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Embark and Tampa: The Right Location With the Perfect Leadership

by Clancy Fossum, CPA* - April 2021 6 min read

What comes to mind when you think of Tampa? Maybe sun-kissed Gulf Coast beaches, window-shaking thunderstorms, or even a certain age-defying quarterback? Well, here at Embark, a single word bursts out of our collective mouth when it comes to all things Tampa – opportunity.

You see, as we continue our meticulous expansion into exciting new regions, we’re looking for markets that provide that unique combination of potential and character, the ones that quickly come to personify everything we are as a firm. And as you might expect, Tampa fits that bill to a tee.

Just as importantly, we have the ideal person leading the Embark charge in the great American Southeast, Zac Smith, our new Senior VP for the Tampa market. And as we’re about to explain, the combination of the right city – Tampa – and the right leadership – Zac – means Embark is looking at some seriously blue skies as we expand our footprint.

 

The Great Eastward Exodus 

There's a structural shift going on in the United States, one that might have been accelerated by COVID-19, but what was already underway during pre-pandemic days. People are leaving the massive metropolitan areas in droves, searching for that sweet spot between affordability and quality of life.

Just as we've seen with the exodus of folks leaving LA and San Francisco behind them for the Lone Star State, Florida is experiencing a similar phenomenon from Northeast expats, New York in particular. And that's where Tampa fits so nicely into the equation.

 

The Tampa Boom

Obviously, the Tampa market has long been associated with tourism and hospitality. However, healthcare and financial services are other critical industries that flock to Tampa, along with a rapidly growing technology sector.

In fact, the word is already out on the many benefits Tampa brings to a huge variety of industries, from lower costs and ample elbow room to a massive pool of talent. To that point, Tampa ranked fourth out of all U.S. cities in net inflow of residents in 2020, surpassing other booming juggernauts like Charlotte and Austin. And with people come businesses, and lots of them.

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However, while Tampa certainly has its share of mature industries along with a handful of burgeoning ones, it's still a generally underserved market, especially in the meaty mid-market section. Yes, there's a Big 4 presence in the area - where isn't there? - But that's mostly on the audit side of the fence. Tampa businesses need the type of expertise and experience that will help them solve real problems and transform their finance and accounting organizations for the better.

Similarly, with a seemingly endless list of family offices across the greater Tampa area, those types of organizations need reliable skill sets and knowledge bases to guide their due diligence on business transactions. When coupled with our prowess in digital and finance transformations, competitive pricing, and innate knack for helping businesses do more with less, it's obvious that the Tampa and Embark pairing was meant to be.

 

Location, Location, Location

So what does all of this mean for Embark’s foray into the Sunshine State? Aside from the many primo golf courses in the area – and, yes, the links did occur to us – Tampa is located smack dab in the middle of the state, four short hours from both the northern and southern reaches of Florida, and just two hours from Orlando.

And thanks to the previously mentioned influx of people and businesses from elsewhere – not to mention its proximity to several top universities – Tampa obviously isn't hurting for talent or potential.  In the bigger picture category, Tampa also gives Embark an ideal starting point for our eventual entry into the South American and European markets.

 

Introducing Zac Smith

Of course, even a market brimming with potential like Tampa only breeds success when true leadership is driving the bus, making our new Senior VP for the Tampa Market, Zac Smith, an integral piece of the puzzle.

Zac is a native Floridian, born and raised. He even attended Florida State – Go 'Noles – where he received a bachelor’s degree in accounting. After graduating, he joined Lockheed Martin in DC as part of their finance leadership development program (FLDP).

Throughout the three-year rotational program, he was able to see the ins and outs of all of Lockheed’s different service lines and operations, from classified accounting and finance projects, and later to more elevated roles in FP&A.

From there, Zac moved up to corporate headquarters in Bethesda, spending two years working with the corporate treasurer and CFO. It was during that intense learning experience that he also chose to pursue an MBA from George Washington University. Afterward, he moved to the consulting side of the fence with Ernst & Young where he dove headfirst into M&A and the private equity space.

People, Culture, & Leadership: What Makes Embark Different

That's where Zac discovered his love for consulting work, ultimately leading him to a boutique advisory shop, specializing in M&A, accounting, finance, and process improvement with private equity clients. He then transitioned to more of a business development role, where he managed some of the DC office’s largest accounts. Capping off his tenure with the firm, he retargeted his focus on internal operations and strategic growth, working with the COO on several key initiatives.

This is the part of the story where serendipity enters the frame. With the pandemic tightening its grip around the world, Zac decided to move from DC back home to Florida to be closer to family. And in one of those lovely coincidences life throws us once in a while, his move coincided with the exact time Embark was looking for someone to spearhead our move into Tampa.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

 

What the Future Holds for Embark and Tampa

With someone like Zac at the wheel, we have no doubt our move into this dynamic new market will be nothing but successful. Zac shares our people-centric approach to management, where culture and a seamless work-life integration can move mountains, even when you're the new kid on the block.

Looking ahead, Zac will make sure Tampa-area businesses know how powerful a relationship with Embark can be in helping an enterprise reach its potential. And as we continue to put our Tampa team together, we have a promise to make to Tampa businesses, the state of Florida, and the entire southeastern region – a partnership with Embark is more than just, well, a partnership. It's a competitive advantage that will pay dividends for years to come. And we're going to prove that lofty statement one engagement at a time.

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