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CFDC Quarterly Leadership Roundtable: Business Growth Trends

July 30, 2021 News

The future for business is looking brighter – throughout the country and especially here in Polk County, Florida.  This year has been one of transition and adjustment, but local leaders are optimistic about business conditions and enthusiastic about new post-pandemic opportunities.

Growth forecasts are tracking with national trends. Chief Executive’s July poll of U.S. CEOs reports that 85% of CEOs surveyed nationally expect that revenue will increase over the next year and 80% believe profits will increase – the highest percentage since February 2018.  This is good news for the economy and great news for businesses that are moving towards the “next” normal.

In July, Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching met via Zoom with three of the largest employers in Polk County – Mark Cabrera, CEO of Saddle Creek Logistics Services, Danielle Drummond, President/CEO of Lakeland Regional Health, and Dale Dreyer, Regional President of SouthState Bank. All three leaders reflected on the growth their business has experienced over the past 12-18 months, shared their vision for the ways their organization will continue to grow market share, and discussed what will be required of their leaders to meet future marketplace demands and adapt to an accelerated pace of change. Keep reading for an edited version of the conversation.

Despite navigating the immense change and uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 crisis, supply chain log jams, inflationary pressures, and sky-high materials and labor costs, your business has grown over the past 12-18 months. Describe the degree of that growth and the key contributing factors.

Mark: From March 2020 to March 2021, we grew 13%, which is about double for the same period the year before. We grew revenue with 9 of our top 10 clients and some of that growth was explosive. The economic environment of last summer was driven by an influx of government money to the consumer and shutdowns that forced those consumers to spend that money from home. We are fortunate that 90% of our business is made up of either e-commerce retailers or consumer sales. The formula of increased online shopping and increased spending in areas like home improvement created a huge opportunity for us to serve our clients and grow as we supported their growth.

Danielle: Growth in healthcare is driven by population growth and the demand for services. We know that the population is growing, especially as the post-pandemic migration to Florida unfolds. We also know that the demographic of who we serve is changing as well.  Our growth must be tied to providing additional services targeted to the evolving needs of our community. To support the health status of all those we serve, we’ve added additional screening, prevention, and wellness activities.  We are constantly scanning the environment to identify high level health care options that are needed to allow patients to receive care locally instead of traveling to a different metro area. Recently, we’ve enhanced our mental health offerings as well as adding a bariatric surgery and metabolic medicine programs which has resulted in significant growth.  Our outpatient mental health visits have doubled this past year, and our bariatric program has served hundreds of patients since its inception earlier this year.  The recent addition of the Carol Jenkins Barnett Pavilion for Women and Children, and the continued strength of our partnership with Nemours Children’s Health System solidifies the ability for women and children to seek specialty care here in Lakeland.

Dale: Our largest driver for growth in the last year has been the successful CenterState and SouthState merger of equals.  Last year, the merged bank had about $6B in organic growth above and beyond the merged assets. COVID was a huge driver of growth during this time as we helped our customers navigate PPP loans and other government programs using our signature personal touch rather than routing customers to a 1-800 number.  Leveraging these relationships during an uncertain time solidified SouthState’s position as a large regional bank with the feel of a community bank.

Looking ahead to the next 12-18 months, in what ways do anticipate your company will continue to scale and grow market share?

Mark: We had a record sales year and supporting that growth will be a challenge.  We are hiring about 500 associates in Q3. We’re adding 3 million square feet of additional space by the end of the calendar year and expanding into new geographic areas like Birmingham, Houston, and Eastern Pennsylvania.  For the first time, we will be outfitting an entire building with a complete e-commerce setup, including racking, conveyor, pack-out stations and 25 AMRs – automated mobile robots – to assist with picking products. All of this will be set up in advance of having a client to use it, but we are confident we will be able to fill the space.  We are an established leader in the e-commerce space and believe that there is a strong demand for our customizable, scalable solutions.  Our clients tend to be middle-market-sized companies that need the personal and flexible service we can provide.

Danielle: Our ability to scale and grow market share is directly linked to our ability to provide services with accessibility and patient convenience in mind.  We are making an investment in a new outpatient facility on the north side of I-4 in Kathleen to provide more access to local healthcare.  COVID forced a major shift in the role technology plays in the healthcare industry. Utilization of telehealth and telemedicine in specialties like primary care and behavioral health have improved the patient experience greatly so we will continue to make investments in these platforms moving forward.

Dale: We grew by 100% in the last year and a large part of that growth was due to the merger. Moving forward it only makes sense that our growth will moderate and be more reflective of the economic changes in the markets we serve.  I see opportunities in enhancing our relationships with current customers that we may have topped out with as a smaller community bank and expanding our relationships with customers that may have been too large or complex for us to serve at our previous size.  We now have the strength of a $40B bank behind us and that allows us to compete for these customers at a new level.

As you are preparing to scale and grow market share, what will be required of your leaders to scale their capacity to drive future growth and meet marketplace demands?

Mark: There are three main attributes our leaders will have to possess to drive future growth and meet marketplace demands.  Our leaders must be adaptive, meaning that they serve our clients with a degree of flexibility that is unheard of in other industries. These leaders must also be ambassadors for the Saddle Creek culture and reflect to their teams that just getting the job done is not enough, the crux of what we sell to our clients is how we do our job.  Finally, and most importantly, our leaders must create processes that produce a new generation of leaders who understand who we are and what we represent.  Our leaders see coaching and mentoring not as an additional task, but as the core to the future success of the company.

Danielle: The keys to our leaders’ ability to support the current levels of growth are flexibility, collaboration, and innovation.  Flexibility means understanding that change is inevitable, and we need to approach some of the problems in our world differently than we have in the past.  Collaboration entails leaders using a flexible approach to work with others to solve problems. The best solutions for the most complex issues reach across divisions and functional silos and even to external partners to leverage the skills of all the stakeholders to solve a problem.  Innovation is a natural by-product of flexibility and collaboration because leaders will often arrive naturally at a technology-based solution when working together to find ways to improve patient care.  We support any solution that makes navigating healthcare as seamless and painless as possible for patients and their families.

Dale: To drive future growth and meet customer demands, our leadership must improve our efficiency in both internal and customer-facing processes. Whether it’s our website, mobile app, 1-800 number or the branch, each channel must operate efficiently and be equally accessible to the client. We must continue to grow our talent, from within the bank and by recruiting talent from the outside. Culture drives success and we are a culture that’s used to change and that wants to innovate. We’re not always the cutting edge, but we’re an early adopter. Once we see something that works, that makes sense for our clients and fits into our culture, then we will do our best to pull the trigger on that feature.

Most importantly, we have to continue to listen to our folks. Our focal point is employees first, customers and shareholders after that. We truly believe that if we take excellent care of our folks and invest in them, then they’re going to deliver for the customer.  If our team delivers for the customer, growth and profits will follow naturally.

Thriving in today’s market environment requires innovation that moves at the speed of light, keeping pace with new demand, and the ability to rapidly evolve to meet ever-changing customer preferences. What advice do you have for other CEOs that are leading high-growth companies and preparing their leadership team to manage the accelerated pace of change associated with that growth?

Mark: Three leadership themes have crystallized over the last year. First, find clarity.  Figure out how you can best simplify the goals and focus on the outcomes not the distractions.  Second, control the controllable. During the pandemic, I learned that there was a lot that was out of my control, but I could control how I showed up every day. I limited my exposure to negative and distracting media messages and tried to present the most positive and encouraging version of myself each day. Third, cultivate your culture every day.  You can’t wait until you’re in accelerated growth mode or the middle of a crisis to decide what your culture should be.

Danielle: My advice is to make sure you’re making the right investments into your team. Identify what you can do to support those around you and encourage them to achieve their personal development goals.  Whether it’s providing coaching or allowing team members to take on a “stretch” assignment, finding ways to push your team (and yourself) out of your comfort zone will encourage innovation and create impactful long-term results.

Dale: Leaders who are open and willing to change, listen to their people, and create a culture that’s open to hearing and embracing new ideas will always be able to respond to the challenges of growth.  Be decisive, stay true to your culture and commit to your core values and your organization will always be able to navigate change successfully.

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