Broward Business Owners Share Economic Outlook


CEO roundtable breakfast serves up issues and ideas

The crowd gathered early at last week’s CEO Roundtable Breakfast, and it wasn’t just for the coffee. Nearly two dozen Broward business leaders had plenty to say about their outlook for growth in the coming year – and the two real issues that are making it more difficult.

Kaufman Rossin’s Managing Principal Blain Heckaman hosted the meeting, which aimed to create a deeper discussion based on the results of our recent Broward Executive Survey. Tom Hudson, host of WLRN’s Sunshine Economy, moderated the discussion and encouraged the CEOs to share their thoughts.

Broward leaders see growth across industries.

“Lots of growth,” said Craig Vaughn of the Castle Group, property managers, when asked about the state of his business.  “Tremendous growth,” said Henry Woodman of ICE Portal, a content management solutions provider for the travel business.  “Long term care is growing,” reported Aric Agmon, whose company, AOD Software, develops electronic health records and medical billing systems.  He’s seeing demand from that growth.   The word practically echoed around the room.

But concern about regulation crosses industry lines, too.

Mark Walker, president at MTN Satellite Communications who had just completed his company’s sale to EMC, spoke broadly of the regulatory burden in “non-core areas like Department of Labor rules and the Affordable Care Act,” suggesting that his 250-employee company was subject to rules better suited to much larger businesses.

Community bankers weighed in as well.  Ginger Martin from American National Bank is seeing good activity in commercial real estate and with small businesses.  But “the regulatory environment is suffocating us,” she shared.  Cyril Spiro, leader of Regent Bank, added “The court system is the biggest problem,” citing the delays in foreclosure and the lack of responsiveness from state government.

The search for talent requires innovative thinking.

Concern about the shortage of talent was nearly unanimous.  But in this case participants shared a range of creative ideas.

Challenged finding talented local developers, Aric Agmon is opening a school in Cuba. Michael Grimme of AMC Liquidators has found a highly motivated team to staff his warehouses by hiring candidates from the county work release program.

Several attendees are finding success hiring from outside their industries.

  • Cyril Spiro met a woman who sold flowers for an importer and had a knack for building relationships by coming through in crunch-times. Recognizing her innovative, relationship-based approach, he hired her.
  • Julie Jones-Bernard, broker-owner for Florida Luxurious Properties, hired a lawyer from Beijing to sell luxury residential real estate to international buyers, sweetening the benefits package by understanding the needs of a parent.
  • Mark Walker reported MTN’s great success hiring returning veterans, citing their technical skills and willingness to travel.

Education has a key role in closing the talent gap.

David Hammond of CSI International hires fresh from universities – and both he and Michael Grimme teach classes at local universities to build awareness and get to know the top students.  Henry Woodman recently hired two students from other countries; he was willing to deal with the visa issues because of their strong work ethic.

Laurie Sallarulo, CEO of Junior Achievement South Florida, reminded the group about the training her organization delivers, with K-12 programs geared toward work readiness and entrepreneurship.

Aaron Lee of Illuminati Studios agreed wholeheartedly about the importance of educating the future workforce early.  “You have to get the seed planted in middle school,” he stated.

Download Broward Executive Survey report

Janet Altman is a Marketing Principal at Kaufman Rossin, one of the Top 100 CPA and advisory firms in the U.S.

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