From the Editor: Hard work, relentless resiliency traits of these business leaders

The Jacksonville Daily Record presents its third annual Top Entrepreneurs edition.

Karen Brune Mathis
Karen Brune Mathis
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It’s who you know and how you treat them.

It’s what you do – and why.

It’s where and when you redirect your path to pursue a better opportunity in the same city, industry or even within the same company.

And it’s how you affect your community, culture and long-term health of customers and employees – and family.

Those are factors that our featured Top Entrepreneurs faced as they endured and survived the Great Recession and then the coronavirus pandemic.

The Jacksonville Daily Record presents its third annual Top Entrepreneurs edition recognizing nine Northeast Florida companies and the 2022 Legend – Preston Haskell, who founded his engineering company 57 years ago.

That was well before most of the featured entrepreneurs were born.

Today’s profiled leaders range in age from 34 to 83. 

Their industries include building, contracting, security, digital marketing, fitness, investing and drones.

While the younger owners did not run businesses at the start of the 2007 Great Recession, they experienced it enough to shape their economic philosophies.

They all confronted unexpected turning points that required a reach into their resolve to react quickly and resolutely.

The entrepreneurs’ collective experience includes facing fear; rebounding from the loss of business and customers; sharpening personal strengths and compensating for weaknesses by hiring well; honing expertise; earning and maintaining trust; and knowing their niches.

They learned what works and what doesn’t, and they intend to stay and grow within the sector and geography that suits them best.

Hard work is a given.

Many are finding their best successes came in their second careers or companies or in new internal corporate directions.

They also are aware of how they make a difference in the community in the areas of civic duty, sustainability and culture.

They want to make a positive lasting impact. 

Perhaps the best description for all is relentless resiliency.

As we did the past two years, we sought nominations.

We feature three companies each in the three revenue categories of up to $2 million; $2 million to $10 million; and more than $10 million.

We adjust as we proceed, so there were two primary changes this year.

We lowered the highest revenue category floor from $15 million to $10 million.

And we opted not to choose one winner and two finalists within each category.

Instead, we determined that all three in each category deserve similar recognition.

The focus is on entrepreneurs who founded locally based companies or who are a second- or third-generation CEO and lead owner of a family business.

The difficult job was determining the nine finalists among the 30 applications of worthy contenders. 

I will be in touch with all of the nominees about their businesses and how we might be able to include their stories in our ongoing reporting.

I strongly suggest that contenders not chosen this year nominate themselves for the 2023 Top Entrepreneurs. 

But look for a few changes.

The biggest will be that we will accept completed nomination forms only from the entrepreneurs themselves, who will need to provide basic revenue and workforce numbers for the prior three years.

The reason for this is that some entrepreneurs this year and last year were surprised at their nomination and declined to participate for privacy reasons.

One said the venture had no employees and that revenue was “negligible,” and preferred to wait until sales picked up.

We require those numbers because they verify the veracity of the entrepreneur’s success.

If you know entrepreneurs who should be nominated, urge them to apply when nominations open in early 2023.

Northeast Florida is filled with thousands of entrepreneurs who share what we read today: 

A passion for identifying an opportunity, building a business around it, creating jobs, providing for families, and working with customers to invent the next way forward.

They all deserve recognition.