The 2023 class of the Business Observer's 40 Under 40represents a major milestone — not only for the winners — but the publication itself. This is the 20th anniversary of the 40 Under 40 issue in the Business Observer, which was founded in 1997.
Like these 40 winners, the issue has evolved over the decades, from a variety of annual themes and photoshoot locations to, now, for the past three years, a focus on not only the winners, but the mentors who helped shape and guide them. All the while, one factor has remained constant: The 40 Under 40 issue honors and celebrates a mixture of big dreamers and big doers, of successful and soon-to-be more successful professionals.
Several themes, beyond accomplished, define this year’s class of winners. A big one? Resilience.
The pandemic might be more than three years in the rearview mirror, but grit, toughness, mindset and a get-it-done spirit remain as relevant as ever for this group. Andrew Neal, vice president of operations, at manufacturing automation firm Scanco, in one example of many, cites his mom’s advice, in “cultivating a positive outlook, … regardless of the circumstances, maintaining a hopeful and optimistic mindset fosters resilience and enables me to overcome obstacles with grace.”
Sinead Carr, co-founder and head of business development for Express Employment Professionals of Sarasota, cites her mom, too, for showing her the impact, and importance, of resilience. “There will be many challenges and obstacles you face across any journey and at times things will feel impossible,” she writes in an answer to our 40 Under 40 questionnaire. “Failure is crucial to success, and mistakes are how you learn.”
One more wise nugget of resilience wisdom comes from SouthState Bank SBA loan executive Jordan Hallam, via his father, fellow banker Greg Hallam. “Attitude not aptitude determines altitude,” the younger Hallam writes. “If you approach work or life in general with the right attitude it's amazing how much further you will go.”
We are often asked: what do we look for in selecting 40 Under 40 winners? We received 270 nominations this year, in addition to names from the team of Business Observer reporters and editors who write about businesses everyday.
Winners who rise to the top of the list aren’t only high-achievers, but people who took some chances to get there. That’s why nearly 40% of winners this year started or co-founded their own business or organization. Many of those risked their own capital and livelihoods to pursue what they believed to be a better opportunity. Another 30% or so are responsible for their organization's growth and success, in C-level or partnership roles, which also requires a penchant for well-timed risks.
One final note, on both what we look for in 40 Under 40 winners and what’s a major theme in the stories of this year’s winners, is the power of dreaming big. Kendal Potesta, who co-owns a fast-growing Chicken Salad Chick franchise territory with her husband, Scott Pace, says she’s constantly looking to do better, go further. “One of the biggest lessons I have learned from Scott is you can achieve any dream you have,” she says. “You just need a plan.”
Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.