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Litigation Success Meet Family Man and Litigator Ian Corzine

Brave New World in

OFFICE SPACE Protect Against




Not Happy

10 Ensuring Litigation Success LAW

Raised in Northern California, Ian Corzine has helped create a fast-growing insurance and business law practice in Southern California with clients nationwide.



Not Your Father’s Office Space Welcome to the brave, new world of office space in the Los Angeles market. BY SHERYL MAZIROW



The Alpha Brand Why some businesses are destined to be market leaders  BY BRIAN HEMSWORTH



Warning! Your Trademark is Expiring. Or Is It? A lot of time and expense are put into registering trademarks. Here are some best practices for registering and protecting your business from scammers. BY DANA DELMAN, ESQ.



Why Successful People Are Not Happy The ladder of success leads rung by rung to merely more success, not happiness. BY MARK JAFFE

ON THE COVER: Ian Corzine of West Corzine in Westlake Village, California, sits down with SoCalPro for an indepth interview.








BRANDING work space


























33 3


A Busy Year For Professionals


Publisher Brian Hemsworth Editorial Director Jerri Hemsworth

nyone too busy to say thank you will get fewer and fewer chances to say it.”—Harvey Mackay

At a recent gathering of profes­ sionals, we all shared industry pre­ dictions for the coming year. There was not a single professional who did not foresee an extremely busy year ahead. From the professional’s perspec­ tive, that means that business will be good. There are a lot of moving pieces out there, and clients will

“Southern California professionals can expect to be busy working and billing this year.” be needing guidance, counsel, and trusted advice. Tax reform was a hot button for many sectors. CPAs openly admit­ ted they really don’t know what to expect until they get into things. When the CPAs were who the tax reform will be good for, they simply said, “It’s case by case. There is no clear cut answer.” Weed is now legal, and we’re see­ ing a new gold rush in California. Since the state and cities are now passing laws and ordinances, and sales of recreational pot have started, we’re seeing a landslide of activity. But it’s not just sales. It’s real estate,


California’s first online Dual Internet Platform™ publication written exclusively by leading business professionals that focuses on business, financial and legal matters affecting businesses, business owners, and their clientele.

Editor William Colinas Assistant Editor Taryn Gray

partnerships forming, peripheral business startups, and more. A personal injury attorney said they are expecting an increase in accidents due to pot, and a defense attorney predicted a whirlwind of activity in the prosecution and defense of those caught on the wrong side of the new laws, with DUI likely the biggest area. Insurance will be affected, after one of the most devastating fire sea­ sons on record, followed by a deadly rainy season. Rates will go up, which means people will be shopping agents, brokers, and policies. And on top of it all—despite dra­ matic uncertainty of anything going on in Washington—our economy is booming. The stock market has continued its climb to the sky, and many international analysts predict an influx of foreign dollars coming to the U.S. Southern California professionals can expect to be busy working and billing this year, and we plan to bring it to you here, in the pages of Southern California Professional Magazine. And though you will be busy this year, remember to say thank you! Brian Hemsworth Publisher

Art Direction/Production Jerri Hemsworth, Newman Grace Contributors Dana Delman, Esq., Delman Vukmanovic LLP Brian Hemsworth, Newman Grace Jerri Hemsworth, Newman Grace Sheryl Mazirow, Mazirow Commercial Editorial/Advertising Offices NGI Publishing Services 6133 Fallbrook Avenue Woodland Hills, CA 91367 P: 818.713.1678 Southern California Professional Magazine is published quarterly by NGI Publishing Services, a division of Newman Grace Inc., 6133 Fallbrook Avenue, Woodland Hills, CA 91367 Volume 3.01. WINTER 2018. Copyright ©2018 by NGI Publishing Services, A Division of Newman Grace Inc. (NGI). All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and information sent upon request. Acceptance of advertising in Southern California Professional in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by NGI Publishing Services or NGI of products or services advertised. Southern California Professional Magazine, NGI Publishing Services or NGI reserve the right to reject any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors are their own and not necessarily those of Southern California Professional, NGI Publishing Services or NGI. Southern California Professional Magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity and length, as well as to reject any material submitted. Not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts. This periodical’s name and logo along with the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of NGI Publishing Services, A Division of NGI. PRODUCED IN U.S.A.

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Weed Workers Burning Out


ith pot hitting the shelves this past January 1 in California, pot shops are not the laid back shops one might have expected. In fact, they’re crazy busy. January saw long lines outside new dispensaries, extended hours, and shortages. Weed business is definitely booming in the golden state.


e’re probably around the peak, so say many in real estate. Low rates and low inventory have made for high prices, but with rates increasing, changes in tax laws, and questionable future scenarios, experts think we’re likely to see a pull back. “Home sales will likely continue to struggle as we enter 2018, slowing the flow of agent fees,” told


First Tuesday Journal, a top California real estate publication. “Historically low inventory for sale coupled with rapidly rising prices have discouraged potential homebuyers.” The publication also predicts the next rise in sales won’t likely be until 2019. That is, assuming residential construction can increase enough to boost turnover and inventory.

Meanwhile, the California Association of Realtors reports that median prices in the state remain high. Median prices across the state averaged more than $540,000 (as of November 2017). Sales to list ratios, a measure of negotiation potential has been around 98.9%, meaning homes have been selling for just about listing price during the recent past.•

The Marijuana Business Daily recently reported on some examples of retailers not just cruising. One retailer had been seeing about 150 customers a day (medicinal), only to see that jump to more than 300 a day in the new year. Workers in the shops are working long hours trying to keep up with the demand. One retailer was quoted as saying they are hiring as fast as they can to help out. They are hiring for “every single position” in their business!•

ROI gets the Right People in the Right Seats. Retained Executive Search, Coaching and Organizational Development for the Middle Market. Resource Options International, Inc. or ROI is a boutique, retained executive search, coaching and organizational development firm. Headquartered in Santa Barbara with an office in New York City, we assist middle market companies or those with annual sales between $10 million and $1 billion to recognize, recruit and retain top talent at the CXO, VP and Director levels. We are industry and discipline agnostic as we believe that the talent management needs and requirements of our Middle Market clients have much more in common than their industry sector or functional differences. We deliver superior integrity and competency in our unique client services approach to executive search.

THE PROBLEM Middle Market boards, CEOs and business owners face many problems when finding and retaining “A” players for their executive management team. Perhaps they don’t know where to look for candidates, they may not be sure how to communicate with them or they’ve been disappointed with high fees and mediocre results from recruiters in the past.

OUR SOLUTION ROI creates and then differentiates our client’s “Employer Brand” to prospective employees. We then develop a meaningful “Employee Value Proposition” to attract only “Top Athletes.” Next, we not only identify and recruit high performing executives but we also help our clients retain them through ROI’s “Retention Regimen” process for the first year of service and beyond.

“Resource Options International is a conscientious provider of recruiting consulting services that are well thought out and executed. They emphasize an understanding of a client’s culture and adapt their search process to work with and meet

OUR SERVICES 60- to 90-day Retained Executive Search process including final candidate psychographic assessments. Our Deep Dive™ process develops an understanding of our client’s job needs, company culture and competition. Access to a best-in-class talent pool from a Fortune 500 network of industry leaders. We help retain client placements through ROI’s Retention Regimen™ process after hiring. We guarantee candidate placements for up to 12 months after hiring for cause; six months for any reason.

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What’s An NFL Move To Los Angeles Worth? Billions!




he Rams had a big turnaround year in the 2017–18 season. Standout performances by Jared Goff and Todd Gurley led the team to an amazing reversal of fortune, with a 4–12 sea­ son a year back to 11–5 this just finished season. Financially, what does this mean? We that remains to be tallied, but ESPN has already said the Rams value has gone from $1.45 billion to about $2.9 billion since the move. Yup, doubled. The Los Angeles

Times has published estimates that with the completion of the $2.6 billion stadium to be shared between the Rams and Chargers, a team like the Rams could bring in $330 million a year. Of course that could go up or down, depending on lots of other factors, but if this past season is any indication, Los Angeles just might choose to rally round their long lost Ram team with a lot of dollars going into the team coffers! •

he New York Times recently reported interesting data. In a nutshell, Calfiornia’s recent years of prospering has led the country in many economic ways. The state accounts for 12% of the population, but has outperformed that (percentagewise) in almost ever economic metric. Coming out of the great recession, in the years 2012 to 2016, California accounted for 17% of the growth in the U.S. Industries in California have also flexed their muscles. Tech, shipping, and entertainment have also turn the tables to recovery faster in California that elsewhere. We find numerous California companies living on the Fortune 500 list. Most would know Apple, Wells Fargo, and Hewlett-Packard. But cities like Los Angeles are quietly the home of engineering and constructions behemoths such as CBRE Group, Aecom, and Reliance Steel & Aluminum. Among other Fortune 500 companies in the state are companies like McKesson, Oracle, Disney, Facebook, Qualcomm, Gap, Western Digital, Mattel, Schwab, and, well, a few dozen more. On downside noted is that with more success, California has a greater downside if the economy reverses, but let’s be happy we’re on the right side of this economy for now! •

“I don’t think anybody ever started a great business because they wanted to make a little more cash. They had a dream. They wanted to better their life.” —ROBERT HERJAVEC 8

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AN CORZINE, OF WEST CORZINE, LLP is not your stereotypical insurance litigator, nor is he your stereotypical attorney. For those following him on social media, you’d think he’s a friend of an adventurer like Richard Branson. He’s often found skiing or hiking or traveling or spending time with his kids. But don’t let that fool you. Ian Corzine is a partner at a firm that is fast becoming a powerhouse in the insurance and business litigation world. He’s an active networker and leads a Pro­ Visors group in Calabasas. When he’s not doing that, he finds time to be an author on legal issues. Despite his busy schedule, we recently caught up with Ian long enough to find out what makes him tick, and what has made their firm successful with its growing list of clients. SCP: Tell us a little about your background, your upbringing, and how you became a lawyer. Corzine: I grew up in a small town—now a bigger one—called Pleasanton, Calif. It was kind a like a “Stand by Me” type childhood. Mostly outdoors, playing basketball until sunset, building forts and having dirt clod wars, having mini-Olympics for local kids in our neighbor­ hoods. We never found a dead body, though. I always say I have “dual citizenship” for Northern and Southern California. My parents moved in my junior year of high school to Thousand Oaks to start their dream: a retail furniture store called Thomasville Home Furnishings. It was tough making the trans­ ition, but the adversity gave me my love of performance—which I have translated to the ­courtroom (and sometimes, ProVisors meetings). My parents’ business grew and grew. Eventually, they had stores in Encino, Northridge, Agoura and Santa Barbara. I earned my living during high school and college summers working as a maintenance man—fixing stuff that broke, doing construc­ tion work, and even vacuuming in the early morning, for hours on end, in dark commer­ cial spaces. I would listen endlessly to Zeppe­ lin CD’s. That’s when I learned that manual labor was not for me. I did well in high school and attended U.C. Davis undergrad with my NorCal


Ensuring Litigation Success Raised in Northern California, Ian Corzine has helped create a fast-growing insurance and business law practice in Southern California with clients nationwide.




“I also liked politics. My sister jokes

that I was the only big brother in the world with photos of Ronald Reagan and LL Cool J on my wall.”

friends. I majored in Rhetoric & Communications, which I loved. Public speaking was what I really came to enjoy. I also liked politics. My sister jokes that I was the only big brother in the world with photos of Ronald Reagan and LL Cool J on my wall. So, during under­ grad, I started interning at Governor Pete Wilson’s Office. I eventually made my way up the ranks, and the Governor created a special job classification for me. I got paid about $40,000 a year to be Executive Assistant to the Chief of Staff Bob White. I thought I was rich! After a year or two toiling as staff, I mentioned to the Governor that I wanted to be where he was. He said, “You need to go to law school.” He recommended McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, which is where I ended up going. During law school, I really loved courtroom instruction. Eventually, I worked my way into a program of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California (Sacramento) in which non-attorneys were hired from law school to act as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys. They prosecuted lowgrade federal crimes, like DUIs on military bases, theft of government property worth less than $1,000, and various Vehicle Code violations. During my time doing criminal trials, I met federal judge U.S. Magistrate Peter A. Nowinski. Over time, he agreed to hire me as a Federal Judicial Law Clerk, which was quite an honor. I was the only one in the


Eastern District. Then I made $46,000 a year! After my year term as a Judicial Law Clerk, I went back to the U.S. Attorneys Office. I wanted to be a fullfledged Assistant U.S. Attorney—or maybe someday, The U.S. Attorney. The office said I needed civil expe­ rience. So I looked into moving to the best place for that—Los Angeles! SCP: How did you get into the insurance area of practice as an attorney? Corzine: In L.A., I went to work for a mid-sized law firm called, Monteleone & McCrory. M&M practiced pri­ marily construction civil law. However, often there was an interplay with insurance law, because Commercial General Liability (“CGL”) policies of contractors often covered various construction defects, which were at the heart of various disputes. Nobody at the firm liked insurance law work, except one partner. I wanted to make my way up the ladder. By this time, I had a family and was losing interest in having a U.S. Attorney badge. So, I worked my butt off to learn that area of the law, and soon became the “go to” associate for insurance law. I enjoyed it because I found I was always represent­ ing a client (i.e., the contractor or business) that had a good case. The insurance company was always trying to get out of paying a claim.

Well, after a few years passed, it was getting to the point where I was being considered for partnership. I did not want to spend my life working in downtown L.A. The commute was killing me. I met my current partner, Gene West, at a mediation. We were representing oppos­ ing sides. He liked what he saw and offered me a posi­ tion. I started in 2002 and became his partner in 2007. The rest is history. SCP: What are some of the trends you are seeing this

area of law? Corzine: There’s a lot going on. Here’s some of what we are currently seeing: •  We are starting to see cyber liability claims—new law is being created in this area. •  Steady rise in sale and claims regarding Representa­ tions & Warranties Insurance (i.e., M&A Insurance). •  Crime/theft claims are being litigated because of broad insurance policy language, focusing on “Computer Fraud” coverage. •  Heightened disputes among carriers about how to allo­ cate paid losses. •  Claims by owners of large custom homes increasing. •  Softer market: broadening of policy terms. •  More insurance cases going to trial/arbitration. •  Unpredictable court/jury decisions—decrease in public resources means that neither gets sufficient time to make very consequential decisions.



•  Mediations more focused on coverage versus liability and damage issues. SCP: West Corzine is growing and the firm just moved into new offices. Is this a result of the market growing, or that you’re getting known as one of the leading law firms practicing in insurance litigation? Corzine: Our firm is growing for two reasons. First, it’s because of the market for our services (i.e., large loss claims handling and “bad faith” litigation for insurance companies who fail to pay claims when they should). Second, our notoriety in the industry is getting us the big cases with multi-millions of dollars in the balance. SCP: Tell us a little about your client base. Are they

local, distant, large businesses, small, or individuals? Corzine: The majority of our client base is small to medium-sized businesses, across the country (we even have a case now venued in Toronto) with cases valued at between $300,000 and $20 million. SCP: What did the great recession of 2008/2009 do to your practice areas? Is litigation up since then? What are some of the hottest or most active areas right now? Corzine: It increased business. The insurance industry is one of the true recession-resistant businesses. When people have no money, they look to other sources. Often times those sources are large insurance funds. They need West Corzine to represent them and access those funds.


About Hope’s Haven


ope’s Haven Children’s Charity is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in Ven­ tura County that is dedicated to enriching the quality of lives of children facing life threatening ill­ nesses and serious injuries. They work directly with County hospi­ tals, clinics and social workers to provide financial and emotional support for families during treat­ ment. One of their long-term pro­ grams is to deliver iPads to all of the pediatric hospital beds within Ventura County. This allows chil­ dren to communicate, interact, be encouraged and entertained while undergoing medical care. Hope’s Haven is able to lighten the load during the most chal­ lenging times when children and their families need it most.

I think the hottest area for me is D&O (Directors and Officers). These insurance policies are omnipresent with most businesses. They have fairly broad coverage. Negli­ gent misrepresentation—in my experience, most business deal includes at least one “negligent misrepresentation.” SCP: You’re an active guy, an adventure guy, and fam­ ily man. How do you balance work and life? Corzine: I guess I strive for context. I do a meditative practice as well as frequent exercise. This helps remind me that no matter what the clients’ trauma—it is not mine—I am just an adviser. They need to see that I am calm, results driven, but have boundaries. I find that if you take control in the situation, you can manage expectations so that the client does not manage you! SCP: What are some of your non-work activities. What are your favorites? Corzine: Maybe you should ask, “What are the things you don’t like to do?” I hate to rake leaves! My primary passion is spending time with my daughters, Maddy (14) and Charley (4). We love the outdoors—snow­ boarding, skiing, mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing, scuba diving, paddle boarding, and kayaking. We have a bunch of outdoor toys.


SCP: You and your firm have received a lot of atten­ tion, awards, and accolades. What do those mean to the firm, and what words of advice would you give to new attorneys just coming out of law school? Corzine: We are certainly proud of the awards, but they do not drive us. Our goal is do right by our families, our faith, our community, and our business, and let the chips fall where they may. For new attorneys—being a lawyer is awesome! In what other profession do you bill by the 1/10 of an hour for thinking? You will do well financially as an attorney, but the flip side is that you have to really work hard. If you want to get to a place where others work for you, then major in business and get an MBA. Find a business niche no one is in, make a killing, and sell it. I was taught by other stellar business professionals that you need to work into your business charitable time and contributions. It takes your passion to the next level, seeing how you can help people. Tom Means, one of those who taught me that, and I were some of the founders of Hope’s Haven. One of the best experiences of my life was taking an idea for a charity, discussing it in our living rooms, and turning it into multi-hundred thousand dollar donations for families with life-threat­ ening diseases and ailments. •


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Welcome to the brave, new world of office space in the Los Angeles market. It is comprised of neighborhoods, communities, huddle spaces, hoteling, benching, pathways, and—above all— collaborative space. Oh, and let’s not forget the ability to bring man’s best friend, our beloved dog, to work. BY SHERYL MAZIROW, CCIM



oday’s office space landscape is far different than it was a few years ago, and the driver in the Los Angeles area is the desire of tenants to secure what is known as creative office space. Although traditionally sought by technology firms, this trend has gone mainstream with law firms, real estate companies, accounting organizations and insurance companies now demanding corporate office space that is 180-degrees opposite of “our father’s office space.” SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL


New Must-Haves Come At A Price Today’s creative office environment often includes an “open ceiling” exposed plenum, which is the area between the structural floor and the dropped ceiling that houses air conditioning, heating ducts, and insulation. Some may consider this “unfinished” look to be cost effective to accomplish. But in actuality, it can be rather expensive to change traditional space into an exposed environment to create the desired look.



Clusters of open spaces are the hallmark of creative office space versus a row of offices along the window line with secretarial or staff bays on the interior in traditional corporate office space. This open landscape is designed to promote interaction and collaboration among employees or departments, known as “neighborhoods,” within an organization. There often is no specific office assigned to

which can be decorative to enhance the atmosphere, may or may not be movable and used within the prem­ ises to define a specific area. Generally, creative office space in Los Angeles trans­ lates into to a boatload of employees. Therefore, density has become a major topic of discussion during the lease negotiations, and the load usage of electricity is a hot but­ ton issue due to the number and variety of gadgets that employees use daily in this type of office environment.

Parking, Kitchens, Dogs And Bikes Parking also is another important issue that must be addressed in lease negotiations. Often, the standard of three parking spaces for each one thousand square feet leased, known as the 3/1,000 Rule, is not adequate

Creative office space includes “neighborhoods” where offsite or remote employees and visitors to the office can plugin and log-on in order to perform their tasks on an as-needed basis. Permanent office space is no longer necessary for these types of employees.

a particular individual. Employees “plugin” and “log on” and perform their work task at different areas within the premises. Private conversations take place in a “huddle” area, which is often simply an alcove. Offsite employees who drop into the office and all visitors in the office are said to be “hoteling.” Creative office space has a lack of walls to create enclosed spaces. This all seems like an easy, efficient way to provide workspace. Unfortunately, it isn’t. Tenant improvement costs are incurred due to opening up the ceiling to expose the plenum areas and as well as for demolition of the previously designed traditional offices. Core drilling into concrete floors for electrical and data drops can get expensive but is critical in these open landscape plans. Often “soft walls” made of fabric,


and was undoubtedly established when the building was constructed. Landlords can later go back to the city and request a modification, but this often is difficult to achieve. There are other options such as re-striping the parking lot to include more spaces, providing a valet ser­ vice to jockey cars into other space around the building, or converting reserved parking spaces—especially those that are vacant the majority of time—into unreserved ones to accommodate daily employee and visitor demand. Kitchens no longer satisfy the strict need for food in creative office space, and they have replaced conference rooms as significant topics of negotiation. The “look” and “brand” that the organization wishes to display to the world is now imprinted in the kitchen area. Often the kitchen will be the central point within the premises, no

longer regulated to an interior windowless space, but the premier lounge location. Kitchens have become gathering areas to work, create, and collaborate. Under the Rules and Regulations section of a lease, a tenant will normally see the prohibition of dogs, but the creative office user is big on dogs. This can be a difficult but humorous negotiation. We just completed a lease that hinged on how many dogs are allowed into the building, how many times a week one dog can enter the office, and how much it can weigh. Additionally, there is usually a prohibition on bicycles in the workplace or worksite. However, this is a common mode of the transportation for the creative office user. Institutional ownership of buildings is being challenged to achieve a comfort level of permitting dogs versus bicy­

office space. Additional parking and exterior green areas for gathering are being incorporated into these projects, but they come at significantly higher rental rates.

Evolution The world of office space continues to evolve. It would have been hard to imagine a few years ago that a trans­ action would come down to how many dogs may visit your office per week and how much they are permitted to weigh. Even negotiating where bicycles can be safely stored would have drawn strange looks. While it sounds like this “could only happen in Los Angeles,” the trend of creative office space has spread to San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Chicago, New York City, and Miami. Get ready for a new and fascinating era of working in an office. •

The allowance for dogs and bicycles in the workplace are a new norm for creative space leasees. A nontraditional open landscape promotes interaction and collaboration among employees. And natural light is being demanded more and more.

cles, where the landlord provides racks and bikers the locks. But we’re seeing new buildings stepping up to the challenge by providing restrooms with lockers and show­ ers in addition to bike storage options.

Natural Light The window line also is critical issue because users want to be as close as possible to the outside environment and natural light. Users also want easy access to parking and amenities; restaurants within walking distance are a must. Multi-story buildings from in the 1970s are very challenged to accommodate creative office space given the architectural design that was popular then and their location in “concrete jungles,” but we are seeing large, ­single-story industrial buildings redesigned for creative SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL


Sheryl Mazirow, CCIM, is President and founder of Mazirow Commercial, Inc and brings more than 30 years of expertise in Tenant Representations Services to the table. Ms. Mazirow has been recognized as a “Women of Influence in Commercial Real Estate in Southern California by Real Estate Southern California Mag­ azine, as well as awarded the San Fernando Valley Business Journal Executive of the Year award, and Woman of the Decade award. She also holds the coveted Certified Commercial Investment Member designation from the CCIM Institute, which less than 1% of the world commercial real estate professional achieve. Ms. Mazirow spent 20 years at a national real estate firm gaining invaluable experience. She can be reached at




BRAND Why some businesses are destined to be market leaders. BY BRIAN HEMSWORTH




P, Dell, and Lenovo make great computers. But Apple is a great brand. Adidas and Converse are excellent shoes. But Nike just does it.

BMW and Toyota make amazing hybrid cards. But Tesla? Well, they’re Tesla. Some brands seem to be born leaders. Forged in the fires of com­ petitive marketplaces, they find a way to rise above the competition. They grow fast. They become more profitable, more quickly. But possibly the most powerful asset they develop is the intangible. They have “it.” The right stuff. Mar­ keting mojo. Southwest. Amazon. Fitbit. Chipotle. GoPro. Starbucks. However, the list is not endless. In fact, it’s very limited. These are

This was the basis for a meta research project I embarked upon with an elite group of graduate and undergraduate students at Pepperdine University. Thus began our search to decipher the Alpha Brand code.

these brands “Alpha Brands.” Like the Alpha Dog, they are leaders of the pack. The may be bigger, or not. They may be tougher, or not. But one thing is undeniable—they are recognized by all as leaders. And lead, they do. They lead in style and substance. What they do is not always successful, but it is always substantial. And significant. Walmart is a market leader because they sell more. But they don’t have “it.” Toyota is a power­ ful brand, but not an inspirational brand. Jet Blue is innovative, but not a major force in its industry. What makes an alpha brand standout, not just as successful but as an icon? What makes us go from liking or wanting their products to intense desire, respect, and admira­ tion? What makes people “disciples” or even evangelists of Alpha Brands?

The Wolf: Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species by David Mech. The actual theories have migrated away from the aggressive dominance of these wolves into more of “leader couples” that procreate new packs of offspring. The concept of “alpha” has since taken on an identity of its own in modern business. Today we think of Alpha Brands as companies, brands of products that are leaders. They are not just leaders but they are powerful lead­ ers, leaders with distinct points of view, with the power to stand up to others, and with an unre­ lenting sense that leadership is in their brand DNA. Our studies have indicated these brands share key traits, traits that become almost synonymous with their markets, or certainly innovation in their mar­ kets. They command respect, market

THE ALPHA MENTALITY We’ve all heard of the Alpha Male. It comes from studies of wolves, orig­ inally by Rudolph Schenkel in the 1940s. It was then greatly updated and expanded with a book called



position, and excessive brand value far beyond competitors. Armed with an understanding of these traits, we set about to find what actions caused them to emerge. Our goal was to final causal relation­ ships—things that these brands did that caused them to be who they are. The result is a list of nine different business practices and attitudes that are found in all of our Alpha Brand examples. Remember that some com­ panies may in fact be larger. Others may command great marketshare, mindshare, or brand equity. But Alpha Brands seem to transcend simple financial success, and they win over the hearts and minds of customers. Here’s a rundown of the traits our findings revealed about Alpha Brands.

Innovation Clearly this is a dominant trait. Alpha Brands appear to gain large and rapid followings as a direct result of innovation. As an example, this is the hallmark of Apple. Their products are cool, hip, problem solving, and innovative. While some will argue who the inventors of products actually were, the collective consumer mindset sees Apple as the innovator of the GUI (graphic users interface) personal computer, the iPod (and MP3 players), the iPad (and media-based tablets), and the iPhone (smartphones in general).

Differentiation It takes guts, but it pays to take the risk and be different. CNN changed television and news forever with the 24-hour news channel. Prior to CNN, news was only found a certain




BRAND hours on television, or in a pinch, “news breaks” when things when there was breaking news to be found. But CNN opted to be different. Many thought they couldn’t fill the 24 hours and that viewers would tire.

Rapid Rise To A Leadership Position Fitbit enjoys one of the rare-air branding perks of being a product that has become a common term. Just as Kleenex is often used as a term for facial tissue, Fitbit leaped on the scene shortly after the great recession, and emerged as a cool tech/fitness device. The company has had operation and financial issues, but less than a decade later, it is still synonymous with fitness tracking.

Response to Hidden Customer Wants/Needs Listening to demands of a cus­ tomer or client is key to building a better mousetrap. For decade upon decade, sports fans devoured the sports pages of newspapers. As television moved into media dominance, the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network emerged as a sports-lovers dream channel. Whereas newscasts only devoted only a small percentage to sports scores, and newspapers and magazines offered deeper though less timely sports coverage, ESPN was the fix sports addicts secretly hungered for. ESPN recog­ nized a deep desire and fulfilled it with what is still to this day, some 30 years later, a market leading media property.


Fearless Perseverance Sticking to what you passionate about is critical to becoming an Alpha Brand. I remember attending a tradeshow where the fledgling company GoPro was giving away free cameras. They looked like little toys, and people literally handed them back when they got them. Little did they (and me) know what was to come. These little cameras were revolutionary. They were easy to use, durable as heck, and launched a whole new category of photo product. GoPro has not sat back on its laurels. It has in fact continued to lead and dominate the action camera market, despite the entry of from large companies like Sony, Garmin and Polaroid.

Profound Belief In The Concept Much has been written about Phil Knight and Bill Bowerman, creators of Nike. But unless you have read about their early history, you might not realize that they started busi­ ness as Blue Ribbon Sports. They operated that way for years before parting ways with their major sup­ plier. Renamed as Nike, their first ad campaign, “There is no finish line,” launched the brand into a new direc­ tion. Rather than rely on features and specifications of shoes, Nike embarked on created a brand atti­ tude. This morphed into “Just Do It” a few years later, and the rest is truly brand history. Phil and Bill brought intimate market knowledge to their brand and let that emerge as a pri­ mary force for selling the product.

Clear Understanding of What Their Customers Value As airlines fought to provide new services, including many tied to upper class service and new largescale aircraft like the Boeing 747, Southwest Airlines bucked the trends. By researching, studying, and testing new services (or lack of) Southwest realized that their cus­

tomers wanted cheap flights, lots of them, and would give up assigned seats, meals, and priority boarding to get what they wanted. It was only by knowing this that Southwest was able to innovate and dominate the short haul air business.

Accept Risk (Fight) Steve Ells worked in food, and witnessed the rise in popularity of taquerías and mission-style (oversized) burritos, but a burri­ to-focused restaurant was an iffy proposition at best. Launched with a loan from his father, Ells figured he needed to sell about 100 burri­ tos a day at his restaurant Chipotle. While not impossible, this was in the face of competition around literally every corner. By his sec­ ond month, he was selling more than 1,000 burritos a day. Growth was rapid and soon he was seen as a challenge to major chains. But thanks to the innovative assem­ bly line, a huge following among college students and millennials, not to mention an influx of invest­ ment from McDonald’s, Ells beat the odds, and the competition, to brand leadership.

Clear Understanding of Market Positions A century ago, furniture was an investment. Craftsman built tables and chairs and sofas, many of which are still around today. By mid-last century, economy versions were appearing. Ikea, a Swedish startup in the 1940s, wove its way into a unique niche. They created furniture with modern Scandinavian design, easily transported and assembled, and affordable. With this unique positioning and product offering, Ikea was able to avoid head-to-head competition in many furniture niches, and found this unique brand was easily exported to other compa­ nies. They still operate on basically the same concept with more than 400 stores in more than 40 countries, selling nearly $40 billion a year. •

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! g n i n r a W


Your Trademark is Expiring. Or is it?

A lot of time and expense are put into registering trademarks. Here are some best practices for registering and protecting your business from scammers. BY DANA DELMAN, ESQ.


or small business owners and start-ups, registering a trademark is fairly straightforward if you do your due diligence before filing and meet generous trademark office deadlines. However, there are minor nuances of the application process business owners can get tripped up on.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) provides clear direc­ tions for registering a trademark online, and an applicant’s first con­ cern is ensuring the trademark isn’t already in use in the same Interna­ tional Class. A thorough trademark search by a reputable search firm


is crucial to a smooth registration process. The USPTO maintains a database of all registered trademarks in the Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS). Although applicants can search TESS themselves, it is easy to miss conflicting marks. Scammers are another potential

pitfall. TESS provides the informa­ tion about trademark owners pub­ licly available to anyone for free. This makes it easy for scam companies to obtain information and target trade­ mark owners. These scammers uti­ lize official-looking documents and misleading statements in attempts to scare trademark owners into paying thousands of dollars for unnecessary and worthless services. Here are some best practices for registering and monitoring your trademark to avoid issues.




! g n i n r a W

Your Trademark is Expiring.

Or is it? Conducting a Trademark Search Conducting a trademark search is not simply a matter of running the letters in your mark on TESS, finding no matches in the applicable class of goods or services, and thinking “I’m okay.” Minor things, such as a comma or apostrophe, may not come up in search results. There­ fore, it is important to hire a reputable trademark search company. Comprehensive trademark searches range in price from $350 to $600 per mark, per class. A search is particularly important if you want to trademark a design logo or stylized mark. You may be able to get away with doing it on your own for a word mark, but you can run into trouble with more complex marks and the trade­ mark office could reject your application on the grounds that it could cause confusion in the marketplace.

Application Process Once you’ve completed the search, you file the appli­ cation, which costs $225 per mark, per class of goods/ services if you use the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) Plus system ( forms/teasplus). TEAS Plus is an online filing option that promotes electronic communication and applica­ tion processing while giving applicants more flexibility in identifying their goods and/or services. If you have a product that spans more than one class, you’re again better off having specialist research your mark because you could inadvertently not designate within the right class. The good news is the trademark office will assign an examiner who will conduct another trademark search and then if it checks out, the trademark will be published for opposition, giving opposers 30-days to file an oppo­ sition to registration of your mark. Anyone who opposes the registration has an opportunity to file a challenge to the registration with the trademark office. A proceeding follows where the applicant has an opportunity to argue why the mark will not cause consumer confusion and thus, should still be registered in spite of the opposition.

Protecting Your Trademark After registration, monitoring your trademark class can be a challenge. At this stage, you need to consider whether you’re comfortable investing the time to moni­


tor yourself, or hire a firm to monitor for you for around $200 per year. A lot of small businesses don’t hire out­ side firms and don’t appropriately monitor, which leaves the door open to having a competing mark registered without filing an opposition during the opposition period. If this occurs, it’s not your last opportunity to challenge it; you can still challenge the competing mark, but the challenge can be more costly than if you chal­ lenge during the opposition period. So while you’re not precluded from challenging, it’s easier to do it during the application stage versus after registration is completed. Another stop gap to protecting your mark is the USPTO examiner, who performs a trademark search and issues an office action if there is a problem. Once you receive an office action, you have six months to respond. In this case, it’s best to use an attorney to respond. Oftentimes it’s an easy fix where the office examiner offers language to change on the application to pave the way to registration; this is something you can probably handle yourself. But sometimes it’s more complicated and worth noting even the seemingly simple fixes the examiner suggests can be problematic because there may be some legal ramifications to changing the language as the examiner suggests. The examiner’s suggestion is not necessarily in your business’s interest; the examiner is simply saying this is what will be approved. On a positive note, the examiner is there to serve you. One, the examiner wants to ensure there are no compet­ ing marks and two, if the examiner sees any potential issues or flaws that could leave the mark open to prob­ lems later, the examiner is a good measure of whether your mark will survive a challenge later because it passed through their specifications. Personally, I welcome office actions to the extent that I’ve always found them to be helpful and there’s open dialogue—you can call the exam­ iner and talk through concerns and next steps. Although problematic in terms of dealing with issues and fighting for your mark, the examiner always wants to be helpful. Once the application process is completed, your application will be published for opposition. After the opposition period runs without challenge, your mark will be registered. Between the 5th and 6th year of trademark ownership—measured from the approved registration date—you have to file an Affidavit of Use, which states that you’ve been using it in commerce for the past five years. The five-year mark is also your first opportunity to file a Declaration of Incontestability, which helps make your mark more impervious to challenge. These filings have small fees associated with them—the Affidavit of Use fee is $125 per mark, per class, and the Declaration of Incontest­ ability fee is $200 per mark, per class.

Misleading Letters Recently, my client received an official-looking letter stat­ ing their trademark was about to expire (it wasn’t) and

offering services to file the renewal. The required filing the letter referenced—filing the five-year affidavit of use— would take about fifteen minutes of attorney time, plus the $125 fee. The scammer company offered to do that filing for $925—a whopping $800 surcharge. This is exploitative and greatly impacts small businesses who are trying to do all of this on their own. Business owners are trying to save money by not using an attorney and end up spending more money through these services. The worst part is you don’t know if the filing is being done right because these fly-by-night companies have no kind of fiduciary obliga­ tion to do it correctly. They likely have assets completely protected and if you lose your mark because of something they do or don’t do, you could have a serious problem.

“This is a larger issue and not a scam that’s limited to trademarks. It’s a theme of attacking small businesses that may not have lawyers.” Unfortunately, this is a larger issue and not a scam that’s limited to trademarks. It’s a theme of attacking small businesses that may not have lawyers. These com­ panies use publicly available information on government websites, create an official government-sounding name and send a letter with misleading, alarmist messages to cause a business owner to think licenses and registrations are at risk. The USPTO has issued a warning about these companies:­ mark-updates-and-announcements/warning-uspto-cus­ tomers-trademark-monitoring-and. To avoid spending more money than necessary, sign onto the USPTO site ( and look up the status of any trademark. All documents filed with respect to each mark are publicly available, as well as any actions litigated with the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board. The USPTO also provides a clear list of all upcoming deadlines to maintain your mark. Beyond that, the USPTO emails reminders of upcoming deadlines to the email contact designated by the registrant. For my clients, I’m the contact of record so I get emails reminding me of deadlines. My clients can also be copied directly from the USPTO. Because of this, applicants should always be sure to keep their electronic contact information current with the USPTO. The takeaway is, if you’re doing this yourself, you shouldn’t rely on the USPTO to remind you; calen­ dar all of the deadlines. As mentioned, the key deadlines are between the 5th and 6th year after registration, at which time an Affidavit of Use must be filed to maintain the mark. Also after the 5th year of registration, an appli­ cant can file a Declaration of Incontestability, which fur­ SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL


ther protects the mark. Thereafter, another affidavit of use and application for renewal is due between the 10th and 11th year after registration, and then every ten years after that. The fee is $300 per mark, per class.

Cost Considerations Hiring a reputable search company can go a long way in ensuring your mark is safe. You should always try and use a specialist. Just like you wouldn’t go to a podiatrist for hearing loss, you shouldn’t use your real estate lawyer to do your search. If you do turn to a lawyer to conduct the search, use an intellectual property or trademark attorney, or at least a generalist who has trademark experience. There are two ways lawyers can charge for filing trade­ marks. Many charge a flat fee—$2,500–$3,500—which includes responding to all office actions. This can turn out to be a large net hourly fee to the lawyer, because typically there aren’t going to be any registration issues or they will be minimal. The other option is an hourly rate that could end up costing you much less than the flat fee. However, if an office action requires a significant amount of attor­ ney time to craft a response, an hourly engagement could wind up costing much more than the flat fee. So the flat fee is a bit like insurance because then you’re covered and don’t have to worry about possible issues in the event that your application generates office actions. The reality is, if you receive an office action, you’re most likely going to need to hire an attorney. Your odds of not having an office action go way down if you use an attorney who is knowledgeable in trademarks. An hourly fee with a cap is the best of both worlds, if your lawyer will agree to it. A seemingly attractive, cost-effective alternative is using a company like LegalZoom. While its basic search fees run just a bit higher than the norm, office actions can get pricey. Depending on the extent of your issues, costs can be around the same as attorney fees, however with an attorney, you’re relying on someone with whom you have a relationship that’s offering specific advice tailored to your business needs, rather than a LegalZoom-desig­ nated attorney who only offers suggestions. The attorney will take time to understand your business and will be another resource to think through what works best for you because they’ve had experience in this area. Understanding the plusses and minuses to handling your own trademark or hiring specialists will go a long way in ensuring you’re doing what’s best for your busi­ ness. In either situation, educate yourself on the process so you can be proactive and avoid potential issues. • Dana Delman, Esq. is the co-founder and a partner of Delman Vukmanovic LLP, a full-­ service Southern California law firm with offices in Los Angeles and Orange County. Ms. Delman may be contacted at 213.943.1340 or




ATHERHOOD HAS A WAY of forcing us to reexamine our views in a way that is always not so easy. I always felt that, as a father, part of my role was to try to put my son’s newfound experiences into perspec­ tive. He had just graduated college and was starting a new job. He was on his way to a successful career, and we had frequent discussions about success and what that meant. I wanted to give him the benefit of my

not even address the acquisition of wealth or power, only what we chose to do with it, and whom, if anyone, we chose to do it with. Most importantly, it addressed the ability to reclaim and use time—truly our most limited resource. I tried this definition out with one of my clients, a woman whose company had grown exponentially in the last few years. “You missed one of the most important parts of success,” she scolded me. “I have the



to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” I remember my experience as the head of children’s entertainment at A&M Records. I was traveling all over the country, staying at the best hotels, eating at the finest restau­ rants, going to the greatest concerts and surrounded on a daily basis by interesting, forward-thinking creative people. I really loved my job. I woke on Monday with the same enthusi­


hard-earned wisdom, so I decided to spend some time determining my own definition of success. I wanted a simpler way to mea­ sure success that I could pass along to my son. Otherwise, how would he know what success looked like? How would he know if he had achieved it? How would he know when it was okay to step off the treadmill? How do any of us know? This is what I came up with: “Success is the ability to do what­ ever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, with people who are meaningful to you.” I was struck by how this defini­ tion gave each of us wide latitude for tailoring it to our own lives. It did not prescribe any specific elements or prerequisites. It did


ability to do whatever I want, when­ ever I want. I just don’t have the freedom to do it. I’m way too busy growing my company.” I revised my definition: “Success is the ability and the freedom to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, with people who are meaningful to you.” Clearly, success is not about stop­ ping the activities that have given you financial freedom. It is about stop­ ping the activities that prevent you from enjoying that financial freedom. Some people never retire — not because they want more money, but because they truly love their jobs. They love waking up in the morning and doing their work. Albert Sch­ weitzer, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, said, “Success is not the key

The ladder of success leads rung by rung to merely more success, not happiness. BY MARK JAFFE

asm with which I woke on Saturday. One day, I was speaking with one of my colleagues at the record company after a pretty amazing concert the night before. We both just couldn’t believe we were 27 years old and were living a life that as teenagers we could only dream about. “I would do this job for free,” my colleague exclaimed. We didn’t know it, but we were already successful. We already did what we loved all the time with people we enjoyed. At a young age, we had achieved what so many never do. There was a great column by Panos Mourdoukoutas in Forbes Magazine that, interestingly, appeared on a New Year’s Day, that time of year when so many people

are making resolutions. It explained his view of the correlation between success and being happy. He asked the reader to consider two sim­ ple questions: “What am I doing today?” and “Why am I doing it?” “If you are happy with the answers you came up with to both questions, get out of bed and enjoy the day,” he wrote. “If you are strug­ gling to find the right answers, close your eyes and go back over the items on your to-do list.”

get the promotion or the bigger paycheck, and you are still nowhere even near the ladder to happiness. It’s a terrible wake-up call, the kind Peggy Lee sang about. “Is That All There Is?” is a profound expres­ sion of disillusionment. The lyrics tell of a life’s major milestones, fol­ lowed by that question — Is that all there is? After so much achievement, why does it all feel so empty? The endless pursuit of success is understandable if you’re still hus­

Imagine if you didn’t like the answers. Perhaps the top of your list might be filled with admirable goals and tasks—but they’re not right for you. They are right for somebody else who has been setting your agenda, or perhaps for the someone you think you should become. The goals that are important, the ones that will move you toward the happiest life, may have been systematically pushed down to the bottom of your list, minimized over time or even forgotten. That’s how you can wake up and wonder why if you have so much money and “success,” you are still unhappy. People still think of success as the precursor to happiness, but the lad­ der of success leads, rung by rung, merely to more success. You might

tling to pay your rent. There is a minimum level of financial security that people absolutely must have for shelter and food. Once those basic needs are met, though, there is time and energy for focusing on other types of goals, such as being happy. Are your basic needs met? If so, it is time to take a hard look at how much time you need to spend fol­ lowing the money, and how much time you would like to spend follow­ ing your passions. Draw a vertical line down a piece of paper. On the left side, list your successes and accomplishments. On the right, make note of the specific moments of happiness each of these accomplishments afforded you. Were they worth it? On a second sheet of paper, write



down all of the experiences you wanted to have—alone or with oth­ ers—that you couldn’t because you were busy pursuing success. Was the success worth it? How do you know when you have achieved success: When you have given yourself the ability and freedom to do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to do it, with people who are meaningful to you. To be clear, I am not opposed to making money. The problem with the endless pursuit of success is not the suc­ cess or the money; it’s the endless pursuit of it—usually to the exclu­ sion or minimization of the moments that make us happy. Take the time now to reorient your energy toward enjoying happi­ ness on your journey. It doesn’t mean you have to quit your job or give away your fortune. On the contrary, it means that the pursuit of suc­ cess should afford you the ability to enjoy all of those moments of happiness. Now. While you can. • Mark Jaffe is the author of Suitcase of Happyness: A Road­ map to Achieve and Enjoy Your Happiest Life. He is a former senior executive at The Walt Disney Company who spent many years creating happy moments. At a young age he realized that his happiest life was not something out of reach. He studied, observed, cultivated, and ultimately enjoyed an enduring happyness through a singular focus on identifying what worked and what didn’t. More information about his book Suitcase of Happyness can be found on Amazon or on the website




Vikki Stone


ikki Stone is a veteran of the insurance and risk management industry, with more than 30 years of experience placing commercial and personal lines for middle market companies, manufacturers, distributors, property owners, technology firms, individuals and families. She was previously President of Stone, Harris & Stone, which was acquired by Poms & Associates in March 2012. In the years that she was with Stone, Harris, & Stone, Vikki increased gross premiums from $4 million to more than $20 million annually. In the five years she was president of the company, she grew the organization 70 percent. Vikki earned a Bachelor of Science in Finance/Business Administration from the University of Southern California, Marshall School of Business. In 2007, in recognition of her stellar leadership, Vikki was named “Women’s CEO of the Year” by the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. In 2012 and 2016, she was named Property & Casualty Producer of the Year at her current agency. Over the years you’ve developed a real expertise in business insurance and commercial property and casualty for manufacturers and distributors. What are the most common problems you find when you look into a potential client’s existing policies and coverage? It’s the old expression, “the devil is in the details.” Insurance companies giveth and taketh away in the policies and they are very challenging to comprehend. When we review policies, we often find critical coverages


improperly written or endorsements missing that could have a profound impact on the outcome of a claim. A lot of people say “insurance is insurance,” but when we spoke to some of your clients, they told us you really are unique not just an “insurance person,” but a trusted advisor to company owners and CEOs. What makes you so unique and so valuable? We look at what is driving the claims. We dwell down on what the “cause” is in addition to the placement of coverage. When we start to identify what the causes of loss are, the types of injuries, we send in our Risk Management and Loss Control teams to work with our clients to create a safer environment. We look at the culture and ways to elevate teams. Work Comp claims and premiums are one of the biggest items on a company’s P&L, they are painful and California is a very challenging state to do business in. We also focus on open claims and work with the carriers to make sure they are not over reserved and work hard to get the claims closed. All of this ultimately results in the lowering of premiums. You’re a bit of an innovator, searching for unique insurance products. For example…drones! How did you get into drone coverage, and become known as the “queen of drone” insurance? LOL, I am most certainly not the “queen of drone” insurance. A few years ago, I had a great opportunity come my way and recognized what was on the horizon. I was fortunate to have the support of Dave

Victoria (Vikki) Stone Property & Casualty Insurance Title:  Senior Vice President Firm: Poms and Associates Insurance Brokers w: e: p:  818-449-9300 Poms to create a program to place coverage for drone manufacturers, distributors and operators. If you were speaking to a group of business owners, let’s say manufacturers and distributors specifically, what advice would you give them when shopping for new policies or insurance agents? Focus on your Risk Management, Loss Control and culture. Look at the source of the problem. I often use the example of… you go to the doctor and say you have a pain in your stomach and the doctor gives you a pill to alleviate the pain. I would choose to have a doctor say, let’s look at what is “causing” the pain and if we can get rid of that, you don’t need a pill. You need to dwell down on the why and be willing to look at that. I can place coverage, we are strong negotiators and technically savvy…it takes more to tackle the real issues in a company. •


Pacific Western Bank offers customized solutions to fit your business and personal banking needs. » Business Checking & Savings including Analysis Checking with a highly competitive earnings credit rate » Cash Management including Collection, Merchant, and Disbursement Services » Commercial Lending including Term, Construction, C&I, Bridge Loan Facilities, Mini-Perm, and more » Small Business Lending – SBA Preferred Lender status means faster evaluations and conditional loan approvals » Personal Banking with Savings, Checking, CD, and Retirement Accounts » Consumer Lending including Home Equity, Revolving, and Overdraft Lines of Credit

WHAT CAN WE DO FOR YOU? Ronna Lubash VP, Business Development Officer Office: 818.610.2769



Jeff Munjack


eff Munjack is the founder and president of JDM Financial Group. He has more than sixteen years of experience in working with family-owned businesses, successful professionals and multi-generational families. His unique expertise integrates leading edge fee-only wealth management with long-term financial planning to optimize financial advice and overall results for clients. Jeff established JDM in 2002 so that he could advise clients outside the sales culture of Wall Street. Prior to launching JDM, Jeff worked as a Financial Consultant and Certified Financial Manager at a leading global investment firm. He earned his CFP® designation from the College for Financial Planning, a Master of Science in Financial Services from the Institute of Business and Finance, a Professional Designation in Personal Financial Planning from UCLA, and he has completed executive education at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in Investment Decisions and Behavioral Finance. Jeff has also served as a Certified Financial Educator with the Heartland Institute of Financial Education, is certified in Long Term Care, and has a California Life Insurance license. Does JDM Financial Group have an investment philosophy? We base our approach on the belief that good financial decisions must be good life decisions and, therefore, that financial decision making should begin with an understanding of a client’s values and goals.  In this way, our advice is customized to each client. What advice do you have for inves-


tors looking to a trusted advisor? You may trust your financial advisor.  But for them to be worthy of this trust, they should be acting only in your best interest.  In other words, they should be acting only in the capacity of a “fiduciary.”   A fiduciary is a professional who is required by the regulations that govern him or her to put clients’ interest ahead of their own when providing advice. To know if your financial advisor is a fiduciary (and worthy of the trust you place in him or her) or just a sales professional (caveat emptor), you need to investigate. How do I know I am not overpaying for my investments? When it comes to investment expenses, a good financial advisor minimizes your costs and maximizes your benefits. If a mutual fund or money manager is charging, say, 1%, then this manager should be outperforming peers that charge less.  It is not simply a question of cost but of value and optimization.  A good advisor helps you optimize. A client should ask their advisor for this type of analysis. Why the concern about investment commissions and the importance of only paying “fees?” Your advisor should work for you and, therefore, be paid only by you. If an advisor can receive payment from a mutual fund company in the form of a commission, then this advisor may not be acting with only your interests in mind. If an ­advisor can accept investment commissions, then his/her decisions may be

Jeffrey D. Munjack CFP®, MSFS, PFP, CLTC, CFEd™

Financial Planner Title:  President Firm:  JDM Financial Group Web:

influenced by a commission structure or other hidden incentives.   What are some of the common mistakes you see investors making today? For clients who have an advisor, the most common mistake is not being aware of the incentives driving an advisor’s advice.  As a client, it is important to be clear on how certain advice may be influenced by how an advisor is compensated. Ideally, the advisor receives the same compensation regardless of the advice they render. For clients who don’t have a financial advisor, the mistake is waiting until costly mistakes are made before hiring a trustworthy and capable professional. It can be difficult to find someone that you like and trust but it is important to keep searching until you find an expert who can help you get this right. •


Millennium Biltmore

Westlake Village Inn

Favorite Business Hotels for Southern California Professionals A survey of some of the best places to stay when doing business in Southern California!


ome like it. Some hate it. It can be lux and wonderful, or fast and furious. But we all do it—business travel! Each year, more than 40 million visitors come to the greater Los Angeles area. San Diego gets more than 10 million overnighters. And while the vast majority of visitors are tourists, Southern California is one of those areas that enjoys a tremendous amount of business travel as well. San Diego is one a destination that gets “combo” travelers, business travelers who bring the family to enjoy the city (or conversely tourists who book a day or two of business while they are here). Vacation travel is about getting to a city, seeing and experiencing things in that city, and enjoying your trip. Business travel is a bit different, though, then vacation travel. Business travel has more to do with location, convenience, and ease of work. We all love lux business travel, but it’s not always possible. Business travelers are often restricted by time, location, or budget. In Southern California, location is arguably the first decision. If you fly into John Wayne in Orange County and have to make it in 90 minutes to the San Fernando



Valley, you’ll be hating life as you sit on the infamous 405 freeway. And while LAX and Anaheim may not be your cup of tea for hotels, sometimes a flight or convention dictates there is no better area to stay. When we reached out to professionals around Southern California to offer suggestions, we knew that each area was unique and serving a different travel purpose. In other words, what a traveler might like in a hotel in San Diego could be different from what he or she wants in a downtown hotel. There are common traits to most business traveler’s desires in hotels. First, rooms must be clean, convenient, and comfortable. Whether it’s for the night or for a week, business people need to adjust to the locale quickly. There’s no better way to start than by opening a door to a hotel room and feeling good about it. WiFi is a must, and while $16.95 a day won’t kill us, it’s an irritation when there’s free WiFi all around. Food should be good or close, or both. In addition to convenient, you have to have a place you can meet at or grab a meal with a client or co-worker. If you’re wining and dining, assume you are leaving the hotel. But for meet(Sources: and


Loews Santa Monica Beach

ings, you need something on site or very close. And there must be some place or things to do to unwind… pool, spa, bar, lounge, etc. With that in mind, we present our list of business-friendly hotels for Southern California professionals!

Millennium Biltmore AREA: Downtown Los Angeles VIBE: The Biltmore is a Los Angeles landmark. It’s old

L.A. at its finest. If you’re doing business downtown, this puts you right in the thick of it. Great restaurants, Metro stations, theaters, Convention Center, and Staples Center are just a short walk or Uber away. STAY HERE FOR: Great place for meetings, big and small. Downtown renaissance is happening all around with great restaurants, bars and taverns nearby. There is great atmosphere here, something generally lacking in Los Angeles properties. This

Luxe Sunset Boulevard

horseback riding, and even watersports are all close by. Call it work, but a retreat or seminar here is as much about relaxing as anything else. STAY HERE FOR: Get away, without going to far. Great service, excellent food, and easy-going style ALSO NEARBY: The Fess Parker Inn (Santa Barbara), Embassy Suites Mandalay Bay (Ventura) WEB:

Westlake Village Inn AREA: Westlake, North of San Fernando Valley. VIBE: This property is a great option for doing business

in the northern part of the city. It’s got nice rooms, great grounds, and very convenient right off the 101 freeway. It’s a family-owned property that offers a personal touch. Also, Stonehaus and Boogies are two destination eateries/hangouts right on the property. STAY HERE FOR: It’s easy and comfortable here. We stayed there, put up clients there, had meetings

Whether it’s for the night or for a week, business people need to adjust to the locale quickly. hotel is old-school class. Not for those wanting the “latest and greatest,” but rather a charming old hotel and Hollywood grandeur. ALSO NEARBY: The JW Marriott at LA Live, the Ritz Carlton, and the Westin Bonaventure are three great options in downtown. WEB:

Ojai Valley Inn AREA: Okay, it’s not really “in town” but the Ojai Val-

ley Inn is one of the most used “out of town” hotels for people in Los Angeles. It’s close enough to go for the day, yet perfect to go for the weekend as well. VIBE: Calm, relaxed, country club atmosphere. Ojai Valley is green and gorgeous. Golf, tennis, spa, cycling,


there, and held press conferences there. Comfortable enough for several nights, meetings, or a North Los Angeles basecamp. ALSO NEARBY: Four Seasons Westlake Village Spa WEB:

Luxe Sunset Boulevard AREA: This hotel is right off the busy 405 at a geograph-

ically strategic spot between the coast, Hollywood, and the Valley. VIBE: The Luxe has kind of a Hollywood nouveau riche feel. The good news is that it’s away from some of the hubbub, which is good for business travelers. Unfortunately, it’s also the biggest drawback, as there is nothing within walking distance.

Luxe Sunset Boulevard

Millennium Biltmore

STAY HERE FOR: Central West L.A. location, great ser-

motels or airline crew hangouts. Since then, Santa Monica has had a rebirth as one of the area’s hottest hotel areas. Great hotels abound, close to the beach, restaurants, and shopping. STAY HERE FOR: Venice Beach and the iconic Santa Monica Pier are right there, literally. American Film Market headquarters at this hotel, and it’s great for meals, a stay, or drinks by the beach. ALSO NEARBY: Tons of options, but consider Shutters, Oceana, and Huntley Santa Monica. WEB:

vice, and near lots of things 9beach, Getty Center, Westwood, Century City, and LAX (via 405). ALSO NEARBY: Look to classic Beverly Hills properties like the Beverly Hills, the Beverly Hilton, the Four Seasons, etc., or the Santa Monica hotels like Lowes and Shutters. WEB:

Hilton Universal AREA: This hotel is located in the east part of the San

Fernando Valley, on the hill across the street from Universal Studios. VIBE: Some question this choice…it’s more touristy, because of the theme park…not new…and not overly lux. That said, it’s another strategic choice. If you are doing business in Pasadena, Burbank, Glendale, downtown, Hollywood, the Valley, or Santa Clarita, it’s a great choice.

The Langham Huntington AREA: Pasadena, San Marino VIBE: This is old L.A. wealth. Originally the Huntington,

then the Ritz Carlton, it’s a flavor of elegance not found easily in Los Angeles. This is in the northeast end of town, near the Rose Bowl and Rose Parade. Wonderful grounds, restaurants, and service.

There are common traits to most business traveler’s desires in hotels. STAY HERE FOR: Close to Toluca Lake and North Hol-

STAY HERE FOR: Lots of longstanding business are

lywood (NoHo), the two east valley hipster hangouts. Lots of great bars, restaurants, coffee shops, etc. Central to most of the studios like Universal, NBC, Disney, and Dreamworks, or if you need to be close to Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. ALSO NEARBY: Sheraton Universal, Sportsmans Lodge, and all of the Hollywood hotels are options. WEB: hilton-los-angeles-universal-city

HQ’d nearby. Also close to downtown. This hotel has unmatched elegance, and is easy to get comfortable in. Lots of Pasadena restaurants and shopping nearby. And don’t miss their $100 martini! ALSO NEARBY: Lots of chain hotels nearby, but nothing like The Langham. WEB: pasadena/

Loews Santa Monica Beach AREA: Santa Monica (beach) VIBE: Loews is a quintessential new Santa Monica hotel.

Thirty years ago, hotels in Santa Monica were dive SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PROFESSIONAL


Embassy Suites by Hilton LAX North AREA: LAX VIBE: The truth is, no one likes to stay near the airport,

but often we must. If you have a quick meeting, or and early/late flight, you have to stay close. A hotel 10


Stonehaus Restaurant at Westlake Village Inn

Monarch Beach Resort AREA: Orange Country beach area VIBE: Okay, there are hotels near John Wayne Airport

and the business district off the 405, but if you’re in the OC, head to the water. Monarch Beach Resort is stunning. On the hills overlooking the ocean, it feels more like a vacation resort or country club, yet it’s home to board meetings, conventions and retreats all the time. Food is excellent. Views are spectacular. Book near a weekend and enjoy a round or two of golf and a couple of days off STAY HERE FOR: Views of the Pacific, great weather, luxury accommodations, and excellent service. ALSO NEARBY: Resort at Pelican Hill, Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel, or Balboa Ray Resort. WEB:

Marriott Anaheim AREA: Disneyland and the Anaheim Convention Center VIBE: So this area is all about Disneyland and conven-

tions. It’s busy, active, and touristy. But a ton of business happens in the area. Fast food abounds, and while there are good meals to be had, you need to look past the masses seeking quick meals while visiting the Magic Kingdom. STAY HERE FOR: A decent hotel, walking distance to the hotel and theme park. Honestly, flip a coin between this and Hyatt across the street. Both are


Marriott Marquis San Diego

right up the street from the Convention Center. The Marriott gets the nod for dealing with crowds better. Able to house meetings, promo suites, seminars, etc. Great hotels are hard to find nearby, so settle for really good instead. This is a “go to” for many local business people staying down there for a day or two. ALSO NEARBY: If Marriott is full, go to the Hilton across the street. Or, pretty much every hotel and motel chain ever imagined. WEB:

Marriott Marquis San Diego AREA: This is another city area you wouldn’t be caught

dead in 25 years ago, but is now the hub of downtown. Waterfront walk, restaurants, shopping, and entertainment all close by. VIBE: Downtown San Diego is now a very cool and hip zone. Lots to do, lots of places to have drinks, hangout, and hop around to when between meetings or events. Cars are not necessary, with tons nearby within walking (or Uber) distance. STAY HERE FOR: If you need to be downtown, near the city center, Coronado, and airport. Also near Balboa Park, and freeway close if you’re heading north or east. ALSO NEARBY: Manchester Grand Hyatt, Hotel Del Coronado, or the Patani or Lodge if you want to stay a little north in Torrey Pines. WEB: sandt-marriott-marquis-san-diego-marina/ •

Photos courtesy Luxe Hotels, Loews Hotels, Westlake Village Inn, Millennium Hotels, and Davidphogan74 at English Wikipedia (Marquis)

miles away could be and hour and a half in bad traffic. LAX is busy, and right on the border of questionable neighborhood. Best bet is drop down the hill to Play Vista and Marina del Rey for meals to the north, or Manhattan and Hermosa Beaches to the south. STAY HERE FOR: Get in, have a meeting, and get out. Embassy Suites offers clean rooms, good value, free continental breakfasts, drinks in the evening, fitness center, and pool. ALSO NEARBY: Tons of options near the airport. Choose a Hilton, Westin, or Marriott if you want the miles, or head further away to get out of the airport zone. WEB:

We Make Business WorkÂŽ


Proactive Strategies. Powerful Representation. No two businesses are the same. Your business is special, and it’s unlike any other. LightGabler is a law firm unlike any other, from the way we practice to the personal service our clients receive. With decades of experience in employment and intellectual property law, our firm is focused on keeping your business working, growing and prospering. We practice exclusively in the areas of:


Employment Counsel


Employment Litigation


Business Litigation


Intellectual Property & Unfair Competition

Whether you are interested in proactive strategies to keep your business moving forward, or you need powerful representation when faced with legal disputes, the attorneys at LightGabler are here to make your business work.


Counseling our clients to prevent future business problems. Aggressively defending our clients when disputes arise.

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