Florida Companies to Watch is an awards program honoring second-stage companies headquartered in the state of Florida. These companies demonstrate high performance in the marketplace or exhibit innovative products or processes. The awards program is designed to seek businesses from a wide range of industries throughout the state, not just the major metropolitan areas. The companies selected each year make an astounding impact on Florida’s economy by collectively providing thousands of jobs and contributing millions of dollars in revenue. In short, they tell a compelling story about the state’s diverse economic landscape.
What do companies receive if selected as a Company to Watch?
Awardees do not simply make it onto a list. They become part of a cohort of second-stage companies that are known for their distinguished leadership, innovation and impact. Honorees receive the following:
- Special recognition at the Florida Companies to Watch event on November 5, 2015 at Hard Rock Live!, CityWalk, Orlando attended by business and government leaders from across the state.
- 2 Complimentary tickets to the event (extra seats or tables are available for purchase).
- Trophy inscribed with your company’s name.
- Increased exposure to the media.
- A graphic announcing your company as an award winner (to be used on your website or in marketing materials).
- Recognition of your company in Florida Trend and I4 Business.
- Invitation to participate in future Florida Companies to Watch events, including a leaders retreat specifically designed for Companies to Watch award recipients.
What is the Eligibility Criteria for this award?
A company must be a second-stage company, characterized as established and growing firms as defined by the traits below. They are typically past the startup phase and face growth challenges rather than survival issues. A company must meet the following for the year ending 2014:
- Be privately held (not publicly traded and not a subsidiary or division of another company).
- Be a commercial enterprise, not a nonprofit.
- Be past the startup stage.
- Be facing issues of growth, not survival.
- Employ 6 to 150 full-time equivalent W-2 employees, including the owner.
- Have between $750,000 and $100 million in annual revenue or working capital in place from investors or grants.
- Be headquartered in Florida.
- Have not won this award in the past.
- Demonstrate the intent and capacity to grow based on evidence such as:
- Employee or sales growth
- Exceptional entrepreneurial leadership
- Sustainable competitive advantage
- Other notable factors that showcase the company’s success
Who can nominate a company, and how can I do so?
Anyone can nominate a company. Nominations typically come from service providers such as accountants, bankers, attorneys and public relations professionals. Nominations also come from economic development professionals; trade, business and community associations; the media; and universities. If you wish to nominate your own company, you can either submit a nomination or proceed directly to the application.
Complete a nomination form by May 8, 2015 at 5:00 PM Eastern time. All nominees will receive an email with instructions to complete an application (applications are due May 29, 2015 at 5:00 PM Eastern time). Only online nominations and applications will be considered.
Nominate at Florida Companies to Watch Nominations page
I’ve been nominated for the award. Now what do I do?
First off, congratulations — your nominator thinks highly of your company! Review the eligibility criteria then fill out an application by May 29, 2015 at 5:00 PM Eastern time. Only online applications will be accepted.
I have not received a nomination — may I still be considered?
Absolutely. Companies may apply directly and need not be nominated. Fill out an application by May 29, 2015 at 5:00 PM Eastern time.
How are award recipients selected?
Award recipients are selected by a panel of judges representing areas of economic development, banking, entrepreneurship and small business. Judges look for evidence of fast and/or high growth in employment rates and revenue. In addition to being evaluated on past growth and projected success, applicants are also judged on their special strengths (see “What are special strengths?” below).
What are “Special Strengths”?
Special strengths are traits that make a company stand out from its competition or make it the leader in its field. A company’s strength might be its innovative products or business practices, special use of technology or involvement in its community. On the application, companies are asked to provide examples of how they embody any of these strengths. This list is not exclusive, and companies are encouraged to provide alternatives.
May we provide product samples, customer testimonials or other exhibits?
We are unable to accept materials other than your application. However, do refer to these materials or quote from them to support your points in the application.
How is financial information used?
Please be assured that we exercise numerous measures to ensure the information you provide is kept confidential and used only for purposes of selecting awardees. See below for details on how we use and don’t use the financial information on your application:
- Information provided in the application, including the financials, is used to determine if a company is eligible for the award and to gauge a company’s growth factors. Without this information, judges have no way to determine your eligibility. Moreover, judges sign a nondisclosure agreement before they begin reviewing applications.
- The information provided in the application may also be used to write a profile of the company for a commemorative magazine. The magazine does NOT publish revenue figures, and references to finances are made using growth percentages only, if at all (e.g., “the company experienced 45% growth over the course of two years as a result of the new product”). At your request, we omit references to growth percentages entirely.
- If selected as a winner, a company’s contact information (namely the company’s name, principal’s name, industry, city and description) is used to publicize the program and the awardees. Financials from specific companies are NOT used for this purpose.
- Specific data such as revenue figures are used only in the aggregate for statistical purposes. In this way, it is not possible to isolate data from the whole and attribute it to an individual company.
- The application asks if information should not be used publicly, including employee counts, revenue growth percentages and other details entered on the application. Companies may select “No,” according to their comfort level.
Are franchisees eligible?
Franchisees are technically eligible if they are wholly-owned and operated. Some franchises typically don’t fare very well in this competition if the local owner does not have complete autonomy to lead or grow the business (e.g., branding, innovating solutions, branching out). Franchisors operate differently, so if the business owner can be entrepreneurial in approach and isn’t bound by the franchisor in strategizing for growth, then it’s worth a shot. To help the judges understand that your franchise operates differently than the typical one, please address the entrepreneurial aspects of your franchise on the application.
Are start-ups eligible?
Start-ups that meet the eligibility requirements may apply. Keep in mind that revenue can include equity investments and grants, in addition to sales receipts.
Are nonprofit organizations eligible?
Nonprofit organizations are not eligible for this award. A company must be a commercial enterprise to be considered for the award.
Are past winners eligible?
Past winners are not eligible. As we like to say, once a winner, always a winner. However, past winners are eligible for special opportunities such as attendance at leader retreats, events and networking. Be on the lookout for notices from GrowFL.
Are publicly-traded companies eligible?
Firms that are traded on public stock exchanges are not eligible for this award. Companies to Watch only considers businesses that are privately-held.
Why can’t my company be more than 51% owned by another entity?
Applicants must be privately held and not a subsidiary or division of another company. If the parent company is eligible, we encourage that entity to serve as the applicant. Companies to Watch focuses on businesses that are in control of their own destiny in terms of strategy, vision and profit. Entities that take direction from a parent company are often not in a position to exercise such control. If you feel your situation is in a “gray area,” enter “Yes” to the question in Section 2K, then answer the questions that follow, and we will consider your situation on a case by case basis.
Can “convertible debt” be included as revenue?
Yes, convertible debt can be included in your revenues, but explain this in the textbox immediately below the revenue amounts. Also explain when the debt will mature and if company ownership will change upon conversion. Lastly, list the conversion as “other” in Section 4C (percentage of revenue from various sources).
Must my company have between 6 and 150 employees?
Yes, to qualify for the award, companies must have between 6 and 150 “full-time equivalent employees” in 2014. To determine “full-time equivalent” for purposes of this award, consider the following:
- An employee qualifies as full time if working 21-40 hours/week (this amounts to 1 FTE)
- An employee qualifies as part time if working 20 hours/week (you would then count each employee as 1/2 an FTE).
- An alternative way to calculate FTEs is to annualize this figure. This approach is ideal if employees were seasonal, did not work a full calendar year, or worked less than 20 hours per week (base the annualized figure on 2,080/hours/year being 1 FTE).
- If you provide staffing services or use contract employees, these personnel should be listed in the “Leased Worker” and “Contract Worker” sections, respectively. Note, leased and contract workers do not count toward eligibility.
Must a company have between $750,000 and $100 million in revenue?
Yes, companies must have between $750,000 and $100 million in revenue in 2014. In addition to sales receipts, revenue may include equity investments, grants or other forms of funding in 2014 that were used as working capital. Be sure to apply the same approach for all requested years and list the various sources of revenue in the application.
How can we improve our application?
The following best practices were followed by past winners:
- Submit your application before the deadline. Applications may be updated up until the deadline. Take this time to proofread for typos, spot errors and edit for conciseness.
- Past winners recommend printing out the application as soon as possible. This allowed them to collect the various data and compose their “Company Strengths” statement before submitting the online form.
- Provide specific examples in the “Company Strengths” section to support your statements of what was accomplished.
- Using lay terms for technical processes is helpful, and avoiding jargon and buzz words is advisable.
- It helps to hear how your company compares to others in your field (e.g., if your practices are unique and if so, how).
- Use exact amounts for employee counts and revenue figures if available (judges tend to trust exact figures more).
I forgot my login — how do I retrieve it?
If you are listed as a contact on your company’s application, simply go to the login site and select forgot password.
If you are not a contact on your company’s application: Because of confidentiality, we do not provide access to applications except to those listed as company contacts, or if the contacts allow us to do so. To expedite your request, contact info@GrowFL.com with your full name, title and email address. If possible, copy the company contact in your message. We will request permission from the contact person on record to share the online login account with you.
When will a decision be made?
All applicants will be notified by early August. Companies that make it to the finalist round will be notified on or around June 12, 2015, but please keep in mind that all applications are active and eligible until the final decisions are made.