Modern Business Associates, Inc., one of the largest PEOs in the greater Tampa Bay area, looked to a company veteran when it came time to seek out a new CEO. Sean McConnell joined MBA in 2005 as a human resources manager and assistant general counsel. Most recently he served as chief legal officer and vice president of human resources before being promoted to CEO in early 2016.
Not only is Sean a company veteran, but he is also a proud veteran of the U.S. Navy.
“Before attending law school, I am proud to say I served in the U.S. Navy onboard the aircraft carrier USS America (CV-66) during the Gulf War,” he says. “I received Bachelor of Arts and J.D. degrees from the University of Florida.”
After law school, Sean practiced employment law in Tampa, where he represented private and public-sector employers. Practicing law also served as his introduction to the PEO industry.
“My first encounter with the PEO industry was when I was litigating at my former law firm in Tampa,” Sean recalls. “They had a PEO client, and it was the first time I had heard about the concept and what PEOs were able to do for their clients. I was immediately interested by the solutions and benefits a PEO could provide employers.”
In the 10 years-plus since Sean went to work for MBA, he has seen many changes to the way PEOs provide services to their clients.
“Several influences, including government regulation, the economy and technology, have made it necessary for us to be flexible and responsive with the services we provide to clients to meet their changing needs,” Sean explains. “For example, the Affordable Care Act didn’t even exist 10 years ago, but today, employers are responsible for exhaustive compliance regulations and reporting.”
Sean says that Modern Business Associates has enjoyed consistent success over the years he has been with the PEO, even as the recession of 2008 hit just a few years into his tenure.
“I think MBA’s agility and ability to anticipate clients’ needs are key factors to our success in the decade I’ve been part of the team,” Sean says, “even during a period of economic recession. Internally, our culture of continuous improvement and focus on how we can provide the best services to clients have helped us maintain a talented and dedicated group of team members.”
Sean is especially proud of MBA’s first place ranking in the Best Place to Work in Tampa Bay, large division, sponsored by the Tampa Bay Business Journal.
They say that corporate culture begins with the attitude at the top, and Sean brings enthusiasm and genuine enjoyment of what he does to his work.
“The thing I enjoy most about the PEO industry is that I believe in the PEO product,” he says. “Every day, we empower business owners, and support their growth, by allowing them to focus on what they do best while we take care of the HR and employee-related ‘stuff.’ We offer our clients a level of expertise that would be cost-prohibitive or even impossible for them to obtain otherwise.”
This level of expertise that MBA offers its clients includes staying abreast of the constant regulatory changes business owners face in the United States today. Sean shares an interesting statistic:
“Employment law changes every three seconds in the United States,” he says. “With these changes and increased regulation come increased opportunities for PEOs to assist their clients. A PEO that stays abreast of government regulations, whether federal or state, along with a client’s changing technological needs, has a competitive advantage. Today, we are offering clients tools like smartphone apps for employees to view their personal information, and services to assist employers with ACA compliance. And as the economy continues to rebound, job creation and business ownership are on the rise, creating even more opportunity.”
Sean dons his lawyer hat (and sounds quite a bit like FAPEO’s general counsel, Mike Miller) when asked about the challenges facing the PEO industry today.
“For many years, it’s been an industry priority for PEOs to educate lawmakers, clients and other parties on exactly what a PEO is and what it is not,” he says. “One of the greatest threats is when there is a misunderstanding of what a PEO is and what liability is appropriate for them to be exposed to or to share. PEOs are co-employers, not joint employers, and that is a significant distinction. There are those, however, who have recently attempted to blur that line.”
Sean says that issues such as these highlight the importance of industry organizations like FAPEO “because of the education piece the organization provides to safeguard the definition and function of a PEO.” He goes on to say, “To me, FAPEO represents a collection of the best and brightest PEO minds in Florida, which creates an important, dynamic dialog on both current and emerging PEO issues. The association represents and offers to the larger business community a unified voice of seasoned and experienced PEO professionals.”
MBA has an active community presence, participating in various organizations that are meaningful to MBA employees and that give back to the greater Tampa Bay area, including organizations that work to end domestic abuse, cruelty to animals and poverty.
“We strive to support the organizations that mean something to our team members,” Sean says. “To that end, throughout the year MBA sponsors in-office drives for CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse), The Humane Society and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. Additionally, this year MBA is placing bulk cookie orders from any team member who has a family member selling Girls Scout cookies, and our business managers will take these cookies out into the community as they make in-person client visits.”
Modern Business Associates is also a corporate sponsor of several events and organizations.
“MBA is the title sponsor of the Grand Prix 5K to benefit All Children’s Hospital and the athletic team sponsor at Academy Prep Center of St. Petersburg,” Sean says. “We also sponsor the St. Petersburg Police Department’s Police Athletic League, among others.”
Sean has been happily married for 26 years to Audrey, and the couple has three children and a grandson.
“I enjoy spending time with my family and friends, and entertaining at home,” Sean says, “especially when I am barbecuing on my Big Green Egg. One of my favorite things to cook and serve is a brisket, smoked for 12 to 14 hours. I’m also a big Gator fan and have been spotted wearing a ‘unique’ blue and orange Gator suit on special occasions.”
Readers will need to keep an eye out for Sean during one of those special occasions. The blue and orange Gator suit didn’t make it into our photo collection!