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40 Under 40 - Class of 2018
Business Observer Friday, Oct. 26, 2018 3 weeks ago

40 under 40 2018

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Head of the Class
by: Mark Gordon Managing Editor

The theme of the 2018 40 Under 40 issue is Head of the Class: The business leaders from Tampa to Naples who shine brightest among their peers, from entrepreneurs to medical administrators to bank executives.            

And, like in school, one of the questions asked most often about the 40 Under 40 issue — one of the most-anticipated issues of the year — comes with a somewhat subjective answer. The question: What do we look for in the winners?

Some of it, more subjective, is we look for businesses community leadership, the people who, if you are new to town, you need to meet. Success in a given career is another requisite, but that too can be subjective. Elizabeth Diaz in Sarasota, a 33-year-old partner at one of the most prestigious law firms in the region, is one definition of success. Diaz made our 2018 list — but other lawyers, who are likewise uber-successful, didn’t make the list.  

Another subjective factor: People who we believe, based on their career so far and a host of intangibles, are going places — the people who would be on the most likely to succeed page of a high school yearbook.

Someone like Brandon Box, a market leader for IberiaBank, with a territory that covers Lee, Sarasota and Manatee counties. A southern gentleman, Box has the “it” factor, where it’s pretty clear he will run his own bank or large bank division someday. Same for commercial real estate executive Mike Griffin. With an easygoing style, Griffin is the kind of person who can chat about the Buffalo Bills losing four straight Super Bowls right after a discussion on triple net lease rates. (It doesn’t hurt that Griffin, senior managing director of Savills Studley, has already been a Port Tampa bay commissioner and chairman of the Greater Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce.)

Of course, like any good school project, there’s an objective side: We also seek people who have risked money and everything else to start or run a business. The people with stories of overcoming obstacles that can both inform and inspire. The 2018 list includes at least a dozen winners who have started their own business, from a furniture builder and a clothing maker to a digital marketing pioneer and a pregnancy-focused entrepreneur.    

Or take Dan Bavaro, owner of a small and growing chain of pizza restaurants in the Tampa area. Going against the school theme, Bavaro says his head-of-the-class success comes from street smarts, and the kinds of things you don’t learn in school.

A high school dropout, Bavaro did go back for a GED. And in his triumphs, there’s an education lesson for every business owner and executive — that sometimes, getting to the head of the class requires a healthy dose of self-reliance. “What it says in the book is what it says in the book,” Bavaro says, “but where you sometimes — in my case, most of the time — find success is by doing what’s not in the book.”

Click here to read all the profiles of this year's 40 Under 40.

To see our previous winners, click here.

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