having a purpose, to go along with the day-to-day work,” he said. “Every day I go home knowing I helped at least one person, and that’s a really good feeling.”

Contact Sue Carlton at Follow @SueCarltonTimes

14Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES SMALL COMPANY SPOTLIGHT
Photos by DIRK SHADD | Times Syori Sotomayor, 7, left, works with Vivian Fisk University Area Community Development Corporation (UACDC) Prodigy Cultural Arts instructor, during an art class at the Harvest Hope Center at Harvest Hope Park, 13704 N 20th St., on Feb. 17 in Tampa. Jermey Green, 8, on left, smiles while receiving praise for his art work from Erica Moody, 30, UACDC Director of Operations.

Pasco company puts employees first


NEW PORT RICHEY — Long before the concept of a four-day work week became trendy, Ron McVety had an idea for his small, Pasco County-based manufacturing company.

What if his staff had Friday afternoons off?

“So everybody can get half a day to play with their kids or do whatever they need to do during the week,” his No. 2 Rick Walker recalls him saying. They both had young children home for the summer holidays at the time.

Half a century later, FACTS Engineering employees still have Friday afternoons free and the business has won the Work-Life Flexibility award in the Tampa Bay Times 2023 Top Workplaces.

“Ron takes care of us,” read one FACTS employee survey response.

The camaraderie is “unmatched,” read another.

It has been a challenging few years for the company, which has about 60 employees and operates out of a 60,000-square-foot facility tucked into the New Port Richey woodlands.

Supply chain slowdowns threatened to rupture the business McVerty founded in his garage. They import both raw materials and finished goods for manufacture and assembly. Lead times of 10-12 weeks used to stir panic.

“Those lead times are now regularly 50-60 weeks,” Walker, the company’s vice president, said in a recent interview. “It really puts a huge burden on everything we do.”

In recent months, staff across the tech industry have experienced a period of immense whiplash. After lavishing their employees with perks in a tight labor market and a war for talent, companies have turned to mass job cuts.

“We were thinking we may be able to scoop up some of those people,” said Walker, who has been with the company for more than three decades. But filling some

specialized positions has proved tricky, he added. Particularly as the company wants staff to come into the office.

“The recruiters told me: ‘Once we let candidates know that these are not full-time remote positions, we lose over half of them,’” Walker said. “They don’t even want to know what the salary is.”

Layoffs across the industry and the rising cost of living, he added, have also made people hesitant to relocate. “There’s a lot of fear,” he said. “The economic conditions just have been too scary to make a big move.”

During the pandemic, because FACTS manufactures products used in food processing and water treatment, their services were deemed “essential” — a term Walker hates. “Anybody that’s working to support their family, as far as I’m concerned, is an essential worker,” he said.

About a third of staff worked remotely while the others came in if they were willing and able. Today, none of the staff are remote-only. But the company has a trust-based system in place, for employees to request hybrid flexibility when needed.

“Ron and I are kind of old school. We don’t get this work from home thing,” Walker said.

The engineers and administrative staff all work out of the New Port Richey facility, topped with 677 solar panels, leading the company to proudly proclaim they are

The company designs, manufactures and distributes products used in automation in factories and other facilities.

Location: New Port Richey

Employees: 57



• “I get to work on fun stuff, solve unique problems, and be with my friends.”

• “I love that my job challenges me every day in different ways , I love being a part of like Family. I love that everyone cares and that you have flexibility when needed. I’m paid well, and I just love the job I do.”

• “I work with amazing people creating products that automate our world.”

“powered by the sun.”

Walker says the company’s retention rate — the average staffer has been at the company more than a decade — is a testament to the success of their “people-first” culture. It’s evident on their balance sheet too, he said.

“The last two years, we broke all of our sales records,” he said. “On top of that, for the first time in our history, we’ve carried a backorder.”

Mechanical engineer Eric Gatch, 36, began working at the company a year after graduating from the University of Florida. Now, 13 years later, he says he’s still proudly a member of the FACTS family.

“It’s a pleasure to work here,” said the Land O’ Lakes resident and father of two. Particular highlights, he says, are the tight-knit culture, the ability to be involved in “every step of the design process” and the monthly bonus sharing plan, with 10% of profits shared between staff every month on top of their salary.

And, of course, spending Friday afternoon with his children.

Contact Olivia George at Follow @OliviaCGeorge.

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 15Y TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES SMALL COMPANY SPOTLIGHT
LUIS SANTANA | Times Product Manager Trang Nguyen assembles and tests controllers at her work station inside of FACTS Engineering in New Port Richey. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Rick Walker, vice president of FACTS engineering, walks through the array of 677 solar energy panels on March 3 at the company’s 60,000-square-foot facility in New Port Richey.
Staff gets monthly bonuses and Friday afternoons off, but some positions are proving tricky to fill.


Maxar analyzes the world’s biggest events

On Bayshore Boulevard, with a view overlooking the bay and downtown Tampa, geospatial analysts pour over satellite images of the world — comparing topography and infrastructure of ethnic groups in a specific region. They track events like environmental damage from oil refineries in Nigeria, developments in the war in Ukraine and earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Satellite company Maxar has 20 offices globally and has grown as a leading source of information across the world during the pandemic and throughout the war in Ukraine. Maxar’s Tampa location, conveniently near U.S. Central Command’s headquarters, specializes in analyzing data and imagery to put together comprehensive reports for both U.S. and foreign governments and corporations to inform their decisions.

“Primarily, it’s for CentCom,” said Alex Dunmire, Maxar deputy general manager in Tampa. “We help them conduct geospatial analysis on whatever their mission set is, so it could be supporting military missions or humanitarian type actions.”

Central Command oversees military operations for the Department of Defense primarily in the Middle East, covering Egypt to Kazakhstan, and is headquartered on MacDill Air Force Base.

Satellites are constantly orbiting Earth and taking on-the-ground photos of about 3 million square kilometers per day, Dunmire said. That’s nearly the size of the seventh-largest country in the world: India. Clients can buy satellite images from their archives or hire Maxar to target a specific location and track movement around that area.

For example, Maxar can take a photo of Tampa’s Gasparilla parade from space and count the number of boats in the water using artificial intelligence. They can also track attendance at Tropicana Field by counting the cars parked in the lot during a game.

Maxar has more than 4,000

Located near U.S. Central Command, the satellite imagery company tracks the war in Ukraine and earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.


Maxar is a satellite company that photographs the Earth from space, collecting and analyzing geospatial data for companies and governments around the world.

Location: Tampa

Employees: 55



• “Everyday there is something new to learn about. There is not a single day that goes by without new opportunities or challenges that are presented to the team for us to accomplish.”

• “I have the opportunity to work with talented people on a variety of real world problem sets with topics I am genuinely interested in. I enjoy supporting U.S. government partners’ missions because I can see the potential for positive, global impacts.”

• “My job allows me to be creative while providing decision makers with critical information or helping people in need.”

employees globally, 55 of whom are in Tampa, and has ranked among the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces seven times. The company was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in Westminster, Colorado.

Passing by a poster showing an aerial view of downtown Tampa in their office, Dunmire stopped to point out that the photo likely was taken either on a Thursday or a Saturday because a cruise ship was docked at the port. Small details like that can help tell a story out of satellite imagery, he said.

Before the war in Ukraine, Maxar helped track Russia’s troops on the Ukrainian border ahead of the invasion. Now, geospatial analyst Alex Prewitt helps create maps overlaying roads, topography and where government and residential buildings are that could help predict which routes the Russian military could take.

These comprehensive reports monitor the “human landscape” of a region whether that be its borders, infrastructure, ethnicities, health data or more.

“It’s just a complete snapshot of

everything in the country that we can gather,” Prewitt said.

Research analyst Michelle

Assaad, 32, said it can be difficult to write reports on tough subjects such as migration, smuggling and

other humanitarian issues. Assad said she began tracking migrant routes in Syria and Turkey before the 7.8- and 7.5-magnitude earthquakes hit in early February. It’s grown to be a passion project for her.

“Looking at the situation, you can see how already bad it was,” Assaad said. “Right now, it’s an emotional investment to see just how bad went to worse. I definitely put my heart into a lot of these reports, but this one specifically.” Assaad, who studied international affairs and got her masters in political science at University of South Florida, said she was lucky when she landed a job with Maxar. “Being someone who is in international affairs, this to me is like a nerd’s dream to be able to dive into all these topics that are current and important,” Assaad said. “I can just dig in and find out exactly what’s happening.”

Contact Bernadette Berdychowski at Follow @bberdychowski

16Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
Geospatial analyst Sandy Cho, 26, works on a map of Turkey from the recent earthquake at Maxar’s Tampa office on Feb. 20. Photos by IVY CEBALLO | Times Tampa site director Alex Dunmire, left, and geospatial analyst Kyle Page, right, have a discussion at Maxar’s Tampa office on Feb. 20. Maxar was founded in 2017 and is headquartered in Westminster, Colo.

Hoth builds culture with a ‘living’ document


Hoth is a search engine marketing company.

Location: St. Petersburg

Employees: 80


Employees at search engine marketing company Hoth lined up for bagels on the Monday morning after the daylight saving time change.

In their hybrid setting — where workers go to the downtown St. Petersburg office at least three times a week — breakfast on Mondays and lunch on Fridays has become a regular fixture to entice workers to come in.

“We’re starting and ending the week strong with this little boost of morale,” said Alizé Luft, 26, Hoth director of people and culture.

At Hoth, adjusting quickly is part of their seven-page culture document: “Embrace Change.”

“We’re constantly evolving. We have to make sure that we stay very nimble — especially within our industry,” said Hoth chief operations officer George Papadeas, 31.

When new employees join Hoth, founded in 2010, they are first introduced to the “culture doc” as a baseline for what’s expected of them at the company and to get a sense of their values. Hoth has 80 employees. The company has made the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces three times. Throughout the year, managers will use the culture doc in performance reviews to evaluate adherence to those values, Luft said.

At least once a year, the company’s HR team updates the document to reflect any changes or tweak wording that employees at any level in the company can suggest.

“We’ve always seen it as a living, breathing document that is open to evolution,” Luft said. “As the company changes, as our team grows, we want to make sure it’s an accurate reflection of our combined values.”

In one case, a new team mem-

ber suggested to change the phrasing of “not being afraid of making mistakes” in the document to “not being afraid of learning lessons.”

The slight wording difference was a more positive outlook on making mistakes, Luft said, so they

changed it.

Even though the company’s mascot is an angry red monster, Luft said the company aims to put their employees first and prioritize their happiness. Not only is there catered food, but dogs can come to the

office and people can choose what two days they work from home.

“If your people are taken care of, then that will have a positive domino effect everywhere else,” Luft said. “Then the clients will see that the people they’re interacting with are happy and supported.”

In the document, it lays out that all employees from the top down should have a solutions-based mindset, embrace change, recognize others, prioritize well-being


• “I feel like I’m able to contribute to the direction of the company in a meaningful way. I am challenged and trusted by my leaders to ideate and execute. I feel like I am celebrated for the wins, but I also feel comfortable taking chances, making mistakes, and even sometimes failing, because of the environment they have created.”

• “I love having specific tasks to knock out and knowing I am getting a job well done. I love the time they allow us to learn new responsibilities, make sure we are entirely comfortable before handing over the keys, and consistently hire internally.”

• “Hoth gives me a lot of flexibility with what I do. They give me goals and let me develop my own path to get there, and in the process, I get to do things in my own unique way. Communication is also top notch.”

and have fun.

COO Papadeas’ personal favorite guideline is “mess up, fess up.” “People make mistakes,” Papadeas said. “It’s not about the mistake, it’s how we are rectifying it and moving forward.”

At the end of the day, it’s not the document that builds the culture but the people. Luft said when hiring, Hoth prioritizes culture over resume qualifications to help keep the environment positive. They look for people with character, integrity and willingness to learn.

“We pride ourselves on hiring really, really good people that have a lot of potential where we can nurture that and grow them and have them be a part of what we’re building here,” Luft said.

Contact Bernadette Berdychowski at Follow @bberdychowski

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 17Y TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES SMALL COMPANY SPOTLIGHT
Photos by MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times Employees enjoy breakfast on March 13 at Hoth, a SEO marketing company in St. Petersburg. The company provides breakfast every Monday and lunch on Fridays. George Papadeas, chief operations officer at Hoth, explains the company’s unique approach to workplace culture. Even though Hoth’s mascot is an angry monster, the company prioritizes employees’ happiness, director of people and culture Alize Luft said.
“We’re constantly evolving,” the chief operations officer George Papadeas


Stanley Cup rings aren’t just for players

Working behind the scenes for an NHL team brings long hours, but unexpected perks.

Nicole Parente was always a hockey fan. So when she was ready for a change from her corporate human resources consulting job, she figured she’d apply for a post with the Tampa Bay Lightning. She thought there was no way she’d be hired.

A decade later, she found herself floating up the Hillsborough River in a championship boat parade, about to be fitted for her second Stanley Cup ring.

“It doesn’t feel real at first,” said Parente, the organization’s vice president of people resources. “It takes a little bit to sink in. At first, you’re like, ‘Is this really happening?’ It’s a memory you can never take away.”

For many, working for a professional sports team is a lifelong dream. Others end up there just like they would at any other office, sending in a resume because they’re qualified and the job sounds interesting.

But when that organization is the Tampa Bay Lightning — a team that’s reached the Stanley Cup finals four times in eight years, winning twice — the ride this past decade, even for workers well behind the scenes, has been wild.

“It’s a lot of dedication, which it takes a certain type of person to have that mentality,” said Stephen Frey, who studied theater in college and is now the director of game presentation. “But it’s extremely rewarding. There’s a lot of hard work that goes into it, but we like to celebrate just as much as

we like to work.”

Case in point: After the Lightning’s most recent cup win in 2021, employees gathered in a lounge at Amalie Arena to celebrate. Who should come up to join them but head coach

Jon Cooper and defenseman Victor Hedman, Stanley Cup in tow.

“It’s more about the people, and being able to celebrate with these people that kind of become your family, because you’re here so many

hours, so many days,” said Justin Bechtold, a former part-time security guard who is now director of guest experience. “That’s the part that’s the most fun about it.”

In a lot of ways, working for the Lightning is like working in hospitality or customer service — everything employees do is designed to enhance the fan experience, which ultimately puts the team in a better position for a championship.

“Having a full building helps drive the team a little bit more,” CEO Steve Griggs said. “To me, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that if we have an amazing culture and amazing business that’s running on all cylinders, they’re going to make sure we’re taking care of our fans.”

One big challenge is the day-and-night workload during the season, and especially during the playoffs, when a 40-hour work week is a pipe dream for most employees. The organization gets creative looking for

ways to reduce stress and help workers avoid burnout, hosting things like ice cream trucks, pop-up plant shops, skating lessons or puppy cuddle sessions. Departments give employees mandatory “rest-up weeks” during quieter stretches on the schedule.

And there are other perks, from gym memberships to discounted concert tickets to Topgolf sessions with Lightning players. Last year, owner Jeff Vinik’s family foundation gave each fulltime employee $5,000 to donate to the nonprofit of their choice.

And, of course, there are the rings. While the team won’t say exactly how many employees got Stanley Cup championship rings in 2020 and 2021, it was a lot. Some wear theirs on occasion; others keep them locked away at home. Miriam King, who works in people operations, had her first ring sized to fit her husband.


National Hockey League team and, with Vinik Sports Group, presenter of concerts and other events at Amalie Arena and the Yuengling Center.

Location: Tampa

Employees: 225



• “The people we work with are fantastic. Every day is different. We get to make other people happy by providing entertainment and an escape for them.”

• “I love being able to connect with youth hockey families and building relationships out in the community.”

• “I work for the best owner in all of sports. Every day I am thankful that I am still employed by this organization.”

“It’s going to be an heirloom in my family,” Bechtold said. “It’s really big. You put it on, and you’re just constantly thinking about it — you don’t want to bang the table or hit the wall. It kind of means too much to wear. But there’s people that definitely wear them and show them off.”

Sports is cyclical, and the Lightning won’t be Stanley Cup contenders forever. But by building what Griggs calls “a culture of continuously getting better, creating accountability and having fun,” the organization believes it’ll never have a problem attracting new faces.

“I came from corporate America, and I did it for quite some time, but if I ever had to go back, I’d probably be challenged,” Parente said. “I would have a hard time. This is my only sports team that I’ve worked for, so I can’t compare it to others, but the culture is just different. It draws you in, and there’s something about it that really is special.”

Contact Jay Cridlin at cridlin@ or 727-8938336. Follow @JayCridlin.

18Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times
Photos by JEFFEREE WOO | Times Tampa Bay Lightning staff members put on their ice skates during a skating session at Amalie Arena on Feb. 22 in Tampa. Susan Danielik, director of training and experience, receives assistance from ThunderBug during a skating session at Amalie Arena on Feb. 22 in Tampa. The Lightning plays hockey at Amalie Arena in Tampa.

An atmosphere of teamwork and fun

From boat shows to tattoo fests, no work day is the same, say Florida State Fair Authority employees.

With every new year, it’s go-time for the people who work at the Florida State Fairgrounds.

The midway and its nearly 100 rides have to be ready for a half-million expected fun-seekers. The latest in fried fair food must be on the menu. Preparations need to be made for the big opening-day Governor’s Luncheon, including the giant carnival slide that politicians ride down as part of state fair tradition.

And only about a million other details.

“It’s a really creative space, and every day is different,” said Peyton Moritz, a marketing assistant whose job includes social media, and this year, making TikToks.

“It’s a big teamwork atmosphere,” she said.

Florida State Fair executive director Cheryl Flood describes the annual event this way: “It’s like we just had a whirlwind. And it’s gone.”

So when the state fair’s annual 12-day run was over in February, employees got to take a breath — and then started preparing to put on 250 or so other events scheduled at the fairgrounds for the rest of the year, from bridal shows to college commencements.

“There’s never a dull moment,” said Moritz.

But first, there’s the fair.

Fun fair fact: The event started more than a century ago near downtown at Henry B. Plant’s Tampa Bay Hotel, which today houses the University of Tampa.

The Florida Legislature created the Florida State Fair Authority in 1975, and the fair moved to its current sprawling grounds off Interstate 4.

In the 1990s, legendary New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner — yes, the one parodied on “Seinfeld” — became the

fair authority chairperson. Big Stein was so devoted he could be seen picking up litter on the midway. The fair is cows and concerts, whack-a-mole and feeding baby goats, double ferris wheels and kids getting sticky with cotton candy.

Employees of the Fair Authority say there’s a rhythm to the big event: The first days are crazy

busy, then the dust settles and there’s time to get a look at what the team of hundreds of full-time, part-time and seasonal employees wrought.

“It’s fun,” said Moritz. “It’s pretty crazy, but it’s very rewarding just to walk around and see everybody enjoying something you had a hand in putting together.”

For her, fair food is a highlight:



Location: Tampa

Employees: 65 full time, about 50 part time, 280 seasonal



• “No day is the same.”

• “We like the constantly changing workforce environment.”

• “Creating fun and hosting events is what we do every day. It’s a big teamwork atmosphere.”

• “It’s pretty crazy, but very rewarding.”

• “It’s fun.”

“I call it my 12-day cheat day,” she said. “My favorite thing has to be the fried Oreos.”

Freaky fair food has its following. This year’s offerings included a Tampa Cuban funnel cake sandwich.

“And the pickle lemonade,” said Flood. “It was definitely more pickle than lemonade” — a concoction that came on the heels of last year’s pickle pizza.

Unique to the Florida State Fair — and booked solid for school events when it’s not fair season

— is the living Florida history museum called Cracker Country, an oak-shaded oasis away from the raucous midway with buildings dating to the late 1800s and docents in period costume.

Cindy Horton, director of museum operations for the fairgrounds, says she’s usually in a state fair shirt, not a historic outfit herself: “I can’t run fast enough in my 1890s dress to be everywhere I need to be,” she said.

Held early in the year for the cooler weather, this year’s fair included an otter show, a trained recovery dog event and a demolition derby.

Employees work in administration, facilities, landscaping, equestrian team, agribusiness, event services and creative living — which handles the competitive fair exhibits including baking and woodworking.

Also part of the big event: A platoon of about 200 unpaid volunteers who greet people at the gate and walk around answering questions — “a huge part of our team,” Flood said.

“It’s a workplace where we create fun,” she said. “That’s kind of why we enjoy what we do.”

Their employee benefits package includes a 401(k), medical coverage and paid time off when the fair ends.

“We realize we take a lot of commitment,” Flood said.

On this year’s after-fair line-up: Fossil Fest, horse shows, tattoo fests, a lowrider car show, a 5K obstacle course, reptile shows, Sharkcon, an AKC dog show, boat and RV shows and concerts from Hank Williams Jr. to Fall Out Boy. An estimated 2 million people visit the fairgrounds yearly. Moritz says she likes seeing the fair come together, but “it’s sad to see it go away. It feels like it comes and goes so quickly.”

Soon after the 2023 Florida State Fair was in the books Flood said: “We’re already starting next year’s fair.”

Contact Sue Carlton at Follow @SueCarltonTimes

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 19Y TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES SMALL COMPANY SPOTLIGHT
Times (2017) Former Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, left, former Attorney General Pam Bondi, and former Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam take a trip down a slide during the Governors Luncheon at the Florida State Fair in 2017 in Tampa. SANTANA | Times (2022) The sun sets during opening night at the Florida State Fair in February 2022 in Tampa.
20Y | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | Tampa Bay Times

Helping employees get back on the job

This company links injured workers up with local nonprofits.

No company wants to see its workers get hurt on the job. Unfortunately, accidents happen.

Private employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2021, according to the most recent data from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Though many workers need to take time off to recover, “Staying home after an accident can make you crazy,” said Luiz Guimaraes-Pacheco, who works as a painter for a company in Clearwater.

Last April, Guimaraes-Pacheco fell 12 feet from a ladder while at work. He underwent two major surgeries and needed to use a walker for three months after.

By July, he still hadn’t fully healed, but doing nothing all day was starting to get to him. That’s when Brandon-based company ReEmployAbility stepped in.

ReEmployAbility worked with Guimaraes-Pacheco’s employer to find him a temporary assignment that would allow him to earn his normal salary without risking his health. Instead of the manual labor he was used to, Guimaraes-Pacheco spent five months volunteering at Metropolitan Ministries, a nonprofit assisting homeless and low-income families in Tampa Bay.

“It felt good to help people who needed it,” he said.

Since 2003, ReEmployAbility has helped thousands of injured workers across the country make a smooth transition back into the workplace. The workers get a renewed sense of purpose, the nonprofits get an extra set of helping hands and the companies can cut back on worker’s compensation claims.

“It’s a win, win, win,” said CEO Debra Livingston.

Like many entrepreneurs, Livingston admits that she initially went into business to make money and to be her own boss. But she

quickly realized the potential she had to change the lives of her clients as well as her own employees. In recent years, her company has started to place a special

emphasis on professional and personal development for employees. There are regular training sessions ranging from financial planning to resumé writing workshops.



Location: Brandon

Employees: 83 Website:


• “I have never been so well taken care of by an employer EVER. They treat you as a whole person, baggage and all, the moment you walk through the door. I feel respected for my ideas and contributions.”

• “I feel like I’m making a difference in a positive way.”

• “ReEmployAbility allows me to grow and explore new ideas and innovations without tethering me to an old or outdated way. I know that what I do has a great impact on the company, which in turn helps a lot of people.”

resources director.

It’s that kind of support that makes ReEmployAbility a special place to work, said administrative team lead, Lindsey Silvernail.


“Wherever they are in their lives, we really want to support our people in achieving their goals,” said Crystal Hundley, ReEmployAbility’s human

Before she started working for the company in 2017, she worked at a call center.

“They were only focused on output,” she said. “Here they treat you like a human, not just a number.”

Contact Rebecca Liebson at

Tampa Bay Times | Sunday, March 26, 2023 | 21Y TAMPA BAY’S 100 TOP WORKPLACES SMALL COMPANY SPOTLIGHT
A group of volunteers at Habitat for Humanity. Habitat is one of thousands of nonprofits that ReEmployAbility partners with to give injured workers temporary jobs. JEFFEREE WOO | Times From left, Human Resources Director Crystal Hundley, CEO Debra Livingston and COO Rebecca Dearth at ReEmployAbility in Brandon. JEFFEREE WOO | Times Lindsey Silvernail, an administrative team lead, works at her desk at ReEmployAbility on Feb. 16 in Brandon.
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