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  • Writer's pictureKatie Madyun

Buck Martinez Of ACE Leadership Group & Student ACES On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

Originally published in Authority Magazine, written by Ken Babcock.

About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.

Your Goals — Be fair to yourself…not everyone defines success the same. If you set clear goals for yourself and understand them you are more likely to set yourself, as well as your business, up for success. Your roadmap must be clearly identified before you embark on your leadership journey.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Buck Martinez.

Following a successful 30+ year career in the energy industry, Buck Martinez decided it was time to do what he was truly passionate about — mentoring others. In 2013, in partnership with his daughter, he founded Student ACES, Inc., a 501c3 non-profit organization with the mission to inspire and develop high school student athletes to become men and women of character, honor and integrity. What started with just 32 students has grown to impact the lives of more than 50,000 students throughout South Florida in under 10 years. Buck is passionate about investing in our youth and works countless hours serving in the capacity of teacher, mentor and coach.

His passion has not only impacted the lives of students, but executives as well as he inspires fellow community leaders across various industries, from construction to sports and everything in between, as a leadership coach and author of six books.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

My family fled a communist Cuba in the early 1960s when I was just a small child to come to the United States with only $5 to our name. My parents worked extremely hard and instilled in us the importance of faith, work ethic, and surrounded us with family — family was, and still is everything to me. Growing up I loved sports, I learned so many lifelong lessons and met some of my best friends on the fields. If I wasn’t home for dinner, my parents always knew where to find me…I was ALWAYS on the baseball field or shooting baskets in the neighborhood. Fast forward quite a few years and I was fortunate to attend St. Thomas University where I continued my love for baseball as a third baseman (freshman year) and then a catcher while earning my Bachelor of Arts degree; this was where I developed a real appreciation for leadership and the importance of being a “student athlete” as I was named captain for three consecutive years and received the Scholar Athlete Award.

Following graduation, and after pursuing a major league career, I started working for Florida Power & Light (FPL), where I worked for the next 35 years in highly challenging roles such as negotiating labor contracts and ultimately identifying and originating clean energy opportunities in the state to promote visibility, commitment, and economic development. I was fortunate to see a lot of our country during my time with the organization and I took it as an opportunity to learn the greatness of our country and our people.

Shortly after starting with FPL, my wife Silvia (who I was fortunate enough to meet in high school) and I started our family; we are blessed to have three beautiful daughters and four amazing grandchildren.

In addition to my three beautiful daughters, I have also been fortunate to be a father figure in the lives of many young men and women, two of which lived with us for some time. They too are my family; I can confidently say they have had as much of a positive impact on the lives of the Martinez family as we may have had on their lives. I am forever grateful that they came into our lives and extremely proud of all they have accomplished — all of my children.

Fast forward to 2013, while still working at FPL, I was driving a U-Haul across the state with my daughter, Krissy Webb. During the ride she asked me, “who will my twin daughters look up to?”. After a long ride talking about what the high schools are not doing to prepare students athletes to be leaders, Student ACES (ACE = athletics, community, education), a 501c3 with the mission to inspire and develop high school student athletes to become men and women of honor, character and integrity, was born. In less than 10 years since inception, we have directly impacted the lives of more than 50,000 students throughout Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Shortly after the start of Student ACES, and upon my retirement from FPL, my passion for mentorship and for helping those around me reach their highest potential, inspired me to found ACE Leadership Group where I serve as a life coach and executive coach to individuals in many different roles from corporate executives to professional athletes and as a consultant to companies seeking to develop their management teams.

Along the way, education remained a constant. I went on to achieve my MBA from NOVA Southeast and graduated from the Boston University Leadership Program, the Harvard University Program on Negotiation, and the Lifeworks Leadership Program. I have served as an adjunct professor at Keiser University, and I currently work with over 1,200 student athletes at St. Thomas University and as a speaker at conferences, schools and leadership forums. I am constantly learning from those around me.

Sharing my perspective and having the opportunity to partner with others to share their views and understand their perspectives is also extremely important to me and prompted me to author six books — Building Blocks of Leadership for Young Adults, The Captain’s Leadership Playbook, Straight Talk, Man Up: Leading a Life of Honor, Seven Steps for Success, and my most recent, Your Winning Formula, Discovering the Champion Within You.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

Every decision I have made, both good and bad ones, have shaped me as an individual, as a father and grandfather, and as a businessperson. I am who I am today because of my journey and people who I have met along the way; most importantly, my parents.

When I made the decision to do what drives me, inspiring and developing men and women to achieve their highest potential by focusing on developing their character, honor and integrity, is when I believe I reached my full potential and helped me get to where I am today.

I wish I understood the importance of passion and the role it would play in finding my purpose at an earlier stage in my life, but I’m just happy that I found it as some never do.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

While my gut instinct is to recognize the role I play as a father and grandfather and how proud I am of who my three daughters have become and their impact on the world and their children, from a business perspective I would have to say being the co-founder and president of the board of Student ACES. I co-founded this organization with my daughter, Krissy Webb, who serves as the executive director of the non-profit. In less than 10 years since inception, we have directly impacted the lives of more than 50,000 students throughout Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Broward counties.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

While it often played to my advantage, I believe one of the biggest mistakes that I made is pushing myself too hard on the field which led to many injuries. Being a team player shaped who I am today, and taught me many life lessons, however, I think I often pushed my body to the limit. The lesson that I took from it — it’s ok to give yourself a break and to take some time to rest. After all, we are only our best and able to contribute the most to others, if we are at peace and rested.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

Mentorship is integral to my role as co-founder and president of the board of Student ACES as well as founder of ACE Leadership Group. According to Merriam-Webster, a mentor is defined as “a trusted counselor or guide.” Being a mentor has driven my entire journey — from the fields to the office. Trust is the foundation of any relationship and I pride myself in my ability to establish trusting relationships with everyone that I encounter along my journey, from the students in Student ACES who may have never had a father figure to help them along the way to all of my clients, my family and my acquaintances. I am also grateful to those that provided invaluable guidance on my life journey.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

My leadership style is a hybrid between servant leadership and coaching leadership. Servant leadership embodies a selfless perspective that places the team or organization above the individual. The coaching leadership model requires a deep commitment to working with the team member beyond the role they play in the unit. You must be involved in all aspects of their life to truly understand how they can be motivated and led. I have traits and qualities that I admire and emulate about people, but I don’t have an individual per se. The traits and qualities would be work ethic, respectful and trustworthy, willing to sacrifice for self and others. Winning attitude and ethical and moral. I witnessed all these attributes in my parents, the legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys Tom Landry, and Jesus Christ.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

  • Your Audience/Customer — While many may think leadership coaching is a one size fits all model, I assure you that it is not. Every coaching session through ACE Leadership Group, whether individual or group, and every mentorship session through Student ACES, whether a Captains Summit focusing on students who have been identified as leaders by their coaches or a year-long program for team members, has to be looked at as a distinct opportunity. After all, why the goal of the sessions may be the same, the audience is different and so they may respond to things differently, interpret lessons through a different lens and have unique outputs.

  • Yourself — In order to successfully grow a business, you must know yourself. In leadership training, if you don’t know yourself and your leadership style, I would find it difficult to believe that one would be successful in helping others understand their leadership style. The Chinese General SunTzu always mentions the criticality of knowing yourself and those you are in battle with,

  • Your Goals — Be fair to yourself…not everyone defines success the same. If you set clear goals for yourself and understand them you are more likely to set yourself, as well as your business, up for success. Your roadmap must be clearly identified before you embark on your leadership journey.

  • Purpose/Passion and Conviction — What I like to refer to as your secret sauce. Know what differentiates you from the rest. There are more than eight billion people in the world, know what sets you apart. Understand your superpowers and work diligently to use them to pursue your passion. Determine your purpose, fuel it with your passion and have the conviction to relentlessly battle through adversity. Remember that life tends to be ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you respond.

  • Your Strengths & Weaknesses — There is not one person in the world, not one out of the more than eight billion, that is good at everything. Being able to acknowledge that we have weaknesses is extremely empowering. Humility is a great character trait. Know what your good at and what you’re not and either choose to work on what you’re not to get better or go the opposite route and instead spend time focusing on offering services in areas where you are confident you glide above the rest.

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

We’ve all heard the horror stories of a company trying to grow to fast or teams trying to offer too wide of a range of services. This goes back to knowing who you are as an individual, understanding your goals as an organization and sticking to your elements. Just because an opportunity comes along that might provide you the framework to offer more services, doesn’t mean they’re the services where you have the most to offer. Growing too fast and offering too wide of a range of services can actually hinder your growth plan as well as your reputation. One of the major challenges to growth is the ability to truly identify and understand the market or geographic area you are expanding to know your market and stick to your core business.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

Don’t rush into hiring decisions. Make sure to pay close attention to the character of potential new hires, not just their skillset. The old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” rings true in this scenario. If and when possible, witness potential new hires in different scenarios to see how they interact with different people, you can tell a lot about a person’s character from how they interact with others.

Be extremely clear about your organization’s values as well as your non-negotiables. The clearer the communication from the beginning about what matters most, the more likely it is that new hires will be aligned along the way. Hiring people that share your passion and are aligned in their core values is paramount.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

As an individual who is passionate about helping people and teams to reach their fullest potential, I am a firm believer in development plans. We can all benefit from development plans, as well as all areas that we can focus on to help us reach our fullest potential, as individuals and as a team. Succession planning is also extremely important in the world of business — always have a plan. One of the key developmental areas I work with people on is to help them identify their blind spots and work on addressing them.

Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.

As men, we are blessed to have the opportunity to play with and lead the greatest team we will be associated with in our life, our family. Let’s take the opportunity and with passion and conviction, become men that lead with honor and integrity. Over the last four decades, society has relentlessly attacked the role of man. It is no coincidence, that we are facing difficult challenges, there are many discouraging statistics and negative trends related to our youth that are attributed to the void left by men such as the rise in teen incarceration, teen pregnancy, teen violence and many other negative trends. Man Up is a call for all men to rise up and step up and become the leaders that their families need them to be. Our country has been adversely impacted by the failure of men to be responsible and dependable. Men need to search deep and challenge themselves to live up to their potential. Our country and our families deserve your best!

This is very much the premise of my book Man Up: Leading a Life of Honor.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit us at and All six of my books (soon to be seven), Building Blocks of Leadership for Young Adults, The Captain’s Leadership Playbook, Straight Talk, Man Up: Leading a Life of Honor, Seven Steps for Success, and his most recent, Your Winning Formula, Discovering the Champion Within You, are also available online.

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