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as both of his parents ran a family general store along with a This line of communication allowed him to successfully get few other side businesses. He quickly learned not only the all members to buy into a new focus in light of the recent re- ingredients for survival in any business venture, but also cession. By placing more of an emphasis on service business the importance of holding a reputable presence. “From a as opposed to vehicle sales, Horton and his team were able to very early age I always admired my father and the respect he remain afloat without having to lay off any employees. demanded in the local community,” he said. To Horton, re- The essence of Horton’s protocol for success is summed spect is a core value that should be held as a priority in any up in giving back to the surrounding community. “I don’t area of human-to-human interaction. He kept this in mind have any desire to live a life of excess,” he said. “I want a throughout his education at the University of Arkansas, comfortable life for my family and me but after that I love and into his first job as a management trainee at Interna- helping others achieve success. I have always found the tional Truck and Engine’s Financial Corporation. “This was more you give the more you get. You will always be success- the start of my education for entrepreneurship,” he said. ful if you help others succeed.” He pointed out that he has “Twenty-five years later and after a series of different po- always made an effort to share his success with others, espe- sitions inside International, my dream cially because all of it is a result of team- came true. I could be like my father.” work. “It is important to understand that After working his way up to Vice Pres- It’s important you can’t do the job alone. It takes a large to have a team ident of International’s Foundry Busi- village to raise a child,” he added. ness, Oscar left the company to become It is evident that Horton has worked President of Sun State in 2000. Moving of people I like to to do this not only for his own employ- away from a secure position at a For- ees, but for the very people that support tune 500 company certainly was a par- call the ‘solids.’ his business in the Tampa area. His com- tial gamble, but it was a risk Horton was munity involvement is diversely spread willing to take. “Becoming the Interna- these are the throughout a variety of areas, including da was the opportunity to use all the ed- good people Bank of Tampa, Boys and Girls Club ofserving on the Board of Directors for the- tional dealer for the west coast of Flori ucation I had gained with International in your life. Tampa Bay, and the Academic Prep Cen- and apply it to my own company. It also ter of Tampa. He marks education as a provided me the opportunity to manage The people that true passion, and has dedicated himself the company the way I wanted to see one to making visits to surrounding schools managed,” Horton said. This philoso- will tell you to share his insights with students. The a total open book management system. when you are honest, approachable, and ethical.focus of this teaching surrounds being phy begins with what Oscar refers to as every level are aware of company hap- doing right and not only by individuals who have offeredHorton stated that he has been blessed This means ensuring that employees on when you are penings, regardless of whether they are great counsel in his life, but also those positive or negative. Horton empha- who have held him accountable. “It’s im- sized that he is committed to treating doing wrong. portant to have a team of people I like to every member of his team with respect. call the ‘solids.’ These are the good people He also marks making available ample in your life. The people that will tell you opportunities for growth as a necessary means for consis- when you are doing right and when you are doing wrong,” he tent improvement. A major way in which this facet is ex- said. Horton specifically pointed to a mentor who stressed ecuted includes putting every employee through an annual dividing life efforts into three categories—learning, earning, financial literacy course, a project integral to educating and returning. He added that he could not have achieved any members of exactly how the business works. While Hor- of his accomplishments without a determined heart and con- ton does understand that customers are the one thing that siderable amounts of patience. makes or breaks any business, he is hesitant to embrace It is clear that Oscar Horton’s dream did not end in 2000 totems that are typically accepted as business norms. He when he first became President of Sun State. Instead, he gets emphasizes that the customer is not always right, simply be- to live it everyday by running a company the way he feels a busi- cause the employee does need to be held in high regard if any ness should run—with a basis on respect, transparency, and business is to be successful. service to the community. His creative approach to leadership Horton’s ability to have transparency between employees serves as an ideal model for any company looking to grow, suc- and executives has reaped benefits that cannot be overlooked. ceed, and serve. F www.OpportunityWorld.com Opportunity World • September/October 2012 61


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