BIO Index

Bennett Taylor


Like all who graduated From SHS in 1961, I've led an event filled life that has included growth, adversity, happiness, sadness, and a great deal of satisfaction It has been a learning adventure that has had more than a fair share of stress, both good and bad. I want to share some of the significant ups and downs along the way. After earning an Associates Degree in 1963 from MJC, where I played varsity basketball and participated in leadership roles, I was off to UF. By the time I graduated in 1965 with a B.A. in Advertising, I was married to my first wife, Marilyn; was a father of a one-year old daughter, Kelly Christine; and had been recruited by The Coca-Cola Company for their management training program. At UF, I was President of the Florida Chapter of Alpha Delta Sigma Professional, a professional advertising fraternity, and played in two intramural basketball finals for Phi Gamma Delta with teammate Laurie Hammer.

My ten years with Coca-Cola were very satisfying for me. I had the good fortune during this time to complete a Management Development Program for promising company leaders taught by a senior faculty from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. My stay with Coke included a variety of increasingly responsible line and staff positions in sales/operations. I worked with Coca-Cola bottlers in locations throughout Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia. In 1970, the company promoted me to District Manager in Cincinnati. This was both an exhilarating and traumatic time for me. I left behind my wife, who had filed for divorce after six years of marriage, and my five year old daughter. I felt very much alone arriving in Cincinnati from Dallas without knowing anybody in that area. Focus on my work and a newly developed friends helped me to adjust. I remarried in 1971. Ellie worked for Delta Airlines and grew up in Miami.

My daughter, Kelly, still lives in the Dallas area and is a school counselor at a Garland elementary magnet school for math and science. She graduated from Baylor, later earning a master's degree from Dallas Baptist. Kelly has a wonderful voice, a cross between southern and country. She often sings solos as a member of her church choir and at special events. We continue to communicate weekly and visit as often as possible. She is truly a wonderful person and a blessing.

I resigned from Coca-Cola USA in the fall of 1975 when I was recruited by twin brothers in Miami who were featured on a cover of U.S. News & World Report as emerging young entrepreneurs. Hired as a VP for Ott Research & Development, I became quickly involved in three diverse businesses owned by the Ott brothers: the world's largest civilian flight training school, a multi-state restaurant chain, and an executive recruitment/placement/services firm.

After building a profitable executive placement business unit in my first two years, I was presented a non-compete agreement early in 1978. Declining to sign, I left on good terms within two months despite the fact that I had doubled my annual income from my last position at Coca-Cola Wanting to capitalize on a good track record, I began exploring the possibility of starting my own consulting practice. Starting a business with insufficient capital and no experience in being an entrepreneur. What was I thinking? It was a choice that brought me much joy and much grief. I have never regretted my decision. I recruited a former boss and good friend at Coca-Cola who was ready for a change. Executive Group, Inc, opened it's doors in Tampa in July 1978, with no clients and little cash. To say the least, it was a major gamble. The business struggled financially for the first couple of years but then turned the corner and continued for 20 years thanks to God's good graces.

My partner, George Sturgell, suffered a debilitating stroke in our second year and could not continue to function in the business. Executive Group served Clients including Tampa Electric, Walt Disney World, Harris Corporation and most of the Fortune 500 with high quality executive outplacement/career development services until closing in 1998. The loss of two major national outplacement referral sources due to merger and acquisition of larger firms sealed the firm's fate. With a much lower volume of business, the firm's cost structure soon caused me to bail. I quickly circled the wagons, slashed expenses statewide and shut down. At one point, Executive Group had branch offices in all of Florida's larger cities and in Dallas and Los Angeles. I was named a Career Management Fellow in 1996. I started my second company, Think Track, Inc. in 1997 to protect intellectual properties that I had created and to expand services beyond outplacement and executive coaching. Check out www.thinktrack.com.

I relocated to Miami in 1998, sold my Clearwater condo and continued with Think Track..

As for my marriages, I experienced my second divorce in 1981, after 10 years of marriage. I remarried in 1991 for the third and last time. Sadly this marriage to Charlene ended in divorce in 1996. Now for the irony. I've been in a loving and committed relationship for the past 14 years with Marlene Potter, LCSW, a very successful marriage and family therapist. How about them apples or should I say oranges? Marlene is an exceptional person, not just because she puts up with me most of the time, but because of her many qualities like demonstrating sincere warmth for others, love for her family and a passion and continuous drive to help individuals achieve peace of mind by gaining a simple understanding of the way the brain works. After being in great heath for 66 years, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the fall of 2009. I had a radical prostatectomy at the University of Miami Hospital on January 7, 2010. The biopsy of my prostate after surgery showed the cancer was aggressive. Thanks again to God and a great surgeon, I am currently cancer free. I followed up with an anterior hip replacement at North Broward Medical Center on April 4th, just 13 days ago. So far, so good. Finally got tired of the limp and pain I've experienced for over ten years. Guess I'm preparing for the future. I have a wonderful brother Ralph, SHS '43, now 85, healthy, going strong and living a relaxed life in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. He's a great role model for me and his three sons, my nephews, who are all successful and live in the Sarasota-Bradenton area. My sister, Sonya, SHS '54, suffered an aortic aneurism at age 67 and died while in Sarasota to attend her 50th class reunion. She was living in Alexandria, VA, at the time.

Where has the time gone? So much to do, so little time. Must remember to stop often and appreciate the good things that life has brought. One of those gifts is to reunite with my fellow SHS grads from the class of 1961.

I wish you well and hope to see you soon.

Bennett Taylor