Best Practice

Everything Flourishes in Florida: Growing Small Businesses

i4 Business Orlando

By Ray Watson

We are fortunate to live in the Sunshine State, with powerful solar energy, vast citrus groves, teeming oceans and amazing wildlife. Florida is a paradise, especially for those with the knowledge and skill to harness its energy and work with its abundant resources. Florida’s small business owners have a similarly powerful environment for achieving success, driven by the commitment of local initiatives, banks and communities to supporting their growth. Sometimes it just takes the right conditions in place to truly shine – a team of partners that offer guidance, financial support and further opportunities when the time is right.

Find Your Compass

Over the past decade in my work as a CEO group facilitator with the University of Central Florida’s GrowFL/CEO Nexus program, I have been able to help CEO roundtable members develop as leaders, refine their strengths, build a culture of excellence and assist in achieving a successful exit when the time is right. Look for community organizations and initiatives that connect business leaders to each other to share strategies, resources and support. The right business coach or mentorship group can act as a compass of sorts to help you overcome challenges by providing research, feedback, advice and fostering your development as a leader as you navigate the waters of growth and change.

“The right business coach or mentorship group can act as a compass of sorts to help you overcome challenges by providing research, feedback, advice and fostering your development as a leader.”

All of these steps are paramount to leadership of a small or mid-sized business. Whether you, as the CEO, see yourself as the face of the company or the driving force behind it, it is your ship, and as you go, so it goes.

Make It Rain

Nothing grows in nature without some water. Likewise, businesses do not develop without funding. Find an investment partner who believes in your organization, your leadership and your future. I have been on the board of directors of Fidelity Bank of Florida for three years, which has allowed me to do what I am most passionate about – help small businesses succeed. As a community bank, Fidelity Bank of Florida has the ability to build relationships with all customers, understand their unique needs, and help fulfill their dreams by providing a personal banking relationship and financial support for their growth.

Find a bank or investment partner with a solid history of commitment to community businesses, the capacity to fund what you as a CEO are trying to build, with the tools and expertise to support that growth successfully. Your investor should be a driving force in the local economy.

Plant a Seed for the Future

As your business grows, be sure that you appropriately plan for tomorrow and give back to the community as well. Part of any good leadership approach is recognizing that someone else must lead a company that is built to last into the future, planning for that transition, ideally identifying that person and facilitating the change. Be comfortable with change. I was privileged to begin my career serving as an officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces, then brought that leadership training to my business career as an executive in Fortune 500 and Inc. 500 companies.

As an entrepreneur, I have owned companies in the IT, medical, manufacturing and construction industries before transitioning into my current role working with business owners as a coach, facilitator and board member. Invest time in your community too. I serve as a member of the board of directors for The Seminole County Region Chamber of Commerce, act as a volunteer on the advisory boards at both Seminole State and the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) and partner with The CEO Leadership Forum, a group of Central Florida professionals working with Valencia College to support its business program and provide content briefings to CEOs.

“Give of your time and talent to others, and you will reap what you sow.”


Ray WatsonRayWATSON

Ray Watson is the CEO of Executive Leadership Resources, Inc., a member of the Board of Directors of Fidelity Bank of Florida, and a group facilitator for the University of Central Florida’s GrowFL initiative.

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i4 Business

i4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders who are shaping our region.

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