September 29, 2023

Up & Comers

Young Guns

20-somethings who are helping to shape business in Florida.

Diane Sears | 7/1/2006
Brad Riley, 29 | Tony King, 27

Jobs: King is vice president of sales and marketing at Zerion Group, which helps customers select and use inventory software. Riley is vice president of consulting. They co-founded the company in August 2005 with two of their associates from Hughes Supply. Zerion now has about 21 clients and 20 employees nationwide.

Education: King has a bachelor's in business management from Oklahoma Baptist University. Riley has an MBA from Eastern Illinois University.

Grew up in: King in Ponca City, Okla. Riley in Quincy, Ill.

First job: King worked as a bag boy for golfers at the Ponca City Country Club. Riley mowed yards.

Community involvement: The partners have committed to giving back 10% of their earnings to faith-based charities and organizations, including a missionary group that helps build churches, schools and houses in Third World countries. The company also offers employees 40 hours a year to use for additional training or community service work.

Biggest influence: King's father was an executive with ConocoPhillips and retired at age 52 to travel with King's mother. "He played a pretty big role in my life in giving me a vision of where I wanted to go and where I wanted to be." Riley's biggest influences include his parents and also a small-business professor in college, Dave Arseneau, who owned an office supply store. "He would get you pumped up and thinking in an entrepreneurial mind frame. I came out of college working for a Fortune 500 company but always had in the back of my mind I wanted to work for my own company."

Turning point: For King, his internship with Hughes Supply as an internal auditor, which made him realize there was more opportunity in Orlando than in Oklahoma. For Riley, whose father died when he was 15, a turning point came when his mother stopped helping him pay for his college education after he brought home a 1.0 grade-point average his freshman year. "I was wasting my time and her money. It made me realize I had to do something on my own. I took ownership of my future."

Advice for young professionals: King: "Get a job and prove yourself. Don't get caught up in titles or money. Just work hard." Riley: "Have a career plan. If you shoot for the moon and miss the moon, at least you'll get higher than if you shot for the ground."

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