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Business Observer Friday, Dec. 19, 2014 5 years ago

Base belief

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Premier Eye Care CEO Lorna Taylor believes her parents raised her to understand the value in giving back. Taylor says that value has paid back in business.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

Executive: Lorna Taylor, president and CEO, Premier Eye Care

Organization: Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation and Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts

Giveback: Taylor spends about 10 hours a week working on philanthropic activities. She tries to limit herself to chair one board a year so she can dedicate her efforts to it. This year it's two.

Mission: Provides services for domestic violence survivors and their children through funding Florida's 42 domestic violence shelters.

Giving back has always been a big part of Lorna Taylor's life. Her father was a minister and her mom was a kindergarten teacher, and Taylor describes both as incredibly generous, despite being poor.
“They were generous in words, deeds and time. They always made every place they went a better place,” Taylor says.

Taylor credits her upbringing for creating a “base personal belief” that she should give back. Even though Taylor works 65 to 70 hours a week as CEO of Premier Eye Care, a vision and medical eye care company in Tampa, she still manages to squeeze in an extra 10 hours each week on nonprofit or philanthropic work.

Taylor is currently the chairwoman of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence Foundation, which raises private donations to fund Florida's 42 domestic violence shelters. She's also chairwoman of the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture in the Arts.

Taylor first started working with domestic violence shelters 10 years ago, when she was asked to join the board of The Spring, a Hillsborough County shelter.

After serving six years, including a term as the chairwoman of the board, Taylor joined the board of the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence. However, there was a concern on how to fund the 42 domestic violence shelters in Florida, which led the organization to start a foundation to raise private funds for the state's domestic violence shelters. Taylor has served as chairwoman of the foundation's board the past three-and-a-half years, during which the foundation has raised more than $1 million with three events.

“These are shelters that change lives,” Taylor says. “They help families in crisis get on their feet and turn around.” The shelters assist with everything from finding jobs, to providing transitional housing, to finding temporary homes for pets.

“It resonates with me on many levels,” Taylor says. “Domestic violence crosses all boundaries — economic, educational and cultural. It's a cause very close to my heart.”

Taylor usually tries to not chair more than one group a year, to make sure she is able to dedicate the proper time and energy to the cause she elects, but this year she serves two. One of Taylor's best friends unexpectedly died when chairing the Tampa Bay Businesses for Culture and the Arts, so the organization asked if she'd step in.

“There's an art to being a board member,” Taylor says. “Your role is to help raise money and support the director. Your role is not to run the organization.

“Being involved in boards is not for the faint of heart,” Taylor says. “You're dealing with very real situations.” It can be tough to try to step back when you are dealing with children being taken away from families or hoping to save families from violence. “You have to pace yourself; you're not going to change the world in one day,” she adds.

The base of personal beliefs that Taylor learned from her parents, she brought to her business. And Taylor believes it has paid off.

According to Taylor, Premier Eye Care received 97% employee satisfaction and 100% employee engagement on a recent survey of the company's 100 employees. “Everyone loves the fact that we are so engaged in the community — that's why we have high employee satisfaction,” Taylor says.

She also credits philanthropy and corporate social responsibility as factors in how the company was able to grow in a tough economy. “It's one of those intangible motivators that nurtures employee engagement,” Taylor says. Premier has grown 43% from $59.2 million in 2013 annual revenue to a projected $84.7 million in 2014. In 2015, the company projects annual revenue of $99.9 million. The company sticks to what it calls the triple bottom line: people, planet, and profit. “It's part of the culture of what we do. It's good business.”

This story has been updated to clarify Taylor's service with the FCADV.

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