HARRY ELLIS III
2018 Business Leaders of the Year | Technology
After seeing firsthand his parents’ struggles and the hurdles involved in running a small company, Harry Ellis III, CIO and president of Next Horizon, initially wanted nothing to do with technology or the family business. He dreamt of becoming an architect. But after enrolling in a few courses, he quickly realized architecture was not his calling. Instead of giving up, Ellis looked for his next horizon.
He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and enrolled in technology, design and development courses at Seminole State College. After attaining his bachelor of science in information technology and master’s degree in computer forensics at the University of Central Florida, Ellis found himself working closely with his father at Next Horizon, leading the company into new domains. In 2010, Ellis took over the family business. “I have a more entrepreneurial spirit, whereas my father was more focused on the software development,” Ellis said. “I started operating with a completely different mindset.”
Ellis has managed to double or triple the size of the company in employees and revenue year after year. He looked for ways to streamline the growth process by balancing government contracts with private deals without relying too heavily on one sector. In 2017, Next Horizon added numerous prestigious clients to its roster, including Florida Autism Center, AAA and Adventist Health System. As a result, the company is on track to hit its projected goal of $4 million in annual revenue.
Next Horizon attributes a large part of its success to recruiting and retaining top IT and leadership talent, and to explaining which strategies or software could benefit the client day to day. Ellis and his team bridge the gap between technology being viewed as an expense and understood as a tool.
“We’re here to focus on three things: to increase the clients’ sales, to increase their productivity, and to enhance their profitability,” Ellis said. “We equip them with the technology to do that. We are able to make IT make sense for companies.”
Ellis also expanded Next Horizon’s services, which now include web design, software development, IT managed services, web hosting, marketing, search engine optimization, ecommerce, computer forensics and cloud computing. “Usually you have boutique web development firms, software development firms, or an IT firm, but it’s very rare to find a company that does all three points equally,” Ellis said. Because of the company’s ability to provide any web service under one roof, Next Horizon reports a 98 percent customer retention rate. This reduces time spent in search of clients.
At the same time, Ellis makes it a priority to keep a family work environment and give back to the Orlando and Sanford communities. “That’s a big differentiator with us,” he said. “We’re always trying to lift the community up with us as we grow.”
Ellis is proud to proclaim that “giving back” is a core value at Next Horizon. He takes a personal approach to marketing and business by actively engaging in the community. Next Horizon supports numerous charitable and community organizations, including the Foundation for Seminole State College, Boys Scouts, the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce, Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Seminole County Sheriff’s Foundation, Rotary International and Seminole County Public Schools.
To provide opportunities for students in the community, Ellis established the Marvine F. Ellis Endowed Scholarship at Seminole State in memory of his mother. Next Horizon also endowed a second scholarship at Seminole State for entrepreneurship and helped complete the Seminole State Alumni Scholarship.
He looks to the future and anticipates more community involvement, continuing the daily challenge of adapting to emerging technologies and looking for new ways to expand.