April 15, 2024

Editor’s Note: This profile is part of a weekly series highlighting the Business Journal’s 2022 South Florida Ultimate CEO Awards honorees. The award recognizes some of the area’s top CEOs, highlighting the breadth of talent and leadership across our unified tri-county region. 
Marcell Haywood
CEO, Thesis Holdings; CEO, Encompass Onsite
Residence: Plantation
Age: 42
Marcell Haywood takes risks, even some that have others questioning his wisdom. But to him, they’re all calculated risks.
Haywood was playing college basketball on scholarship at a small Division III school when he decided to forfeit the money and transfer to Florida State University. As a walk-on point guard, he got exposure under celebrated coach Leonard Hamilton.
It’s also the place where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer and information science, launched his first businesses writing medical practice management software, and plotted his future as an entrepreneur and a leader.
“As point guard, I was naturally predisposed toward setting everyone up for the game-winning shot,” he recalled. “The best decisions I’ve ever made have almost been purely instinctual. The math didn’t add up, but it would [add up] out in the world. For me, it’s about taking risks on my ability to prove myself.”
As a leader, what drives you? A will to break barriers, and being driven by a fear of failure, of falling short, of not meeting expectations. I’m a high-potential guy, so I have a little fear tucked away that I won’t meet that potential. Getting around that is day by day. Success doesn’t come packaged up with a little bow. It’s a series of successive, incremental steps. Those with that moniker of success know it’s more of a body of work over an extended period of time. Like Muhammad Ali said: “I run on the road long before I dance under the lights.”
Over the arc of your career, how have you changed as a leader? I’ve changed a tremendous amount. I started as an entrepreneur, not a CEO. My journey has been about preserving those characteristics that entrepreneurs have that make them unique and special, and complementing them with a second set of skills that make those entrepreneurial skills more effective. It’s realizing I’m in the business of selling, regardless of what widget I’m selling. As a CEO, I have hundreds of people in tow. So it’s also about helping them be as successful as they can be to help the enterprise.
What do you like most – and least – about leading? What I like most is the impact you’re able to have on the lives of amazing people, who need leadership, to be frank. What do I like least? There’s nothing I don’t like. I like [taking] the responsibility when we fail. We’re shooting our shot. First thing in the morning when my feet hit the ground, I’m thinking about that responsibility to them and their families.
What one thing makes you most proud about your career? I’m not a big ego guy, so it’s hard to look at the things I’ve accomplished and be impressed, because they pale in comparison to what I’d like to do. What makes me proud? Trailblazing. I never look for what’s been done before. I build things that should exist in the world, companies that make people’s lives better. I’ve not just put my toe in the water. We’re all in. We’ve impacted the lives of people over the years, and we’re still going, and the first chapters are just being written. The world will hear about us in the coming years.
How do you drive the innovative spirit in your organization? There’s only one bad [phrase]: “We’re doing this the way it’s always been done.” That’s the way to get blacklisted. The way to drive innovation is to work backward from the customer, and to solve a problem for the customer that’s meaningful for them. It’s about getting them the antidote in a real, meaningful and fast way.
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