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Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame

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  • | 11:00 a.m. May 15, 2015
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Pat Neal
Neal Communities

Lakewood Ranch

Years won: 2005, 2012, 2014

Pat Neal is focused on the numbers. “If you know the stats, you can fix it,” he says.

For Neal, the most important number is quality satisfaction, which he's managed to boost two points to 92% in the last year. That's because Neal is focused on his family business's long-term reputation as the company grows.

Building 1,000 homes a year, Lakewood Ranch-based Pat Neal Communities is up nearly 18% to $271.1 million in revenue. Neal previously won the Business Observer's Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2005, when sales grew 72% over three years, to $110 million in 2004. During the recession in 2009, revenue dropped to $62 million, but Neal won the award again in 2012, when he managed to bring sales back up to $110 million, and once again in 2014, when sales reached $230.3 million.

The key to his success has been managing the numbers and implementing systems to track issues. The company has accomplished a 50% reduction in calls since it introduced a quality of service reference database that helps it track what's happened. For example, in 2013 Neal realized the company had a high level of homeowner response after side winds took a toll on windows, so it started putting balance rods in the windows of new homes to avoid future problems.

Though Neal believes homebuilding will double, he's cautious not to outpace levels as homebuilders did in the last decade. With new systems and an improved organizational structure in place, Neal has started to expand, adding Lee and Collier counties last year, and Hillsborough County this year. His communities now cover 160 miles along the Gulf Coast, from Tampa to south Naples.

2012: $139.4M
2013: $230.3M
up 65.2%
2014: $271.1M
up 17.7%

2012: 125
2013: 126
2014: 242*
*new structure for counting employees


Scott Fischer
Scott Fischer Enterprises

Fort Myers
Year won: 2014

Two years ago, Scott Fischer made the choice to reinvest in his current Harley-Davison stores, rather than look at new locations. His goal is to grow the 2% of the population who rides motorcycles.

Scott Fischer Enterprises consists of six Harley-Davison stores, which dominate the markets in which they're located, all together totaling $121 million in revenue.

Fischer is making a significant investment to make motorcycles more popular among young adults, women and Hispanics to expand his customer base. He's accomplishing this by giving non-riders a reason to come out to his stores. “Most people think of 'Sons of Anarchy' or Hells Angels, but it's really big retail,” Fischer says. “Once the edge of motorcycles fades off, that's when you can introduce them.”

To attract the non-riders, Fischer has built a $10 million entertainment destination complex on Interstate 75 in Fort Myers, called Six Bends. The destination includes a concert venue that draws crowds of 3,000-plus to bands such as the Thunderbirds and Eddie Money. The venue has also hosted major fundraisers like a networking event that attracted 400 young adults.

In the last six months, Six Bends saw a 30% increase in revenue. Now females generate 20% of sales from the Fort Myers store. The young adults sector is also growing — in 2014, the stores converted 35% of their 2,500 students in their rider education program.

This year the company is working on developing an additional 45,000 square feet of mixed community space at Six Bends, a $5 million investment not counting the real estate, with a goal to attract a restaurant, microbrewery, tattoo parlor and nightclub. The company is being picky in whom it will accept. It wants something unique “because filling up the space is not the intention,” Fischer says.

2012: $81M
2013: $105M
up 30%
2014: $121M
up 15%

2012: 280
2013: 285
2014: 300


Jim Abrams

Year won: 2008

Jim Abrams is back. But this time he's not in the home contractor business. Instead, he's focused on physical therapy. How can he jump from one industry to another? His strength is bringing business education to franchisees.

Abrams was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008 in Sarasota-Manatee Counties for building Clockwork Home Services, growing revenues from $59 million to $182 million from 2005 to 2009. The company sold to Toronto-based Direct Energy in July 2010 for $183 million.

Abrams' new company, Fyzical, a physical therapy franchise that he founded in 2012, has 96 franchisees under agreement, with a goal of 175 at the end of the year. The average franchise generates $700,000 per location. The company also owns and operates nine locations, with sales of more than $9 million. The company has already broken the top 10 in numbers of centers in the U.S., and aims to be No. 1 by 2020 with a goal of achieving 10% of the $32 billion market, according to Abrams.

He came across the opportunity when he met a local physical therapist looking for a real estate investor. He quickly realized “this is an industry crying for what we do,” he says. Many of the local physical therapists he started to visit were small mom-and-pop shops that were experts at the health care aspect, but were unprepared for the business side.

Abrams has no doubt that the company's strong growth will continue. Last year, fewer than 3% of physical therapy business owners had heard of Fyzical, now at least 75% know of the company, Abrams says.

2012: $1.5M
2013: $6.27M
up 318%
2014: $23.56M
up 275.8%

2012: 1
2013: 13
2014: 41


Barry Shevlin

Year won: 2008

Barry Shevlin's $180 million technology company Vology is working on growth through acquisitions.

The Oldsmar-based company, which buys and sells used networking equipment and provides IT services, grew 24% to $168 million in revenue in 2014. The company has ranked on the Inc. 500/5000 list of fastest growing companies in the U.S. for the last nine years with more than 5,000 customers worldwide.

Shevlin founded the company in 2001. He won the Business Observer's Entrepreneur of the Year in 2008, after growing the company 635% from $6 million in 2004 to $44.1 million in 2007. But the firm insists the growth will only continue.

In November, the company promoted John O'Shea to president to lead the charge. In the same month, it raised $40 million in new senior financing.

The company used the new line of credit to kickoff its acquisition spree. In early March, Vology acquired Tampa-based Offsite Technology Solutions, a 30-employee company. The acquisition boosted Vology to become the top IT services provider in the region. Vology acquired Tampa-based Bayshore Technologies in early 2013, which increased its employee count to 200. O'Shea says the goal is to create 100 more jobs by early 2015.

Vology also made an expansion to Irvine, Calif., with an acquisition last year and is looking to expand more in Texas and the Northeast, O'Shea told trade publication CRN.
In April, Vology was selected by NASA for the largest contract the federal government offers for information technology services, which could total $20 billion over 10 years.

2012: $88M
2013: $135M
up 53.4%
2014: $168M
up 24.4%

2013: 190
2014: 228


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