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Business Observer Thursday, May 20, 2021 3 weeks ago

Founder of Tampa private equity firm credits approach to hiring and managing risk for growth

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Brian Katz of Katz Capital Financial believes getting the right people is critical for companies to grow
by: Louis Llovio Tampa Bay Editor

Entrepreneur: Brian Katz

Company: Katz, 43, started his company, a private equity firm, in 2011, using proceeds from the sale of an Ybor City condo he’d invested in. With a focus on real estate and financial services, he's seen consistent growth in revenue in the past three years, growing from $6 million in 2017 to $15 million in 2020, up 150%. 

Some of that growth is from existing business lines. But a big part is from expanding his investment strategies into new business lines. The growth over the past three year s“is a little bit of organic within those silos," he says. “But it’s widening our lanes as well.”

Today the company is made up of six affiliated businesses: Pineywoods Realty, Pineywoods Title, Pineywoods Insurance, Pineywoods Mortgage, Pineywoods Capital and Pineywoods Benefits. The company also owns Integrity Concrete Coatings of Tampa Bay, Frosty’s Air Conditioning and Preston Insurance Agency Illinois.

It’s amazing, going through this experience as an investor, sometimes you think you know things and you don’t.”

And Katz, separate from Katz Capital, is the lead shareholder and chair of Camp Grove State Bank in Camp Grove, Illinois, which he bought in 2019. The bank has $17.6 million in assets, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data. 

“I’m always searching and learning and growing and reading,” he says. “At certain points in life there’s more of it and at certain points there is less. And just realizing what you have control over and realizing what you don’t have control over, there is peace in that.”  

Best advice: “If you view it through the lens of being an employer…you get the right people in the right seat at the bus,” says Katz, who learned the lesson reading Jim Collins. 

That means finding the correct employees isn’t just a matter of looking for a person with the right qualifications. That person needs to fit into the company culture, too. 

So when someone is brought in for a job, Katz makes sure multiple people will interview the candidate. Having more than one person talk to a potential employee, he says, helps develop a better picture of who that person is and how they’ll fit in. “It’s like the wisdom of the crowd,” he says.

“I’ve been very fortunate to get the right person on the right seat of the bus, and I’ve done that a few times over.”

Once the right person is in, the goal is to get them to do their best work. To do that, Katz says, it pays to be flexible and build a framework and culture that allows employees to flourish,.

Best decision: “The best decision I ever made was to bet on myself, to go out on my own.”

Katz says one of the toughest things a businessperson does is learn to deal with adversity. For him, that was working with several employers early in his career, where he faced some setbacks that led to where he is now.

“Things didn’t work out for me the way I wanted them to and that really forced me to go out on my own,” Katz says. “There were things that I wanted to achieve personally and professionally, and I realized that the only person who was going to give that to me was me. It wasn’t going to be someone else.”

Biggest mistake: While no single misstep stands out, some bad investment decisions along the way gnaw at him.

But, he says, when you are in the business of taking risks sometimes things aren’t going to work out. And that means you need to take smart, calculated risks rather than speculating.

Before putting money into an investment, he does as much due diligence as possible, delving deep and asking questions. “That results in thinking about ‘What do we know? And what do we know that we know? And

what do we know that we don’t know?’” he says.

Up-at-night worry: “I have found in the last 10 years that it’s best just to get a good night’s sleep,” Katz says.

Katz laughs when he says this, but he tries to live that sentiment — even though it’s not always easy. “When you’re up worrying," he says, "ultimately about things you can or can’t control then you’re just not performing in a top-notch way."

 

 

The topsy-turvy life of an entrepreneur can be maddening — but also rewarding. Nine of the best in the region share their ups and downs in our annual Top Entrepreneurs issue. Click the links below to read more:

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