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Michael Corley was content working 70-hour weeks to help build Progressive Employer Services into one of the largest employee-leasing firms in Florida.

Then, in 2009, Corley lost his job during a corporate restructuring of the Bradenton-based firm, a professional employer organization that had nearly $50 million in revenues in 2007. The job loss hurt Corley, both from a psyche standpoint and his wallet. “It was very painful,” says Corley. “It was a tough time.”

But Corley rebounded rather quickly, to a field he first thought was the butt end of a joke: being a business consultant. “You don't have a job,” quips Corley, “so you go consult for others.”

Corley is now an independent management consultant, which basically means he's a chief operating officer for hire. He works temporary gigs with health care firms, other PEOs and nonprofit organizations. He writes and looks over contracts, handles mergers and acquisitions and helps with general day-to-day operations that free up a CEO for other tasks. Overall, he has found his new passion in leadership development.

A particularly rewarding consulting post Corley has is with the Patterson Foundation, an independent charitable organization based in Sarasota. Corley works closely with Patterson Foundation President and CEO Debra Jacobs there, helping organize leadership seminars and programs. Corley met Jacobs soon after he left Progressive, when he was figuring out his next career move. “People who lose their jobs find their way to Debra,” says Corley. “She's incredible at finding people career opportunities.”

Corley says his work at the foundation is valuable for more than the job. It also opened a new world, nonprofits, that he didn't know much about in his corporate days, save for sitting on some boards. “It gave me exposure to a whole side of the economy I had nothing to do with,” Corley says.

Prior to the Patterson Foundation, Corley's career has all been in building companies. A University of Tennessee graduate, Corley was vice president of marketing for a health care IT firm, executive director of a physician-hospital organization and administrator of a 26-member physician practice in Nashville. He moved to the Sarasota-Bradenton area for a chance to help grow Progressive in 2003.

Corley, 48, has considered adding other elements to his consulting life, including possibly teaching leadership development classes. While nothing formal, he does a lot of that in the consulting jobs he takes with area companies run by young executives. Says Corley: “I'm old enough now to have a little bit of wisdom based on experience.”

Blast from the past
Here are some of Michael Corley's responses to the questionnaire when he was a 40 under 40 recipient in 2006.

Name one pressing issue affecting our region today: Access to property insurance.

How would you solve it? I would get the government and the politicians out of the insurance business. I would allow market forces, the laws of supply and demand, to prevail. Yes, this would be a significant change and would not be without pain. However, over the long term, this would enable the market to stabilize. Prices would then properly reflect the risk and the competitive activity between the insurance companies. This action would enable increased access to property insurance.

What's on your iPod? Motley Crue, Toby Keith, Kenny Chesney.

Name three things in your refrigerator: Salsa, juice boxes, adult beverages.

What would you like to be doing less of? The “urgent but not important” things in daily life.

Book you can read more than once: The Bible; “Winning,” by Jack Welch


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