Family bonds were crucial to Paul Hoffman.
A SouthTech intern was stunned a few years ago when Paul Hoffman showed up for his college graduation.
Hoffman was the CEO of Sarasota-based SouthTech, a multimillion-dollar IT services and management firm with nearly 60 employees. When the intern saw the busy CEO at the graduation, recall several SouthTech employees, he was blown away. “He couldn’t stop telling everyone Paul came to his graduation,” SouthTech COO Nathan Bailey says. “He was so impressed.”
A CPA who helped build SouthTech into one of the largest IT firms in the region, Hoffman died Jan. 16 from Stage 4 cancer. He was 60 years old.
Hoffman, say several people who worked with him and knew him, was a humble executive, more servant leader than top-down CEO who had a knack for finding the best fit for employees. He also was a innovative problem solver, a relentless worker and, above all else, kind and generous with a positive spirit contagious to those around him, his colleagues say. Outside SouthTech, Hoffman was one of the original founders of the Gulf Coast CEO Forum, helping get the executive business leadership organization going in 2013, among other civic roles. “It’s going to take a big place to hold all the people who want to pay respects to Paul,” says SouthTech Chief Technology Officer Chad Goble, who, like Bailey, helped grow the business along with Hoffman. “He will surely be missed.”
Hoffman, who worked in software development for Arthur Andersen and also ran his own accounting firm for four years, helped launch SouthTech in 2002. Back then it was the information services and IT unit of accounting and financial services firm Kerkering Barberio. It eventually became an independent entity and grew along with the Sarasota-Bradenton business community — especially in the past decade. Revenues, for one, have grown 241.6% since 2011, from $2.4 million to $8.2 million in 2018.
About 18 months ago, even before his diagnosis, Hoffman and his partners began to prepare for a SouthTech without him, as he looked to cut back hours with an eye toward retirement. There were multiple conversations with Goble, Bailey and other senior managers, including Business Development and Marketing Manager Henry Decoo, Client Services Manager Josh Haley and Unified Communications Manager Jennifer Danis. Decoo joined SouthTech in early 2019, coming from a New York IT firm.
“His reputation was everything,” says Decoo. “He would never sacrifice his integrity for a quick buck. But also, he would spend money even if he knew it was going to cost him money, if he knew that was the right thing for the client.”
While SouthTech was important, his colleagues say nothing beat out Hoffman’s attention toward his family — his wife Marie and children Ashley and Kyle. He raved about his son’s tennis matches, says Goble, and must have gone to his daughter’s favorite place, Disney World, “700 times,” adds Bailey. Hoffman also loved going to the beach with his family.
The family theme carried on to other families in Hoffman’s life. That includes Kimberley Miele, the first executive director of the CEO Forum who worked closely with Hoffman and several other executives to get the organization going. Miele’s husband, Michael, died suddenly in 2014, at 44 years old, and she says Hoffman was an immediate and constant source of support, sending her emails of encouragement and calling regularly. “Paul knew Mike and he would always check on me, ask me if I needed anything,” says Miele. “He took an interest in my boys. He was an old-school guy, a kind and wonderful person who just really really cared about others.”