Kevin Hourigan talks about the importance of partnerships and peer groups

CEO Connect

Kevin Hourigan was CEO of Bayshore Solutions, in Tampa, before its big merger with Spinutech, which he is now president of.

The newly combined companies, which operate under the name Spinutech, are projected to have revenue of $33 million in 2021.

Hourigan has been recognized as leader of the year by the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce, technology leader of the year by the Tampa Bay Technology Forum and marketer of the year by the Tampa Bay American Advertising Federation.

He has spoken in the same venues as representatives of Google, Facebook, Carnival Cruise Lines and General Motors.

Bridgette Bello, CEO and publisher of Tampa Bay Business & Wealth, interviewed Hourigan in front of a live audience at The Motor Enclave, in Tampa. This transcript has been edited for length and brevity.

What has been the best thing that’s come out of your appearance as the cover star, of the March issue, of Tampa Bay Business & Wealth magazine?

There’s a lot of competing answers to that. But genuinely, you have an amazing readership. I can’t tell you how many people that I haven’t connected with in a long time reached out. People I didn’t know said, I’ve heard about you but I wanted to know about you. I mean, my phone, my email, my social media have just been blowing up like crazy. It’s been an amazing experience.

How has it been integrating Bayshore Solutions and Spinutech, since we broke the news?

My company didn’t need to merge with anybody, it was just an opportunity to explore where the digital advertising space was today and where we saw an opportunity to grow. I said in the article, and I’ll repeat here tonight, that building relationships in the business community has been the most helpful thing in my entire career. Even with people you compete against, because they might end up becoming your new partner.

Instead of competition, I call it cooperation. You’re going to compete against each other, but you can do it in a friendly way.

Over three years, I ended up getting into a CEO peer group with eight other digital advertising agency owners, and one of them and I connected. For three years, I asked him if we should talk about merging. A year in digital advertising is like a decade in many other industries. It’s growing so broadly every day. Every company wants to be the best there is. But digital was growing faster than I could grow my company. And I found a partner who felt the same way.

Six months ago, we started these conversations and then we did something incredibly risky.

Sixty days before we merged, we announced to our leadership team that we were considering it. And for 60 days, our leadership team got to ponder it. The first thing they got to ponder is this incredibly terrible word that any employee, of any company, never wants to hear, the word merger.

Anytime an employee hears that word they’re concerned, am I going to lose my job? And for 60 days, our leadership teams both got to digest what that meant to them. And then they got comfortable with it. And then they helped us figure out what this looks like going forward.

You mentioned a little bit about the CEO peer group that you’re in. You and I are in the CEO Council of Tampa Bay. And there’s a tremendous amount of people from the CEO Council that came out tonight to support you, which I think is a great way to open up and talk about the importance of that group and what that has meant throughout your career.

Learning from your peers is just an incredible experience, especially peers you can be vulnerable with and share where your weaknesses are so they can help support you.

I remember my first, or second, CEO Council meeting 20 years ago, and I’m a 30-year-old whippersnapper going to one of my first council meetings and this guy named Dean Akers, 7 a.m. sitting at this breakfast table with sunglasses on his head, the whole two-hour meeting. He’s got this 32-ounce Diet Coke in a Styrofoam container. He was so amped up the whole meeting, he kept standing up and stuff and I’m like, that’s a cool dude.

So the next meeting, I sat next to Dean Akers, we’ve been friends ever since. But Dean taught me things from a new perspective. I got to see so many different ways of how you could run a business from a lens that I had never thought through before. Those experiences are probably the best education I ever received.

The Heart Ball is a fundraiser that is super important to you. Can you talk about how philanthropy has played a role, not only in your success but also, in shaping who you are?

In my journey, the more I contributed the more I got out of it. And that opened the door to the nonprofit communities as well. I always felt like I wanted to give for three years to one organization, see what I could give and what I could get back out, and spread the love.

I’ve spent the last six years with the American Heart Association. But the people that I’ve met, and the opportunities to learn from people. [Raymond James CEO] Paul Reilly was the chair, two of the last six years, and learning from that man is crazy good. Chuck Sykes has been the chair twice, in the last six years. One of the things that’s crazy is, you think about a guy like Chuck Sykes, his name is on the top of a building that’s got 30 stories and can be seen in downtown Tampa, but he’s one of most humble people I’ve ever met.

They’re the most humble, genuine, honest and good people. The people I met at the top are nothing more than the most humble, sincere, nice, gracious people that you want to be around. Serving in these nonprofits, I get a chance to be around some of these people and learn how to become a better executive myself.

Can you talk about your love for cars?

My dad was a car dealer and when your dad’s a car dealer, your mom and dad get a new car, like every 1,000 miles or something like that. My mom and dad always had the nicest cars. I would get in the cars and move the seat to my position, adjust the steering wheel, turn on my favorite radio station and dream maybe one day I could drive this car, since I was in fifth grade. 

The first car I ever bought, I paid $300 to a girl I worked with and she financed it for me for $100 a month for three months. True story. I fixed the car up a little bit and I sold it for $1,100. And the next car I bought for $700. I fixed it up a little bit and I sold it for $2,100 and the next car I paid $1,500 and sold it for $3,300. I called it my step up program.

In addition to driving nicer cars that wouldn’t break down, I enjoyed the competition. I enjoyed researching and finding something that can help me get to the next level. I’m a competitive person.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

One of my mentors is a guy, many of you know, named Lee Arnold. And 20 years ago, we had a really bad experience with a business partner and one of the businesses he and I were involved with, and we got that person out of the business, went out to dinner one night and he looked me in the eye. And he said, Kevin, just understand this, you are who you hang out with, make sure you hang with the right crowd. Your circle of influence is the circle of where you’re going to be.

Photos by Ryan Gautier.  

ABOUT ‘CEO CONNECT’

TBBW’s CEO Connect series is an exclusive, invitation-only, event that brings together Tampa Bay area’s top business leaders to meet and mingle. SouthState | CenterState Bank, CLA and The Motor Enclave were presenting sponsors. Diamond View Studios is TBBW’s production partner.

The evening begins with a cocktail reception for about 100 guests, followed by an interview with that month’s cover CEO. Because of COVID, the events are currently at limited capacity to comply with CDC guidelines and safety protocols.

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