Manatee Small Business of the Year Award for under $500,000: Leadership Simplified, a consulting firm

mjohnson@bradenton.comMay 23, 2014 

BRADENTON -- When Leadership Simplified, a company that specializes in business training, writing business plans and strategic business planning, lost all its work from its biggest client a decade ago, the small consulting firm used the lessons it teaches to reinvent itself.

This year's Manatee Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in the under-$500,000 revenue category, Leadership Simplified has proved it can turn a hard lesson into a business opportunity. The formerly home-based business has been helping its consulting clients since 1997 to exploit their strengths, build teams and train leaders who can build collaboration and increase sales in a business climate that can turn on a dime.

Owner Doug Van Dyke and his wife and business partner, Veronica Van Dyke, have built a client list that includes Pepsico, Union Pacific Railroad, Bealls, Bright House Networks, Tervis and hundreds of small- and medium-sized businesses. The majority of the company's business is located in the Tampa Bay region.

Leadership Simplified offers training programs, consulting services and a host of training materials that help businesses develop employees and build their bottom lines.

The company has been on a growth track since 2004, the year it suffered its biggest revenue setback. When its biggest client went through a leadership change that year, it suspended all its work with Leadership Simplified. Lacking sufficient business lines of credit and an adequate amount of work across the rest of their client list, the business cut expenses and started cold calling. Doug Van Dyke also invested personal cash into the business.

Six months of austerity and hard work paid off. Leadership Simplified acquired several new clients and set the ball rolling to sell their services to dozens more. In 2011, the company hired an office manager to bring its workforce to three. The same year, it purchased and renovated a two-story commercial building at 1310 3rd Ave. W. in downtown Bradenton for use as the company's new office.

Today, the company operates on diverse revenue streams earned from its consulting business, technology services and application development, and sales of training books, DVDs and downloadable training sessions. Leadership Diversified has notched 27 months of consecutive growth through the first part of 2014. Its diversification also allowed it to operate through the recession unscathed.

Future growth for the company is rooted in a multi-pronged sales approach that includes repeat business from existing customers, referrals, cold calls and social media outreach through Twitter, a Facebook fan page and a YouTube channel.

Community involvement keeps Leadership Simplified staff busy when they're not working with clients. The company facilitates a monthly leadership think tank called Leadership Perspectives, and hosts a CEO roundtable in partnership with the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.

The company also emphasizes "green" efforts in the community. Veronica Van Dyke operates Wilderness Family Co-Op, a food cooperative that provides organic produce, poultry, eggs and meat to its members. And Cindy Shore, Leadership Simplified's office manager, uses both company and personal time to work on community projects that involve sustainable landscape design and community beautification, including the landscaping renovation at the Manatee County Historical Courthouse.

Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twittercface fontname="Regular" naxe="0" iaxis="0"/>

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