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A n d rew R o b y

R.J. Leeper Construction

M i rro r M a t e

E nv i ro n m e n t a l D e s i g n L a n d s c ap e

september 2009


That Ends Wells

Wells Fargo and Wachovia One Team, Twice as Strong

Laura A. Schulte President, Eastern Region Wells Fargo • Wachovia

CHANGE SERVICE REQUESTED 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, N.C. 28217

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To help you better achieve your goals, we take a different approach to providing communication services. We make the needs of your business our top priority. You first. Our local representatives, who know the ins and outs of doing business in your community, work with you to understand your challenges. Next, we conduct a complete evaluation of your existing communication services.

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in this issue











cover story

Wells Fargo · Wachovia When you meet Laura Schulte, you know Wells Fargo has installed someone who is fully comfortable in leading and shaping its newest acquisition, Wachovia Corporation. She’s done similar duty, more than once. From the “hub-quarters” here in Charlotte, she’s in charge of bringing Wachovia into the Wells Fargo fold.


Andrew Roby This custom residential remodeling company has become synonymous with value, quality and a conciergelike service mentality. As their many awards attest, they are authentic in both their craftsmanship and personal service.


R.J. Leeper Construction He’s a respected businessman and political leader, but Ron Leeper is much more. You could call him a conscience for Charlotte. His constant lobbying for a more socially just community afforded him the opportunity for meaningful business success.


MirrorMate Lisa Huntting used her knack for arts and crafts, a few pieces of molding, and inspiration from HGTV, to create easy-to-install frames that quickly and inexpensively dress up plate mirrors, in what has grown into a $2.3 million business.

september 2009

departments publisher’spost




Maximize Marketing; Magnify Impact



Making Healthy Work and Lifestyle Choices



Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions

employersbiz biznetwork






on the cover:

Andrew Roby

R.J. Leeper Company


Environmental Design Landscape

september 2009

Laura A. Schulte President, Eastern Region Wells Fargo • Wachovia

ALL'S That Ends


WELL Wells


Balancing safety, lifecycle, return on investment and curb appeal with environmental sensitivity, Mark Smith creates landscaping solutions by evaluating property needs, efficiently using existing resources, selecting successful plants, and recycling waste.


Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers

Laura A. Schulte President, Eastern Region Wells Fargo • Wachovia

Photography by Wayne Morris

Wells Fargo and Wachovia One Team, Twice as Strong


1999 -2009

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Maximize Marketing; Magnify Impact

# Keeping Print in Your Marketing Mix

Print is a branding device. It helps engage readers, drive traffic and produce leads. A printed magazine has an air of credibility. A print magazine is also an amazing online traffic generator. It drives traffic for advertisers. According to one publisher, David Mammano, founder and CEO of Next Step Publishing, third-party research shows that 60 percent of their readers visit an advertiser’s Web site after viewing their ad in the magazine. Mammano offers his Top 10 Reasons Print Should Remain a Vital Part of Your Marketing Mix: !"10. Print provides differentiation. Print provides a unique strategy to drive traffic to online marketing. !" 9. Print offers incredible branding. A well-designed ad engages readers with less loss of attention than other media. !" 8. Print makes introductions. Print is a great party host; it introduces readers to your brand, and familiarizes customers when it comes time for keyword purchases. !"7. Print readers are focused. Print magazines are the exclusive or primary medium the vast majority of the time they are being used by consumers.


!"6. Print travels. A magazine is your companion wherever you go: your favorite chair, your dentist’s office, an airplane. A laptop is not always convenient. !"5. Print sways trendsetters. Studies show that those who influence other consumers are themselves influenced by print; this influence ranking routinely places magazines in first place with instore and TV trailing. !"4. Print drives users to other platforms. The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association says 47.2 percent of shoppers are most likely to start an online search after viewing a magazine ad. !"3. Fact: People remember effective print ads. Magazine ads have the second highest receptivity of any media, second only to TV. !"2. Print has longevity; magazines generally get passed along to 4 to 7 other readers. !"1. Print is a lead-generation tool! Used correctly, print drives leads to your prospect funnel. Good print vehicles have a mechanism to deliver targeted leads to their advertisers. David Mammano, founder and CEO of Next Step Publishing,

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In the Greater Charlotte Region Fred Habbal Founder and President

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Vision Office Systems offers a full line of state-of-the-art business equipment for today’s hi-tech office. High speed and network ready equipment help you keep ahead of the curve. Explore! Then contact us so we put the latest technology to work for you.

• Copiers for all size businesses • Charlotte-centric; locally owned and operated • Not a mega brand, but a mega specialist • Not just one brand of equipment; tailors equipment to your needs • Company owner right here in Charlotte, not in Japan • Treats customers individually; not one-size-fits-all • Able to accommodate special needs and requests • Knows you personally; not by equipment number

If you worked here, you’d be cool by now. Can your office space actually make you “cooler”? Some doubt it, but the Design Center is working hard to prove those naysayers wrong. With an ideal South End location, a diverse mix of tenants and an inspired schedule of events and creative activities, we’re showing that there’s merit to the famous saying “You are where you work.” OK, we made that part up–but the vintage vibe, inspired aesthetics and innovative environment that we call home are very real…and really cool. Want proof? Contact Meredith Dickerson at 704-971-6517 to see for yourself what makes us truly unique.

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september 2009



[publisher’spost] 704-676-5850

Keep it up! Keep asking questions! Keep learning! Speak out! Don’t be disturbed or annoyed by the escalating debate over health care reform. Yes, we’ve been overwhelmed for the last three months with discussions about the nature and status of health care reform. Newspapers, television, talk radio, town hall meetings, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter and even coffee shops across the country have been deluged with comments, both constructive and adversarial. Some have advocated slowing down; others are determined to make change now. Most of this debate is good and healthy and important. We are shaping the future John Paul Galles of our health care system. We each have our own personal experience with the health care system. Those who have health care coverage from their employer are grateful and feel secure for as long as they are employed. With over 10 million people being laid off in the last year, though, more people are anxious over how they will be covered when their current coverage ends. Many worry about how they will pay for COBRA coverage until they find new jobs. Others who purchase their own health care coverage pray that they will not be stricken with life-challenging conditions or disease that will cause their premiums to skyrocket beyond their means or be cancelled. Simply said, those with coverage are worried about changing the health care system and those without coverage are worried about not changing the health care system. Our current mix of health care coverage includes private insurance, Medicaid and Medicare that now cost over $2.7 trillion per year. Adding 45 million uninsured individuals to the system will surely cost even more. Our rapidly aging population and the huge numbers of baby boomers will fuel the growth of Medicare for many years to come. It is certain that costs will continue to rapidly grow even if we do nothing. Some say we simply cannot afford change and others say we cannot afford not to change. So why are we faced with these decisions now? Largely because (i) we have system that is failing at an increasing pace, and (ii) the politics for change are in place. It is not as though change has not been proposed before. We chose not to make systemic changes to health care in 1993 when President Bill Clinton and Hillary first proposed substantial change. When George W. Bush was elected president, he promoted and changed the way prescription drugs were paid for under Medicare in 2003. The cost of Medicare went even higher. And in 2005, upon his reelection, he tried to take a further step to reform social security to allow for private investment accounts. His campaign for reform ended without action. Medicare has remained essentially the same since it was created in 1965, but people live longer on average and drugs and medical advancements are more available and expensive. Now, President Obama and 59 Democratic senators and 256 Democratic representatives have a clear majority to take action. With the spirit of Senator Ted Kennedy, they must perform on their campaign promises with or without Republican support. In the first term of this newly elected President, they will be the stewards, having the opportunity and responsibility to act and bring change. Failing to act, they will lose substantial support from their constituents. Acting improperly will also cost them support from their base of voters. They must demonstrate that they can deliver a quality program and pay for that program without bursting the federal budget. So we keep asking. What will reform look like? How will we be affected by reform? What will reform cost? How can reform encourage cost containment? Will health care improve or be diminished? How will we pay for reform? Who will be taxed? These are all very important questions. It is a complicated issue and there is often not just one answer. Keep asking questions. Get informed. Stop frivolous rumors. Educating yourself and your friends so that what is done is good and what is not done is also good. Now is not the time to be polite and avoid the discussion of politics. It is of paramount importance that the Qs and As keep coming. It is essential to our health and the health of our families and to our future as a nation. biz

Let me know what you think -


september 2009

September 2009 Volume 10 • Issue 9 Publisher John Paul Galles x102

Associate Publisher/Editor Maryl A. Lane x104

Creative Director Trevor Adams x103

Account Executives Marsha Bradford x106 Dave Cartwright x107 Bradley Jackson x107 Sandra Ledbetter x106

Contributing Writers Ellison Clary Susanne Deitzel Christina Kapely

Contributing Photographer Wayne Morris Galles Communications Group, Inc. 5601 77 Center Drive • Suite 250 Charlotte, NC 28217-0737 704-676-5850 Phone • 704-676-5853 Fax • Press releases and other news-related information: • Editorial: • Advertising: • Subscription inquiries or change of address: • Other inquiries: please call or fax at the numbers above or visit our Web site © Copyright 2009 by Galles Communications Group, Inc. All rights reserved. The information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. However, Galles Communications Group, Inc. makes no warranty to the accuracy or reliability of this information. Products named in these pages are trade names or trademarks of their respective companies. Views expressed herein are not necessarily those of Greater Charlotte Biz or Galles Communications Group, Inc. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission from the publisher. For reprints call 704-676-5850 x102. Greater Charlotte Biz (ISSN 1554-6551) is published monthly by Galles Communications Group, Inc., 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0737. Telephone: 704-676-5850. Fax: 704-676-5853. Subscription rate is $24 for one year. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Greater Charlotte Biz, 5601 77 Center Dr., Ste. 250, Charlotte, NC 28217-0737.

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Carolinas Heart & Vascular Institute at Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte Cardiology Associates and Sanger Clinic have provided leadership, innovation and compassionate care for over 50 years. These respected groups are now Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, the region’s undisputed leader in comprehensive cardiac care. No matter where you live, work or play, you’ll find more specialists and specialties, more in-depth capabilities, more advanced technology, a long history of success, and heart-saving access through the only medical center air transport. Our innovations and list of firsts include the region’s only heart transplant program, pediatric heart specialists, congenital surgery, clinical research, a cardiac teaching program, nationally-renowned specialists and much more. After more heart procedures with greater success than anyone else, people know who to trust with their heart. And they know their heart’s in the right place.

p u r s u i n g a b a l a n c e o f b u s i n e s s a n d l i fe

september 2009



A: Approximately 36 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies, which can negatively affect daily activities, sleep and job performance. Allergen avoidance is the best form of treatment. Keep windows closed and avoid working or going outdoors between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when pollen counts are highest. Consider bringing lunch or eating in during the day. Check accurate daily pollen counts for your area at ~Steven McEldowney, MD Allergy and Asthma Care of Blakeney


%"&'#( #Focus:

Leadership and Advocacy for Healthy Lifestyles


! Small businesses employ the majority of our citizens ! Small businesses are more easily disrupted by employee well-being and physical or mental illness !"Small businesses often feel that they do not have the resources to provide elaborate wellness programs, even if they want to

#Does it PAY to promote health and wellness in the workplace?

#Does it COST to be an advocate for healthy lifestyles?

The Small Business Wellness Initiative found that for every you invest into corporate wellness awareness, you reap $3 to $5 in savings through:


“Employer wellness plans do not need to be vast and expensive. Simple strategies can go a long way. Customize a plan for your employees, and send it out in the company newsletter. And then be the example: ! During a 10-minute break, walk up and down the stairs or around the block. You’ll find these kinds of activities have physical and mental de-stressing benefits. !"Step outside for a moment to get a bit of “sun therapy” for mental rejuvenation. !" Drink 8 glasses of water per day unless you have a health condition that requires restriction. !"Prepare your brown bag lunch – not only will it save you time and money, but it is often a healthier alternative to fast food and eating on the run. !"Provide nutrition facts every month on your company newsletters and paystubs. !"Fill your vending machines and break room snack area with healthy alternatives. Companies can end up saving money when they encourage healthy lifestyles among their employees.” Erika Spann, RD, LDN Total Nutrition Technology


september 2009

of the largest U.S. employers have health coaching programs.



What are some easy ways to beat the effects of seasonal allergies at work?

! Enhanced Recruitment and Retention !"Increased Productivity ! Reduced Absenteeism !"Decreased Workers Compensation Claims

# Nutrition and Time Management Terry Soulé Soulé & Associates, Inc.

Workers today often wear many hats—employee, parent, community volunteer. This presents a sometimes overwhelming challenge when thinking about adding the burden of planning, shopping for and preparing healthy meals for a family, and many opt to go the route of the drivethrough. There are several sites which offer help to those who desire to start giving themselves and their families a healthier alternative to the fast food option. Wellness resources to share with your employees: !" !" !" !" !" !" !"

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Making Healthy Work and Lifestyle Choices


#Communication is the Key to Prevention

“Many health and wellness issues that interrupt productivity in the workplace can be avoided by simply communicating. Stress and conflict at work can quickly lead to anxiety and sleep disorders, decreased morale, and high blood pressure. Here are some things you can do to keep everyone at the top of their game: ! Encourage balance between work and families ! Foster good communication between coworkers and their bosses ! Promote prevention ideals by encouraging movement and activity at lunch and during breaks ! Launch an employee recognition program to increase morale and decrease stress ! Offer health-focused rewards in order to promote healthy ideals


#Additional Tips for Promoting Health and Wellness in the Workplace $ Initiate an exercise program and invite everyone to participate $ Negotiate discounts at gyms and training facilities for your employees $ Bring in a personal trainer once per week $ Allow employees to go to wellness appointments during office hours or on extended lunch hours $ Use non-toxic paint for office up-fits, retrofits and makeovers $ Require janitorial crews to use non-toxic cleaning solutions $ Use an air filtration system for a healthier environment $ Provide bottled water or filtered water (for a less expensive option) to avoid chlorine and other chemicals $ Provide an Herbal tea bar as an alternative to a coffee bar

! Maintain a smoke-free environment ! Purchase ergonomic furniture Further, substance use/abuse is one of the most horrible problems affecting the health and wellness of our workers today. As an ER doctor, I have seen how many workers misuse prescription drugs, and the profound affect it has on their safety, decision-making and overall ability to perform in a career setting. A lot of employees who have addiction or substance abuse issues feel like they cannot talk to their employer because they may get fired. Always demonstrate to your employees that you have an open door policy for communication. And when they seek help from you, be prepared with the appropriate resources within the community to which you may refer them. You can always call the health department or the local hospital for assistance.” Brian Walker, DO Edgewater Medical Center The content resources above were provided by facilitates the active sharing of information between healthcare consumers and doctors within the greater Charlotte area and provides truly interactive components. Consumers have the ability to research health and wellness topics, read articles written by local experts, participate in online forums, discussions, polls and virtual activities as registered users and find community events and career listings. Become an advocate for your own health and wellness - log in for free at

p u r s u i n g a b a l a n c e o f b u s i n e s s a n d l i fe

“A business owner can mitigate these minor expenses as deductions, and contribute to the overall health and wellness of the office environment and its employees.” Kenneth N. Haas, D.C., C.C.S.P. Haas Wellness Center

“Employers need to take a hard look to be sure they are keeping up with employee awareness regarding personal health and fitness. When employees are conscious of their decisions, and extrinsically committed to improving their health and fitness, an employer will see a group of people who are also reducing risk factors that will improve their bottom line when it comes to onthe-job injuries and Workers Comp claims. When injuries on the job do occur, a workplace wellness program often helps the employee to return to work more quickly and with less cost.” ~Michael Johnson, Attorney at Law Michael Johnson and Associates

september 2009



Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions


lessons learned in a shifting digital marketplace !

Without question, the economic pressures of 2009 have forced businesses to take a serious look at how they maneuver within the evolving digital marketplace. Many of our most fundamental beliefs concerning how the Internet influences and enhances common business practices that were firmly held only months ago, now seem far less definitive or even counter-productive. What lessons have we learned so far this year regarding adapting our business to succeed within the quickly evolving online arena? To remain competitive, we must recognize how today’s business model is changing and adopt new methods that can ensure our continued success. Think “Digital Shift.” Lesson 1. It’s all digital. Once considered only a supplemental communication channel, the Internet is now the preferred and dominant tool used to conduct day-to-day business activity. Web sites have largely replaced sales brochures. E-mail has replaced the need for faxed documents and most mailed correspondence. Listings on overshadow the need for traditional telephone book advertising. In short, if your business is not yet fully leveraging the efficiencies of the digital world, you are not connecting with the vast majority of those customers and associates who are already online. Lesson 2. Your online presence is your most important “first impression.” Even with traditional advertising, sales and marketing support, a modern customer’s perception about your business will be first defined (and

later reinforced) by what you present online. Your Web site, e-mail, storefront, search engine and banner advertising introduces you to your customer at the most critical point of initial interactive contact, a moment that sets the tone for the future buyer-seller relationship. Competitors who neglect their online presence are quickly passed over by today’s digital prospect. Kip Cozart Lesson 3. Get out of the way. With the greater availability of do-it-yourself online interactive tools, customers are demanding the opportunity to serve themselves, working at their own pace and the time of their choosing, while gaining a sense of immediate gratification in the process. By feeding this demand, businesses assume the role of a supportive partner or resource, rather than just a pitchman or salesman. Place service documents, instructional videos, product demonstrations, case studies, product reviews and other tools right at the consumers’ fingertips. Offer e-commerce options. Provide hands-on capability for customers to manage their accounts, pay invoices, schedule service calls, configure products, or qualify for buyer incentives. Kip Cozart is CEO of CC Communications, a Web design, programming and Internet media company. Contact him at 704-543-1171 or visit for more digital marketplace lessons. Your home. It’s the one investment you can’t ignore no matter what else happens. When the time is right, we’re ready to help you invest in your home’s future – in the kitchen or bath, with a value-adding addition, or an ROI renovation. When you invest in your home, your daily returns are better.

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september 2009

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Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions


business owner estate planning before 2010! !

In last month’s article, entitled “Now is the Time for Tax-Efficient Wealth Transfers,” we discussed why now is an excellent time for tax-efficient wealth transfers because depressed asset values and historically low interest rates offer unique opportunities to leverage assets and minimize gift, estate and income taxes. This article addresses why it is important to critically review business owner estate plans (and taxable estate plans) before December 31, 2009. It is no secret that (i) federal expenditures are unprecedented, (ii) federal tax revenues are insufficient, and (iii) the new administration’s revenue neutral and wealth redistribution policies advocate tax law changes aimed at generating substantial tax revenues from the wealthy. Let’s take a look at current and proposed tax law changes that should urge any business owner and individual with assets (including life insurance) in excess of $1M to critically review their estate plan. Elimination of Minority Interest Discounts for Family Businesses— Proposed legislation eliminates the use of valuation discounts (lack of control and lack of marketability discounts) in certain family-owned businesses. The denial of valuation discounts could result in significantly higher estate and gift taxes for many business owners because these discounts often reduce the value of transferred assets by as much as 20 percent to 40 percent. For example, if father gifts daughter a 20 percent ownership interest in a family business valued at $8 million: • under current law, father’s gift does not trigger federal gift tax liability. Why? Because if father’s gift receives a 24 percent lack of control discount and an 18 percent lack of marketability discount resulting in a $997,120 gift to daughter, then since father’s gift is less than $1,000,000 (the federal gift exemption), the gift does not trigger any federal gift tax liability. • under proposed law, father’s gift generates a $270,000 federal gift tax liability. Why? Because if father’s gift receives no valuation discounts resulting in a $1,600,000 gift to daughter, then since father’s gift is greater than $1,000,000 (the federal gift exemption), the excess gift over $1,000,000 is a taxable gift which generates a $270,000 federal gift tax liability. Even if valuation discounts are not eliminated for gifts of family business interests, given the nation’s deficit, expenditures, and revenue neutral fiscal policies, it is likely that current valuation discounts will be replaced with more conservative discounts resulting in higher taxes via higher estate and gift tax values. Greater gift tax values will result in smaller gifts being made, which in turn result in less asset appreciation shifted to the next generation and out of the taxpayer’s estate. Reduction in Estate Tax Exemption—Unless new estate tax laws are adopted, the 2011 federal estate exemption (the most that a taxpayer can pass estate-tax-free to someone other than a surviving spouse) will be reduced from the current $3,500,000 to $1,000,000, which may leave unwary taxpayers with huge estate tax liabilities.

p u r s u i n g a b a l a n c e o f b u s i n e s s a n d l i fe

Increased Highest Marginal Estate Tax Rate— Current estate tax law increases the highest marginal federal estate tax rate from 45 percent to 55 percent in 2011. The increased tax rate combined with the reduced estate exemption can generate significant estate taxes from estates that otherwise would have been non-taxable. Danica Little Now consider the combined federal tax implication of the (i) government’s unprecedented spending and revenue neutral fiscal policies, (ii) elimination of certain valuation discounts, (iii) reduced estate tax exemption, and (iv) increased estate tax rates.

Consider the combined federal tax implication of the (i) government’s unprecedented spending and revenue neutral fiscal policies, (ii) elimination of certain valuation discounts, (iii) reduced estate tax exemption, and (iv) increased estate tax rates. For example, if at the time of father’s death, father owns a 45 percent ownership interest in a family business that is valued at $12 million: • under current law, father’s 45 percent ownership interest does not trigger federal estate tax liability. Why? Because if father’s 45 percent ownership interest receives a 22 percent lack of control discount and a 17 percent lack of marketability discount resulting in a $3,495,960 value included in father’s estate, and if father’s total estate is less than $3,500,000 (the 2009 federal estate exemption), then father’s estate does not trigger federal estate taxes. • under proposed law, father’s 45 percent ownership interest triggers significant federal estate tax liability. Why? Because if father’s ownership interest receives no valuation discounts then the entire $5,400,000 value is included in father’s estate, and since father’s estate is greater than $1,000,000 (the 2011 federal estate exemption), the $4,400,000 excess over the $1,000,000 exemption is taxable, triggering more than $2,000,000 in federal estate taxes. Elimination of Certain Tax Planning Techniques—Legislation has been proposed to eliminate certain tax planning techniques after 2009. Thus, if you wait until after December 31, 2009, for estate tax planning, fewer options will be available to you, which could result in significantly higher estate and/or gift taxes. In summary, a critical review of your estate plan before December 31, 2009, may save your estate millions in tax dollars. Danica L. Little, J.D., C.P.A., C.M.A., C.F.M., is an attorney with Wishart, Norris, Henninger & Pittman, P.A., a law firm with offices in Charlotte and Burlington serving businesses and business owners, institutions, and professionals. Contact her at 704-364-0010 or visit

september 2009



Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions


risk profiling !

Previous economic contractions have been finite in length and the current contraction will most assuredly end. In the abstract that is a comforting thought; but if you are a small business owner struggling to manage cash flows and remain profitable during an economic contraction, an abstraction provides meager benefits. Inevitably a time will come, however, when wafting across the troubled economic landscape is the rare air of recovery. For businesses that survive, a crucial factor to benefiting from the ensuing economic growth is adequate capital. If you own a small business, the capital you amass to grow your business comes from earnings. If that proves to be inadequate, your additional capital requirements are usually met by obtaining credit from commercial lenders. So it is important to understand the criteria these lenders use to make their lending decisions and to take appropriate actions to insure that you can obtain the credit necessary to take advantage of the next economic expansion. A caveat before we continue: Economic disruptions customarily precipitate a change in fundamental elements of the economy. As a result, some existing business models, products or services become obsolete or are replaced by something better. Economist Joseph Schumpeter described this change as “creative destruction”—an evolution of sorts for a product, service or business model consisting of a primordial inception and eventual extinction, e.g. pay phones and walkmans. So be objective in evaluating the viability of your product or service mix and your business model. No amount of credit, even if it can be obtained, will make a flawed business successful. An important aspect to appreciate about commercial lenders is that they are risk averse. The money they lend is not theirs. Nor is it the lending institution’s shareholders. They are intermediaries—clearing houses that match money from one group to those in another group that employ it in their business and return it with a contractual token of their appreciation commonly called interest. Commercial lenders compete in credit markets consisting of innumerable participants located throughout the world. At a recent presentation, Mark Vintner, managing director and senior economist of Wachovia Corp. (Wells Fargo Securities), stated approximately 78 percent of the available credit in the United States is made possible by a secondary market in which China and sovereign wealth funds purchase pools of credit card debt, auto loans and other loans originated in the United States. As a small business owner you are competing for a portion of the available credit. Furthermore they make their money on the difference between the interest they pay to the entities whose money was lent and the interest paid by the


september 2009

entities that borrow it. Any money borrowers fail to return reduces their profit. While not the only risk, default risk is a significant consideration for commercial lenders. Default risk is the probability that the borrower will not repay any or all of the money lent. The key to encouraging a lender then is to lower their perceived risk of default from extending credit to your business. Specifically, take steps to lower your risk profile.

John Blair

Approximately 78 percent of the available credit in the United States is made possible by a secondary market in which China and sovereign wealth funds purchase pools of credit card debt, auto loans and other loans originated in the United States. The most effective means of reducing your business’s risk profile is to insure it has a consistent history of being profitable; a business not historically profitable or profitable only sporadically has a diminished chance of qualifying for credit. So continuously take actions to improve profitability. Analyze expenditures to indentify costs that can be eliminated, deferred or reduced. Ensure personnel are fully utilized and stifle that impulse to deduct personal expenditures as expenses. Doing so is not a wise tax strategy and it reduces the profits vital to securing the credit your business needs to compete in an expanding economy. In addition, as a small business owner you should continuously monitor it and indentify key personnel, critical vendors or significant customers which, if permanently or temporarily lost, would significantly impact profitability. Your business will have a dramatically lower risk profile if you develop a plan of action and contingencies that can be implemented if any of these were to occur. For key personnel, acquire life insurance coverage and develop appropriate management positions to reduce the importance of any one person; for critical vendors, identify alternative sources; and for significant customers, if possible secure long-term contractual commitments. The credit your business will need to develop opportunities as the current recession recedes and the recovery accelerates is a function of the efforts you make today to reduce your business’s risk profile. John D. Blair Sr. is a managing partner at Blair, Bohlé & Whitsitt, PLLC., a CPA firm that provides accounting, assurance, tax compliance and planning services in addition strategic planning and tax minimization strategies to privately held businesses. Contact him at 704-841-9800 or visit

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Smart Salvos, Select Strategies and Succinct Solutions



training: engaging stakeholders and managing change !

Successful organizational change relies on a unique blend of program and project management, mixed with stakeholder management, communications, process excellence and training. While the quantities of these ingredients will vary based on the needs and goals of your organization, these activities form the building blocks of a healthy change initiative to ensure proper alignment of people, process and technology. T.J. Eberle A comprehensive training strategy serves as a unifying force allowing organizations to grow, leverage and sustain organizational change. The successful alignment of people, process and technology requires a targeted training strategy designed to ensure employees develop or acquire the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to implement the desired changes. Muhammad Ali was once quoted as saying, “I hated every minute of training, but I said, ‘Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.’” Ali knew a customized, disciplined training regimen was a necessary action required for success in the ring. Most employees acknowledge training provides some value, but often they lack the time, budget or motivation to take full advantage of the benefits of training. How do you get employees to view training as their key to success, instead of a burden? The following are tips to building and implementing a successful changeoriented training program:


1. Gain a clear understanding of training requirements as early as possible: • Conduct a training needs assessment, involving diverse stakeholder groups • Create a training strategy which highlights desired outcomes, success criteria, and robust measurement system 2. Align training with the communications plan—and ensure that the two remain in alignment: • Ensure that the communications plan and user training convey the same message • Create “what’s in it for me” messages for training to drive greater adoption and acceptance 3. Create opportunities for stakeholder engagement: • Hold informal Q&A sessions outside of a formal classroom to capture the voice of the customer and tailor training content to address user needs • Deploy on-line quizzes, and provide workers the ability to practice with software in the field To summarize, training is one of several activities required to increase the speed and success of organizational change. A comprehensive training strategy and meaningful content coupled with robust training effectiveness metrics will strengthen your organization and facilitate innovation. T.J. Eberle is president and CEO of NouvEON, a regional business and technology consulting firm. Contact him at 704-944-3155 or visit

the competitive edge in career management—career portfolio !

As we exit the current recessionary economy, career management will take on even greater importance for companies and individuals. A recent survey indicated that 40 percent of employees plan to leave their current employment as the economy improves. Career management can be a retention / retain tool. We used to think that the company was responsible for Bill Crigger employee career development and professional growth. In reality, the company is responsible for providing the opportunity for these things to occur. It is the employees’ responsibility to seek out these opportunities, develop a plan and accomplish the plan. So the obvious question becomes, how can a company offer the opportunity for individuals to “take charge” of their careers and promote themselves professionally within the corporate environment? Companies maintain paper and digital files on employees that include such items as performance reviews, assessment results and certificates for course completion; all useful in succession planning. But do these tools highlight the employees’ current history and capabilities in a clear, easy to read and understandable format? And what about their prior work history with other companies? There is a relatively new technology emerging for use by companies and individuals called career web portfolios. With this technology, a company can allow employees the opportunity to promote themselves within

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the company’s succession planning framework. But the technology is not just limited to companies; employees can also use a career web portfolio to promote themselves inside their companies (and perhaps outside as well). Internet-based career Web portfolios combine multimedia, graphics, images, charts, etc., to highlight an employee’s complete work history, total accomplishments and capabilities. This tool can enhance a company’s current succession planning and selection / identification process, as well as save time and money. With a Web portfolio, companies would not be confined to just looking at information connected in segments within a file or perhaps a two-page resume. A portfolio approach can give employers a complete visual portrait of an employee’s career and expertise. From the employee’s perspective, by showcasing his/her skills, results and achievements, a favorable impression can be created which can help him/her stand out within the company as a better candidate for future assignments. A concept like a career portfolio is a reusable asset, provides a more comprehensive view of the employee’s work experience, helps with employee retention, and saves time and money. This may be the competitive edge in career management. Bill Crigger is president of Compass Career Management Solutions, a career transition and human resource consulting firm. Contact him at or visit to learn more about career portfolios.

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au·then·tic \ә 'then-tik, 0-\ adj. •

Having an origin supported by unquestionable evidence; authenticated; verified: entitled to acceptance or belief because of agreement with known facts or experience; reliable; trustworthy. Origin: 1300–50 < LL; original, primary, at first hand, one who does things himself.

(l ro r) Ron Haston, President Don Haston,Vice President Trent Haston, Vice President Travis Haston, Vice President, Principal Superintendent Owners, Andrew Roby, Inc.


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by susanne deitzel


“Built Last”

! Andrew Roby General Contractors:


evi Strauss. Coca-Cola. Campbell’s. While these behemoth brands have decidedly different exteriors, they share a vital trait: authenticity. And as much as marketing rock stars and business gurus offer to sell access to the a-word, there is only one path to being the genuine article: commitment and integrity. Which brings to mind another name: Andrew Roby. In certain Charlotte neighborhoods, mentioning the general contracting company triggers descriptions of jawdropping remodeling projects with an obsessive emphasis on craftsmanship and personal service. The name has become synonymous with value, quality and a conciergelike service mentality. But Andrew Roby, like most successful brands, has a quirky little paradox at the core of its personality. While Andrew Roby is responsible for delivering high-dollar, awardwinning building services to the most prestigious homes in Charlotte—the success of the company is grounded in down-home humility and old-fashioned sweat equity. Laying a Foundation

Andrew Roby general contractors was established 60 years ago by Andrew Robicsek (who later shortened his

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name), a Hungarian immigrant with a mind for relationshipbuilding and honest business practices.Two years after starting the company, Robicsek hired Glenn Haston as superintendent. The two would work together for over 25 years, establishing the fledgling organization’s reputation for craftsmanship. In 1976, Haston bought the firm outright from Robicsek— but kept the name—and today, the second and third generation of Haston’s extended family work for the firm. Grandsons Trent and Travis Haston are charged with the weighty task of merging Andrew Roby’s virtues with new technology and business efficiencies. Trent Haston is vice president of internal operations, owner and resident visionary. The 31-year-old Jim Collins disciple has enthusiasm and confidence to spare; his genuine warmth and approachability highlighted by a homespun, Charlottean drawl. Trent explains the essence of his company like this: “My dad will walk into somebody’s house, get down on his hands and knees to inspect their flooring, and spend the rest of the conversation on his knees. That is who we are—down to earth, plainspoken people with a natural desire to do the job right and treat people with respect.” (Notably, as Trent describes his father, he too is on the ground looking up, his hand brushing the plane of the office hardwoods.) %

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While cut from the same Haston cloth, Trent is also a management-savvy systems architect, whose ideas from time to time raise eyebrows of the company’s conservative founders. He explains, “We grew up on job sites learning that there is a very clear boundary between the people who do the work and the customer. We were also taught not to invest in anything that might suggest privilege.” Trent goes on to explain that while the company’s rock solid work ethic, integrity and value are immutable, he has built a strong case for meeting the customer where they are. “Company trucks obviously cost money, but today we don’t consider them an extravagance. Anytime we are present on a client’s property, we communicate the quality and impeccability we bring to the job. In the end, it creates more peace of mind for the customer, and that is one of the biggest priorities we have,” explains Trent. Trent’s brother Travis is vice president in charge of field operations, principal superintendent and also an Andrew Roby owner. He’s tall and quiet with the same southern lilt to his words, but he talks about quality, no-excuses execution and integrity. Travis says when he and Trent decided to build a new management structure, he often got stuck in old-school thinking. “It was hard to give up doing everything myself, but we both knew that’s what was necessary to grow the company. So we got together for two hours every other week, and four years later we have an infrastructure that is leveraging our strengths, growing relationships, and building the business divisions.” Building Out

While Andrew Roby is best known for extraordinary craftsmanship in remodeling historical Charlotte homes, the company also delivers high-end, new home construction. In early 2009 the company completed a $3 million four-unit townhouse and has also


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“My dad will walk into somebody’s house, get down on his hands and knees to inspect their flooring, and spend the rest of the conversation on his knees. That is who we are—down to earth, plainspoken people with a natural desire to do the job right and treat people with respect.” Trent Haston Vice President

undertaken several high-end commercial projects. Roby has renovated a day care center into an expansive private office and collector’s car showcase, renovated an historical Victorian home for law offices, transformed a bungalow home into a trendy clothing boutique, and built a corporate guest house for Springs Industries in Rock Hill, S.C. Melissa Vandiver has been an Andrew Roby client for over 30 years, and has contracted them for a major renovation, several commercial properties for her real estate brokerage, and handyman projects. “Commercial and residential work is very different, but no matter what the type or size of the job, I can always count on quality, honesty and courtesy from Andrew Roby. I love doing business with them,” says Vandiver. This quality focus also inspired the incorporation of the Roby Electric Division in 2008. “We were having problems with electrical subcontractors delaying building schedules due to missed appointments or failed inspections, so we created a unit that could deliver to our quality standards,” says Travis. Now, other contractors call Roby Electric to get reliable, quality electric work. The company has also created a handyman division. Comments Trent, “When you

grow up with the principles of working hard, honoring your word, and doing it right the first time—that goes pretty far in the business world these days.” While the company is keen on growth, it sticks to its specialty. For example, Travis says that Andrew Roby will not grow to include building design. “Companies that offer ‘turnkey solutions’ in terms of design and contracting are often tempted into value engineering for its own sake. We believe that architectural design and contractors speak a common language, but we bring value from independent perspectives. The architect designs the structure; we bring it to life,” explains Travis. Sam Greeson, principal of architecture firm Meyer, Greeson, Paullin, Benson, says that Andrew Roby has been one of their favorite contractors for just this reason. “Not only do they deliver high quality work, but we can trust them to make decisions on our behalf. We have confidence that their decisions will respect the vision and integrity of the design as well as what brings the highest satisfaction to the client,” affirms Greeson. He adds, “The people at Andrew Roby also go extra lengths to make sure clients are comfortable and satisfied during the building process as well as with the final result. This brings a lot of value to us as an organization.” Penchant for Precision

While visionary and energetic, both Trent and Travis believe in incubating initiatives. While green building is abuzz, Trent and Travis are developing a green offering that complements their core business. They also plan on expanding into the mountains and the beachfront of the Carolinas—on the right time frame. Says Trent, “It’s not always easy to be patient when opportunity is so clear, but so far it has paid off.”

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This penchant for precision distinguishes most decisions at Andrew Roby, including the decision to charge for estimates for larger jobs. “Many people ask for our quotes as a yardstick. It is flattering, but it takes time, so this saves our project managers from quoting jobs that aren’t a good fit,” says Travis. “Sometimes the best service you can offer is to say you’re not the perfect match for the job.” The same discernment influenced their decision to buy computers. Instead of yielding to the urge to invest in the latest equipment for every workstation, Trent was strategic in outfitting the office and field supervisors with systems that expedited communication flow. “With laptops, supervisors can e-mail status reports, orders and send photos from the job site to the project managers. This creates efficiencies for construction and allows us to give customers precise status reports,” Says Trent. The Hastons are also considering webcams for job sites to enable customers to see their project in real time. Another pivotal decision included selecting a charity partner for Andrew Roby. Trent said ‘no thank you’ to several well-known entities because he “wanted a partnership we could sink our teeth into.” Ultimately, Trent chose to support the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) when he found out that one of their employees was a survivor of the disease. The company contributed $7500, 500 hours of service, and authored a business plan for their first annual fundraiser, “Pitchin’ Corn for a Cure,” which netted over $30,400 in two months. “The partnership came together perfectly,” says Trent. Blueprint for the Future

Roby’s penchant for precision extends most significantly to its employees. Channeling Jim Collins, Trent says, “We focus on getting the right people on the bus. And sometimes that

means getting the wrong people off of the bus,” says Trent. The organization currently has 50 employees, down from 80 in 2007. Unlike many businesses, the reduction was generated more by a desire to invest in the right people than by the need to cut back. As Trent describes the company’s new 401(k) program, it is clear that his commitment to having a company of life-long employees isn’t a’s a declaration. The company’s longest serving employee, Leroy Oates joined the company in 1953 as a 15-year-old mason’s assistant; he is now a respected mentor and company ambassador. Over a dozen more employees have served with the company for 25 years or more. Explains Trent, “Everything we do is built upon the values of our family, and is designed to create customers and employees for life.” He says the time and energy they have devoted to processes, org charts, and SOP manuals have only made this vision clearer. “Distractions and conflicts are a thing of the past; we took the guesswork out of things, which frees people to be customer-focused.” The result is old-fashioned quality delivered with modern efficiency. As Collins would say—a business built to last. Some of Trent’s favorite stories are about delivering old school service in an increasingly hectic world—an employee picking up the paper off the sidewalk on his way to a client’s doorstep, or delivering firewood to a customer’s home just because he called to ask where to find some. “In our work, we are invited into people’s homes, where their kids are playing, dinner is cooking and life is going on. We want them to feel comfortable enough to call us for anything. That is when you know you have done a great job,” grins Trent. Another sign of a good job is when you run out of shelf space for prestigious industry awards.

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At this year’s NAHB Excellence in Remodeling awards, Andrew Roby took home an impressive thirteen awards, including Best in Show, the Judges Award, seven Gold and four Silver medals. Legacy owners Ron and Don Haston are content to stand vigil from the Andrew Roby board of directors and lend their charisma to frequent job site visits, because it is clear that Trent and Travis have the right amount of Haston DNA, business acumen and youthful ingenuity to keep Andrew Roby the real deal. biz Susanne Deitzel is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

Andrew Roby, Inc. 1131 Harding Place Charlotte, N.C. 28204 Phone: 704-334-5477 Owners/Principals: Ronald G. Haston, President; Don Haston,Vice President; Travis Haston,Vice President, Principal Superintendent; Trent Haston,Vice President Founded: 1950 by Andrew Robicsek Employees: 50 Awards: NAHB - Excellence in Remodeling Awards, NARI - CotY Award Winners, Home Builders Association of Charlotte Awards, ASID Carolinas Chapter - Design Specialty Award, Charlotte Historic District Commission Awards Philanthropy: Leukemia and Lymphoma Society “Pitchin’ Corn for a Cure” event; CMS “If I Had a Hammer” program; Dilworth Little League; Jim Harkey Memorial Fund (NARI) Business: Largest custom residential remodeler in the Charlotte, N.C. region; general contractor specializing in remodeling, renovations, new homes, multi-family homes, commercial and handyman services.

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(l to r) Ron J. Leeper President and CEO Tyrone Harmon Director of Business Development R.J. Leeper Construction, LLC


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by ellison clary


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He’s a respected businessman and political leader, but Ron Leeper is much, much more. You could call him a conscience for Charlotte. His constant lobbying for a more socially just community afforded him the opportunity for meaningful business success. When Leeper was a relatively young representative on Charlotte City Council, he caught the attention of Hugh McColl Jr., who was busy building NCNB into what became Bank of America. They found that they shared a desire to make Charlotte a better place for all its denizens. McColl subsequently sponsored an internship for Leeper with a builder, and that led Leeper to the establishment of R.J. Leeper Company, Inc., a general contractor, and Leeper Construction Company, a construction manager. Today, those entities have been combined into R.J. Leeper Construction, LLC, employing 25 and averages $20 million a year in gross revenue. Despite his success, though, Leeper keeps up pressure on political and civic leaders, from a decidedly Christian view, to make Charlotte more socially just. “It stands to reason,” Leeper says, “that if you had more people doing well, you would have more people doing good. “That’s something we haven’t really had a lot of dialogue about,” he adds. “People who are getting a large percentage of the pie don’t seem to be concerned about others who are not. And people who are giving out the pie, whether they happen to be banks or others, don’t seem to have the sensitivity that Hugh McColl has. “They don’t understand that the more people have a stake in this community, the better off we are likely to be,” he adds with passion.

Charlotte’s Conscience Leeper’s a Player in Charlotte; a Force for Good To be truly successful longer term, we must contribute positively to the construction industry and to the business community as well. ~ R.J. Leeper Construction, LLC

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Having a Stake Leeper had no stake in Charlotte when he arrived in 1968 after a brief military career. Right away, he got involved in the black community. “I was considered a kind of rabble-rouser,” he says with only a slight grin. The product of a segregated school system in Belmont, just across the Catawba River, Leeper had left home at 15 because of deep differences with his stepfather. He was taken in by the janitor of his high school, who ran a strongly religious household. %

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Taking a Leap Six months later, McColl lieutenant Dennis Rash called Leeper, and outlined a construction internship with what was then the FN Thompson Company. Leeper, who had several businesses including the first vehicle detailing operation in an uptown parking deck, asked who the bank had in mind. Rash said, “We identified you.” So, starting in 1990, Leeper worked at FN Thompson, learning the construction business. By 1992, he was able to present a business plan of his own to McColl’s bank. “They loaned me a bunch of money,” Leeper says. “From what I understand, it’s called a character loan. I never had to pledge my house or anything else. And they gave me the opportunity to do business with the bank.” Leeper’s company has been involved in some of the most visible construction projects in the city. Among them are the Charlotte ••• ••• ••• ••• •••

Transportation Center and several parking decks for Bank of America. The firm also was instrumental in building the headquarters of the Urban League of Central Carolinas and nownamed TimeWarner Arena. “Some of the things I’m most proud of don’t necessarily have to do with size,” Leeper says. “We built one of the first free-standing medical

RJL Projects


As a welder at a company making U.S. Army vehicles for the Vietnam War, Leeper earned enough money to finance some social improvement activities. The integration movement in the Charlotte schools had just begun and was controversial. Students, both white and black, were involved in fights and other disruptive pursuits, but black pupils were getting expelled in disproportionate numbers. School officials told Leeper it was because black parents weren’t showing up for hearings concerning their child’s behavior. Those administrators didn’t appreciate that black parents oftentimes worked jobs without the flexibility to leave for a school matter, regardless of how serious it might be. So Leeper, who had married his high school sweetheart Phyllis, formed a group of black surrogate parents to represent black students in trouble. “We had a form they could sign authorizing me to stand in for them in any school hearing concerning their child,” he recalls. “I think I was representing 10 or 15 kids.” Not long after, a group seeking district representation on Charlotte City Council recruited him. “I determined it made some sense to have a system that allowed geographical representation,” Leeper says, “but I was the only African-American in the group. “There was not much trust in the AfricanAmerican community at that time,” he continues. “They thought, ‘If white folks are asking us to support something, there’s probably some gimmick to it that’s going to come back and bite us.’” But the movement prevailed and in its first year, 1977, Leeper won election to predominantly black District 3, which runs along West Boulevard and encompasses much of southwest Charlotte. He served 10 years and the whole decade he chaired a committee concerned with community development and housing. He took council members on bus tours of District 3 and showed them problems such as trash piles, brazen drug dealers and substandard houses. He got an ordinance passed that gives the city the right to repair absentee-owned houses and charge the owners for the work. Leeper even took McColl on a special tour and McColl became a believer in Leeper’s causes. After Leeper returned to council to serve an uncompleted mayor pro-tem term, McColl took him to lunch. Both men discussed ways to improve Charlotte, and Leeper planted a seed. Tell the contractors vying for your bank’s building projects, Leeper suggested, that they’ve got to introduce more diversity in your construction teams. McColl liked the idea.

(top left) Charlotte Police and Fire Training Academy (bottom left) Charlotte Transportation Center (top right) Transamerica Parking Garage (bottom right) University Park Baptist Church

“Some of the things I’m most proud of don’t necessarily have to do with size. There are some smaller churches that we’ve done where people had to struggle to pay, where we had to do some things a little bit unconventional to make it happen. Those kinds of things give me a lot more pride than the things you would see and that would be obvious.” Ron J. Leeper President

facilities for Carolinas Medical Center. It’s on Beatties Ford Road, right across from Johnson C. Smith University. “We built University Park Baptist Church on Beatties Ford Road,” he continues. “There are some smaller churches that we’ve done where people had to struggle to pay, where we had to do some things a little bit unconventional to make it happen. Those kinds of things give me a lot more pride than the things you would see and that would be obvious.” McColl calls Leeper a logical person who is interested in doing the right thing. As a business leader, Leeper has succeeded and as a civic leader he’s been tremendous, McColl adds, in both the black community and in the city at large. “I would put him right up there with my friend Harvey Gantt,” McColl says. “I trust Ron

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Leeper. I have great respect for his integrity. He is standing up for whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s right.â&#x20AC;? On September 19, Leeper will accept the fourth annual â&#x20AC;&#x153;Luminaryâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Lifetime Achievementâ&#x20AC;? award from The Charlotte Post Foundation at a black tie dinner at the Hilton Center City. Other winners have been former mayor Gantt, Julius Chambers and Bob Davis.




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Trials,Tribulations and Triumphs â&#x20AC;&#x153;Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;m glad I got in the construction business,â&#x20AC;? Leeper reflects. â&#x20AC;&#x153;It has afforded me a good living and, more importantly, it allows me to do what


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I think God put me here to do. Thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s to influence a lot of other things. It gives me great flexibility to serve with the Chamber and the Performing Arts Center and support causes I think are important.â&#x20AC;? For Leeper, those causes have been numerous. When he left city council, he paved the way for Ella Scarborough to win election to his District 3 seat. She went on to run unsuccessfully for mayor. Later, Patrick Cannon served multiple terms from that district and, after a time off council, is seeking an at-large seat this fall. Cannon says he considers Leeper his %

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â&#x20AC;&#x153;I would put him right up there with my friend Harvey Gant. I trust Ron Leeper. I have great respect for his integrity. He is standing up for whatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s right. When you make a list of a handful of people youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re going to talk to about something, his name will come up. So heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a player. He will be a force in the city for making good things happen for a long time to come.â&#x20AC;? Hugh McColl Chairman, McColl Partners LLC

political godfather. â&#x20AC;&#x153;He instilled in me to never lose the common touch and make sure I represent people from all walks of life,â&#x20AC;? Cannon says of Leeper. Leeper points to a higher power that has directed him. â&#x20AC;&#x153;There were times when I could have gone in a different direction and the Lord put someone in my life,â&#x20AC;? he says. First it happened with the Wheeler family who took him in as a troubled teen. Then came Belvin Jessup, a young minister who got Leeper involved in St. Markâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Methodist Church. He organized a march on the Board of Education that Leeper joined. It probably saved West Charlotte High from being shut down. Then first wife Phyllis contracted cancer. She lived a dozen more years. â&#x20AC;&#x153;I wrestled a lot with God,â&#x20AC;? Leeper says. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Phyllis was one of the best people in the world. I think God left her around for 12 years to help me understand that Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s in charge and He can do anything He wants to do and itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s going to be the right thing.â&#x20AC;? Now Leeper attends services at Steele Creek Community Church of Charlotte, a church he guesses is the most integrated in the city. â&#x20AC;&#x153;They do a lot of missionary work and support a lot of local causes,â&#x20AC;? he says. He enjoys time with second wife Dorothy. They like to walk and exercise together and they team up on church work. Leeper will be 65 in December and plans to be involved in his company for years to come. But he is training Tyrone Harmon to take the reins one day. A Meaningful Voice Meanwhile, Leeper remains a respected voice in the community. Heâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s working for various local candidates

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such as mayoral hopeful Anthony Foxx and council at-large aspirant David Howard. Further, Leeper is active in “Emerging Leaders,” a program he started for ninth graders at West Charlotte High. “We’re taking freshmen and assigning a mentor to them,” he says. “We’re trying to encourage them to stay in school and improve their grades and act in a manner that allows them to be successful.” McColl admires the way Leeper can bridge the generational gap. Leeper shows young people how to get into the establishment and work for change from inside, McColl says. “When you make a list of a handful of people you’re going to talk to about something, his name will come up,” McColl says. “So he’s a player. He will be a force in the city for making good things happen for a long time to come.” For his part, Leeper goes back to the issue of too many people left out of Charlotte’s overall prosperity. “Because of the economic times we live in,” he says, “there are people who are homeless who have never been homeless before. “I’m more interested in the holistic approach and always have been,” Leeper says. “It’s not just housing, although that’s a first step. How do you get people back on their feet so they can have hope and believe in something and want to better their circumstances? “I hope I will get politicians and the Chamber to understand that it’s not healthy for a community to leave a lot of people behind.” biz Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

“your business development advisors”

“Daniel, Ratliff & Company has helped me better understand the financial side of my business. They take the time to go over my financial statements with me, work with me to get the most out of my accounting software, and serve as a strategic business partner in discussing ways to improve my business.”

R.J. Leeper Construction, LLC 601 Morris Street Charlotte, N.C. 28202 Phone: 704-334-3223 Principal: Ronald L. (Ron) Leeper, President; Tyrone Harmon, Director of Business Development Established: 1992 Employees: 25 Revenue: $20 million (average annual gross revenue) Business: Minority contractor certified by the state of North Carolina holding an Unlimited Building License for General Contracting; 95 percent of work with repeat customers; mantra “to be truly successful over the longer term, we must contribute positively to the construction industry and to the business community as well.”

~ Warren Klugman, Owner W.B. & Associates, Inc., provider of plumbing fixtures

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We're not your typical CPA firm. Instead, we go beyond traditional accounting services, adding valuable insight and guidance to your growth process. Think of us as the business development partner you always wished you’d had—a Champion for your business!

Daniel, Ratliff & Company

301 S. McDowell St., Ste. 502, Charlotte, NC 28204 704.371.5000 • p u r s u i n g a b a l a n c e o f b u s i n e s s a n d l i fe

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Photo:Wayne Morris


s soon as you sit down to talk with Laura Schulte, you know Wells Fargo has installed someone who is fully comfortable in leading and shaping its newest acquisition, Wachovia Corporation. She’s done similar duty, more than once.She took the job soon after the Wells FargoWachovia merger was completed January 1, but she just moved her family from Los Angeles to Charlotte in July. She had been running the Wells Fargo western region. Now, Schulte is president of Community Banking in the Eastern Region, which is the Wachovia footprint. Operating from Charlotte, she’s in charge of the branches—or stores in Wells


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Laura A. Schulte President, Eastern Region Wells Fargo • Wachovia

Fargo parlance—in Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington, D.C. When she and other executives learned last fall that Wells Fargo would be buying the mortgage-troubled Wachovia, Schulte was “very excited,” she says. “We have actually always admired Wachovia,” she adds. Schulte acknowledges her San Francisco-based employer has let go more than 500 Wachovia workers in the Charlotte area, but points out Wachovia still has about 19,000 employees here, including 10,000 at the Customer Information Center (CIC) on the bank’s University City campus.

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by ellison clary



That Ends Wells

Wells Fargo and Wachovia One Team, Twice as Strong

“Charlotte is the most important city on the East Coast. That’s why I moved here. My move was very purposeful. I need to live in Charlotte so I can understand what is special and important here.” Laura Schulte President, Eastern Region

“All the work they do has to get done,” she says of the CIC workers, whom she calls team members. “I don’t see a lot of changes there.” She also points out that a mortgage servicing center in Fort Mill is hiring and many of those new team members live in Charlotte. Out her 40th floor office window looms the nearly completed 48-story tower that was meant to bear the Wachovia name. It will be called the Duke Energy Center, instead. Schulte acknowledges the symbolism, but calls Charlotte the eastern “hub-quarters” for Wells Fargo. It will retain that

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designation permanently, she adds. “Charlotte is the most important city on the East Coast,” she says matter-of-factly. “That’s why I moved here. My move was very purposeful. I need to live in Charlotte so I can understand what is special and important here.” Biggest adjustment: Traffic (the relative lack of it). “Interestingly, I’m always early,” she says of her appointments in Charlotte. “Having lived in Los Angeles and even Las Vegas, people here talk about traffic, but when you’re from a large urban area, it’s really incredible to get around Charlotte.” %

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“We want to make sure we make decisions that are in the best interests of the company. So it’s going slower than some mergers. It took us three years to get the Wells FargoNorwest merger done, and we actually have about that kind of timeframe here.” Laura Schulte President, Eastern Region

But she’s got much more than traffic on her mind. She’s in charge of bringing Wachovia into the Wells Fargo fold. And she’s got long experience at it, to go with a 26-year career of learning the way of Wells Fargo and predecessors. While growing up in Omaha, where she attended high school with Warren Buffet’s youngest son, Schulte took a part-time job with Wells Fargo predecessor Norwest. After she graduated from the University of Nebraska with an accounting degree, she returned to Norwest as an auditor, then moved into finance. Soon, she gravitated to mergers and acquisitions, using her accounting skills in due diligence on buyout prospects. Team-Building In 1996, she moved from Norwest headquarters in Minneapolis to take charge of community banking activities in Northern Nevada where the firm had made a couple of acquisitions. Two years later, Norwest bought Wells Fargo and kept its name and the headquarters. “I was right in the middle of that,” she says. Through that and a subsequent acquisition of Salt Lake City-based First Security, Schulte wound up as president of Western Division that includes California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska and more than 1,300 stores. Now her Eastern Seaboard territory has more than 2,800 stores and in excess of 4,600 automatic teller machines. Schulte, 50, knows and appreciates that the Wachovia brand is strong and respected. A priority, she says, is not losing any of that. “We like to keep as many people from the legacy organization as possible,” she says, “because those are the people who know the communities and know the customers. “The customers tell us our service is


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outstanding,” she continues. “Wachovia has a very loyal customer following. The companies are very similar in that we are very community bank-oriented.” When pressed, she easily explains what the term “community bank” means to Wells Fargo. “It is understanding the needs of the community, the types of businesses that exist in that community,” she says. She feels Wachovia can improve its store staffing. There are plenty of transaction people, tellers and such. But the stores are light on service people who can offer business and personal financial advice.

“It is in our best interest for you to succeed. Small-to-medium-sized businesses are the backbone of any community. We understand that and we want to be there for you. We want to help you grow.” Laura Schulte President, Eastern Region

“We want to make sure we have enough people in each store that we can sit down and have conversations with customers, and understand what their financial needs are, what their aspirations are, what their goals are,” Schulte says. “Right now, I think we’re fairly lean in that.” That means bringing more people on board, she says, adding that Wells Fargo sees new hires as an investment. “And they provide a return,” she says, “by helping the customer, providing

solutions and adding revenues to the business.” In five years, she says, head count in the legacy Wachovia footprint will be higher than today. And though there won’t be a lot of expansion in the East, Schulte expects to see a couple dozen new stores open in her territory this year. Working in Tandem Still, there are those immediate adjustments to get through. Most of the job eliminations so far have come in centralized functions such as corporate marketing and corporate human resources. Some critics have charged Wells Fargo is not moving fast enough with consolidation, leaving too many people in job limbo. Schulte takes issue, saying she and her compatriots have quickly communicated job reduction initiatives. “There are probably some instances where we are still analyzing and trying to make thoughtful decisions,” she says. “I’m not sure if I were in the position some of these people are in, it would be fast enough for me. But we want to make sure we make decisions that are in the best interests of the company. So it’s going slower than some mergers. It took us three years to get the Wells Fargo-Norwest merger done, and we actually have about that kind of timeframe here.” She advises people to try not to worry. “Work on contributing your best every day,” she says. “Take care of your customers and each other. And be flexible.” Wells Fargo operates a program it calls “Retain and Retrain,” in which team members who lose their jobs can elect to enter an employment pool. The bank looks there first when hiring for other positions. Though Schulte will travel a great deal, and though she has legacy Wachovia executive

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Kendall Alley moving from Atlanta to be the regional face here, she still plans to be involved strongly in Charlotte. She’d never been to the Queen City before the merger, but likes its urban feel with an authentic, friendly atmosphere. Because she was commuting, she missed the Quail Hollow Championship, a popular stop on the PGA tour that bore Wachovia’s name until this year. “It’s a very good event for Charlotte,” she says. “It was a customer event. And a large portion of the money went to charity—Teach for America.” Already, she’s working with leaders of the United Way of Central Carolinas and the Arts & Science Council to address funding that has dropped precipitously. Further, she’s joined the board of Charlotte Center City

Melding Together For much of that commitment, Schulte credits her mentor of almost 20 years, Carrie Tolstedt, who runs the Wells Fargo Community Banking nationwide from her San Francisco base. “She and I were together as colleagues and now she is my boss,” Schulte says of Tolstedt. “She has definitely taught me the link between the engagement of a team member and the health of the company.” At some point, the Wachovia name will fade and the blue and green colors will change to the red and gold of the Wells Fargo stagecoach. But that will be only after Wachovia customers can do business in Wells Fargo stores. It won’t happen this year, but it will by the end of 2010.

Then there’s the other kind of prospective borrower, the bad risk. “We have a responsibility not to lend if it’s not in the best interest of borrowers,” Schulte says. “And that’s part of what got the country in trouble, lending to people who did not have the ability to repay.” Meanwhile, Wells Fargo still has the $25 billion it got in the Troubled Asset Relief Program. “We’re paying healthy dividends to the government,” Schulte says. “It’s a good investment for the taxpayer.” Schulte’s husband Mike is also with Wells Fargo; he’s a 22-year veteran who works in the private bank. Their son Jack, 12, will enter Charlotte Country Day School this fall. They’re living uptown but looking for a house in south Charlotte. Schulte leaves a last message for the Charlotte business community. “It is in our best interest for you to succeed,” she says. “Small-to-medium-sized businesses are the backbone of any community. We understand that and we want to be there for you. We want to help you grow. “That’s really the business we’re in,” she concludes. biz Ellison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

Wells Fargo & Company

Source: SNL Financial Note: Data as of September 18, 2008

Wells Fargo retail banking stores — 3,327 Wachovia retail banking stores — 3,348 Total combined retail banking stores — 6,675

Partners (CCCP) and will serve on its executive committee. “Charlotte is redefining itself on many different levels,” says Michael Smith, CCCP’s president and chief executive. “Laura Schulte will bring unique experiences and perspectives. We look forward to Laura’s contributions as we chart our course for the coming decade.” She’s impressed Jennifer Roberts, chair of the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners. “It’s wonderful to see new leaders like Laura Schulte stepping into a strong community role so quickly,” Roberts says. “It’s clear she understands the connections that companies have with human service needs, and she brings a strong personal commitment to improving her community.”

That might coincide with the end of the recession, by Schulte’s reckoning. While Charlotte has been impacted by the banking industry’s struggles, most areas are suffering from oversupply of residential real estate. That includes Florida and the Atlanta area on the East Coast and California and Arizona in the West. Meanwhile, the bank is “open for business” in Charlotte, Schulte says. “We are absolutely making loans,” she adds. “It’s difficult because a lot of borrowers are not borrowing. They’re using cash reserves; they’re hunkering down.” She sees challenge in changing the mindset. “Our ratio of approved loans to closed loans is much lower than it’s been in the past,” she explains. “It’s not that we’re having as much of a problem approving credit, but customers are having second thoughts.”

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[Eastern Region (Wachovia)] 301 South College Street Charlotte, N.C. 28288-0008 Phone: 704-715-5566 Headquarters: San Francisco, Calif. Principals: Richard M. Kovacevich, Chairman; John G. Stumpf, President and CEO; Laura A. Schulte, President, Eastern Region NYSE: WFC Assets: $1.3 trillion Stores: Over 10,400 ATMs: Over 12,000 Earnings: $3.17 billion (2Q 2009); $1.75 billion(2Q 2008) Credit Ratings: Aaa (Moody’s Investor Service);AA+ (Standard & Poor’s Rating Services) Business: Diversified financial services company providing banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, leasing, credit cards, and consumer finance; operates through physical stores, the Internet and other distribution channels across North America and elsewhere internationally.

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Photo: Michael LoBiondo

Lisa Huntting Founder and President MirrorMate, LLC


isa Huntting was always innovative; but it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t until the summer of 2004 that she actually put together one of her own visions. With a knack for arts and crafts, a few pieces of molding, and inspiration from HGTV, Huntting began creating frames to dress up the large, bare vanity mirrors in her house. She was convinced that if she could find a way to easily and economically frame her own plain mirrors, there would be a huge market for others who shared her desire to improve their mirror dĂŠcor. Five years later, that vision has grown into a $2.3 million business with a product known as the MirrorMate frame. Today, MirrorMate, LLC makes easy-to-install frames that quickly and inexpensively transform plate mirrors into seemingly freehanging works of art, specifically for the do-it-yourselfer. 26

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by christina kapley


Mirror Mirror on the Wall… mirrormate provides a mirror makeover #After


Each frame is custom-cut to customer measurements and shipped ready to assemble on top of any existing mirror. MirrorMate frames provide a finished look to plate mirrors similar to framing by a professional framer. The difference is that MirrorMate frames cost about one third of the price of framing a large mirror and are easy to install in minutes.

Reflecting on a Need The MirrorMate story is not one of overnight success, but rather of hard work and dedication over time. Huntting, founder and president of MirrorMate frames, started out in traditional product marketing for Woolite brand products at American Home Products in New York City. A few years later, she decided she wanted to learn more about the financial side of business and entered Columbia School of Business Administration. After business school, Huntting worked in corporate finance at Bankers Trust (now Deutsche Bank) in New York, and subsequently as vice president of public finance at Norwest Investment

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Services, Inc. (now part of Wells Fargo) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. When Huntting had a son, she decided to leave corporate life and start her own business. For her, it was a natural move; her father was the fourth generation to run Huntting Elevator Company and on her mother’s side was another family-run business. “It’s in my blood. I’ve always wanted to start my own business and after having my son, I didn’t want to work full-time. I actually haven’t really worked full-time ever since,” laughs Huntting. So, still in Minneapolis, Huntting founded Professional Alternatives, Inc., which placed experienced individuals in human resources and marketing in temporary or contract-to-hire %

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positions. Within a few years, Huntting needed a change and sold her business to move to North Carolina to try something new. Huntting had first become interested in the notion of creating mirror frames after seeing a similar project on HGTV. The idea was a good one, but though Huntting was crafty, she knew nothing about creating frames and had experience in service businesses only, not manufacturing. She toyed with a few businesses all while keeping the framing idea in the back of her mind. Finally, with a little nudge from a friend, Huntting dove into MirrorMate as her next big project. “I lived in a house with four huge, naked mirrors, and they really, really bugged me. I thought there should be some way to do something about it that would be easy for the homeowner. But it would also have to be patentable,” says Huntting. Huntting started out by gathering information—she began hanging out at Lowe’s Home Improvement stores around two o’clock in the afternoon, which, according to her, is best for oneon-one time with the associates. Soon Huntting had a miter saw and began going to picture frame trade shows for observation and inspiration. Her diligence paid off and she met executives from Larson Juhl who offered advice and started opening doors for her. Within nine months, MirrorMate was running out of her garage and six months later expanded to a 9,000-square-foot office and manufacturing space in Matthews. With her current location, she expects to be able to produce around $8 million in annual sales before having to expand her facility further. Framing the Market At just over five years old now, MirrorMate is successful and has stood its ground despite the current economic downturn. According to Huntting, MirrorMate began to expand as the do-it-yourself trend was ramping up, a trend that she does not foresee going away any time soon. “Our product is easy to assemble and install;

if my parents can do it, anyone can do it,” smiles Huntting. Each frame is custom-cut to customer measurements and shipped ready to assemble on top of any existing mirror. MirrorMate frames provide a finished look to plate mirrors similar to framing by a professional framer. The difference is that MirrorMate frames cost about one third of the price of framing a large mirror and are easy to install in minutes. MirrorMate’s sales grew 40 percent last year. MirrorMate’s business is split between consumer retail sold online and wholesalers and hotel sales. In the past years, two-thirds of its unit sales were to hotels. Unfortunately, this year hotel sales are down due to a slowdown of hotel renovations. On the retail front, Huntting expects sales to increase by 40 percent, while sales to wholesalers will most likely remain flat. Overall, Huntting still expects to come out at around $2.3 million for the year with an increase again next year. While sales are coming in, the biggest challenge that MirrorMate has, according to Huntting, is simply getting its name out: “MirrorMate products work great. The real challenge that we face is letting people know that we are out there.” Although she has cut back on her marketing budget for this year, Huntting is ramping up a new strategically targeted marketing plan with an acute focus on online media. “We are as much of a marketing company as we are a products company. Even in a recession, you cannot stop marketing,” says Huntting. She describes MirrorMate as mainly an online company, gaining new customers through Google searches and over one thousand wholesalers around the nation. “You have to understand what the wholesalers’ barriers are to selling your products and help them overcome those barriers,” says Huntting. With some help from a marketing specialist, Huntting is creating an #After online community. Through e-newsletters, online meetings and forums, Huntting


“I lived in a house with four huge, naked mirrors, and they really, really bugged me. I thought there should be some way to do something about it that would be easy for the homeowner. But it would also have to be patentable.” Lisa Huntting Founder and President

hopes to reach out to wholesalers to give them an opportunity to learn from each other and become familiar with her products. To reach current and existing customers, Huntting has also launched a national public relations campaign that not only includes traditional media placements but also includes a plan to pursue niche market bloggers and engage customers through social networks such as Twitter and Facebook.

#The Charlotte Frame “We are being much more Web savvy,” says Huntting. “It may not be right for everyone, but for online businesses it is the way to go.” Reflections on Success There are a number of factors Huntting credits as contributing to her success with MirrorMate. In the beginning, she never expected to make a profit or even to be able to pay herself

4) MirrorMate #Easy Installation





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###Pizzazz Mirrors


for the first three years in business. Going into any business with the mindset that it will take time to increase revenue was something that kept Huntting strong as the business developed and ramped up. Then, there was her understanding of general business fortified by her background in marketing and finance. When offered the opportunity to use an accountant, Huntting declined stating that, “No one knows your business better than you.” In addition to “what you do know,” Huntting says, “knowing what you don’t know” was every bit as important in building her success. “I know what I don’t know, so I find people who do,” says Huntting. At MirrorMate, Huntting surrounds herself with people who have the

#Frames knowledge and skills that complement her strengths including individuals who understand processes, work flow, and even social media. If no one is available, Huntting even recommends hiring a consultant to come in and help with business when it makes sense. Also important to Huntting is being surrounded by peers. Currently, Huntting is a member of Vistage of Charlotte, a CEO membership organization that meets monthly to share best practices, ideas, business challenges and questions. For a small business like Huntting’s, she says, this group is crucial when you don’t have a board of directors or group of advisors to turn to monthly.

According to Huntting, “Owning your own business is always more fulfilling than working for someone else, but also the hardest thing I have ever done. Especially with manufacturing—you have to learn so much every day. It is like sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner every day whether you want to or not—you have to keep learning and taking on new things.” Glimmers of the Future Moving towards the future is a journey that has already begun. Just recently, MirrorMate released a new product called Pizzazz MirrorSquares, small, decorative framed mirrors. Even more unique than the product though, is the packaging in which it comes. Customers can order Pizzazz MirrorSquares in medium (12 inch) or large (14 inch) sizes and have them delivered in a pizza box to their front door. Similar projects that create a huge impact for residents or real estate stagers with little skills or effort are coming down the road. Huntting hopes to soon begin to develop a catalogue of products. Another big push for Huntting and the staff at MirrorMate is going “green” and becoming green certified. Huntting, a self-admitting tree hugger who drives a hybrid car, composts and recycles regularly, conducts nothing less than sustainable practices in her own business. To date, MirrorMate goes to great lengths to recycle and reuse as much as possible including using scrap molding for smaller frames and samples, and recycling cardboard and wooden pallets. Nearly 85 percent of the molding used by MirrorMate is made of 100 percent recycled medium density fiberboard manufactured in the United States of America. Their supplier of wood molding is also environmentally conscientious and has planted over 300,000 trees worldwide. MirrorMate is already 100 percent compliant with phase one of the new California formaldehyde regulation for composite wood products. Even though the manufacturing standard will

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not be fully regulated until 2012, MirrorMate is already compliant to the standards that will be imposed by the California Air Resources Board, which will be the toughest production standard in the world for formaldehyde emissions from composite wood panels. On a more personal level, Huntting is striving to give back more in her career and personal life. She hopes to create her own charitable foundation in the future. Lisa Huntting is living her dream of owning her very own business that has a niche in the marketplace and success reflected across the Internet. One thing’s for sure…Huntting will continue to add products to MirrorMate as she conjures them up; who knows what the next makeover might be? As the company continues to grow, Huntting and her staff at MirrorMate are looking up. biz Christina Kapley is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

MirrorMate, LLC 921-D Matthews-Mint Hill Rd. Matthews, N.C. 28105 Phone: 866-304-6283 Principal: Lisa Huntting, Founder and President Employees: 15 Founded: 2004 Awards: Real Estate Staging Association 2009 Product of the Year Business: Provides wholesale and retail customers affordable custom-cut frames that adhere to the surface of existing plate mirrors, easily and inexpensively transforming their appearance into expensive, free-hanging works of art.

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Environmental Design Landscape looks through the lens of the owner and anticipates landscaping requests and needs. It creates solutions that exceed the customerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s expectations.

Mark J. Smith Founder and President Environmental Design Landscape, Inc.


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by ellison clary



Landscaping {


EDL Embraces Environmental Emphasis


ot surprisingly, as owner of a landscape company, Mark Smith emphasizes environmentally friendly practices. His twist is that he hopes to protect the planet through a crusade to eliminate waste. During 12 years in business, his clients have bought into the precept that intelligent husbanding of resources results in an attractive environment that not only promotes conservation but enhances business. “I like to be known, rather than a landscaper, as more of an entrepreneur providing solutions in the marketplace,” says Smith, who founded Environmental Design Landscape, Inc. (EDL) in his home in ten years ago and serves as its president. “Our mentality internally is, if something isn’t working, let’s not do what we’ve always done,” Smith says. “Let’s look at it differently and look for what we can do better.” That approach is effective. Soon after he started the company, Smith moved it to five acres off Newell-Hickory Grove Road near the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He has grown EDL to $5 million annually in revenue, with 60 employees and a second location in Greenville, S.C. Like many companies, EDL has suffered in the current downturn, but Smith’s business plan has annual revenues exceeding $10 million by 2013. Currently, his company serves strictly commercial clients. Smith believes he can detect a readiness to rise above the bad economy. “It’s not really something I can put my finger on,” he says, “and it hasn’t been reflected in our revenue. But I can just feel the timing is right. People are looking for solutions and there is excitement now when you talk about the future. It just feels like the economy is unlocking a little bit. It’s purely instinctual.”

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Right now, Smith can gaze across his equipment, neatly divided between machines devoted to construction and those that perform maintenance, and see that the former batch is relatively quiet. “It’s a sign of the times,” he says, “that most of the construction equipment is idle. Construction is installation, new development. If a developer would build some sort of commercial product, we would grade it, design and landscape it with trees and shrubs, and irrigate it.” EDL maintains its own equipment and in the slow, cooler months, its workers service all the machinery thoroughly. They do everything from detailing and replacing seat material to rebuilding an engine. EDL enjoys serving loyal customers. Many stay long-term, as do most employees. “I like to say we are a low-turnover business in a high-turnover industry,” Smith says. Growing Client Assets “We’ve found that owner-operators and fee management companies are our best clients,” he continues. “They seem to have a better sense of control. Really, what we do is help our %

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clients grow their assets, whether from a management standpoint or by helping them control their expenses.” Crosland, Inc. is a good client and apartments division manager Mindy McCorkle praises EDL for its pride in what it does as well as the knowledge of its people. “Mark understands our side of the business,” McCorkle adds. “He pulls lunches together with different people in the industry to share ideas.” Lisa Taylor, a vice president of client Greystar, appreciates EDL’s fair prices and tight relationship with onsite property managers. “They are super responsive to issues or complaints,” she says. Smith, 47, credits his complement of management and field workers as essential to EDL’s business relationships with companies such as those and others including Duke Energy, Grubb Properties and Charlotte Housing Authority. Smith graduated from South Mecklenburg High and took one semester of Electrical Engineering at Central Piedmont Community College. But he naturally gravitated to the landscape business, and after working 16 years with a landscaper and owning 5 percent of the company, he was ready to strike out on his own. To build his firm he looked carefully for management. At present, he has assembled a cadre with 157 years of combined experience, led by Joanne Rizzo, chief financial officer and vice president, and Jeff Fandel, operations manager. “We are focused on being a systems and processes organization,” Smith says, “with emphasis on communication, accountability and productivity.” For field employees, Smith looks for people who want to grow personally, have a strong work ethic, and are able to embrace change. Smith emphasizes being sensitive to the environment. He points to a truck, one of 50 or 60 vehicles the firm owns. It features a device to help it compact waste material. A load might end up on the EDL grounds. Cutting Waste “We actually recycle,” Smith says, “and it’s not only what’s in the office or the plastic drink bottles we use or the litter we pick up every day. We compost all our leaves and most of our landscape debris.” He points from his mobile office building into a patch of woods. “That’s from years past,” he says of mounds of limbs, leaves and dirt. “We don’t take a lot of debris to the landfill.” That’s part of managing and minimizing waste which, for Smith, is the lynchpin of being an environmental steward. He sees


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“We actually recycle. And it’s not only what’s in the office or the plastic drink bottles we use or the litter we pick up every day. We compost all our leaves and most of our landscape debris.” Mark Smith Founder and President

environmentally sensitive work in three parts: cost saving, efficient use of existing resources, and protecting the planet. All three revolve around identifying and dealing with waste, Smith maintains. And that centers on how to protect a client’s assets. The ability to select successful plants in the landscape is one of EDL’s specialties. “We want to help them identify their liabilities and control their expenses,” Smith says. As EDL assesses a client’s landscape needs, he adds, “We organize

our staff to look at safety, lifecycle, return on investment and curb appeal.” He gives an example: “Say you plant a shrub, not really aware of what its maturity size is, three feet from the foundation of a building. It ends up being a 30-foot shrub that has to be pruned often because of its proximity. If the same plant were put in the middle of an area and it never had to be trimmed, it would be low maintenance. “As it is, that big shrub next to the building is high-maintenance, making it a liability. So why don’t we just design things right in the first place,” he smiles. To help with proper planning, Smith likes

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to look closely at a property to decide where to emphasize a lush lawn and ornamental plants. He also determines where the property needs only periodic mowing and other maintenance. “Certain areas must look nice,” he says, highlighting the property entrance and sections


So you cut your marketing budget when the recession hit. But when the economy turns around – and it will – who will claim the dollars your customers have been saving up? Do you have a plan? Make one now, and let MediaFit help with the strategy and execution that will have you ready to roll when the market is. In landscaping, Smith prefers simple plants such as Dwarf Burford Holly and white oak trees. Both combine a pleasing appearance with low maintenance. He also favors camellias and Japanese maples, the latter because they are long lasting and have an interesting structure.

along major thoroughfares. “Let’s identify those areas and treat them accordingly.” By the same token, he advises clients to think long and hard about what kind of landscaping other areas need. “If there is not a return to maintain a certain area, then doing anything more than what’s necessary is a waste,” he points out. He offers another eye-opening thought: “Everyone says we need to use native plants, but if we take these plants out of their environment and place them in the landscape, then they are no longer native. Even if they grow in the forest, if we take them out and plant them in urban areas, they are not native to that environment.” In landscaping, Smith prefers simple plants such as Dwarf Burford Holly and white oak trees. Both combine a pleasing appearance with low maintenance. He also favors camellias and Japanese maples, the latter because they are long lasting and have an interesting structure.

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Conservation and More Smith remembers the drought of 2007 that taught many property owners in the Charlotte area that they don’t need as much water as they had thought to maintain pleasant looking grounds. That promoted water conservation and other forms of conservation. For example, maintenance machines burn less fossil fuel and their tires use less rubber these days. %

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september 2009


“You’re eliminating waste,” Smith says simply. The Piedmont Carolinas enjoy abundant supplies of water, but water conservation is going to be big, Smith believes. Using plants in locations where they are most sustainable is a major key, he adds, and injects a caveat. “If we run out of water, that’s going to be worse than hot temperatures,” he says. Then he shares what he’s observed about the climate in these parts. The timing of the seasons is changing, he thinks, because Christmas isn’t as cold and Independence Day isn’t as hot. “We’ve had very long springs lately,” he adds. “We never had that before in Charlotte. Things are changing. There is a distinct change.” He quickly adds he’s not a scientist and he doesn’t know if people are influencing the changes he sees. He’d rather concentrate on correcting destructive habits. “Let’s focus on protecting the planet,” he says simply. Smith also is homing in on ways to serve clients better. He and his management team have developed software to help with job tracking and cost estimating as well as with payroll. “When we initiate a contract,” he explains, “we load all the information into the software that identifies the tasks and the schedule necessary for the calendar year. Then it builds a work team, depending on what size the task is and what is necessary in a single day.” Using new technologies such as this play into Smith’s penchant for innovation. He’s quick to pick up on cutting-edge techniques and processes for greater efficiencies. Smith has served on the board of the Charlotte chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization. As mentors he lists Jim Rohn, business philosopher and motivational speaker, and Mark Victor Hansen, an author of “Chicken Soup for

“Our mentality internally is, if something isn’t working, let’s not do what we’ve always done. Let’s look at it differently and look for what we can do better.” Mark Smith Founder and President

the Soul.” He’s recently finished a three-year program with Dan Sullivan of The Strategic Coach, Inc., and Charlotte business guru Rob Slee influences him. “It’s just my nature to meet people and share ideas,” he says. “I like to learn from people, to be a student of life.” Smith also is nearing completion of a book he’s writing called Design With the End in Mind. It details his approach to cutting waste and conserving water as he pursues proper landscape plans for clients. Smith, who lives in the Newell community with wife Anita and a son and daughter, likes to give back to the community through organizational service. In 2000, he was president of Carolina Grounds Management Association.

And he has accepted the nomination as current president to help change the name and embrace the Green Industry (architects, arborists, landscape-related industries). “That’s really what my passion is now,” he says, “trying to help the industry. Sure my business is important. But if I can help the industry to grow, everyone benefits.” Meanwhile, his own reputation continues to build. “Mark is a good businessman and an honest guy,” says Charlie Henley, a relationship property manager at Crosland. “I never hesitate to take his advice.” biz Elison Clary is a Charlotte-based freelance writer.

Environmental Design Landscape, Inc. 7808 District Drive Charlotte, N.C. 28213 Phone: 704-597-2196 Principal: J. Mark Smith, CPL, CPP, Founder and President Locations: Charlotte, N.C.; Greenville, S.C. Established: 1997 Employees: 60 Revenues: Approaching $5 million (annually) Business: Landscape maintenance, landscape construction, landscape design, irrigation, hardscapes construction, consulting, capital improvements; proprietary processes include Curb Appeal Advantage, Liability Analysis, LifeCycle Matrix, Priority Navigator, ROI Analysis, Pivotal Service Solution, Communication Accelerator, Green Design, and No Surprise Advisor.

And They Call These “Common” Areas? At the Design Center, our surroundings are anything but ordinary. That’s why we are known as a home for those who dream big and find inspiration in our unique architectural details and strong vintage vibe. It’s not just the buildings that make our space so special–the Design Center’s ideal location, diverse mix of tenants, and unique focus around events make us Charlotte’s hub for forward thinking businesses. Contact Meredith Dickerson at 704-971-6517 to see for yourself what makes us truly unique.

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It’s Who You Know

Networking is Vital to Your Business’ Success Face-to-face communication is critical for your company’s success in today’s economic environment. In a world where relationships open doors and sustain business operations, networking with your peers can make all the difference. And, no matter what your business is, it is increasingly important to do everything you can to forge new relationships and preserve existing relationships with clients and customers. The rise of social media and online networking sites, such as LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, have provided excellent opportunities for businesses to communicate with their clients and customers. People are connecting in ways not possible before, and they are experiencing growth !"##$%#&'"( in new areas. However, social media is only part of the equation for a successful business. And for most businesses, the main goal of a social media connection should be to establish a face-to-face meeting. For business leaders to set themselves apart from the competition, networking efforts must move beyond their desktops and into the real world. Eye contact, a conversation and an old-fashioned handshake will get you considerably farther than an online connection. It is easier to connect with others and earn new business in person than it is in cyberspace or on the telephone, which is why business networking organizations must be part of any marketing strategy. Put simply: Get out there and meet people. Success in business is all about getting your message in front of the right people. Seek out organizations that provide opportunities to network with Charlotte’s decision makers – the elite businessmen and women of the community. Countless business owners have established long-lasting professional and personal relationships because they were able to talk to other business owners in the appropriate environment.

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The right networking environment goes a long way in helping to create new business contacts, but it is also important to know that successful and prosperous relationships take time to develop. The key is to not be selfish. Start by asking what you can do to help someone else, and take the time to get to know people. People want to do business with people they know. Save the elevator pitch for the appropriate time. Times are tough. When new business is harder and harder to earn, and you find yourself competing more and more for existing clients, your visibility becomes a valuable asset. Enhance your reputation among the local business community by frequenting events attended by business leaders. Get out there and talk to people face to face. You will be amazed at how far eye contact, a good conversation and a handshake will take you.

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Jenn Snyder is executive director of Hood Hargett Breakfast Club, a “category exclusive” organization that develops and hosts some 36 events throughout the year for its members and guests. Members include men and women from more than 40 local and regional businesses who have built their own companies to become leaders within their respective industries. Contact Jenn at 704-602-9529 or visit





Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers


Trusted HR Advice, Tools & Training

• •• •••

Immigration officers are investigating workplaces to find employers hiring illegal workers






Immigration Services (USCIS) site visit to an employer petitioner, there is an increased chance that the government will come knocking on your door this year. How is ICE selecting the companies to investigate? Companies are targeted as the result of lead-driven investigations and as part of the agency’s initiative to focus its resources on “the auditing and investigation of employers suspected of cultivating illegal workplaces by knowingly employing illegal workers.” Investigative leads come from a variety of sources including: disgruntled employees who complain about the company’s perceived disregard for immigration laws; employer filings of government labor certification applications to legalize the status of undocumented workers while continuing to employ them illegally; and consumer complaints that one’s identity is being used by an employee.) Generally, an employer is required to complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual hired for employment in the United States. During an I-9 audit, ICE can demand the presentation of I-9s within three days. Employers facing surprise audits should make every effort to ensure their I-9s are in compliance and that there is an I-9 for each employee hired after November 6, 1986. The I-9 must be fully completed and signed by both the employee and the employer, and expired documents must be updated. Cont. on page 44





The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has significantly stepped up its investigative efforts this year. The Obama Administration’s strategy for stemming illegal immigration is focused on employers who hire illegal workers, signaling a shift from raiding businesses and arresting workers to taking action against the employers who hire them. The newly announced DHS guidelines focus on investigations and criminal prosecutions of employers who knowingly hire unauthorized workers. Abusive employers are though to be one of the root causes of undocumented immigration. U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched its bold new audit initiative by issuing more than 600 Notices of Inspection (NOIs) of I-9 records to businesses across the country on July 1, 2009. The Notices alert companies that ICE will be inspecting hiring records to determine whether or not employers are complying with employment eligibility verification laws and regulations. Whether it’s an ICE I-9 audit or a U.S. Citizenship and


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Smith Moore Leatherwood LLP has been named one of the 50 Best Law Firms for Women by Working Mother magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers based on its continued attention to incorporating family friendly policies, focusing on work-life balance and demonstrating concern


for issues impacting women professionals. A total of 58 of its attorneys have been named to The Best Lawyers in America 2010. A total of 32 attorneys in Parker Poe’s Charlotte office have been selected for inclusion in the 2010 edition of Best Lawyers. Seven lawyers from Poyner Spruill’s Charlotte office have been selected for inclusion in the 2010 edition of Best Lawyers. Several attorneys at James, McElroy & Diehl, P.A., have been named to the 2010 edition of Best Lawyers. Dixon Hughes PLLC has been awarded the 2009 Industry Professional Member of the Year Award by the Associated Builders and Contractors of the Carolinas. Morrison Smith Jewelers has designated The Jeff Gordon Foundation as the recipient of the $44,000 fundraising proceeds raised in scrap gold at the semiannual conference

Morrison Smith

of the Independent Jewelers Organization held in Charlotte. Mimi Zelman, president/publisher of Women With Know How, has been named the


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[ontop] 2009-2010 president of Metropolitan Business and Professional Women. ACTS Retirement-Life Communities, parent company of Plantation Estates and Park Pointe Village, has received the 2009 Excellence in the Workplace Award from the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. WFAE received first place

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Construction. Education & Staffing Several schools in the Charlotte region have been included in the 2010 U.S. News & World Report list of the country’s best colleges: Davidson College tied for eighth among liberal arts colleges nationally; Queens University of Charlotte ranked No. 23 among universities in the South that grant master’s degrees, Winthrop University ranked 26th; Lenoir-Rhyne College ranked No. 10 in the category of baccalaureate colleges in the South, Catawba College was No.

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14, Belmont Abbey College was No. 26. Duke University was the only N.C. school to crack the top 10 national university list this year at No. 10. UNC Chapel Hill is ranked 28th. UNC Charlotte’s College of Computing and Informatics’ Jun-tao Guo, assistant professor with the Department of Bioinformatics and Genomics, has received a National Science Foundation

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Stanley Wilder has been named UNC Charlotte’s university librarian.

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[ontop] CPCC has named Paul Koehnke dean of its Central Campus, and Edith McElroy dean of its Levine Campus. CPCC has received a $2 mil-

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lion grant from The Leon Levine Foundation of Charlotte to endow scholarship support for students pursuing careers in the information technology field; CPCC

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will name its Information Technology Building the Leon and Sandra Levine Information Technology Building. Suzannah L. Hicks, Jason

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Huber, Thomas Patrick, Carlos L. Pauling, Kama Pierce, Victoria Taylor, and J. Melissa Woods will be joining Charlotte School of Law as new faculty members for the fall 2009 semester. Project Managers, Inc. has recently named Lauren Hightower as chief operating officer. SkillStorm has hired Cliff Vaughn as senior account manager for the Charlotte area. Integra Staffing has ranked on Inc. Magazineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 5000 fastest-growing private companies in the country for the 2nd year in a row. Finance & Insurance Brian Huber, a shareholder with


Daniel, Ratliff & Company, a full service CPA firm, has recently been appointed treasurer of the Lake Norman Jewish Congregation.

Brian Huber

Michael Thompson, CLU, financial planner with Hinrichs Flanagan Financial, has been named Advisor of the Year by the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors of Charlotte. Mountain Funding LLC has absorbed the 14 senior management and real estate professionals from the REO asset management group of GMAC-ResCapâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Business Capital Group. Government & Nonprofit United Way Central Carolinas has appointed Jane McIntyre as its new executive; McIntyre will assume her new position immediately while also transitioning from her current job as chief executive officer of the


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[ontop] partner agency. Elaine Lyerly has been named national co-chair of Red Cross Tiffany Circle Society of Women Elaine Lyerly


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Health Care Valinda Rutledge has

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accepted the position of president and chief executive officer of CaroMont Health. Valinda Rutledge

W. Hodges Davis, M.D., of

the OrthoCarolina Foot & Ankle Institute has been elected to the board of directors of the Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Outreach & Education Fund. Retail & Sports & Entertainment Maddi’s Gallery of Charlotte, owned by Diane and Madis Sulg, has been named NICHE Maddis Gallery

magazine’s 2009 Retailer

of the Year recognizing galleries and retailers for their commitment to supporting the artists. Bojangles’ Restaurants Inc. has named Tony Hopson as vice president of franchise operations. Alastair Jones has been appointed general manager of aloft charlotte Ballantyne. Technology/Telecommunications Technology Partners, Inc. (dba IMAGINE Software), a provider of medical billing technology, has added Tom Kushman as a vice president. Allison Toure has joined NouvEON, a business and technology consulting firm, as managing consultant; Steve Shaffer has joined as director of sales, and Dawn Reitz has been appointed Wells Fargo practice leader. CNP Technologies, a reseller and integrator of IP telephony, network and video conferencing solutions, has received ShoreTel’s Circle of Excellence Award for the seventh consecutive year. biz To be considered for inclusion, please send your news releases and announcements in the body of an e-mail (only photos attached) to editor@, or fax them to 704-6765853, or post them to our business address—at least 30 days prior to our publication date.

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[bizbits] Health Care Premiums Rose 5.3 Times Faster than Earnings in North Carolina from 2000 through 2009


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Family health care premiums rose an estimated 5.3 times faster than earnings for North Carolina’s workers from 2000 through 2009, according to a recent state-specific report issued by the consumer health organization Families USA. In that 10-year period, family health insurance premiums rose by 97 percent, while median earnings rose by only 18 percent. Among the Families USA report’s key findings are: ! For family health coverage provided through the workplace in North Carolina, the average annual health insurance premium (employer and worker share of premiums combined) in the 2000-2009 period rose from $6,649 to $13,083—an increase of $6,434, or 97 percent. !" Between 2000 and 2009, the median earnings of North Carolina’s workers rose from $23,080 to $27,330—an increase of only $4,250, or 18 percent. The disproportionately high increases in insurance premiums have continued despite employees receiving “thinner coverage”— coverage that offers fewer benefits and/or that comes with higher deductibles, copayments, and co-insurance. Other employers have cut costs by placing limits on which employees are eligible for coverage or by eliminating coverage for spouses and children of employees. As a result, North Carolina families are paying more but receiving less in health coverage. An even worse downside of rising costs is the loss of health coverage altogether. Between 2000 and 2008, the total percentage of U.S. firms offering health coverage declined by 6 percentage points—from 69 percent of firms to 63 percent—with small businesses being the most likely to drop coverage. Another potential catastrophe for families is

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North Carolina-Specific Report Finds That Premiums Rose by 97 Percent, While Earnings Rose by Only 18 Percent







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[bizbits] the possibility that they will join the growing ranks of families filing for bankruptcy because of their medical debts. Prior to filing for bankruptcy, families attempt to balance budgets by dropping phone service, trimming food costs, and going without needed medical or dental care. Despite these desperate measures, however, more than half of all bankruptcies are related to medical costs. Key findings in the report make clear how the burden of rising health care costs is being shared by employers and employees for both family health coverage and individual coverage. Among those findings: For family health coverage in North Carolina: !" The employerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portion of annual premiums in the 2000-2009 period rose from $4,867 to $8,714â&#x20AC;&#x201D;an increase of $3,846, or 79 percent. !"The workerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portion of annual premiums rose from $1,782 to $4,370â&#x20AC;&#x201D;an increase of $2,588, or 145 percent. For individual health coverage: !"The employerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portion of annual premiums rose from $2,195 to $3,864â&#x20AC;&#x201D;an increase of $1,669, or 76 percent. !" The workerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s portion of annual premiums rose from $475 to $877â&#x20AC;&#x201D;an increase of $402, or 84.5 percent. Over the past 10 years, per-capita national spending on health care has increased more than 70 percent, to $8,160 from $4,789, according to the study. Families USA, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for affordable health care, attributes the skyrocketing health care premiums to wasteful health care spending; an almost unregulated insurance market; a dramatic drop in competition in the insurance market; and costs shifted from the uninsured to insured, termed a â&#x20AC;&#x153;hidden health tax.â&#x20AC;? The Families USA report is based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Source: newsroom/press-releases/2009-press-releases/ nc-costly-coverage.html




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Legislative and Regulatory Highlights for Area Employers

THE EMPLOYERS ASSOCIATION Trusted HR Advice, Tools & Training

Cont. from page 36 What should you do if ICE makes a site visit to your company? ! Examine the search warrant to ensure that it is signed by the court, that it is being served within the permitted time frame, and note the scope of the warrant—the area to be searched and the items to be seized. Normally the scope is quite expansive. Immediately fax or email a copy of the warrant to your immigration attorney. !"If the agent has no search warrant or subpoena, you should contact your attorney about the advisability of giving consent to the agent to inspect the premises. Immigration agents may make unannounced visits and attempt to obtain such consent. ! Contact your immigration attorney and see if he or she can go to the worksite while the raid or ICE visit is occurring as the raid usually takes several hours or more to complete. ! Obtain the name of the supervising agent and the name of the U.S. attorney assigned to the case. In larger operations, the U.S. attorney may be present on site. ! Sometimes ICE is accompanied by members of the press. There is no obligation to admit press representatives on the premises. Statements to the press should only be made by your attorney. ! Assign one or two company representatives to each agent to follow the agent around the facility. You may record on a note pad all actions and/or

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videotape the officer. Note any items seized and ask if copies can be made before they are taken. ICE doesn’t have to agree, and if they don’t, you will be entitled to secure a copy from the government property lockers. Do not block or interfere ICE activities. Remain calm and composed and do not engage in any hostilities toward the agents. ! Company representatives should not give any statements to ICE agents or allow themselves to be interrogated. ! The company may inform employees that they have a right to talk with agents if they like, or not talk to them, but don’t direct them not to speak to agents when questioned. ! Do not engage in any activities that could support a harboring charge such as hiding employees, aiding in their escape from the premises, providing false or misleading information, denying the presences of specific named employees, or shredding documents. ! If agents want access to locked facilities, unlock them—otherwise, agents will forcibly gain entry into locked closets or cabinets. Steve Garfinkel, Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm, The Employers Association provides comprehensive human resources and training ser vices to a membership of over 865 companies in the greater Charlotte region. For more information, please call Laura Hampton at 704-522-8011 or visit

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Perfect Twogether Two lives, Two hearts joined Twogether in love. TM


Greater Charlotte Biz 2009.09  
Greater Charlotte Biz 2009.09  

Greater Charlotte Biz