Congratulations to the Florida Companies to Watch Winners for 2017

A typical Florida Companies to Watch class is comprised of businesses who collectively gross over $450 million in annual revenue, add more than 350 new jobs per year, average a 30% increase in earnings and experience almost 20% growth in employees annually. They represent great companies from throughout the state of Florida. Meet five of our new winning companies!

Alan Worley

Alan Worley, founder of 3D Digital, which is a GrowFL 2017 Florida Companies to Watch honoree, launched the company after getting tired of sending his clients away when they asked him for services he did not provide. “I started MoneyPages, which is a print publication that we grew from Jacksonville into four different states,” Worley said. “Our MoneyPages clients were asking us a number of years ago for websites or social media assistance, and back then our answer was no. That’s why we formed a digital agency. When we started 3D Digital, we started by outsourcing work and got frustrated with the quality and quantity of work that people could turn in a succinct amount of time. That was the impetus to build our infrastructure and the fulfillment team. We’ve grown 500% for the last multiple years.”

3D Digital is a boutique digital agency that specializes in creating custom solutions for marketing and digital needs. Its services include website development, video production, social media management, digital marketing and targeted display campaigns. “Our most significant differentiator is the fact that all of our fulfillment is done in house,” Worley explained. “Many agencies don’t have a team of designers, developers, writers and producers that all work in house. We do so we can deliver efficient and cost-effective results. We also have a production studio to shoot corporate video in house.”

Worley is grateful individually and for his team that 3D Digital was named a GrowFL Company To Watch. “It’s humbling to be recognized because we’ve worked so hard for the last few years from ground zero to where we have grown to now,” he said. “It’s nice to see we’re being recognized for the hard work and attention we’ve paid to growing this company. It’s exciting and very motivational for the staff and it gives them a pat on the back to see their hard work being rewarded. Lastly, it certainly provides a lot of credibility for our clients.”

Worley’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is don’t be afraid to fail. “I encourage people to try to make mistakes as quickly as possible,” he said. “You’ll learn the lessons that aren’t taught in school and that will get you to the successful path quicker.”

Brad Fuller

Brad Fuller, founder of Lightspeed Voice, launched the company because he felt he could improve upon his employers’ practices and wanted to be in the driver’s seat to make that happen. “I always wanted more. Creating a product that helps businesses grow, families thrive and makes a positive difference in the community has been my dream and vision”, he said. “It became obvious that to meet these goals, I needed to do something on my own that would allow me the freedom to customize solutions and create a loyal client base. Before Lightspeed Voice, I started an IT services company in Gainesville serving many well-known education, biotech and professional services companies. We provided a wide array of services, including basic telephone, that we either white-labeled or wholesaled from third-party companies.”

“As our clients continued to request voice services, we began developing our own product to complement our other managed service offerings”, Brad continued. “Soon we had refined our delivery model to the point we reached a crossroads. We could continue with the managed security and networking services on which we had built our company, or we could listen to our intuition and completely change our business direction. We ultimately decided the opportunity outweighed the risk, and that our chances for long-term success were better with the telecommunication services. Fast-forward to 2017 and we now serve thousands of clients across the United States with an average satisfaction rate in excess of 98 percent. Customer service is what we do.”

Lightspeed Voice is a Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) provider. The company utilizes the internet to host its software-based telephone system which augments the communications ability of a business through reporting and advanced features such as text messaging, virtual fax, lead management, and more. “Our system directly integrates with many widely used sales, CRM, and service tools,” Fuller explained. “Phone integration is a must-have piece of technology in today’s office. The PrismPBX ensures employee productivity, accountability, and compliance while increasing customer loyalty, satisfaction, and retention. Our company has become an expert on business process and we enjoy taking a consultative approach with our clients and helping them discover new and better ways to analyze their company’s performance.”

For Fuller, being recognized as a Florida Companies to Watch is an honor that validates all the hard work his team put in. “It’s an unbelievable and humbling opportunity,” he stated. “Our entire team is grateful for the acknowledgment of their dedication and hard work. We take the customer experience very seriously and hope to be serving our valuable clients for many years to come.”

Fuller’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to avoid hesitation and take action today. “Go for it,” he said. “You have to close your eyes and shoot for the stars. After you shoot, open your eyes.”

Jim Young

Jim Young, founder of SawStreet®, played key roles in three startups before fulfilling his goal of launching his own business. “After graduating from West Point, I worked for DuPont for 13 years, which provided a broad education in manufacturing, planning, sales and marketing and IT,” he said. “With that broad background in how companies operate, I joined a succession of three startups in the semiconductor and sensor spaces, and wound up running two of them. I always wanted to start my own company without venture capital so in 2008 I decided to start SawStreet®.”

SawStreet® provides semiconductor services for the electronics industry. “We focus on post-manufacturing, back-end service,” Young explained. “After a wafer has been finished, we get the wafer with thousands of circuits on it and we singulate each one of the circuits. We provide thinning, dicing, die sort and inspection services. We are named SawStreet® because the space between each semiconductor circuit on a wafer is called the saw street.”

The company focuses on specialty wafer while standard silicon semiconductor wafers are completed in Asia. “We focus on the high frequency semiconductors and multi-project wafers and go after the toughest part of the market,” Young said. “We wrote all the software that runs our company so everything is linked throughout the entire process from order entry to shipment. Most companies our size won’t have this type of software integration to run this business and it provides a real competitive advantage.”

Young is honored that SawStreet® was named by GrowFL as a Florida Companies to Watch. “It’s great validation,” he said. “You think you’re doing the right things but when you get recognized for it, that is very exciting for our employees because they feel like they are a part of something important and it’s growing. It is a great validation for the hard work they put in through the years.”

Young’s advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to read Shoe Dog by Phil Knight for inspiration and The Goal by Eliyahu Goldratt to learn about continuous improvement. “Get as much background as you can in all the different disciplines involved in running a company because when you launch a startup you have to become a master of nearly everything until you get to the stage where you can hire experts,” he said. “Maintain your business focus on what you do well. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Be ready to work as many hours as you possibly can in a day because that’s what it takes.”

Rex Kirby

Rex Kirby, founder of Verdex Construction, grew a national construction company’s southeast division into a $500 million entity before deciding he wanted to strike out on his own to launch a construction company with a new vision of “Building something Better.” “After 15 years at a company where I grew from a Project Manager to Division Manager, I accepted a position as regional president at a national company trying to get a foothold in the Florida market,” he said. “With the growth of that company and our region over my 15 years of running their southeast division, the dynamics changed dramatically. Not that it was right or wrong, but it became clear the large corporate culture didn’t fit with my personality. I found myself getting somewhat frustrated with decision making and system complexities that naturally come with large organizations. I was no longer the right person for them and they were no longer the right company for me.”

“I had the idea that I could fill a niche with a well-financed but leaner company that paid higher attention to clients, especially on the preconstruction side to get their deals to work in a hot market. And we made sure to continue our attention to the client and their project all the way through the building process by investing in best-in-class construction industry software systems to allow our people to focus on building and managing their projects.”

Verdex Construction provides diverse construction services, including multifamily, hospitality commercial, senior living, and industrial as well as a division that focuses on interior renovations and smaller projects. “We’re trying not to specialize, other than we are a vertical builder,” Kirby explained. “We diversify the types of projects we are working on so we don’t ride the wave of one individual market. We are working on projects in almost every sector I mentioned and will achieve revenues of about $100 million this year, so our strategy is working.”

“Our vision was better service, flexibility, quick decisions and great people. We’ve focused on hiring people that have the same cultural mindset of passion, integrity and leadership. We’ve grown at a pace where we’ve been able to attract and retain that higher caliber of people. The key to any company is having that talent.”

Kirby is honored that Verdex Construction has been named by GrowFL as a Florida Companies to Watch. “It means an incredible amount to us,” he said. “We have a handpicked, tight, motivated, group who are passionate about the company so to achieve that level of recognition on the state level, with all the competition, is a big motivator for our whole team. It’s a huge recognition for us and it provides credibility as we speak to others.”

Kirby’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is as simple as it is sage. “Be prepared for things not to go as you anticipated,” he said. “Keep beating the pavement. Don’t get scared or frustrated by things not coming together exactly as you envisioned.”

CLICK HERE to view the full list of 2017 Florida Companies to Watch Winners