How does it feel to be named one of TAMPA Magazine’s Leading People?
Well, I’m humbled by the recognition and the nomination. More importantly, the magazine has just done a fantastic job of celebrating the success and leadership of the men and women around Tampa Bay. It’s nice to be a part of a great group with shared interests and advancing the region.
You’re from Tallahassee but have lived in Tampa for most of your life. What drew you here?
The draw was the University of South Florida. I attended USF, played college basketball at USF, after I finished school I stayed here in Tampa Bay. It was a great market and continues to be a growing market and is really dynamic, that was interesting then but of course it’s even more compelling now. I’ve stayed very closely connected to USF as it continues to be, in my mind, one of the most important economic drivers across our region.
A big reason I came to Tampa and a reason I stay active is because of USF and Fifth-Third Bank. Tampa is one of the top markets in the country for Fifth-Third. I’m very fortunate to have the benefit of working in an organization that is heavily invested in Tampa Bay while still serving and supporting my alma mater and public service.
You played basketball for USF from 1994-1998; how do you apply what you learned on the court to what you in do in the office?
There are a number of skills and competencies that I was fortunate enough to learn as an athlete that have a direct correlation to what you can apply in your professional life. Things as simple and fundamental as integrity, teamwork, or as complex as having resilience during a change in management.
Those are the things you learn as an athlete, adapting to change, being resilient through adversity, those aren’t easy competencies and behaviors. You learn that in sports and you’re able to apply that professional life because there’s so many things to manage and deal with throughout your professional career, and they get complex when you lead an organization or you play a leadership role in the community.
You have a history of promotions in your career; what’s the most important part of advancing?
I tell you, I’ve had a chance to work at Fifth-Third for 10 years, and I’ve had a chance to progress through the company. So, first and foremost, working in a great organization that’s growing, that’s healthy and that focuses on developing their employees, that’s really at the foundation of Fifth-Third.
I would tell you, work for a company that wants to invest in you as much as you invest in them, and I’ve got that at Fifth-Third and that rings true in my success and my progression.
Secondly, deliver results. At the end of the day, set goals, stretch yourself, put a plan in place to achieve those goals, inspect that plan frequently and be sure you surround yourself with great people that can brutally honest about your performance so you can be a better version of yourself.
If you put that process in place and you stay true to it, you’ll tend to get good outcomes and you’ll get what I call “repeatable outcomes.” Find the intersection between what you’re passionate about and what you’re individually good at. When you can find that intersection, you really want to go at it hard, that’s where people tend to excel and that’s what I focus on in my life, professionally and personally. I always tell people, too, try to have a little fun.
Did you ever imagine getting to where you are now when you first started working at TECO?
My very first job, when I was at TECO, was a meter reader. I read meters, man. I got in the car, read the meters and ran from dogs half the time. I underestimated the dogs, by the way. But it was a good experience; I entered the company and in 5 or 6 years had progressed up to the Director of Financial Services running all the financial services for energy delivery for a multibillion dollar company.
I was fortunate again to work at a company that invested in me just as much as I invested in it. Great leadership at TECO positioned me for success and I had the same formula of being focused on performance and outcomes back then. That learning experience at TECO prepared me to get involved, not only in the community as I am today but also prepared me to work at another great company like Fifth-Third. There’s a lot of carryover and the disciplines, professional process, things I learned that I’ve applied for over 10 years.
How has your role at Fifth-Third Bank changed since you started?
I originally started out responsible as president just for Tampa Bay, and when I took over an expanded region, a broader region, I had to look at my operating rhythms and make sure that they were in a position that I could scale them. That’s a very important point; leaders that are able to scale their operating rhythms over broader geographies and still be highly effective and produce results, that’s a core competency.
I was able to learn from other great leaders, like our global CEO Greg Carmichael. Early on I had a chance to learn the importance of having processes that are scalable across broad geographies while still driving results. Greg talks a lot about that and really has done an outstanding job in his career, I was able to learn a lot from him in terms of how I approach that and I think it’s been effective, it’s something that I am focused on at my level and in my role, it’s actually a very important consideration.
Who in the Tampa Bay community do you admire professionally?
There are so many people who have played an incredibly important role in my life, but when you say words like ‘admire’ I’ll be brutally honest with you, my father is someone I admire more than anyone. He has been without a doubt the catalyst of who I am and who I’m going to become. I would not complete this interview without sharing with you that the role that he’s played in inspiring me and being someone I admire.
In terms of professional mentors there’s a number of folks that on my journey have played an early role and continue to play an early role. Chris Sullivan, the founder of Outback Steakhouse; John O’Neal the CEO of TECO Energy; Dennis Zank, the COO of Raymond James, who was my mentor in college when I was 19 years old and to this day is a close friend. Oscar Horton is someone who got to know me after I graduated, he runs a very large trucking business called SunState International Trucks, he’s a highly respected business and community leader and entrepreneur, successful business owner and more importantly an outstanding friend and colleague who I trust immensely.
These are the individuals that hold me accountable and lift me up and inspire them, they give me council and they have all in their own way help transform what Tampa Bay looks like today and will look like for a very long time.
How do you make time for the little things in life when overseeing more than 730 employees?
You gotta find time to renew, to unplug. I try to keep the weekends sacred and get rest, go play golf, spend time with the family and I try to make sure that I get away for some period of time to get both physical and mental renewal. There’s so many ways to do that and I enjoy doing it with my family, I enjoy doing it with friends, I’m a terrible golfer but I love the sport and it’s a nice way to unplug from time to time.
Your health is something that you can absolutely not underestimate the importance of, so I take that very seriously.
How would you like to be remembered?
This is one of those questions where you can spend tons of time talking about it, but the answer is fairly simple. I want to be remembered as a great husband, a great father and a great leader in this community. That the impact I made on this community made Tampa Bay a better place.
I’ve got a role to do as a business leader, and I’ve got a role to do as a community leader to be a good family man; I just want to have left some fingerprints on this Tampa Bay region and made it a better place.