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Troy Taylor, CEO of Coca-Cola Florida, to be the Next Guest at April's Conversation with a CEO

By Keith Morelli

Troy Taylor

TAMPA (March 6, 2017) -- Though he is chairman and CEO of the largest Coca-Cola bottler and distributor in Florida – and among the top five in the nation – Troy Taylor says it's the little things, like relentlessly following the dream and building and maintaining relationships that make him a success.

He now sits atop the Tampa-based Coca-Cola Beverages Florida, a bottling and distribution operation that is poised to grab most of the Florida peninsula as exclusive territory. So, if you have a Coke with your grouper dinner in Key West or get a Fanta at a convenience store in Jacksonville or a Minute Maid with your eggs and grits in Sebring, you can bet your last bottle cap that it was one of Taylor's big red trucks that brought it there.

The busy executive is taking time out of his filled-up schedule to be the guest for the next Conversation with a CEO, a series sponsored by the University of South Florida's Muma College of Business. The popular series invites successful business executives to chat with Dean Moez Limayem in front of a room full of business leaders, students and alumni. Past conversations have been with Mark Mondello, CEO of Jabil in St. Petersburg; Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment; Dennis Adamovich, CEO of the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta and Bob Dutkowsky, CEO of Tech Data, a Clearwater-based business that nets $26 billion a year.

Taylor, who lives in Tampa with his wife, Vonda, will sit with Limayem beginning at 8:30 a.m. on April 13 at the USF Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, 124 S. Franklin St., in downtown Tampa.

Growing up in Louisiana, Taylor played basketball for Marshall University and graduated in 1992 with a bachelor's degree in finance. Then, it was off to the races.

He landed a job with Chemical Bank in Texas, where his responsibilities included working with bottling companies to determine what the bank could do for them. He became intrigued with the bottling business.

"That's where I got the bug," he said, "and I began chasing that dream."

He achieved his dream in May 2015 when he acquired the bottling and distribution rights in central Florida. It was the first time in six decades that Coca-Cola added a bottling company to its fold. And it was given to Taylor. In less than two years, he's taken the business to the next level.

"This newness presented unique challenges," Taylor said. "For example, there were no systems in place such as payroll, so we had to build that infrastructure. Having the right leadership team in place allowed me to sleep better at night.

"We now have 22 brands in our portfolio that do over $1 billion a year," he said. Even the water bottled by Taylor is gold. Smart Water, he said, is one of the 22 brands. "We bottle between 700 and 900 bottles a minute."

And Taylor's business is growing exponentially. Not satisfied with providing Coca-Cola products to the 19 counties around Central Florida, Taylor recently closed a deal to bottle and deliver Coke products to all of South Florida and he's about to ink a contract to cover the better part of North Florida, excluding the Panhandle.

That's a good amount of growth in two years.

"We see ourselves as one of the largest startups in the world," he said. "We started with about eight people on the leadership team in a 5,000-square-foot office space and now we have a full leadership team in a 27,000-square-foot space and more than $380 million in revenue."

Despite the size, he said, success comes from knowing the various communities that are served by his company.

"We have to become more locally driven in understanding the cultures, people, tastes and desires of our Florida consumers," he said. "I also recognize that people want to consume our beverages in different ways.

"Engagement is key to building our culture," he said. "Our communities, customers and colleagues mean everything to our business. Leading by example and showing where I want the culture to be is an essential step to building a solid foundational core. Most importantly, we need to have fun as well."

He said that his acquisition in 2015 of the distribution rights and the mergers of North and South Florida territories within two years, has caused people to believe he just popped up in the business world. He said that couldn't be further from the truth.

"I've been working on this for 20 years," he said.

The event is free, but reservations are required as seating is limited. To RSVP, click: bit.ly/CEOCONVOTTAYLOR