Dec. 2011 - Jan. 2012
2011 EDITOR’S CHOICE
Inventing the Apple: legacy of a visionary
ellen kullman 2011 Editor’s Choice for
Knowledge for the masses, by the masses
THE BUSINESS OF
Reggie Brown discusses the lighter side of politics
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ISSUE 46 | DEC / JAN 2012
Publisher Erwin E. Kantor Managing Editor Michael Gordon Editorial Jacey Fortin Robert Jordan Maria De Luca Joseph Sullivan Staff Writers L. A. Rivera Monica Link Mitch Ligon Sara Solano Wendy Connick Andrea Lehner Altamese Osborne Patrick Sullivan Frank Graziano Guest Writers Anthony Nelson Creative Director Christopher DeBellis Asst. Art Director Marienne Hilahan Illustrators Shafali R. Anand Marketing / Advertising Monica Link Christopher DeBellis For subscription details, contact: email@example.com For advertising inquiries, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
A new year is
here, and it’s going to be a good one. We at The Suit are celebrating earth’s latest trip around the sun with a look back at the power players of 2011. Our special feature, The Suit Seven, profiles seven of the most influential people of the last year. It was honor to work with Ellen Kullman, the CEO of DuPont and one of the most powerful women in America. She told us about how she came to be interested in science and technology, and how her work is changing the face of American innovation. We also chatted with Reggie Brown, an entertainer who makes audiences laugh all around the world. Brown, an Obama impressionist, discusses the surprising political impacts of his work. Then there’s Saul Perlmutter, who won the Nobel Prize in Physics; Josh Linkner, a serial entrepreneur whose success is legendary; Geoffrey Canada, whose work is changing the way we look at education; Jimmy Wales, who founded a network dedicated to the spread of free knowledge; and of course the late Steve Jobs, without whom the world would look nothing like it does today. As these visionaries inspire us to be our best, the successful business owners we profile in this issue show us exactly what it means to work hard toward that end. Take a look at Larry Zuccolotto on page 28, whose work
in the field of telemedicine has potential to address the budgetary crisis in American healthcare. Or read up on Janice Rose, page 34, who runs a credit union in a town where the recession has packed quite a punch. And we have Dennis and Michelle Reina on page 30, whose work shows the importance of credibility and trust in professional settings. As we look forward to another great year at The Suit, I hope this special edition issue inspires you to make some ambitious business resolutions of your own for 2012! Leave a comment at thesuitmagazine.com – we look forward to hearing about your goals. Until then, Happy New Year!
Erwin Kantor Cheers!
Erwin Kantor Publisher
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - OCT / NOV 2011
DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
THE SUIT SEVEN What does it take to make it to the top? To find out, we profiled some of 2011’s greatest visionaries in this year’s edition of ‘The Suit Seven.’ These pioneers come from a wide range of industries, from business to education to entertainment, but all of them shared the drive and the talent to achieve incredible success.
Saul Perlmutter’s Nobel
UC Berkeley professor wins the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics as the universe flies apart
Jimmy Wales’ Wikipedia
Staying true to the belief that everyone should have free access to knowledge
More Than Mail
Why Wyoming is Working
Effective marketing is all about the total package
The surprising success of one thriving state economy
Not every CEO is focused on the bottom line
Steve Jobs’ Apple
The late, great genius at the core of an amazing company
A famous impressionist on his work and the funny business of politics
Josh Linkner’s Magic
A serial entrepreneur at the top of his game is only just getting started
Geoffrey Canada’s America
From one city block to all fifty states, new ideas about education are spreading
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
Putting People Before Profits
Handle With Care
Helping clients move their most valuable resources
One for the Team, Growing Healthy Organizations
Making the Most of Talent
How to enhance productivity when budgets are tight
The Right Atmosphere
Bringing out the best in every team member
The Personal Touch
Serving nonprofits is all about building relationships
Telemedicine—the key to fixing U.S. healthcare
In Good Trust
Living Up to a Good Name
Nonprofits in the Last Frontier, Profitable Peace of Mind
Professional credibility affects the bottom line
A reliable brand in an oftmaligned industry
Following the Leader
The best principals stay true to their vision
Going the Distance
Getting from point A all the way to point Z
A Veteran of Entrepreneurship, Where Credit is Due
Responding to every new IT opportunity
The TAG Effect
Shaping the financial world one client at a time
Setting the Standard
Making complex mortgage regulations accessible to all
Running the Reagan
Managing America’s largest private-public venture
More than Money
Looking at the bigger picture for lasting success
Success by Default
Finding success in the tricky real estate industry
Full Speed Ahead
A maverick in the world of recreational finance
Riding the Telecom Wave
Tides are rising to great levels of success
The Right Tools for the Job
Providing the medical devices doctors really need
Down to the Nuts and Bolts
Software engineering is an art, but practicality is key
Clear Skies Ahead
Keeping keep the aviation industry up in the air
Lighting the Way
Through Boom and Bust
Down to a Science, Assembling Success
law & government
A Patented System
Blending law and technology without a glitch
Tackling the Big Issues
Combining expertise, technology and a smart location
Decades on Defense
Rebuilding in the Big Easy
Real Estate with Real Breadth, Only Results Count
An Ontario law firm that never lost its edge
Coming together is the key to success
Bringing value back to insurance
Keeping the Peace, What Stays in Las Vegas
On the Job
The the growing resiliency of the IT industry
The Time for Tortoises
How ‘slow and steady’ saved a company
Strong Lines of Defense
Standing up for justice when workers’ rights come under fire
Helping accident victims avoid financial ruin
Taking Aim at Shaky Claims, Economics in Orbit
Taking advantage of new advances in cyber technology
THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.5
THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED BUSINESS AWARD
CORPORATE EXCELLENCE The CEO of DuPont and one of the powerful women in the country is changing the future of American innovation. BY JACEY FORTIN
“I remember being in elementary school when President Kennedy announced that the U.S. would land a man safely on the moon and then return him home,” said Ellen Kullman, the CEO of DuPont and one of the most powerful women in America. “I wondered how they could do that, and started learning about the science and engineering behind that goal.” Fifty years have passed since that announcement, and both Kennedy and Kullman have realized their lofty ambitions. At the helm of one of the most prominent companies in the United States, Kullman does more than learn about new advances—she makes them happen. And on September 16, 2011, she wasn’t watching great moments unfold on television; she was there in person. As a member of the U.S. Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, Kullman looked over President Obama’s shoulder as he signed the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, a piece of legislation that revolutionizes the pursuit of innovation in the United States. “The America Invents Act brings the U.S. patent system into the 21st century and will help speed and expand the innovation capacity of the American economy, creating new technologies and products,” she explained. “It will speed R&D investment, new product development and the creation of jobs.” At her day job as the chief executive at DuPont, Kullman is always on the cutting edge of new tech-
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
nological advances. She joined the company in 1988 and became CEO in 2009. Today, DuPont has over 8,500 scientists and engineers working at R&D centers around the world, turning groundbreaking new innovations into commercial successes. As DuPont spokesperson Michelle Reardon explains, the business was focused on explosives at the time of its foundation in 1802. But when the company began producing Nylon in 1935—securing the patent for one of the world’s most popular synthetic polymers—DuPont saw its biggest explosion yet. “Nylon helped the company transform into one that’s focused on chemistry, providing better things for better living,” said Reardon. “Over the last 20 years now, we’ve incorporated the entire science toolkit, including biology, chemical engineering and other capabilities. Today we’re utilizing biology to make things that chemistry alone cannot make. It has become a niche because we create more sustainable products and technologies that have the same high performance that the DuPont brand has always signified.” The business has an impressive list of patented technologies— household names like Tyvek, Teflon and Kevlar—and now they’re responding to new demands for greater sustainability and eco-friendly goods. “You see products today from DuPont that
have smaller environmental footprints, but also products that are better for the environment. Just last month, for example, we announced a partnership to create OLED technology for television.” This advancement allows for crisp visibility on screens of all sizes, with less energy requirements than traditional methods. And that’s just one in a long line of innovations. DuPont holds patents for over 35,000 inventions, and in 2010 alone they came out with 1,800 new products. Kullman knows she has an important responsibility moving forward. “Because of the dramatic increases in population growth, we are at a unique point in history where we need to determine how to feed and nourish a growing planet, how to protect those people from harm and how to do so with limited resources and alternative forms of energy,” she said. “These are problems that I think DuPont is uniquely positioned to create true solutions for. It is an exciting time to be a scientist and an engineer. The work that our people do at DuPont will help create lasting change across the globe.”
CEO & Chair of DuPont Inc.
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THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED DISCOVERY AWARD
SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE A Nobel Prize-winning discovery opens up new avenues for scientific exploration. BY JACEY FORTIN
hat if you tossed an apple into the air, and it never dropped back down? What if, instead, it kept accelerating upwards, eventually exiting earth’s atmosphere and rocketing into space on an infinite trajectory? You’d have to reevaluate the laws of physics entirely. Saul Perlmutter used this metaphor to describe the significance of the 1998 discovery that won him a Nobel Prize in Physics and shook the very foundation of our understanding of the universe. Until that time, there had been two common hypotheses on the fate of the cosmos. The universe was expanding—that much we knew—and most physicists assumed gravity was slowing that expansion down. Either the sum of all matter would expand indefinitely with increasing slowness, or it would eventually reach a tipping point and fall back in on itself. So when Perlmutter and his team analyzed the data they had collected from studying type Ia supernovae and found that neither was the case—that the universe was in fact expanding at an ever-increasing rate—they assumed they’d made an error. They went back again, re-measuring and re-calculating, but their findings never changed.
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
In 1998 Perlmutter’s research team, the Supernova Cosmology Project, announced their findings simultaneously with the competing High-z Supernova Search Team, giving astrophysicists a whole new set of mysteries to investigate. Ever since, scientists have grappled with the concept of dark energy, the still-unidentifiable force that pushes our universe apart. Perlmutter first received news of his award at 4 a.m. on October 4, when his 8-year-old daughter Noa woke him to say she’d heard the news. Phones were ringing off the hook before dawn, and Perlmutter graciously endured incessant media attention right up through the Nobel Prize ceremony on December 10. He accepted the award— which he shares with Adam Reiss and Brian Schmidt of the High-z team—from the King of Sweden on a royal blue stage in Stockholm’s Concert Hall. Perlmutter, a Philadelphia native, teaches at UC Berkeley. He is currently working on the SuperNova Acceleration Probe (SNAP) project, which aims to launch a space observatory that will investigate the precise rate of acceleration for universal expansion. He is also part of the team for the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) project, which is compiling comprehensive measurements of changes in the earth’s temperature in an attempt to resolve debates
surrounding the evidence for climate change. After collecting over a billion meteorological records dating back centuries, the team released initial reports stating that global temperatures have risen about 1 degree Celsius since the 1950s. A full peer-reviewed study is still in the works. For the moment, Perlmutter is back in San Francisco to wind down from the whirlwind of attention he’s received over the past few months. And then it’s back to work, where he’s happy to pursue more groundbreaking research. As he explained during his Nobel Prize Banquet Speech, “The only thing better for a scientist than finding a crucial piece of a puzzle that completes a picture is finding a piece that doesn’t fit at all, and tells us that there is a whole new part of the puzzle that we haven’t even imagined yet, and the puzzle is bigger, richer, than we ever thought. “
2011 Nobel Prize winner
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THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED AWARENESS AWARD
PRINCIPAL EXCELLENCE One internet entrepreneur lives up to his promise of bringing knowledge to the masses on a grand scale. BY MONICA LINK
immy Wales had one dream— to give the people of the world free information. Widespread knowledge brings widespread empowerment, and Wales has made it his life’s mission. Statistics, biographies, trivia and millions of facts can all be found on the site he envisioned and created: Wikipedia. Entries can be authored or edited by anyone, and the project has become a model for free access and collective self-regulation unlike anything the world has ever seen. Wales, an entrepreneur from Alabama, started investigating internet opportunities after generating some capital by working in the field of finance. He started two other online communities—called Bomis and Nupedia—that failed to achieve lasting power. But all was not lost; those ventures generated capital and gave him the experience he needed to put together Wikipedia. Today, Wales and his partners fund the site though support from those who read and write on Wikipedia. Wales said in a 2009 speech at Yale University that he and his partners plan to avoid using advertising to bolster cash flow, but would consider it if funding became scarce. For now, visitors to the site will see personal appeals from various writers, editors and staffers asking for reader donations. Wikipedia
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may have grown to be the fifthlargest site on the internet, but it operates according to the same values that inspired its foundation—free knowledge for all, not beholden to the demands and censorship often imposed by corporate sponsors. The site is written and updated by volunteers in thousands of different languages across the world. Because anyone around the world can contribute, there are plenty of writers to keep up with constant changes in politics, science, art, pop culture and more. This is a feat no professionally-written, peer-reviewed encyclopedia could hope to achieve. Wales told the BBC that the language growth of Wikipedia is rapidly expanding. In 2011, the company opened an office in India, a country that now represents one of the organization’s fastest-growing new segments. And they’re not finished. “The biggest thing you can expect to see in the next 10 years is the growth of Wikipedia in languages of the developing world,” Wales said. As Wikipedia moves into its eleventh year, new sites and developments continue to keep people engaged in the community. “Wikipedia began with a very radical idea,” Wales said. “That’s for all of us
to imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. So that’s what we’re doing.”
Free access to all human knowledge. Some call it impossible, I call it Wikipedia.”
- Jimmy Wales
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THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED VISIONARY AWARD
INNOVATOR EXCELLENCE A late icon in the world of computer technology has left the world better than he found it. Thank you, Steve. BY PATRICK SULLIVAN
teve Jobs was more than just the sum of his parts. He was part tech junkie, part artist; part designer, part engineer; part manager, part motivational speaker. It was a volatile mix, especially considering Jobs was well-known for temper tantrums, crying jags and fad diets. But put them all together and you get someone who, quite literally, changed the world as we know it. Born in 1955, Jobs came of age at the tail end of the free-thought hippie movement, and in many ways was a product of his time. Throughout his career, he followed a different path than other businesspeople. While most CEOs of Fortune 500 companies have Ivy League educations, Jobs dropped out of Reed College after one semester and traveled to India to study spiritualism and experiment with LSD. It was this sort of trend-bucking that would characterize most of Jobs’ career. While the computer industry was making massive mainframes that took up entire rooms, Jobs was envisioning computers for the masses. He created the first prototype in 1976, and a company called Apple Computer Inc. was born. From the start, Jobs was about the product, not the profits. He demanded an unprecedented level of control over the engineering of his products—from the coating on the screws to the placement of components on the
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
motherboard—and his passion for design shone through in nearly everything he did. “Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service,” said Jobs in a 2000 interview. As a manager Jobs was harsh, often publically taking employees to task when he felt an idea, design or product “sucked.” Egos were bruised and feelings were hurt, but his employees always strived for excellence. “My job is not to be easy on people,” he once said. “My job is to take these great people we have and to push them, and make them even better.” Because of these deeply-held convictions and helped by his sense of showmanship, Jobs was able to convince his employees that the impossible could be done. He stacked his company with “Aplayers,” as he called them, and he inspired them to carry out his vision despite sometimes insurmountable-seeming odds. One of Jobs’s greatest assets was his uncanny ability to drill down into the heart of things and excise all but the necessary. His watchword was always “simplicity.” That’s why the first computer mouse made by Apple—like all of its subsequent models—only had one button. The iPod was a direct response to the arcane, often bewildering mp3 players that preceded it. “You have to work
hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple,” said Jobs to BusinessWeek in 1998. “But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” Steve Jobs simply moved through the universe in a different way than the rest of us. Everything he touched, he changed. He shook up traditional advertising with Apple’s 1984 Super Bowl commercial. He transformed animation with Pixar’s character-focused films like Toy Story. He positively revolutionized the music industry with iTunes, and he modernized cell phones with the iPhone. And just as Jobs helped usher in the PC era with the first Apple computer, he initiated the post-PC era with the iPad. Before Jobs, there was no architecture in place for the way he wanted to change the world. So he created it—and the world has changed. As Jobs himself was fond of saying, it’s better to be a pirate than to join the Navy.
Cofounder, Apple Inc.
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THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED PERFORMER AWARD
ENTERTAINER EXCELLENCE One political impersonator steals the show, proving that it’s about much more than a lucky resemblance. BY THE SUIT STAFF
n June of 2011, a group of prominent political figures got together in New Orleans for the Republican Leadership Convention. But the man who stole the show was not a presidential contender—in fact, he was not a politician at all. On the third day of the convention, Barack Obama impersonator Reggie Brown delivered a bipartisan comedy sketch that made headlines. The crowd laughed at his jokes about Joe Biden, Anthony Weiner and Bill Clinton, but some began to jeer as Brown made jabs at the Republican presidential contenders. In the middle of a joke about Michelle Bachmann, his microphone was silenced and an RLC liaison emerged from backstage. “That’s it,” he said. “Sorry Reg, your time is up.” Brown, still in character, smiled and gave a presidential wave. “Gotta go!” he told the audience. “God bless you! God bless the United States!” Moments like this make Brown reflect on the true impact of his work. “Being a performer and speaker, it’s one of my obligations to keep people socially aware,” he said. “I think the media has the power to control what people think by immersing everyone in the message they want to send, and I found that to be true when I got taken offstage at the RLC.” Aside from the controversy that comes with the territory of political impersonation, Brown truly enjoys his work. “I’m basically living my dream right now,” he said.
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In recent weeks he has traveled to Africa to entertain a convention of CEOs in Tanzania, performed with the USO for troops in Guam, and appeared at a Microsoft corporate event in Seattle. He also regularly appears on national radio broadcasts and television programs, including his running gig on Fox News’s Governor Mike Huckabee Show. Requests came pouring in after his attention-grabbing RLC performance, giving him the chance to get his own message out to America. Brown appeared on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, HLN’s Joy Behar Show, and CNN’s John King USA. His success is due to more than just a lucky resemblance. Brown was signed as a model during his college years, but one unfortunate encounter interrupted that trajectory. “I was actually jumped on my way home one night,” Brown said. “Some kid just blindsided me, and I ended up having to get plates put into my face. That took me out of school and out of modeling; it was probably the lowest point in my life.” As Brown recovered, he decided to develop a different skill set. “People always said I had a broadcasting voice, so I started taking acting classes and voiceover training,” he said. Soon Brown was working as a radio personality and event announcer. “In the meantime,” he said, “my brother was the first one to tell me that I looked like a guy named Barack Obama. Once he became
senator, I started hearing it all the time. And when the 2008 campaign began, people would tell me every single day.” When Obama won the presidency, Brown decided to try his luck as an impersonator. “The next week I put a video up on the internet and met up with my first manager in Los Angeles, and we went from there.” Today, Brown is represented by Dustin Gold, CEO of William Gold Entertainment, a talent management agency that develops and brokers America’s premier political impressionists, including iconic impostors of Sarah Palin, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. “Dustin is amazing at what he does,” said Brown. “For people who do what I do, it’s basically all about corporate events. But we broke out of that; we work in new media, film, television, radio—every different project that fits within our brand.” With another presidential election around the bend, business looks promising. Brown is eager to continue with his work. “I think I was born this way for a reason,” he said. “Unlike other people who attempt to make a living out of the Obama character, I do feel a sense of responsibility to uphold a certain level of respect towards the president. I take that seriously!”
Readers are encouraged to follow @iamreggiebrown on Twitter to stay up-to-date on Brownâ€™s upcoming projects.
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THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED ADVERTISING AWARD
ENTREPRENEUR EXCELLENCE One young businessman has mastered the art of the start-up—and this is only the beginning. BY MONICA LINK
ost people associate college students with coursework, dorm rooms and more textbooks than you can count. Josh Linkner was not your typical college student. Instead of cramming for tests and spending all his free time at frat parties, Linkner started his own computer business. A few years later, he sold it and moved on to multi-millon dollar ventures. “I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spark,” he said. “I was 20 years old and had never taken one business class, so I hustled and figured it out.” There are millions of hopeful entrepreneurs hoping for their dreams to come true, as Linkner’s did. And as the economy slump continues, small businesses are looking to banks for loans. But money is not the only key to a successful start-up—innovation is important, too. And Linkner is an innovation expert. In 1999 he founded ePrize, a successful internet advertising firm. Today he serves as the company chairman, presiding over about 400 employees across several major metro markets. He also launched another venture to help new businesses in the struggling Detroit market, called Detroit Venture Partners. The group includes successful businessmen looking to make a difference. Former NBA
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star Ervin “Magic” Johnson is one of the partners in Linkner’s group. The New York Times bestseller—he made waves with his 2011 book “Disciplined Dreaming”— told The Suit that he believes everyone has creativity; it’s all about the discipline we use in cultivating it. In the book, he outlines the five steps of disciplined dreaming: ask, prepare, discover, ignite and launch. It’s a method that has worked for him many times over, and his goal is to spread the word. “There is a need for creativity. We live in a world that is so fastmoving and competitive,” Linkner said. “There are so many people who think we’re either born creative or we’re not. But creativity is 85 percent learned behavior, and all of us have enormous creative capabilities.” Those talents can come in many forms; Linker explained how his skills as a jazz musician influenced his business. He applied techniques he learned as an artist—improvisation and imagination—to his entrepreneurial ventures, and success quickly followed. The United States economy is a tough fix, but Linkner has his own ideas on what we can do to turn the tide. “I think we need to focus on entrepreneurship,” he said. “Job growth is coming from small business. And people need to be more creative; it gives them
a competitive advantage. There is a thirst for creativity around the world. Creativity cannot be outsourced.”
There are so many people who think we’re either born creative or we’re not. But creativity is 85 percent learned behavior, and all of us have enormous creative capabilities.”
Author & Serial Entrepreneur
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THE SUIT MAGAZINE EDITOR’S PICK
DISTINGUISHED LEADER AWARD
EDUCATOR EXCELLENCE A great idea is taking shape in New York City, and educators across the country are taking notice. BY MONICA LINK
eoffrey Canada found his calling as a young boy in the 1950s. Raised by a single mother in the South Bronx, he saw crime and poverty firsthand. But Geoffrey Canada didn’t become a statistic—and he didn’t become a spectator, either. Instead, his experiences inspired him to become a teacher. As he worked, he noticed many problems in the education system, many of which disproportionately affected children from low-income households. So Canada did his research, earning a master’s degree from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. He made it his mission to keep education fair and engaging, encouraging children to stay in class and off the streets. Geoffrey Canada gained prominence in 2010 for his participation in the acclaimed documentary “Waiting for Superman.” The film addressed the American education system’s most endemic problems, and how they affect disadvantaged youth in cities across the country. Children look at the world and they make certain predictions based on the evidence they’re receiving from their peers, their parents and from their teachers,” Canada said in the film. “From their perspective the world is a heartless, cold-blooded place because they’ve been given the short end of the stick and they don’t know why.” For the past two decades, Canada has been working closely with
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children and families in Harlem. The neighborhood, home to the famous Apollo Theater, old-fashioned jazz venues and countless resident artists, is known for its rich culture and diversity. But it’s also a place where high school dropout rates are some of the highest in New York City. Canada has served as the president and CEO of the Harlem Children’s Zone since 1990. At its inception, this was a pilot program covering just one city block in Harlem, offering diverse support services to children and their families. Since then, the zone has grown to about 100 blocks; it now serves over 8000 children and 6000 adults. The HCZ is a place where youth can go for education and inspiration, no matter what their home environments or socioeconomic background. The organization serves children from early childhood though high school, as well as their families. HCZ has offered preschool programs, anti-obesity campaigns, parenting classes and more. And it’s effective—program participants have proven to be much more likely to graduate from high school and go on to college. It’s all about building communities, so Canada is passionate about building the right staff for the nonprofit. People who’ve had tough life experiences are often his top choices for employees. He discussed his hiring and management style with the New York
Times, noting that “a person who’s never experienced any real serious setbacks and challenges is going to have a very hard time working for us. All of us are constantly pushing a limit that folks say we can’t get to … So I try to drill down on what motivates people. Why do they really want to come here? What kind of challenges have they faced in their life?”
A person who’s never experienced any real serious setbacks and challenges is going to have a very hard time working for us. “
CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone
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by wendy connick
More than Mail
For the creative staff at PostcardMania, marketing is all about the total package
o business can succeed without doing some marketing. A company may have a superb product, but it still won’t sell a thing unless potential customers can find out about it. But choosing the right marketing avenue is critical, especially for small businesses with small marketing budgets. Joy Gendusa, CEO Joy Gendusa, CEO, PostcardMania of PostcardMania, says that direct mail is a marketing tool that can work for nearly any business. “We’ve done postcards for over 350 different industries,” she said. “We’ve done so many of them that we really do know what works and what doesn’t.” It all began when Gendusa herself was looking to do some marketing for her small business. “I had a small graphic design company prior to PostcardMania, where it was just me and a couple of people. I decided that in order to grow my current business, I needed to do some direct mail for myself.” She did her research and found a printer whose prices seemed too good to be true. “As a print broker, I couldn’t understand how they could offer it so inexpensively,” she said. “I proceeded to design a postcard to promote my design company. I sent them the art, they sent me back a proof, and on that proof was an 800 number that wasn’t mine. It was their 800 number!” Like a true entrepreneur, she saw this problem as an opportunity. “I walked out to my three staff and I said, ‘We’re starting a new company, and we are going to call it PostcardMania. I am going into postcard marketing, and I’m going to do it better! And we’re going to have way better customer service!’” She combined her marketing experience with her new
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printing idea, and PostcardMania was born. Unlike other direct mail companies, her business takes care of clients from start to finish. It’s not just printing—it’s consulting, acquiring leads, designing, mailing, and even digital marketing. Clients who work with PostcardMania can pick and choose which services they need most, or they can go for the whole shebang and can get everything they need in one consolidated package. This allows Gendusa to share her talents in a way that’s cost-effective and efficient—no hidden 800 number necessary. PostcardMania has grown from three to 192 employees in the past 13 years, and continues to expand, particularly on the digital side. The company’s present focus is on growing its web design services. Gendusa says that her success comes in large part because she practices what she preaches: consistent and ongoing marketing. PostcardMania mails 120,000 postcards a week. “It’s just a matter of consistent, consistent marketing. I mean, I never ever decrease my marketing. I am a marketing maniac!”
2145 Sunnydale Blvd Building 102 Clearwater, FL 33765 Ph. +1 (866) 803-2421 www.postcardmania.com
by andrea lehner
Why Wyoming is Working The team at Cheyenne LEADS has some insights into the surprising success of its state’s economy.
hile the nation was facing tough economic times, Cheyenne LEADS was a driving force behind the relatively stable economy in Wyoming. CEO Randy Bruns told The Suit about the economic benefits many businesses have realized by relocating to Wyoming, and he’s proud to be a part of his state’s success. “In many cases, we can be a part of the equation in helping a business lower its costs or improve its productivity.” Cheyenne LEADS is a private, nonprofit organization that focuses on the delivery of jobs and investments within the community. “We believe the best decisions are made with the best information,” Bruns said. “Businesses need good, unbiased information to make decisions. In many ways, we are facilitators—the connectors of dots.” Bruns recalls anticipating a slowdown as the national economy began to turn. “Surprisingly, that didn’t really happen,” he said. The local economy softened but didn’t have the drastic dip that was seen across the country. “We’ve got lower unemployment than the rest of the country, and we’re seeing some modest but real economic growth.” When Cheyenne LEADS was founded 25 years ago, Wyoming was in the middle of its own economic downturn. Community leaders recognized that the problem couldn’t be solved through government assistance alone; it needed private industry. “They developed a private model— not directly connected to the city, the county or any governmental entity—
that could focus on putting in place the resources necessary for the Cheyenne area to compete for jobs and employment to help get us out of the boom-bust cycle,” Bruns said. “We’ve been careful to not be too parochial but to keep our sights high and our vision wide, which has contributed to our success.” Bruns is motivated by a real passion for helping others. One day not long ago, while talking with an employee of a company in trouble, he suggested getting more skills training before the inevitable happened. Months later, that person came back for a visit. As Bruns braced himself for news of a layoff, the man told him that thanks to the efforts of Cheyenne LEADS, he had a job already lined up to begin the Monday after he was to be laid off. “To me,” said Bruns, “that’s why we do what we do.” In a recent presentation to a regional Economic Status Forum, Bruns ticked off details about 13 major construction projects in the Cheyenne area that were recently completed or in the works—most of which had some level of involvement from Cheyenne LEADS. He noted the positive impacts: new jobs, an increased tax base and a significant influx of capital investment. But, he told The Suit, he is most proud of the fact that each project represents an opportunity for real people to work, to thrive, and to provide for their families and community.
“We believe the best decisions are made with the best information.” - Randy Bruns
Cheyenne LEADS PO Box 1045 Cheyenne, WY 82003 Ph. +1 (307) 638-6000 www.cheyenneleads.org
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by andrea lehner
Putting People Before Profits Not every CEO is focused on the bottom line.
N Nancy Slomowitz, CEO Executive Management Associates, Inc.
Executive Management Associates, Inc. 14800 Seneca Road Darnestown, MD 20874 Ph. +1 (301) 330-2531 www.execman.com
ancy Slomowitz, ceo and owner of Executive Management Associates, Inc., a business management consulting firm, prioritizes
people over money. “Every decision I make is made based on whether I can sleep at night. When I make my decisions based on the right things, the money follows. I don’t focus on the money; I focus on doing the right thing,” Slomowitz said. According to Slomowitz, most of her competition operates with the goal of becoming profitable enough to sell within eight years. But a focus on profits always ends up undermining quality, she explained. Conversely, she’s in the business to share her talent and expertise. Slomowitz worked her way from a company bookkeeper to the vice president before deciding to strike out on her own. “I have a very good business sensibility. I would see [my employers] do things that were stupid, and I would be punished for pointing them out,” she said. At that point she decided to make her skills available to those who would appreciate them. “Our expertise is in business management. Every industry has a need for business management. Right now, our primary customer is the federal government, but that has changed over time. Most of our work comes from referrals, and it happens organically,” she said.
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“The company is recognized for its integrity. Because I am the owner and it ends with me, I make sure that every decision is based on integrity.” As someone in touch with ideals of fairness and transparency, Slomowitz understands the frustrations being expressed in the Occupy Wall Street movement. In fact, she’s been writing a book that covers some of business practice issues that are at the core of employee frustration, which is due out January 2012. “I think the whole financial system and the way it’s reported needs to change. I’ve spent the last year writing a book about it called ‘Work Zone Madness,’” she said. “What you see on television is the S&P or Dow Jones, and it really has nothing to do with real-world business,” Slomowitz continued. “Because I am a business person, I know the tricks. I know what [people like Bernie Madoff] are doing. It’s disgraceful and disgusting to me that people who have that ability use it in a misguided way. I would never use my skills that way.” Slomowitz is proud to be involved with the day-to-day operations without having to rely on others to tell her how her business is doing. Building trust, she said, is essential to having a strong business. Her motto is to underpromise and over-deliver. “If I tell you I’m going to do something, I will make sure I have the time to deliver.” In addition to helping spread integrity as a business model, Slomowitz is an active philanthropist, running a foundation she established in her father’s name that provides scholarships for other up-and-coming professionals.
by wendy connick
Care CapRelo helps its clients move their most valuable resources.
oving is often cited as one of life’s most stressful events. And when an employee relocates for work, there’s a myriad of variables to consider: furniture, mortgage transfers, real estate, a new work environment and more. But what if employers could have all of those details taken care of by one consolidated supplier? CapRelo provides exactly this service for companies who need to relocate employees. And after 14 years of adapting to market demands, their methods are more streamlined and effective than ever. CapRelo President Mickey Williams explained the business’s trademarked methodology, The Low-Stress Relocation Process™. It’s a six-step, all-inclusive, cyclical technique that simplifies their services for the client and allows for constant revisiting, ensuring an optimal ROI. “We have all of our clients’ concerns covered,” Williams said, “from the policy all the way through dealing with the transferring employee’s experience and all the various suppliers involved. We roll it all up into a strategic plan.” While its competitors pursue a narrow approach to employee relocation, CapRelo has the capability to handle every detail from start to finish. It’s all for the good of the client, but what goes around comes around. “What ties our company together is our culture, which basically says ‘Do the right thing for the client, and the client will take care of you.’ It’s no secret, but it’s been our success formula,” explained Williams. And what a formula it’s been. When
Williams stepped on as a board member in 2002, the company had eight employees and annual sales of less than $1 million. Today CapRelo employs 75 people, and is on-track to top $20 million in revenue in the coming year. The recession didn’t even make a dent—in fact, the last several years have seen record-breaking profits. “And we have another amazing statistic,” added Williams. “We’ve gone almost three years without a client loss. I’ve been in this business for 32 years and I’ve never seen anything like that.” Client satisfaction isn’t the only secret to their success; Williams also ensures steady profits by diversifying his revenue stream. “Our business is divided into three principal segments,” he said. “There’s the government; we move employees for a number of federal agencies. In another segment we have about 50 corporate clients, and that’s across a broad spectrum of industries including pharmaceutical, financial, construction and manufacturing. Our third segment is made up of one large corporate retail client.” The market they serve is wide-ranging, but the professionals at CapRelo take special care to respond to the unique needs of each client. “Relocation deals with the most valuable resources of a company: their employees. So we have a singular client focus,” said Williams. “And we have great employees ourselves.” A strong team, value-driven approach, and uniquely consolidated methodology have kept CapRelo at the top of its industry for over a decade—and this business is still making all the right moves. THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.23
ONE for the TEAM
reat leadership is the key to success. For 21 years Ann Depta, President of Meridian Consulting Group, has been providing executive leadership consulting and team building services to help create strong companies from the top down. Depta started the Charlottebased firm after serving as a vice president in the banking industry. There she was in charge of organizational and leadership development during a tumultuous and rapidly changing era. Building on that experience, Depta and her team now provide a multitude of leadership training and team building workshops for an impressive array of high-profile corporations, including Google, Disney, Target, Wells Fargo, Sara Lee Corporation and IBM. Meridian aims to establish partnerships between employers and employees in their premier program, “How to Influence with Integrity.” Motivation, Depta said, re-
by andrea lehner quires more than a cut-and-dry formula. Meridian teaches organizational leaders how to be proactive in their motivation techniques, creating the active engagement all leaders want to see among their employees. According to Depta, when managers use effective reinforcement, separate the behavior from the person, recognize accomplishments, empower employees, listen effectively and individualize their management to the different personalities of their team members, employees become more intrinsically motivated and the team dynamic becomes more positive and productive. Ask any successful entrepreneur what their secret is, and they will undoubtedly say they have great employees. They know that when people come together with the same goals and a real passion to accomplish them, great organizations are built. Meridian provides the tools leaders need to accomplish this feat. 1800 Camden Rd., Ste. 107 Charlotte, NC 28203 Ph. +1 (704) 376-7953 meridianconsult.com
Growing Healthy Organizations
by altamese osborne
hristina (tina) graf’s organizational development and change consulting firm seeks to tap the wisdom in her clients—and she wants them to do it with a FLOURISH! Tina has years of experience in human resource and organizational development. She started her own company in order to bring her skills and interests to a new client sector. Today, FLOURISH! primarily serves diverse national and international nonprofit clients. Her expertise and strong commitment to her clients’ success are paying off. Clients from multiple arenas routinely praise the efforts of FLOURISH! As Sandi Beals of Georgia Citizens for the Arts testified, “Tina did an incredible job… it was like magic watching everyone become involved and part of the process.” Betty Abbott of Meridian Medical Group observed, “Tina was an invaluable resource. Her teamwork, facilitation, and communication skills are exemplary. Her creativity and enthusiasm are infectious.” Like any company, FLOURISH! has faced market ups and downs. Yet it has continued to succeed even in diffi-
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cult times, thanks in part to Tina’s adaptability. She recognizes that to flourish, she must continuously investigate new opportunities. “It’s time for me to go after what I would call a FLOURISH! 2.0,” said Tina. “The world and I have changed, and I can’t just do what I’ve always done. My work is most alive when combining others’ skills and experience with my own to create positive social change. In these changing times, FLOURISH! is open to new venues and forms of collaboration!”
3500 Vinings North Trail, SE Smyrna, GA 30080 Ph. +1 (770) 433-9676 www.goflourish.com
by wendy connick
Making the Most of
The experts at DAI know how to enhance productivity, even when budgets are tight.
he key to attracting and keeping top-tier employees is creating a top-tier working environment. Creating a supportive atmosphere can do more to make a star employee happy than a VIP parking space, or even a fat bonus. And it’s about more than just retaining talent; it takes work to streamline communication within a company so that the most productive ideas can flourish, and teams can work together smoothly to achieve their goals. Dr. Sherilyne Dougherty knows this better than anyone. She’s the president and founder of Dougherty & Associates (DAI), a consultancy providing services in the areas of communica-
tions, human capital and learning solutions. Dougherty’s successful small business has at its foundation a culture that fosters a sense of ownership among employees by ensuring they feel valued for their talents and contributions. “We value and reward hard work and commitment, while remaining flexible to accommodate individual circumstances and development desires,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘You don’t even know what you’ve created. This is a wonderful work environment with good pay, great benefits and interesting contracts. And you treat your people well.’ That’s the environment I want to create. Treat people like you want to be treated and you have an inspired, productive team.” Dougherty’s management approach
is working well for DAI, and the company was named one of Inc. Magazine’s 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in 2010 and 2011. “The company’s really grown,” she said.” We’ve tripled in size in the last three years, and have really begun to achieve some name recognition. We’ve got stability and a very strong infrastructure to support growth. And we are still growing; a 20 to 30 percent revenue growth is my goal each year.” There are a number of reasons DAI is so stable. Because the company works mainly on government contracts, it hasn’t been as negatively affected by the recession as many other small companies. Dougherty has also been careful to avoid one of the major pitfalls of small business ownership: overextending the company’s credit. “We’ve managed the business over the years to be financially sound while very profitable. We established a strong line of credit but have used it minimally. It’s simple – don’t spend what you don’t have.” Dougherty’s advice for small businesses is to take advantage of the benefits of being a small company, instead of trying to compete with larger firms – develop relationships and team with clients while building your qualifications. “It’s all about delivering quality work. Because we’re small, we can’t compete with the large firms. But we can certainly deliver high-quality services and ensure we never let anything slip through the cracks that’s not up to our standards of quality,” she said. “So, while you may start with smaller contracts, if you consistently perform and build trust, the small contracts evolve into larger ones.”
1199 North Fairfax Street, Suite 800 Alexandria, VA 22314 Ph. +1 (703) 838-0093 dai-solutions.com
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by altamese osborne
The Right Atmosphere Paul Elliott knows that behind every exemplary business is an exemplary team. It’s his job to bring out the best in everyone.
he doldrums of the typical nine-to-five job don’t do much to inspire employee excellence, according to Dr. Paul Elliott, owner of Exemplary Performance. “I realized Dr. Paul Elliot that people need to know specific aspects of their job to perform well, but the fact that they’re knowledgeable doesn’t necessarily mean they will perform well,” Elliott said. He first noticed employee apathy while working as an external consultant with a background in human learning. Hoping to help companies increase productivity by focusing on the best employees at work, he founded Exemplary Performance in 2004. The company’s method is simple: first, they ask clients what means the most to them in terms of productivity. “We have them identify the critical business metrics they care about,” said Elliott. Next, Exemplary Performance asks the company to identify its “star performers,” as Elliott calls them. “Your star performers are those who succeed in spite of a faulty organizational structure,” he said. “If you understand how those star performers produce results, you can help shift the bulk of the people in the middle of the curve to a higher level of performance.” The final step is getting the client to shift the workplace so
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that all employees begin to work at optimum levels. It is not merely teaching other employees to follow the examples of the best and brightest—it is revamping the entire atmosphere to foster an attitude of success in everyone else. “Microsoft, for instance, doesn’t recruit a new college grad who’s showing up to be number 91,999 out of 92, 000 employees,” Elliott said. “Everybody they hire wants to change the world. They show up to succeed and contribute.” Despite the fact that some employees may show varying levels of commitment and success on the job, Elliott notes that lower performance isn’t always the employees’ fault; sometimes, the bureaucratic atmospheres of workplace environments simply fail to motivate and engage the employees. “They encounter a system that is unintentionally designed to constrain their performance,” he said. Elliott notes that positive reinforcement tools such as compensation, recognition, training and clear objectives are often inadequate—or not in place at all. This further compounds the need for outside experts like himself. “There’s no one person in an organization who controls all the variables that need to be architected to create a barrier-free work system,” he said.
After the economic downturn, the firm is now sailing smoothly—and continuing to improve the employee practices of other businesses. And due to their success, they’re becoming more exemplary themselves. “We are going to be hiring again,” said Elliott, noting that the 10-member firm has not made a hire since the downturn of 2008. “We anticipate 30 percent growth during 2012.”
222 Severn Avenue, Suite 9 Building 7-16 Annapolis, MD 21403 Ph. +1 (410) 266-8400 exemplaryperformance.com
The Personal J
im rowley, president of lincoln benefits group, believes the soul of a company lies in person-toperson interaction rather than technology. Having achieved continuous annual growth since LBG’s 1985 inception, Rowley has the success record to validate his convictions. LBG provides full-service benefit packages for nonprofit organizations. “About 40 percent of the people in this country work for a nonprofit at some time. It just doesn’t get the same attention as the forprofit world gets,” Rowley said. “We have a real passion for [nonprofits]. We love helping people who help people,” Rowley explained. “We are very supportive in their fundraising and active with their causes.” Rowley has taken measures to recruit people who share his passion for the market segment, which has helped LBG sustain client loyalty. “We have clients who’ve been with us since 1985.” Originally a social worker, Rowley avoids relying on the internet. “I think there’s been a major miscalculation about people’s need for contact and relationships,” he explained. “Technology is very important and is a great way to efficiently deliver and organize what we do, but we commit to meeting one-on-one with every organization. We won’t abandon what we do best.” Rowley followed his entrepreneurial dreams in order to put his seven children through school, something that didn’t seem attainable on a public servant salary. “It’s been great,” he said, “My kids got through college and now I have grandkids.” Today, Rowley remains involved in daily operations while mentoring others to fill his shoes and providing top-level consulting for the rapidly changing 403B retirement sector.
by andrea lehner
550 Pinetown Road Suite 270, Fort Washington, PA 19034 Ph: +1 (215) 887-8330 www.lbg1.com
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by patrick sullivan
Revolutionized Healthcare the united states has one of the most expensive—and least effective—healthcare systems in the industrialized world. could telemedicine be the solution?
he American medical industry is facing a bit of a paradox. A 2009 “Vanity Fair” article claims that healthcare costs accounted for a full 17 percent of the United States’ total GDP in 2008. Meanwhile, nearly 50 million Americans did not have health insurance in 2010. Larry Zuccolotto is trying to bring that number down. This 30-year health care industry veteran is the vice president of marketing for AmeriDoc and the president and CEO of Victor Vision, both of which are in the field of telemedicine. BCC Research, a leading research company, projects $23 billion in revenue from telemedicine by 2015 Interactive telemedicine allows for real-time interactions between patients and practitioners for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases and non-emergency medical matters. Individuals can obtain access to doctors via telephone or video conference. This has the potential to make our healthcare system incredibly efficient; according to the Wellness Councils of America, 70 percent of doctor visits could be handled remotely, and telemedicine could free up the overburdened medical system for true emergencies. AmeriDoc not only lets patients conference with physicians more easily; it also provides a virtual space for patients’ medical records so they and their doctors have immediate access. Victor Vision, on the other hand, is a marketing company; it helps large associations—such as the California Professional Firefighters’ Association—connect with programs such as AmeriDoc in order to supplement their members’ health insurance. Zuccolotto comes from an insurance background. His many years of experience and extensive knowledge of the health care industry have helped him fine-tune numerous
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marketing programs. “We’ve been able to create alternatives that accompany health insurance programs, and marketing plans that make sense,” he said. The biggest issues facing the health care industry, says Zuccolotto, are the growing number of underinsured and uninsured people in America, the reluctance of employers to see their rates increase, and the stilluncertain impacts of President Obama’s health care legislation. That last concern remains up in the air, but Zuccolotto thinks AmeriDoc can absolutely help with the first two. “We believe that our program is going to be a relief to all—the uninsured and employers alike,” he said. The flexibility of telemedicine and its extremely low rates—most telemedicine plans go for less than $20 a month—have helped AmeriDoc grow by a whopping 2,000 percent between 2007 and 2010. Zuccolotto says he receives testimonials from satisfied customers almost every day, like the traveler who forgot to pack blood pressure medication and was able to refill a prescription while away from home. “The telemedicine program works,” said Zuccolotto. “People are very happy with it. It helps to keep employer productivity up, saving time and money.”
Nonprofits in The Last Frontier by sara solano Standing Beside Alaska’s Nonprofits
ennis McMillian is an entrepreneur with a cause. As president of the not-for-profit Foraker Group, he has dedicated himself to ensuring the sustainability of the nonprofit industry by offering consulting and other services throughout the state. Over 25 years of executive experience have prepared him well for this demanding role. He travels about 200 days out of a year to remote parts of the state, often working with indigenous tribes and their budding enterprises. Founded in 2001, the Foraker Group offers management services to foster healthy growth within the industry, including backroom services for multiple organizations in areas such as finance, human resources, and legal issues. They also provide employee training and consultation for organizations in need of new business strategies. “We have senior-level consultants that are providing services at a level most smaller organizations couldn’t afford otherwise,” he said.
Although the group’s opening success was partially based on luck— being in the right place with the right resources at the right time—learning from others and thinking ahead have also been the keys to the group’s stability, McMillian said. “We had to be innovative because no one had done what we were doing in the way that we were doing it.” Many nonprofits depend on federal funding, so government budget cutbacks in recent years have increased the risks to many organizations, McMillian said. The Foraker Group is working to address the crisis as the Alaskan economy heads toward the peak of the recession. They look forward to expansion in order to continue doing what they do best. And in these tough times, their services are more necessary than ever.
Profitable Peace of Mind One innovative company helps business professionals kick the stress that holds them back by altamese osborne
achel Rolfes is resolute. Her wellness and relaxation program is not just about cutting stress; it’s about the bottom line. This is an issue no company can afford to neglect—when employees are healthy and motivated, productivity skyrockets. Rolfes’ company, STRESSERCISE for LifeTM, founded in 1985, provides customized corporate and individual wellness programs. Tested over two decades, the offerings reduce stress and boost energy and efficiency levels through workshops, keynotes, and personal coaching. Ironically, the birth of STRESSERCISE came as a result of a very stressful personal situation. Rolfes’ employer of almost 12 years closed its doors, offering no severance. Exhausted but steadied by her faith, she was surprised to find rejuvenation in hatha yoga. Excited, she became certified. After following a blended wellness program she devised, Rolfes lost a total of 30 pounds. Believing wholeheartedly, she went back to share her refreshing package with corporate colleagues. Some didn’t get the yoga connection, but most could relate to the idea: exercise your
stress away. That’s how the name STRESSERCISE was born. Rolfes said, “I saw a crucial need that wasn’t being met. Hard-driving executives had their ‘to-do’ list down, but they didn’t see the value or have a clue how to relax.” Rolfes blended proven components—proper nutrition, stress management, relaxation and much more into a fun two-day workshop called ‘Change, Stress and Nutrition.’ “We get results that last,” she said. Key factors include a proven program, a talented staff and a custom-designed high-tech teaching tool—valued by industry experts at over $200,000—to engage attendees. 26 years later, STRESSERCISE is rejuvenating businesses across the nation. They serve a diverse group of clients—from the Coors Brewing Company to TRICARE Management to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security—and all confirm long-term results. Rolfes is ready for continued expansion. “I think if you stay open, sometimes God brings opportunities that you never would have imagined.”
Ph. +1 (303) 234-9482 www.stresserciseforlife.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.29
by wendy connick
A New Kind of
Trust Fund Michelle and Dennis Reina focus on an oft-overlooked way to boost the bottom line
n July 2011, the man behind a media empire made headlines in a whole new way. Rupert Murdoch, founder and CEO of News Corporation, was investigated for suspicious journalistic practices carried out under his leadership. He claimed ignorance, but the allegations have tarnished his credibility forever. Dr. Michelle Reina has some insights as to what went wrong, but she’s not pointing fingers. “The Murdoch situation was an example of very flagrant behavior that can break trust,” she said. “But it’s not just the people we read about in the paper! Everyone participates in these minor offenses. And the accumulated impact of these subtle betrayals is too great to be ignored.” Decades of experience have taught Michelle and her husband, Dr. Dennis Reina, that a foundation of trust and healthy communication is essential to business success. They are founders of the Reina Trust Building Institute, a consulting firm that helps companies improve their cultures to promote engagement, accountability and profitability. “Trust building is not easy work, said Michelle. “We are asking leaders to wake up. We are asking them to pay attention to their relationships.” Though it is so often underestimated, the Reinas know that a solid foundation of trust in the workplace is necessary to drive business results. Such was the case for a floundering global manufacturing plant that the Reinas helped go from being the lowest to the highest performing plant in safety, quality, and productivity out of 13 factories nationwide. No two cases are the same, but Dennis and Michelle begin with an in-depth protocol. “First, we do a very comprehensive assessment to provide a deep diagnosis of the behavioral patterns within the organization, pinpointing where trust is high, where it’s vulnerable, and what key actions leaders need to take,” said Michelle. Then, working in partnership with their clients, the Reinas create a solution that is targeted, practical, and measurable. “It’s a very customized approach,” said Dennis. “We don’t do anything off-the-shelf.” Finally, they take the time to train company leaders at all levels, transferring their expertise
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to the organization so that trust can grow with sustainability. The process works, and word gets around. The Reinas support Fortune 500 companies, including American Express, Boeing, Ben & Jerry’s and Astra Zeneca. “Business continues to grow,” said Michelle. “Clients come to us. They appreciate that we’ve done the research, but we’ve also worked with over 200 organizations so we have a concrete, measurable approach. We also strive to live our work. We know our clients and we build relationships.” In other words, Reina Trust Building Institute is a business that practices what it preaches. Clients can depend on measurable results, and learn how to practice trust building behaviors as a way of doing business. “When there are trust issues within a company,” explained Michelle, “we acknowledge what’s happening and we give a voice to it. That resonates for people; they have an ‘aha’ experience. They say, ‘Oh, that’s it, that’s it, that’s it!’” That is exactly how a senior vice president of a national financial services company felt. “I used to think that trust building was the soft stuff,” he said. “I now realize it is the hard stuff that makes organizations work and produces bottom line results.”
by andrea lehner
Living Up to a
American Integrity Insurance creates a reliable brand in an oft-maligned industry
obert ritchie, ceo of american integrity Insurance, sees the world differently. It was his ability to spot trends and see opportunity that enabled him to launch his Florida-based residential property insurance company in the wake of significant market turmoil. “We had four major hurricanes hit Florida in 2004— Francis, Charley, Ivan, and Jean—and then two more majors in 2005,” Ritchie explained. “The homeowners’ insurance market was extremely difficult, and, those events created more disruption in the market.” An insurance industry veteran, Ritchie decided the timing was perfect to strike out on his own. “Our ability to respond to market needs makes us successful,” he said. “It’s the old adage that in any business, you find out what they want, you go out and get it, and then you give it to them. It’s that simple.” Today, American Integrity insures 104,000 homes in the state and seeks to double that by expanding into underserved markets. “While our products are offered through independent insurance agents, we are the underwriter. We are the risk taker,” Ritchie said. “We believe in rational growth,” he added. “Few people get excited about homeowners insurance. Ours is largely an obligatory purchase. If you have a mortgage, you must have homeowner’s insurance. Having said that, most people do want to protect their homes. The insurance industry doesn’t get the most appreciation or respect, so we’ve got to focus on the service element.” Financially stable, with strong claims-paying ability and a ready catastrophe-response team, Ritchie is building American Integrity on solid values and “a
covenant of trust.” The name American Integrity Insurance was chosen because, in Ritchie’s view, the business was founded “during a time when the industry was overwhelmed with integrity issues. I wanted to create a name that was lofty yet achievable, one that would be a benchmark for all of us. ‘Integrity’ immediately came to my mind,” he told The Suit. “I believe that in any industry, you can rise above the muck and provide a different angle.” Ritchie likens entrepreneurship to looking through a camera lens with solution-oriented optimism rather than doomsday pessimism. “You can look at certain scenarios and interpret them in entirely different ways,” he explained. “In any economy, the goods and services must be produced, distributed, sold, and serviced. “If you look back at the Great Depression, there were more millionaires formed in that decade than in the history of this country. In these sort of economies, there are going to be winners and losers, and I believe that we are on the edge of spawning even more entrepreneurs over the next decade,” he added.
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by wendy connick
LEADER Tomi Bryan knows that success is all about taking responsibility for your own direction in life and in business.
n entrepreneur can create a successful business without worrying about her leadership skills. But as soon as the business grows beyond a single person’s capabilities, the entrepreneur must become an employer. Her ability to lead her company in the right direction is a major factor in its success or failure. But not every business owner realizes the importance of effective leadership. “When the economy gets tight, we see a lot of clients stop wanting to invest in leadership consulting and training,” said Tomi Bryan, owner of Leadership Worx, a leadership coaching company based in Greensboro, North Carolina. “But research shows that great leaders double the profits for organizations. So why wouldn’t you want to keep creating great leaders?” Bryan is the author of “The Five Keys of Life,” a book on how to build a truly fulfilled life. “It’s the entry point,” she explained. “It’s the doorway into who you are and who you can be, and it really helps you look at your own life and decide what you want to do. Not what your parents want you to do, not what your friends want you to do—what you want to do. I’ve spent the last 12 years of my life conducting all sorts of research on how I can make it easier for humans to go in the direction of their dreams and their passions.”
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Leadership Worx uses a training program based on systems thinking to pinpoint the changes that will turn good leaders into great ones. “Systems thinking believes that there are leverage points and structural conflicts,” Bryan said. “What that means is, there are gas pedals that can accelerate you forward, and there are brakes that nail your foot to the floor. We’ve figured out what the gas pedals are to being an effective human being and leader. So you can go spend five years with somebody else, or you can come spend 12 months with us.” Bryan believes that one of the keys to becoming a great leader is learning to accept responsibility. “We’re a country of victims,” she said. “We want to sue everybody. We want to blame everybody. That is the bottom line of what we’re trying to teach our clients—you are responsible for your own life. Now let’s move forward. Now that you know you’re responsible for it, stop doing the blaming, take responsibility and let’s march forward and create the life that you want.” Learning to become a great leader usually involves breaking out of the patterns of behavior that everyone es-
tablishes early in life. “We call them traffic patterns. Early in life we learn these traffic patterns,” Bryan said. “And they become so engrained in who we are, we don’t know how to stop them. And so for me, with every client, it’s really about how quickly can I uncover the traffic pattern, bring it to their attention and get them moving in the direction they want to go in their lives. That’s the biggest hurdle for us, always, is a client who doesn’t want to own the traffic pattern. Because we keep doing the same things over and over. We may say we dislike our lives, but your life is exactly what you want, because it’s what you tolerate.” Bryan refers to her website as a ‘safe space,’ since part of the coaching process is turning Leadership Worx into a place of refuge for clients to get rid of their emotional burdens. “Some people are steeped in fear and go, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to do something!’” she said. “And so they come to us, and we help them raise self-awareness and realize that sometimes in life, you just have to stand in the fear. We call it holding your own space no matter what’s going on around you.” Bryan says that her company’s success, as with any entrepreneurial business, is strongly influenced by its owners’ attitudes. “I think it’s a mix of hard work, being willing to do whatever needs to be done in a business—that entrepreneurial spirit of ‘Hey, whatever it takes, we’ll get it done.’ And then another big key is building relationships and being willing to be of service to others,” she said. Going forward, Bryan plans to expand Leadership Worx to deliver its message on a global scale. “One of the things that we do is speak to a lot of organizations. And that’s one way that we get a lot of our clients,” she said. “So we’re trying to expand our reach in speaking to organizations about greatness, and then trying to become more of a global citizen with global outreach. I think we do have a lot of great things to offer for people about tools for managing our chaotic world.”
by the suit staff
Going the Distance Listening to the needs of the industry and responding accordingly.
. l. duke incorporated has left no stone unturned. What began as a one truck operation has transformed into an astoundingly capable industrial services enterprise—they specialize in recycling, demolition, heavy hauling, disposal, and more. “We have diversified into a Frankenstein of complementing divisions,” said B. L. Duke President Lou Plucinski. “We listened to the needs of our customers and jumped on every opportunity that made sense.” That flexibility is the clear key to success. Today they are Chicagoland’s leading industrial services company, with projects that span all the way from Canada to South America. “Much of our equipment—like trucks, cranes, and material handling containers—are geared to be utilized in recycling, demolition, waste and general freight. And our employees are cross-trained to be shifted to wherever they’re needed,” said Plucinski. “The needs of a plant manager or purchasing agent can be diverse, and they love to consolidate vendors. In many cases, the reward for good work is more work.” The Suit asked Plucinski how it all began. “Simple story, really,” he replied. “Saw a need, took out a loan for $50,000 and bought a truck.” And the more needs he saw, the more he responded. As B. L. Duke got into heavy hauling, for instance, they ended up moving lots of machines that created scrap metal—so they seized the opportunity to start reselling and brokering scrap. And once they gained more customers for the recycling side of the business, they expanded beyond metal into cardboard and plastic. In turn, those recycling clients turned to B. L. Duke for help with heavy shipments. Green business is the next big thing, so you can bet that this company is already ahead of the game. “This is the most exciting area of growth,” said Plucinski. “The green movement is like a tsunami around the world. I compare it to the tech bubble of the 90s—staying ahead of it will be the key to success. Companies want to recycle. They just don’t know how. B. L. Duke can facilitate that.” Plucinski credits his staff for facilitating the company’s rapid expansion. “Our rainmakers will identify opportunities and run them down. Then operations and administration will back up the promises,” he said. It’s no surprise that B. L. Duke is getting some great returns, despite a recession-induced slowdown just a couple years ago. “We are on an aggressive growth path right now. Company-wide sales were up 38 percent in 2010, and we are looking at another 30 percent increase this year,” said Plucinski. “It has been an extremely rewarding ride for me personally. We’re doing a good thing for the environment and providing jobs in a tough economy.” THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.33
A Veteran of Entrepreneurship by the suit staff
n 2010, President Barack Obama announced the National Export Initiative—a plan to strengthen small businesses and double U.S. exports by the year 2014. Patrice Manuel, CEO of P/Strada, is stepping up to assist our country in making that change. “Only one percent of small businesses work overseas,” explained Manuel. “So we’re looking at creating manufacturing facilities in the United States. Some larger companies brought some of their manufacturing here and created jobs, and I believe we can successfully do the same with smaller businesses.” This is one of many goals for Manuel, who is tireless in her pursuit of new opportunities for P/Strada. “We are a national consulting company offering organizational development, leadership and project management,” she said. “About 80 percent of the work we do is with federal, state and local governments, and we develop relationships with other businesses for collaboration, providing both sides with a win-win for the government and other
private industries.” Today, the company has a global reach after having begun as a one-woman show. Manuel, a retired military officer with two decades of experience in organizational development, grew P/Strada over the years by identifying her niche and expanding wherever possible. “We did our research and found that the federal government partnered with larger firms for professional services,” she explained. “When we bought our commodities wholesale like large companies do, we found that the government was much more open to the concept of doing business with our organization. We created a sweet spot as a woman-owned, veteran-owned and minority-owned business.” Now, Manuel is dedicated to helping other entrepreneurs. “We facilitate training blocks for a Kansas City entrepreneur development program called FastTrac, run by the Kaufman Foundation. We’re also developing new entrepreneurs in the area of service-disabled veterans.” Manuel has valuable insights for these up-and-comers. “Even for a small business, the sky is the limit,” she said. “The only boundaries are the ones you set for yourself.”
Where Credit is Due by sara solano
estled into the delta where the St. Clair River flows into the Great Lakes, there is a small town called Port Huron. Downtown where the ships dock is a historic marina, and stretching across the river to Canada is the beautiful Blue Water Bridge. It’s a picturesque place, but in recent years things have taken a turn for the worse. Port Huron suffers an unemployment rate of almost 20 percent, which is more than twice the national average. This presents challenges for Janice Rose, CEO of the area’s E&A Credit Union. The credit union has been serving members for over 75 years, and has forged a reputation for keeping clients’ needs over all else. “Everything we do is with the member in mind,” said Rose. In better days, this meant finding any way to grant personal loans. But in times like these, E&A serves clients better by closely analyzing each member’s financial standing. Although they must turn more people away, Rose reports that some have actually come back to thank them for not approving their loan requests. “We try to counsel people on what’s in their best interest,” she said. Having an elected board of volunteers helps the credit union make members
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a priority, whereas larger banks focus on making money for investors. The credit union focuses on consumer lending, although they have recently branched out to help entrepreneurs get financial help for small business startups. “We have avenues where we can help small businesses achieve financing they couldn’t get elsewhere,” said Rose. Whether helping businesses, families or individuals, E&A’s focus is always on excellent service. “We made a concerted effort to differentiate ourselves, making our whole value system around what benefits our membership and our community,” said Rose. E&A Credit Union P.O. Box 610908 Port Huron, MI 48061 Ph. +1 (800) 356-EACU www.eacu.org
by wendy connick
Layer Eight Inc. is ready to respond to every new IT opportunity
“We do similar work, but with individuals who are crosstrained in many disciplines.” - Mike Feld
gility—it’s one of the biggest advantages of small enterprises over larger ones. All too often, changes at big corporations face mazes of red tape or layers of bureaucracy. Leaner companies can change direction quickly to take advantage of new opportunities. For Mike Feld, CEO of Layer Eight Incorporated, this flexibility may have saved his company. “Up until 2010, 90 percent of our business was in the telecommunications industry. With mergers and acquisitions frequent in that market, we were called in to do due diligence on various targets, either acquiring or being acquired,” he said. “Now, that business has dried up. At the same time, at the end of 2010, we had a bunch of doctors’ offices and small hospitals that were asking for IT assistance. And we immediately saw, with the change in the health care rules, that this was an area we wanted to pay attention to. So we basically did a 90 degree turn and went after the medical industry. It’s the flexibility to see what’s coming down the pike, move your business in alignment with that and just go for it.” Layer Eight provides IT services with an emphasis on telecommunication. Feld has chosen to differentiate the company from other IT provid-
ers by offering a broader range of services. “Many of the people at our company were C-level executives at a number of different phone companies or cable operators. So the people who work on our projects have more than simply technical expertise; they have management expertise and they have financial expertise,” he said. “That sets us apart from many of our competitors. We do similar work, but with individuals who are crosstrained in many disciplines.” The combination of flexibility and a unique service offering has helped the company to stay strong during the economic downturn. In fact, Feld has ambitious plans for growth. “We doubled last year, and we expect to double this year,” he said. “And we’re still only 11 people. I think it’s very possible for a firm of our size, in five to 10 years, to be somewhere in the $80 million range with a few hundred employees and be a dominant force in, for example, medical IT work. We’ve had some significant success in displacing companies hundreds of times our size in some of the larger accounts.” Feld has plans to open up additional facilities and expand, specifically into the medical field for now. “But should that change,” he adds, “we’ll adapt accordingly.”
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by robert jordan
Shaping the financial world one client at a time
ag associates ceo david basner earns his money the hard way: good old-fashioned financial investing. He caters to some very affluent clients, often handling accounts worth more than $50 million in total assets. Basner said he offers a “full suite” of family office services, usually to first-generation wealthy entrepreneurs. “We take care of the newly minted,” he said. And he makes sure to take care of them well. “A financial advisor must maintain steady growth and retain clients,” he said. “I try to find the best of the best of everything for my client, from hedge funds to loans for private jets or Italian vineyards!” Tag is a high-end boutique firm. They maintain an inhouse investment research department. “I think our clients and others have recognized the need for independent, objective advice in managing their money,” Basner told The Suit. “I think the wealth management business has seen an upturn because people recognized that the banks and brokerage houses have conflicts of interest in how they give advice to their clients.” Earlier on, Basner was determined to offer guidance as objectively as possible. “It’s been a lot of hard work on our part to do right by our clients.” Not bad for an investment banker who climbed his way up the corporate ladder into the heady world of corporate finance transactions, and later joined forces with a couple of partners who acquired Tag Associates in 2002. “The firm has seen nice growth over last nine years. Assets have more than doubled,” Basner reports. Basner said families of substantial wealth typically require synchronized services to tackle a wide range of issues, including philanthropy, lifestyle management, investment planning, integrated tax planning and estate planning. “We are full service multi-client family office. In addition to investment management, we do a lot of other things that set us apart,” Basner said. But even for them, the recession has presented challenges. “With the global market, you have problems in Europe, problems in the U.S. and even problems in China. These are some of the issues affecting us, and it has created volatility in the market. This year alone has been a grueling challenge,” said Basner. “We responded by
above: David Basner, CEO, TAG Associates LLC looking at clients’ portfolios and making sure that their asset allocations were properly set, making sure that the managers we selected were doing their jobs, and really keeping an eye on the overall macro-environment.” Their hard work has actually increased Tag’s position of prominence in the financial services industry. “In this economic climate, people generally reassess their portfolios, watching closely how they managed their money,” Basner said. “This is a benefit for Tag Associates. We are completely independent from the larger institutions. I think from our perspective, it’s been a positive.” He added, “People have been paying attention to how they are getting their financial advice. In the end, this has helped us to garner new business.” Basner also recognizes that solid leadership is vital to the corporate structure. “It’s very important that we have a certain culture,” He said. “It’s hard to bring people from the outside. We want to promote from within to keep the culture thriving. Right now, we are building our next generation here.”
75 Rockefeller Plaza New York, New York 10019 Ph. +1 (212) 275-1500 www.tagassoc.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.37
by andrea lehner
Setting the Standard Anna DeSimone has been at the forefront of the mortgage industry for years, and she’s on a mission to make this complex field accessible to all.
n times of tumult, some people react to change as it comes. But true leaders take initiative, always staying one step ahead in pursuit of the ultimate goal. Anna DeSimone is a leader. As president of Bankers Advisory, she has become the nation’s leading mortgage expert and has set the standard for loan quality control and compliance, auditing, and predatory lending prevention. DeSimone used her solid foundation in residential mortgage lending to help teach others. During her years teaching classes at a banking college, she heard the needs of thousands of bank employees. This inspired her to create a computer program that would help loan officers handle mortgage prequalification inquiries. “In 1987 I developed and sold a mortgage prequalification software program that was installed in retail banks around the country,” DeSimone said. The registered trademark—The Desktop Underwriter—was acquired by Fannie Mae in 1994, and DeSimone began to design systems that were used exclusively by her staff in auditing services. Between developing industry-changing software and conducting training sessions throughout the country, DeSimone also put together a dozen books—published by the MBA of America—on topics that included fair lending, reverse mortgages and international mortgage banking, as well as numerous resource guides for processors and underwriters. “I had written so many educational resources for the MBA of America and other industry trade groups, and I was still teaching,” DeSimone recalled. “After delivering seminars to an estimated 10,000 bank employees in nearly every region THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
of the country, I discovered that ‘location, location, location’ truly applies to real estate financing. Customs and practices vary throughout the United States, and consumer financial literacy education ideally needs to be tailored to those regionalized practices.” By the millennium’s end, DeSimone had begun to steer Bankers Advisory toward a new course of audit services. “That’s when I really started to deal with clients on a recurring basis, and I slowly got out of the lecturing and consulting world,” she said. “We do quality control audits, pre-funding and post-funding quality control, and regulatory compliance audits for state and federal compliance. We also do a lot of fair lending analysis.” Bankers Advisory currently has over 30 employees serving clients throughout the country. “I have four staff attorneys who do all of the fair lending and compliance auditing. My former bank underwriters do all of the quality control work, which includes fraud detection and reverification,” DeSimone explained. DeSimone expressed concerns about the current lending climate. “I think mortgage lenders need to take the power back,” she said. “We’ve given a message to consumers that they don’t need to read the fine print and do their homework. But they can go back to the lender and say, ‘Oh, you never should have given me this adjustable rate mortgage in the first place.’ I do a lot expert witness work and I’ve been working on a lot of predatory cases, so I see both sides. My staff has audited 150,000 mortgages in the past 10 years. An auditor can tell when looking
“I think mortgage lenders need to take the power back.”
“The nation’s mortgage bankers deserve a gold star for managing change.” through the mortgage loan that borrowers are not as financially knowledgeable or sophisticated as they should be for their jobs or their education,” she said. DeSimone has made it her mission to spread as much knowledge as she can, with an understanding of the difficulties involved in these complex processes. “The consumers are inundated with a lot of disclosures that are very confusing. However, at the same time, they are not being held accountable for the decisions that they’re making. Now we have a delinquency problem. We have a foreclosure problem. The government has desperately sought solutions for distressed borrowers. What I do not see is a differentiation between borrowers who were victims of predatory ‘new home-purchase’ activities versus borrowers who have stripped all of the equity of their homes through repeat refinances. Consumers who have consolidated debt or received large amounts of cash, in my opinion, should not be entitled to the same government-sponsored assistance. I see the need to address this in the form of financial literacy education.” DeSimone advocates teaching borrowers how to understand the myriad of forms and disclosures that have, ironically, flooded the industry to protect home-buyers. But there are some promising trends. DeSimone noted that the lending industry has done a remarkable job at keeping up with increasing and rapidly changing regulatory requirements. “Twenty years ago, the gurus talked about managing change in the workplace,” she said. “I have to tell you that the nation’s mortgage bankers deserve a gold star for managing change. With regulatory compliance, they had all new forms and disclosures, with strict requirements regarding the timing of those forms and how the forms were completed. Then they were all changed, and they are going to be changed again.” Despite the fluctuation in volume of loan files that needed to be audited, DeSimone said her business has remained steady because clients are requesting several types of audits for each file. In
fact, more growth is on the way. Bankers Advisory is gearing up to play a larger role in helping assess company-wide risk, as well as individual loan compliance. “I want to be able to give the CEOs of these companies the 10,000-foot view of what their organizations are doing, and it all stems from the review of files,” DeSimone said. According to DeSimone, credibility has been the key to their success. “When you walk the walk, you have to talk the talk. While someone is employed for me, they do a full range of different tasks. If you want to communicate with our clients, do any teaching, or provide any consulting services or policy writing, you really have to know the nuts and bolts of a mortgage file.” Hands-on experience is more than just the key to credibility; it’s the foundation of the company. “I’m not delegating any tasks that I didn’t do myself. The best banking presidents have often started decades earlier as a teller,” DeSimone explained. “In the strongest companies, with the most inspiring leaders, the leader is the visionary. My job is to see what’s needed out there.” And in times of crisis, forward-thinking visionaries like DeSimone are invaluable to the industry’s recovery.
Bankers Advisory, Inc. 375 Concord Avenue Belmont, MA 02478 Ph. +1 (617) 489-2008 bankersadvisory.com
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by andrea lehner
Running the Reagan Managing America’s largest private-public venture is all about innovation.
he Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. is a unique multi-functional building unmatched by any other U.S. trade center. Owned by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA), the 3.1 million square feet of publicJohn Paul Drew private space requires more than President, TCMA a typical hospitality management team; it requires the expertise of the highly specialized Trade Center Management Associates (TCMA). John Paul Drew, president of TCMA, explains that THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
his family-owned, Boston-based real estate development and property management company responded to GSA’s RFP for a Trade Center Manager of the International Trade Center portion of the building. “It’s so unique. There is no other government building like it, and there are very few trade centers in the world that operate like this,” Drew told The Suit. “We assembled a team and basically started up the company in D.C. just to run this building. We have some other projects here, but this is our primary focus,” Drew said. “We’re a private-sector building management and hospitality provider. We have a unique relationship here at the Ronald Reagan
Building and International Trade Center.” TCMA’s involvement at the Reagan Building began two years prior to its opening. They started with a team of five that were pivotal in helping design the event space. Today, they have approximately 600 employees managing operations for leasing, landscaping, cleaning, and parking. “We are also the hospitality end of the building,” Drew explained. “We have a food and beverage operation here, and we host 1500 events a year. We do all event services in-house. Our role as manager of the building is to operate the trade center on behalf of the government. “It’s such a fascinating business where we have the opportunity to be involved in trade, hospitality, and property management—on any given day, you just don’t know what to expect,” Drew added. TCMA’s partnership role also includes organizing and activating community participation events. “The Reagan Building offers free events, such as farmers‘ markets throughout the summer and fall that are very successful. We organize a live music series that runs every day in the summer with international music and cultural acts. And we manage a number of displays and exhibits throughout the building as well,” Drew said. The recession brought a mixed bag of problems and blessings. The greatest hardship was that businesses had to curb event spending, either out of economic necessity or to prevent a negative public perception. “These companies didn’t want to put on big, lavish events anymore,” Drew recalled. Competing hotels, hardhit by decreased tourism, began drastically cutting rates, making it harder to charge competitive fees for event space. “On the upside, the stimulus spending by the U.S. Government pushed more money and resources to the agencies which resulted in more meetings and events in that sector, which helped keep operations running. Therefore, we actually saw a growth in our government business during the last few years and a slowdown on the social side,” Drew said. “The trend is now reversing,” he added. “As you see some of the cutbacks in the government, our social and private sector business is growing again.” Responding to economic fluctuations and a changing global climate has prompted TCMA to look inward. “We focused on improving our technology, training programs, cross-training, and developing incentive programs for our employees to make sure we’re retaining the best employees and giving them opportunities to grow,” Drew said. “We think we have the best of the best, and we re-
cruit top-caliber employees, therefore we are striving to be one of the best places to work in DC. We achieve this through a great training program and fantastic benefits that we keep trying to improve each year. I also think the diversity of what we have here is a draw for employees,” he explained. “We are a small business with a significant number of employees, but we encourage innovation and are very entrepreneurial. We’re open to ideas from our employees. The management of our company sees our employees as the driving force in the success of our business. Every year we do strategic planning that focuses on how to improve the company, not only for GSA and our external clients, but also for our internal clients and employees.” TCMA’s vision for the future includes significant growth for international relations. “Our trade center services are growing. We are investing in new forms of technology and are teaming up with a number of partners for the next year, which will result in a lot more trade-related activity, content, and programs. It’s exciting,” Drew said, adding that they are striving to create new projects and innovative signature events. While he isn’t interacting with his management team and staff, Drew prioritizes community involvement. “I’ve gotten a lot more involved with local charitable organizations and joined a few boards. It’s a way to connect with people here in D.C.,” he said. “So much of this is about personal interaction, making sure you are engaged with people and delivering a high-quality product.” Drew noted that this is not a responsibility to be taken lightly. After all, many consider the Reagan Building a crown jewel of American ingenuity.
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest Washington, DC 20004 (202) 312-1300 www.itcdc.com
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by sara solano
What is true wealth? For the team at GV Financial, looking at the bigger picture is the key to lasting success.
above: Matt Geller, COO, GV Financial Advisors, Atlanta, Georgia
eople often say that money can’t buy happiness. And on a basic level, Matt Geller agrees. “Although it can be key to improving your life,” he said, “money by itself doesn’t do anything to make things better.” That’s why Geller and his team at GV Financial Advisors make it a point to step back and look at the big picture. They work to improve not only clients’ finances, but their quality of life as well. “That’s the area today where we’re making a big impact,” Geller said. The company offers a comprehensive program called Guided Wealth
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Transformation™, which promotes the idea that true wealth is about more than money—other factors are just as important, such as wisdom, community involvement and personal health. Cash can’t do much when it’s just sitting there in a vault, notes Geller. But used wisely, it can truly enrich people’s lives. The program also helps clients to manage their emotions when it comes to their assets, which can lead to smarter financial decisions. Helping people narrow down their priorities keeps them from allotting their resources to projects that do not work toward their ultimate goals, Geller said.
He notes that fear has had an outsized impact on the politics and the press surrounding the financial industry, when in fact the underlying fundamentals show vibrant, healthy U.S. companies making more revenue than ever before. “The fear keeps [the market] down and, in my view, fear will keep it down—until it doesn’t. When that will happen, I don’t know,” said Geller. He feels that public education is essential during these tumultuous times, so the GV Financial website regularly publishes insightful, accessible articles on finance and investing. Geller’s optimism came in handy when GV Financial saw a 50 percent drop in revenue at the beginning of the recession. The company opted to focus on its clients and train its financial advisers to take a less technical role in their work. For Geller, it was illuminating to see the staff of 15 advisers transform from being rooted in technical training to applying the nuances of financial planning. Realizing the power of helping people and seeing the positive impact on clients has been absolutely amazing, he said. Today, the business continues to grow and is projected to see about $10 million in revenue this year. Looking forward, Geller said the company is ready to revamp its computer systems and software to develop an even better system for both its current clients and the 40 to 50 more they hope to gain in 2012.
by patrick sullivan
US REO Partners Dallas Charitable Dinner Event, 2011
Success by default Real estate is tricky business these days, but one broker and networking professional is still ahead of the game.
oreclosure expert Mike Weaster knows it’s lonely at the top. He has been the number one real estateowned broker in Houston, Tex. for a number of years. “I’ve been consistent in my job, my values,” he said, “being as honest to my clients as possible.” That consistency has kept him busy since he got involved in the real estate default market in 1980. Though Weaster had his hands full servicing the Houston housing market, he still wanted to hook up with other REO professionals nationwide. So he and 10 professional friends founded a trade organization called US REO Partners. US REO Partners serves default professionals around the country. One of its most unique aspects is its member vetting process, which keeps the organization lean and ensures that no region is saturated with members. As a result, members rarely compete with each other for clients. Other benefits include free educational webinars, networking events and news from around the industry to mention just a few. Real estate started out as a side job for Weaster—a fallback incase his Plan A didn’t work. He got his real estate license while attending acting school. He participated in, by his own admission, “some of the worst films ever made” in the 1980s and worked in real estate part-time. A friend got Weaster some clients in the foreclosure business, and his talents soon became clear. He’s been in the business ever since. “That’s what I’ve done for 31 years: foreclosures for most of the lending institutions in the United States,” he said. Some of Weaster’s clients include the government-owned mortgage juggernaut Fannie Mae, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, large banks like Chase
and HSBC, small banks, hedge funds and insurance companies. “For any place that could make a potentially risky loan, there are people like me who assist those institutions in liquidating assets.” The last two years have not been kind to Weaster’s industry. He went from 17 employees in 2008 to six in 2011. There are between 1.4 and 1.8 million homes already in default that need to be dealt with, according to Weaster; that’s triple the normal number. He points to government interference as a detriment to his industry, noting that he feels bound by red tape. “This administration has taken my industry and turned it into something that’s impossible to deal with,” he said. Despite this, Weaster believes the foreclosure market will eventually adjust itself to a new norm and begin putting houses on the market with greater efficiency. His immediate goal is to hire more employees to bring him back to his pre-2008 number, and despite today’s tough market, he’s confident that there will always be a need for people to do the work that he does. US REO Partners has put him at the forefront of his industry, uniting real estate professionals from across the country to help break through the bureaucracy and reclaim the market.
www.usreop.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.43
by frank graziano
roy Tiedeman, president of Blue Water Finance, speaks as if threatening the recession: “I’m going to hire people. I’m going to. Someone has to take a step.” He’s optimistic about the future of the economy, and his enthusiasm is contagious. Tiedeman and his wife Maureen established Blue Water Finance in Stuart, Fla. in 2004. “Maureen is the heart and soul of this operation,” said Tiedeman. “I couldn’t have done it without her.” The company helps dealers by computing financing on recreational vehicle purchases; they focus mainly on boats, but also work with RVs and horse trailers. The main reason for their success? “We live and breathe with our customers,” Tiedeman said, “and we cultivate long-term relationships with our lender group.” After enjoying explosive growth right up to the beginning of the recession, Blue Water Finance was bought by Brunswick Corporation in 2006. Instead of taking an early retirement, Tiedeman stayed on as president of the company. He explained to The Suit that the boat finance industry is uniquely indicative of the state of the economy—a barometer of the American dream. “[Boats and RVs] are discretionary purchases,” Tiedeman said. “When things go sideways, people are always going to let them go first.” Citing stats from the National Marine Manufacturers Association, he estimates that between 2008 and 2009 there was a 24 percent drop in boat sales.
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Consumers who were used to paying no money down met a harsh new reality. Even today, as the economy creeps toward recovery, banking reforms have made loans hard to come by. “The changing of the lending spectrum due to government regulation has hurt us dramatically. The lenders aren’t lending like they used to,” said Tiedeman, although he notes that the company’s long-standing relationships with their lender groups give them a continued edge over the competition. Still, underwriting for recreational vehicles has always been stiffer than underwriting for mortgages and cars, and it became proportionally rigid during the recession’s worst. But before you count him out, there are a few things you should know about Troy Tiedeman. First, he’s an avid triathlete who has completed over 20 marathons and triathlons, even competing in the brutal Ironman race. For years his daily routine included waking up at 5 a.m. to run eight to 10 miles and breaking from work at 3 p.m. to bike or swim. In 2009 doctors found that he had hip dysplasia, a joint dislocation formed at birth that should have made it impossible to ever run a marathon or ride a bike. After an invasive reconstructive surgery, Tiedeman—now with six eight-inch rods installed in his pelvis—still runs or swims every day. At work, Tiedeman is a lead-by-example manager. He inspires a staff of 16 with his triathlete’s intensity. He’s not afraid to work Sundays, and he
Speed Ahead Marathon runner Troy Tiedeman brings his trademark determination to the boating finance industry
enjoys getting his hands dirty. Even as president of the company, Tiedeman is still in touch with clients, still closing deals. “I swear to God they live off the energy,” he says. “Maureen and I have a whole brood of people that work in Blue Water Finance that are like that.” It’s hard not to factor that in to Blue Water’s success. “There are a lot of people who ask me after selling in 2006, ‘Why are you still working, Troy?’ Number one: I love the recreation industry.” Tiedeman is a northern Minnesotan whose father has been in banking for 35 years. Boating figures heavily in his childhood memories of the Land of a Thousand Lakes, from driving his grandma around by outboard motor to waterskiing alongside sheets of ice. “That’s what we try to instill as we come out of the recessionary world we live in. It’s about getting back to the fun. Getting the family out on the boat is important.” So when the boating industry was suffering from restrictive lending, it wasn’t time to quit; it was time to change the game plan. “We went out and found credit unions and other lenders whose portfolios hadn’t been hurt by the recession as badly, and we became partners with them to help the dealers finance. That increased sales dramatically. Last month we were up 40 points.” He also makes sure to see the positive in tough economic times. Interest rates are low, and Tiedeman says the responsibility consumers are showing with their credit is a promising trend.
Blue Water Finance saw an upswing when dealerships that had cut in-house finance departments began outsourcing those needs. “They saw outsourcing to a financial services company as a cost-effective way of doing business.” In 2012, Tiedeman and his wife hope to expand into motorcycle financing, an “area of recreation that needs our help.” And it’s not just for Blue Water’s benefit. “I want to really get in there and enhance those businesses, besides financing them. I want to show [dealers] there are other profit centers for their businesses as we get out of the recession.” For instance, finance and insurance—often referred to as F&I—can be virtually outsourced to cut costs and increase profits, and Tiedeman knows how to make these sorts of smart changes effectively and efficiently. And Tiedeman is not narrowly looking at the recreational vehicle market. He sees the larger positive influence he can have by counseling dealers. “Small business carries something like 70 to 76 percent of employment. In my opinion, we’re going to help us get out of this recession,” he says. Coming from anyone else, this determination might seem overly optimistic—but Tiedeman is no stranger to tough odds. Despite having recently relearned how to walk in 2010, he’s already training for two marathons in the upcoming year. He characteristically notes, “I could run one now, but I want to do it right.”
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Riding the Telecom Wave by frank graziano
How one company with humble beginnings swelled to incredible levels of success
hen pamela pippin met Adam Pattisall, president and CEO of IncrediTek Inc. in 2007, he was operating an 11-employee company out of a refurbished garage on a family farm. For Pippin, jumping onboard was a leap of faith—one that’s paid off despite the odds. She had decided to leave her five-year position as financial director for the Maryland Historical Society when she and her Pamela Pippin, CEO, family moved from downtown IncrediTek Baltimore to northern Maryland. Having held various accounting and management positions since college, she was looking for similar work closer to her new home. So, soon after she was introduced to Pattisall, she accepted a position as CFO of his telecommunications company in Belcamp, Maryland—despite reservations that it was still in the startup phase. “They didn’t have anyone in an accounting capacity, and it was an opportunity for me to start from the ground up with a new company,” she said. In the end, she was won over by Pattisall’s charisma. “I was really impressed with his passion. He was very dynamic.” Despite the humble facilities, Pippin noticed an underlying sophistication in the burgeoning startup. As it turned out, Pattisall was a veteran of the telecommunications industry in every sense of the word. From 1988 to 1992 he served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army’s Satellite Communications program. After his discharge, he began a career that would take him to high-level positions at industry-leading companies like Lucent, Cromatis and Ciena. He’s even credited with the patent on a
unique fiber optics dust protector. Pattisall founded Increditek in 2004 as a value-added reseller (VAR) and support services company for large telecommunications service providers like those he had previously worked for. When Pippin joined in 2007, Pattisall was assembling a veritable task force, bringing substantial telecommunications experience and technical knowledge to the IncrediTek team. What followed was what Pippin calls “an incredible growth period.” From 2006 to 2010, the company’s gross revenue quadrupled and its number of employees more than tripled. The expansion is due in no small part to Pippin’s engineering of an accounting system, from setting up accounting software and composing financial reports to handling payroll and human resources. Pippin says that diversification helped Increditek continue to flourish through the economic downturn. She echoes Pattisall, who was quoted by “SmartCEO” in 2010 saying, “As far as I’m concerned, there is no recession… focusing on our customers’ needs is all we need to be concerned about.” Today, Increditek is diversifying into government contracting, which shouldn’t be hard since the company is a certified Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business. “It’s been an incredible ride,” Pippin says of her time with IncrediTek. And with the company’s planned diversification and expansions, that ride doesn’t look to be over anytime soon.
www.increditek.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
by wendy connick
for the Job
Scalpel, stat! The engineers at GeoTec provide medical devices doctors really need.
eoTec Inc. is a company on the cutting edge—literally. They design and manufacture instruments for medical practitioners, including surgical tools, imaging optics, catheters, custom needles, and much more. They even handle sterilization and packaging. CEO Tom Jellison has built up his company’s capabilities by responding to market demands with alacrity, and today the Rhode Island-based enterprise works with clients all around the world. When Tom Jellison first encountered GeoTec, it was a one-man show with a focus on consulting. “GeoTec was hired by Boston Scientific, the company I was working with, to develop fiber optics,” Jellison said. He saw potential in the small operation, so he joined GeoTec and eventually bought the business himself in 1992. Jellison decided to change the company’s direction from consulting to design and manufacturing. “Being a consultant is tough—you’re always out hawking for new business,” he said. “So I evolved our company into a manufacturer. An associate of mine started another medical device company and wanted some products, which I designed for him and developed for him.” Since then, the business has embraced its role as a custom designer and manufacturer. “I team together with doctors who have come up with good, marketable products. I pick their brains and I turn their ideas into physical instruments, which they can use in the operating rooms,” Jellison said. Infrastructure investments have helped GeoTec keep ahead of the competition. Their facilities feature a Controlled Environment Room—a pristine workspace with filtered air that has become an integral part of their business. “We make tools that a surgeon puts inside of a body to do his job, so they have to be ultra-clean” he explained. “The CER gives us a spotless environment in which to build our products, ensuring nothing but the best results for surgeons.” So far, so good—GeoTec even has some big plans for new growth. “We’re adding a sister company, which will be making products under our own name
to create even better, more sophisticated instruments that we can market directly ourselves,” said Jellison. He adds that not even the recession is holding them back. “There’s no industry that is recession-proof, but the medical device industry certainly is recession-resistant. Medical advances keep charging forward, no matter what the economy is.” Jellison believes that consistent quality is critical to his success. “In our industry, credibility is everything. If you are not a credible manufacturer, you might as well just go ahead and retire,” he said. “Our products are sold in six of the seven continents on this earth. But they’re also sold right around the corner, and they’re used in local hospitals. And sooner or later, some of those instruments that we manufacture will be used on one of our loved ones.”
www.geotecri.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.47
by patrick sullivan
Down to Nuts & Bolts Software engineering is an art, but practicality is the key to effective development.
ccording to some software industry estimates, project expense overruns due to coding bugs and other mistakes cost roughly $55 billion per year. Jeff Van Fleet, president and founder of Lighthouse Technologies, is trying to bring that number down. “If I can take away some of that $55 billion and put it into new product development by helping customers’ software development get more efficient, that’s really the key that keeps me jazzed,” he said. “Our goal is to lower the cost of the whole software cycle, as well as to improve efficiency.” Lighthouse Technologies performs software testing and quality assurance for its clients. The company fixes not just coding bugs, but many other issues that hamper software performance and drive up project costs. “We are a very metrics-driven company, and our data shows 45 percent of software defects actually get introduced before any code’s even written,” said Van Fleet. “Our methodology is about removing those defects earlier.” Van Fleet founded the company in 2000 after working for years at a software consulting firm serving mostly government clients. In his last few years there, he was able to work with commercial customers—and he discovered that he enjoyed the experience. He had been thinking about starting his own company since the early ‘90s. During his time as a contractor, Van Fleet noticed certain trends in the THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
software production industry, trends that sometimes made things difficult for client companies. In particular, Van Fleet saw that much software engineering was more about “art,” and developers would often leave it to clients to fix nuts-and-bolts problems. “I wanted to bring engineering back to the software world and make it less about the art and more about the engineering,” said Van Fleet. Most of Lighthouse’s clients are non-IT companies; they utilize technology as a means to an end, but do not produce technology-related products. Many clients come from the retail, transportation and utility industries, as well as the U.S. government. “Our clients’ organizations tend to be less honed on best practices in large enterprise systems,” said Van Fleet, adding that many of his customers can build smaller software systems but struggle when developing larger-scale products. So the projects his company takes on are almost exclusively multi-year, multimillion-dollar endeavors. The lagging economy has not affected Lighthouse adversely; in fact, Van Fleet notes that the company is poised for 25 percent growth in 2012. He says that a laser-like focus on improving software efficiency and a competent board of advisers have been key to Lighthouse’s success. Van Fleet also fosters a culture of independence among his managers. “[Work-life] balance is important to me,” he said, and he encourages his employees to cultivate a similar balance. As a result, the Lighthouse team is as motivated as Van Fleet himself when it comes to getting the job done right.
by the suit staff
Clear Skies Ahead Dodson International Parts helps keep the aviation industry up in the air.
viation has grown in leaps and bounds over the last 30 years. Much of his growth has been enabled by advances in GPS and computer technology. Today, eco-friendly aircraft advances are further revolutionizing air travel, making it even more reliable, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable. The first biofuel-powered plane took off just this November, paving the way toward a new era in flight. And one company in Rantoul, Kansas is paving its own way toward this end. For aviation expert J.R. Dodson, this is a niche he was born to fill. Dodson grew up in the aviation industry. “My father took me on my first plane ride when I was six months old,” he said. “I grew up at an airport.” He has been a pilot for 30 years, and after running the parts department for Dodson Aviation—a company owned by his father, Bob Dodson—J.R. Dodson founded his own business in 1984. Ever since then his company, Dodson International Parts, has been turning old parts into new opportunities. Aircraft that have outlived their lifespan often still have usable equipment. These aircraft are purchased by Dodson International and then de-manufactured. Good parts and equipment are inventoried, sometimes overhauled, given new flightworthy certificates by licensed shops, and resold. Unusable parts are scrapped and recycled. Dodson International has dismantled around 3000 aircraft and purchased thousands of surplus inventories, greatly affecting the air travel industry in a very green way. In fact, during Al Gore’s filming of
“An Inconvenient Truth,” the former vice president practiced exactly what he preached by purchasing an immediately needed part from Dodson for the aircraft he used during his to promote the Academy Awardwinning documentary on global warming. Reusing and recycling has become a way of life for those who understand that our environment cannot sustain a constant influx of new manufacturing. Dodson combines this idea with new technology. For example, images of aircraft parts are available through their website at dodson.com, or via email per customer request. During a slow economy, high gas prices and less liquidity forced customers to find ways to rejuvenate aging aircraft. So Dodson’s business in refurbished parts picked up considerably. “People can get a quality part with essentially the same lifespan, guarantees and serviceability, available immediately at a more attractive price,” he said. “They didn’t really think about that when they weren’t looking to save money.” Dodson International is also ramping up its services for individuals and businesses purchasing new aircraft. Goals for 2012 include continued acquisition of high-end corporate aircraft such as Bombardier, Gulfstream and Falcon, and expanding what is known as “rotable or exchange inventory.” Rotable inventory enables clients to obtain the parts they need immediately in exchange for their current part in need of repair. In today’s globalized world, having aircraft available at all times is often a necessity, and Dodson International understands that need. The company strives to operate according to a “Golden Rule” mentality, treating both clients and suppliers the way they themselves would like to be treated. Dodson International looks forward to continued involvement in the advancing air travel industry, as well as being a responsible entity within the worldwide business environment.
www.dodson.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.49
Down to a science by mitch ligon
ne sunny afternoon in chicago, lisa harris found herself at a crossroads. Despite her well-paying job at an advertising company, Harris was feeling lost—she’d always had a passion for science, and was considering a whole new career. Standing at the corner of a busy downtown thoroughfare, she got the inspiration she needed. “There was no wind, no lightening, nothing. It was a calm day,” she said. “Then, this huge light post I had been standing next to just fell into the street, on top of a taxi cab. I realized this was my sign!” Harris went back to school, earned a doctorate in wildlife ecology, and then started her own company in 1993— a one-woman show. Today, she manages 25 employees and a growing number of contracts as the CEO of Harris Environmental Group. “Right now, we’re mostly working on public works projects with the federal government,” she said. For infrastructure and real estate projects large and small, Harris and her team are there to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible. They provide expertise on the thorny issues of environmental compliance and regulation, conduct archeological surveys to protect sites of his-
torical importance, and offer natural resources services to ensure that clients’ projects are ecologically sound. “And we’re expanding into new markets like energy auditing—helping institutions, such as hospitals or schools or military bases, cut their utility bills and be more efficient,” she said. Now that Harris is doing what she loves, her enthusiasm is contagious—and profitable. “I encourage my employees to chase after projects they personally want to work on,” she said. “That makes them happy employees. And our clients want to work with happy people, so that makes them more money!”
Assembling Success by altamese osborne
Success—putting it all together pays off. A few key components can make all the difference. Marla Grey is CEO and founder of DJ Grey Company Incorporated, a custom cable, control system, and boxbuild assembly company. Knowing the technical ins and outs of electro-mechanical assembly as well as the keys to effective management makes her doubly qualified as an entrepreneur. DJ Grey Company Inc. began in 1980 as a humble momand-pop business in Grey’s own home. At that time there were only a couple customers, but as Grey said, “They kept me very busy.” By 1985 the company had grown to five employees and a stand-alone shop in Healdsburg, Calif. And by 1989, the small business had moved into a 4500-square-foot space with 30 employees, proving that developing skills and instilling a strong work ethic in others pays off. According to Grey, the company has maintained stability in spite of a tumultuous economy. “Our customers come from many industries, giving us a measure of protection from economic fluctuations,” she said. The company’s diverse business is contractual, and their ‘Commitment to Quality’ keeps clients coming back—and attracts new ones. “A partnership mentality THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
solidifies our relationships and benefits each company,” said Grey. Grey plans to continue her strong record of customer satisfaction. She hopes to satisfy even more clients by increasing her company’s digital presence. “I want to keep the business growing by broadening our marketing efforts and expanding globally.”
by frank graziano
Lighting the Way Southpoint Solutions proves that retrofitting can be painless. Heck, it might even be fun.
hile sweeping energy reform seems impossible for Congress, private-sector firms are working to increase efficiency by changing how businesses consume power. One such firm is energy consultancy Southpoint Solutions. The North Carolina-based company improves wasteful lighting to help its customers scale back their energy use. After auditing a client’s lighting system, Southpoint engineers design, install, and implement a more efficient one, typically replacing high-intensity discharge (HID) fixtures with highintensity fluorescents (HIF) and LEDs. Their clients range from a single-location hardware store to multi-site manufacturing corporations, and the company’s website features case studies of customers who saw up to 80 percent increases in light levels and over 50 percent reductions in energy costs. That kind of ROI makes retrofitting a no-brainer. And even putting aside the long-term savings, Southpoint’s projects are attractive because they can be financed with no money out of pocket. “[Utility companies have] introduced a lot of programs on the energy efficiency side of the house that go back to their customers and offer rebates for energy-saving projects,” says Southpoint co-founder and president Jeff Hickman. By using these incentive programs and government subsidies for businesses that take green initiatives, Southpoint has developed a system that can deliver immediate positive cash flow for their clients and simple payback in less than two years. Hickman has found that in a tight-belt market, the ease of financing these projects allows even skeptical prospects to rationalize the retrofitting. “Utility expenses non-related to production are fixed costs, and they come right off the bottom line. So any increases we can create in cash flow there drops right to net profit for that customer,” says Hickman. The projects may also affect productivity. Employ-
above: Jeff Hickman, Co-Founder, Southpoint Solutions LLC. ees of the retrofitted companies benefit from brighter, cleaner-looking, more pleasant work environments. That’s because Southpoint’s fixtures produce light with a spectrum similar to that of natural sunlight. “The human body reacts to that, and people actually tell us they feel better,” says Hickman. “So when we execute a project, we have one of those rarities in the industry that is a win-win with our customers.” But when you take into account the benefits enjoyed by the clients, their employees, the environment and all users of the local power grid, his statement seems short at least a couple of wins. Hickman says Southpoint plans to add five to seven positions in 2012. He expects business to pick up with the eventual loosening of capital markets and a rise in domestic manufacturing. “We see a lot of pent-up demand for furthering energy-efficient projects.”
9374 Old Bailes Road Fort Mill, SC 29707 Ph. +1 (803) 802-7330 southpointsolutions.com
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Through Boom and Bust Companies like W3R are case studies in the growing resiliency of the IT industry. by frank graziano
n late 2007, W3R Consulting, an IT and contingent-labor firm, was in the midst of breaking into the ripe new market of investment banks. CEO Eric Hardy was traveling from his company’s headquarters in Michigan to meetings in New York on a semi-monthly basis. He had just signed a contract with Lehman Brothers and was courting similar deals with other banks. It was a quite a development for this 14-year-old, out-of-region company to be seeing such traction in a market where relationships run notoriously deep. Then Lehman Brothers started hitting turbu-
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lence, eventually declaring bankruptcy in 2008. Hardy hasn’t been to New York on business since. He says the banking community there “completely shut down” as a source of new clients. But as a company, W3R didn’t bat an eye. For an expanding IT firm, there’s always work. “We have not necessarily been impacted the same way by the downturn of the economy,” says Hardy, who started W3R with a few friends in college. “IT professionals have seen a little bit of a cutback, but we’re talking about maybe a sixto eight-month period of time. Other than that we’ve only seen the market continue to grow.”
Businesses today depend so heavily on technology that the people who supply, manage and use it effectively will have work despite the economic climate. In fact, information technology is one of the fastest growing sectors of employment in the United States. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that from 2008-2018, employment of computer and information systems managers is expected to increase by 17 percent, and employment of computer network, systems, and database administrators by 30 percent, giving these jobs growth rates much higher than average. Still, employment recovery since 2007 and 2008, the industry’s worst years of layoffs, has been slow. But despite the industry-wide plateau, W3R looks to add at between 75 and 100 new employees to its staff of 250 in 2012. It seems they have fared better than many other IT businesses, even though the industry as a whole was somewhat isolated from economic turmoil. Eric Hardy says he and his partners, Patrick Tomina and Keith Echols, are focused on three pillars of business: digital infrastructure, technology integration and application development. Their employees are contracted by companies to develop what he calls “high value solutions.” W3R consultants additionally provide project management, data warehousing and business intelligence services. “We actually are the innovators and the integrators of technology that helps to make companies more efficient,” says Hardy. He helped start W3R as an internet-based web integration and design company while training to become a software engineer in the mid ‘90s. As the company’s client base diversified in terms of industry, size and geography, W3R continued adding services. Hardy estimates that contingent staffing now drives 75 to 80 percent of his company’s $25-30 million in revenue. “One of our advantages is the ability to have
relationships at a high level,” said Hardy. “In addition to our relationships, it’s our ability to bring those very unique solutions to the table around data and modeling that help organizations really be better at what they do.” W3R offers service at a level of completeness that competitors simply can’t match, and that’s allowed it to survive newsworthy market instabilities. Take the trend in downsizing, for example. Just as some of W3R’s customers have cut and consolidated staff, so they have done for contractors. To that end, some customers opted for a bid process to help them choose one or two companies to contract the entirety of their IT to. After winning a few of those bids, W3R is now the sole provider of IT support and staffing for some clients. Large accounts became monolithic accounts. It’s impossible to mention current economic uncertainties without considering W3R’s other major market: insurance companies. Obamacare has been a boon. In order to meet new government mandates, “[insurance companies] have created a number of new products, and all of those products are driven by data and information as well as new technology components that they need to actually run that portion of their business,” says Hardy. “It’s created a lot of opportunity for IT companies.” And if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is repealed, a transition moving somewhat in the opposite direction may take place. “No matter what happens with how healthcare reform is implemented, I believe it is very positive for us,” says Hardy. “I think it’s the time to market by legislation.” So if there’s any sort of boom, you can assume companies like W3R will be there to help scale. Alternatively, if there’s any sort of crash, you can assume that top players are considering contingent IT solutions to streamline their recovery. Everything in between also seems like fair game. The ubiquity of these firms is a symptom of their utility—a sign of technological competency’s growing importance as a requirement for profitability. W3R is on track to outpace its 2012 goal of $35 million in revenue, and looks to add a fifth territory to its operation. But Eric Hardy measures success not only by growth, but by the technological competency of his clients and staff. “Our company motto is ‘Empowering Technology, Empowering People.’ We want to empower our people to really be the best they can be.”
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by wendy connick
The TIME for Tortoises
How ‘slow and steady’ saved a company
NESTEC technician operates hard disk platter polisher
hen a crisis occurs, thinking and acting fast can save lives. But planning ahead during peaceful times is just as important as acting quickly during a disaster. During the economic downturn, many companies failed because they had overspent their credit during the good years and had nothing to fall back on, leaving their more cautious competitors to pick up the pieces. Robert Weeks, president of North East Silicon Technology (NESTEC), has been able to keep his company thriving during a time of widespread failures. NESTEC is quickly becoming one of the most successful silicon wafer reclaim technology companies, serving large semiconductor and equipment manufacturers and independent foundries. “Our year-to-year growth, except for 2009, has always been in the double digits,” said Weeks. And the key to his success has been keeping his company’s expansion down to a sustainable level. “One competitor—Rasa, in Japan—spent $300 million on equipment. They overextended themselves.
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And their market was based on prices that were from 10 years ago, and those prices have significantly declined,” Weeks said. “That’s what happened with another competitor out in California called Kobe. They’d spent about $30,000,000 on operations, and their depreciation wasn’t sustainable at low market pricing.” Weeks has taken a different approach to expansion. “We grow very slowly and in a very controlled manner. We wait for opportunities to buy equipment. Recently, there have been a lot of competitors that have shut down and ceased operations, so we’ve taken that opportunity to buy their equipment at cents on the dollar,” he said. “And we selected the best equipment, knowing the industry very well. This was where we gained a big advantage.” North East Silicon Technology continues to grow at a controlled rate as Weeks takes on skilled employees and top-tier equipment from his bankrupt competitors. “Before, we had manual cleaning lines, but our latest 300mm silicon line is going to be completely automated. These tools actually came from a competitor out in California who paid millions of dollars, and we secured them for just a few hundred thousand. So that’s one example of how we’ve been so competitive in this marketplace,” he said. “Some of our major competitors are facing stagnation in pricing and stagnation in growth and price reductions to the extent where it’s affecting their sustainability. We’re overcoming this by looking to the future. Our goal is to be the largest remaining reclaimer in the United States in the years to come.”
North East Silicon Technologies, Inc. 11 David Street New Bedford, MA 02744 Ph: +1.508.999.2001 www.nestecsilicon.com
Strong Lines of Defense The growing importance of cyber technology means new opportunities, even as budgets tighten. by frank graziano
It was kind of like the weeder course at college in freshman year,” said Ken Blake, president and CEO of Applied Integrated Technologies, Inc. (AIT). Ken Blake , CEO He was referApplied Integrated ring to the DepartTechnologies ment of Defense cutbacks that caused weak government contracting companies to fold. While overall any DoD budget fluctuations may be relatively negligible for the agency—the recent $450-billionplus cut in spending is an estimated 8 percent scaling over ten years—they shrink the pool of funds for technology service contractors like AIT. The company employs around 125 people and provides IT support as well as linguist services to prime Defense Department contract winners. It was incorporated in October 2001, just as business was about to pick up due to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “At that time, government contracting was a beautiful thing to be in,” said Blake. He built his Maryland-based company using a foundation of relationships he had made and skills he had learned
while working for other firms. Since the beginning of the wars overseas, the Defense Department has awarded billions of dollars in contracts each year to private companies that handle information technology. Blake’s company, which specializes in certain areas of IT, subcontracts for those companies and earns DoD dollars that trickle down. But during the economic crisis that started in 2007, spending on those contractors was pulled back amid widespread fiscal reevaluation. It was around this time Blake’s competitors started to feel the squeeze. “I believe that was a good way of cleansing the over-utilized government contracting world,” he says. The marketplace was crowded with companies bidding for contracts of up to multibillions of dollars, but not all bidders were concerned with bringing value to the U.S. government. “What happened was a lot of those people ended up folding. [Those] who survived were the companies that are serious about government contracting.” IT is an integral part of any industry, but Blake has learned not to take market demand for granted. He makes sure to stick to his company’s core com-
petencies, and to remember that “you hire people and you pay people to be smarter than you.” AIT changed its bidding strategy to adapt to the competitive environment. “[In the leaner contractor market] you have to do more work with less money…and you have to do it over many contracts instead of one big contract.” And that doesn’t look to change. The 2012 Department of Defense Budget Request overview reports that the DoD is reducing service contracts by at least $6 billion. Still, a changing defense budget could actually open even more opportunities for AIT. The DoD is holding civilian hiring at 2010 levels, which translates to a great potential for more outsourced work. It also plans to strengthen its USCYBERCOM hacking-defense organization. That’s why Blake is optimistic, looking to win prime contracts for AIT and grow his company by 30 percent in 2012. “Cyber is where the next war is going to be fought, so they’re being proactive,” he said. “Obviously, I want to be proactive with them.”
Applied Integrated Technologies, Inc. 6305 Ivy Lane, Suite 520, Greenbelt, MD 20770 office / 301.614.9700 | www. ait-i.com THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.55
law & government
A Patented System Law is complex. So is technology. But one global law firm marries the two fields without a glitch. by patrick sullivan
or many customers, looking at a bill from a lawyer elicits a mixture of incomprehension and dread. Legal fees often amount to staggering costs, with little explanation as to where they came from. But Workman Nydegger, a Utah-based patent, copyBrent Lorimer, President right and intellectual propWorkman Nydegger erty law firm, is working to promote transparency with online tools and frequent reporting, allowing clients to see up-to-the-minute case statuses and cost breakdowns. “Providing up-to-date information about status and cost is valuable, both to the client and the firm, so that everyone is on the same page,” said Workman Nydegger president Brent Lorimer. “On both the litigation and transactional sides of the firm, our focus on keeping the client informed prevents cost overruns and ensures that the expectations of the client and the firm are aligned.” Workman Nydegger strives to marry technological savvy with an understanding of complex legal issues, which is what drew Lorimer to patent law in the first place. He has been practicing since 1982, and in 1987 he became the ninth member of W|N, which now has more than 50 lawyers helping clients around the world. “It’s been a great ride for me,” said Lorimer. “Patent law is a very intellectually stimulating area of practice. We know the nuances of the law, and then overlay that understanding with an in-depth understanding of sophisticated technologies.” Many of W|N’s lawyers have advanced degrees in engineering and science in addition to their experience in litigation and patent office practice. The scientific focus of W|N’s lawyers is invaluable to its clients, because protection and enforcement of client innovations requires a clear understanding of those innovations, both from market and technology points of view. Not only must the lawyers at Workman Nydegger keep up with their clients’ industries; they must also closely follow changes in patent, trademark and IP law. Lorimer cites recent initiatives by Chief Judge Randall Rader to
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streamline patent litigation, as well as the 2011 America Invents Act, which represents a sea change in the rules for obtaining and enforcing patents. Workman Nydegger has expanded greatly throughout the years, jumping from eight lawyers in 1984 to 56 lawyers currently, and taking on clients from around the nation and the world. For 2012, one of the company’s goals is to expand its influence in Asia. The firm and its lawyers have won numerous awards, and only three patent law firms do more business with Fortune 100 companies than W|N. Like most companies, Workman Nydegger has made changes to adapt to a struggling economy. Clients have less money in their budgets, says Lorimer, so W|N works hard to streamline services so clients spend their legal dollars as efficiently as possible. “The recent economic downturn has allowed us to further fine-tune our processes,” said Lorimer. “We’re doing everything we can to make ourselves leaner and more efficient. We want to be innovators in legal services, like our clients are innovators in technology.”
1000 Eagle Gate Tower 60 East South Temple Salt Lake City, UT 84111 www.wnlaw.com
by wendy connick
One Michigan law firm thrives with a perfect mix of strong expertise, new technologies and a smart location.
usinesses laws are always changing, and ignorance of those laws is never considered a good excuse for not living up to your obligations. But with new regulations rolling out all the time, it’s almost impossible for a business owner to stay on top of the laws without a good business attorney. Failure to consider the legal ramifications of your actions often leads to expensive and time-consuming litigation. Just ask Andrew Mychalowych, the managing member of Siciliano, Mychalowych and Van Dusen, PLC, based in Michigan. He knows how complicated the law can get—especially in tough economic times like these. “We’ve encountered a lot of litigation where lenders have tried to be creative in looking at mortgage documents, trying to find exceptions in order to create personal liability where there otherwise would not have been in order to attempt to recoup value on behalf of the lender, because the property’s lost so much,” he said. “With the downturn, I think there’s been more of a focus on different breaches of contract—deals that have gone sour.” But this legal team is known for its strong body of experience and expertise. Even in changing times, they tackle complex issues as efficiently as ever. Mychalowych sees major changes coming to the business litigation landscape. “Michigan is toying with the idea of separating our state circuit courts—trial courts—and creating ‘business courts,’” he said. “People are recognizing that a lot of what business disputes deal with are sophisticated contract provisions, intellectual property issues and issues concerning accounting and taxes.” Changes in technology have also affected his work, with e-discovery taking a much larger role in cases than ever before. “I have three cases that have been consolidated for discovery purposes now pending in the Federal Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The allegations in these cases involve claims that a local municipality used strategic planning to allegedly change the racial demographics of the community,” Mychalowych said. “Those allegations, taken on their face, are very difficult to prove. Through initiation of ediscovery—and I think we were one of the first cases in that district to really take on e-discovery with that kind of vigor—we came across thousands of emails and other
communications that we believe revealed a pattern, and showed what personal agendas some of the municipality’s employees had.” Mychalowych has handled cases for multiple clients in federal and state courts throughout the country, from New York to Texas, Florida and California. The firm’s location has helped them make their services available to many business owners. Based in Farmington Hills, they can charge lower rates than firms located in major metropolitan areas. “Our overhead is substantially less than what it might be for a firm in downtown Chicago, New York or Miami,” Mychalowych said. His leaner, more transparent firm is well-equipped to help clients of all sizes .The results are apparent: in a case he tried recently before a jury in the Federal Court located in Dallas in January, 2011, Mychalowych attained a $27 million verdict, which resulted in a judgment exceeding $80 million against a publicly held real estate company.
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Real Estate with Real Breadth
by patrick sullivan
hen the real estate market all but collapsed in 2008, Michael Pensabene knew that he would find new opportunities for his firm and his clients. As a partner at the New York City real estate law firm Rosenberg & Estis, Pensabene knows that the real estate market can be volatile. “The very nature of the real estate market is that is fluctuates,” he said. “Companies that succeed in any industry are those that adapt to market conditions. That’s what we’ve done, and that’s what we help our clients do. What sets us apart from our competitors is the depth of our understanding of real estate and our ability to provide legal representation based on unassailable business principles.” Rosenberg & Estis has 50 lawyers working in one of the biggest markets in the world. Its broad client base includes
investment firms and trusts, prominent real estate companies, and individual owners and investors. “The size of the firm enables us to service a diverse clientele,” explained Pensabene. “We’re big enough to service large clients with substantial staffing needs, but we are not too big for smaller clients to receive the same personalized attention.” Though R&E handles a variety of matters—real estate transactions, financing, foreclosures, commercial law, co-op and condo matters, landlord–tenant disputes and more—Pensabene says all matters are real estate-related. For example, he recently used his knowledge of landlordtenant law to score a big win for a substantial client in a bankruptcy dispute. Pensabene says R&E’s key to success in a slow economy is to focus on relationships. “The way to maintain an ongoing relationship with clients is by looking at clients’ business objectives and working with them to achieve those objectives, which may not necessarily be the reason that brought them through the front door,” he said. 733 Third Avenue New York, NY 10017 P.: 212-867-6000 www.rosenbergestis.com
Only Results Count For this law firm, a diverse range of clients doesn’t change the game plan by sara solano
or attorney Catherine Mackey, variety is the spice of life. As managing partner of Mackey Law Group in Bradenton, Fla., she said they can have up to 100 cases at any given time. “It’s challenging and rewarding,” she said. “We don’t get bored.” Founded in by her 1991 in a $250-per-month storefront, the Mackey Law Group provides a range of legal services ranging from high-profile divorce cases to complex commercial litigation trials. Mackey stressed the importance of never relying on one big client, explaining that flexibility and a solid reputation among local developers, contractors and subcontractors have THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
ensured that the firm will weather these turbulent economic tides. In fact, their profit margin has remained the same over the past few years, and they plan to continue with their full staff in 2012. In spite of facing diverse cases every day and dealing with the recession, Mackey says their business model hasn’t changed much through the years; all that matters to clients is results. Those clients remain predominantly in the local construction and business community. Mackey Law Group has always been averse to opening a line of credit, favoring more conservative fiscal practices. However, the economy has encouraged them to operate on a tighter budget and to be more prudent when accepting cases. “Bigger in our business doesn’t necessarily mean higher profits,” she said. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, Mackey is proud to run a business that truly makes a difference in her community. Her firm’s clients are more than satisfied with the work, and Mackey says she’s thrilled to be doing what she does best: “I just love making a living this way!”
by patrick sullivan
Decades on Defense
Times may change, but one Ontario law firm has never lost its edge.
P Peter Madorin
eter mad o r i n has seen it all. Over its long history, his firm—the Ontario-based Madorin, Snyder LLP—has grown consistently and adapted readily
to changing times. Madorin articled with the firm in 1963, back when it operated under a different name. He returned as an associate when he was admitted into the bar in 1964. Two years later, he made partner. Though the name may have changed, the mission of Madorin, Snyder has always been the same. The firm deals in civil litigation, and the majority of its cases are in defense of sued municipalities. Other practice areas include errors and omissions, where they defend other lawyers sued
for negligence, as well as family law, real estate law, wills and trusts, and business law. The original firm started with about a half-dozen insurance companies as clients, and has managed to keep them on board while expanding into new practice areas. “I think we grew because we provided very good service,” said Madorin. “We’ve continued to maintain these clients.” In his nearly 60 years of practice, Madorin has seen drastic changes in business practice. He said one of the biggest transformations was the advent of email. “People want an immediate response these days,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why lawyers are being sued for negligence. They respond without too much thought, and the next thing they know they’re hit with a negligence lawsuit.” Madorin’s firm may have helped reverse that trend. Five vendors of a piece of land retained Madorin in order to have a contract declared null and
void because, although the contract stated that time was of the essence, the other parties had made a late payment. Madorin won the case, and the Ontario Court of Appeal upheld the verdict. “Real estate lawyers started to pay attention after that,” he said. Though Madorin has been no stranger to change since he was a young bachelor of law, he says that these next six months will be particularly crucial to the firm’s success. Wayne Snyder, the
“People want an immediate response these days.”
- Peter Madorin
second senior partner behind Madorin, is retiring at the end of 2011. That means Madorin and partner James Bennett will have to take on the bulk of Snyder’s practice. Though he just hired a new associate and there are four more on staff, Madorin is gearing up to take on an even heavier workload. “For now, our goal is just to survive,” he said with a laugh. The team at this firm is confident about continued growth into the next year, and all of them—with the well wishes of hundreds of satisfied clients from decades past—look forward to continuing success in the face of any new changes to come their way.
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by patrick sullivan
“We’re still in a rebuilding and growth environment.”
- Lance Arnold
Rebuilding in the Big Easy
For a law firm and its home city, coming together is the key to success.
ew Orleans is a city still rebuilding six years after Hurricane Katrina. The effects of that 2005 storm are still receding as the area and its people pick Lance Arnold up the pieces and build something better. The New Orleans-based law firm Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer also built something new— something more than just the sum of its parts—in 2007, when the venerable business law practice Baldwin Haspel, formed in 1914, merged with maritime law firm Burke & Mayer. “Post-merger, things have gone much better than anyone could have hoped for,” said Lance Arnold, one of the firm’s partners. “[The new firm has] complementary—but THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
not conflicting—practice areas, so we’ve done quite well.” A New Orleans native, Arnold joined Baldwin Haspel in 1988, after earning his MBA and finishing law school at Louisiana State University. He became a partner in 1996. He is an avid sailor and enjoys one of New Orleans’ greatest natural resources, Lake Pontchartrain. Arnold specializes in commercial business representation: formation, consultation, employment-related matters and disputes between and among business owners. Arnold says it is the firm’s responsiveness to its clients that sets it apart from the competition. He spearheaded the post-Katrina temporary relocation of the firm’s offices, restoring networks and communications in order to provide continuity of service to
clients. “We live in a technological environment where an immediate response is expected,” said Arnold, and the firm lives up to that expectation. Just as its city is busy building itself up, so too is Baldwin Haspel Burke & Mayer adding onto its past successes. “We’re still in a rebuilding and growth environment,” said Arnold. And despite Katrina’s lingering aftereffects, the firm has been spared the worst of the dismal economic situation affecting the rest of the United States. “This area has done better and may be counter-cyclical to the rest of the country,” he said. That’s not to say that the local economy has been unaffected by the recession. Because there are so many variables at play in Louisiana, Arnold feels that it can be very difficult to find specific reasons why clients are seeing so many changes. “We’ve seen a lot of mergers and acquisitions affecting clients,” he said. “It’s really hard to say what the driving factor is.” The simple solution is to stay adaptable to changes, no matter what their cause. Arnold feels that developing talent in new lawyers—fresh out of law school with good grades, but lacking crucial practice experience—is one of the most important things he can do, and he devotes much of his time identifying and developing that talent. “The key to success is always going to be your people,” he said. “If you don’t have good people, you can’t do this job and you will not keep clients”.
Keeping The Peace
by Andrea Lehner For 20 years, Linda Miller Savitt, a partner at Ballard Rosenberg Golper & Savitt LLP, has specialized exclusively in employment law. Her expertise gives her valuable insight to the effects of the recession. “Not only does the economy affect the plaintiffs who have lost jobs,” Savitt said, “it affects the lawyers.” Because of that, she continued, “I’m seeing lesser quality cases. Lawyers are filing cases that are more frivolous because they are trying to make a living. I find that disturbing. I represent small businesses that haven’t done anything wrong, but they get sued for what I perceive to be frivolous reasons.” But not all effects have been negative. On the upside, Savitt said that employers are becoming more proactive about communicating with employees during economic crises,
thereby decreasing hard feelings and the lawsuits that follow. “Employers are learning that how you do something is just as important as what you do,” Savitt said. “They are a little more compassionate toward their employees. If employees feel like they’ve been treated with dignity and respect, they are less likely to sue.” Savitt began her 31-year law career working in medical malpractice defense. She thanks the trial experience she gained there for opening the door to employment law, an area she prefers because the damages are not as severe. “While the loss of a job is a little bit of a loss of identity, it’s something you can recover from. It isn’t a catastrophic injury.” This, she explained, makes it easier to remain at peace while excelling in her field.
What Stays in Las Vegas by sara solano
f anyone was wondering about the secret of success for the Las Vegas law firm Jimmerson Hansen, they might get a clue from its owner’s clear dedication to hard work. At 60 years old, James Jimmerson meets with a trainer at 5 a.m. to do weight-lifting and cardio three days a week. By 8:30, he’s at the office and ready for each demanding day. Jimmerson’s commitment to excellence has helped the firm grow into a well-respected, stable entity in spite of a troubled economic climate. Despite staying roughly the same size since it was founded in 1983, Jimmerson Hansen grown substantially in both income and reputation. The firm has received multiple recognitions for their community involvement, and its lawyers are leaders in pro bono work statewide. And because of their location, they frequently handle high-profile celebrity cases. “It certainly raises the stakes and puts pressure on you to be the best you can possibly be,” Jimmerson said. The most important factor in his practice is client satisfaction, he said. This includes a willingness to address diverse needs and take on a wide range of cases. While the
majority of their work involves healthcare and business civil litigation, they realize the importance of foresight in order to recognize and take advantage of different opportunities. According to Jimmerson, a firm must be efficient in its own practice to better serve the wider community. With its proven record of client satisfaction, community service and broad legal expertise, Jimmerson Hansen is primed to gain even more recognition as one of Sin City’s most dependable firms. Jimmerson Hansen Law Offices 415 S 6th St # 100 Las Vegas, 89101 (888) 388-5297 Toll Free jimmersonhansen.com
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ON THE JOB
by wendy connick
One California law firm stands up for justice when workers’ rights come under fire. For attorney Robert Sherwin, work is often an uphill battle. He’s a partner at Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, and he and his colleagues are staunch advocates for workers’ rights in Southern California. “Here, as in a lot of other states, there has been a tremendous push by the conservative right to reform work comp,” he said. “It’s often looked upon as a situation where ‘socalled injured workers are milking the system.’ That’s a very easy accusation to make.” Sherwin’s specialty is defending workers’ compensation claims, particularly for firefighters and police officers, and he’s concerned about recent setbacks. “Governor Schwarzenegger pushed this huge piece of legislation, and he made the legislators pass it on the threat that if they didn’t, he would put it to a public vote,” he said. “So legislators passed what we refer to as the Work Comp Reform Act. They didn’t even read it. And it was disastrous for injured workers. We’ve been living with if for seven years, trying to restore some
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
of the rights and benefits that were taken away from injured workers.” Their hard work is paying off. In two recent cases at the Court of Appeals level, Sherwin served as a friend of the court on behalf of the California State Firefighters Association and helped them secure two major victories. “The cases dealt with some significant issues that were extremely beneficial to firefighters who get injured on the job,” Sherwin explained. And at the trial level, one of Sherwin’s most gratifying cases was on behalf of a client against the city of Vernon. “I represented a firefighter trainee who injured his back shortly after being hired as a city firefighter,” Sherwin said. “When he came back to work, they fired him on the alleged grounds that he was not competent as a firefighter.” Sherwin filed a discrimination claim and, during the course of a heavily litigated trial, exposed a pattern of lies at upper levels of management. Sherwin’s client won back his position. “It was a nice victory—very rewarding—and probably one
of the more significant cases I’ve done over the last ten years.” In addition to workers’ compensation, the firm also has a record of success in both personal injury and disability pension cases. This is despite statewide budgetary difficulties that have negatively impacted the legal system. Sherwin notes that California has reduced judicial appointments and laid off court staffers, which slows down the legal process. “Consequently, our clients can’t get a hearing on their cases in the time that they should,” he said. “Judges are working long hours, without enough support. That’s unfortunately a result of our economy.” Budgetary and legislative challenges don’t make life easy for the team at Lewis, Marenstein, Wicke, Sherwin & Lee, but they know their work is essential to a growing body of grateful clients in southern California. As Sherwin notes, everyone deserves a fair trial and some measure of protection against accidental injury. Tough times or not, justice is non-negotiable.
Staying Power by andrea lehner
Fighting to help accident victims avoid financial ruin
We don’t have anything to do with the attorneyclient privilege; we provide money to help people cover their life needs while their case is pending.”
Harvey Hirschfeld and his partner Dennis Shields may not have foreseen the housing crisis, but their entrepreneurial vision helped thousands survive financial hardships due to injury when banks froze lending. Ever since its inception in 2000, LawCash has been helping accident victims keep their cash flow stable while awaiting settlement. LawCash specializes in providing advancements against pending settlements, helping people who are unable to work supplement their lost income. “We don’t have anything to do with the attorney-client privilege; we provide money to help people cover their life needs while their case is pending,” said Hirschfeld. “Our job is to give clients the staying power to allow their attorney to do his or her job, which is to get them the best settlement possible based upon the conditions.” Hirschfeld explained how a decrease in income due to injury often forces people into desperate situations. Facing foreclosure or eviction, many decide to settle prematurely for less than they deserve. “LawCash gives them another source. Instead of rushing into a settlement, they get an advance.” Emergency cash became harder to come by during the housing crisis. Banks tightened up their lending, and home equity disappeared. Additionally, people with otherwise good credit begin to see a drop in their FICO scores with their first late payment, making it nearly impossible to obtain much-needed credit. “More people didn’t have their bank or family and friends to fall back
“Most of what we do stops foreclosure or eviction.”
on,” Hirschfeld explained. “LawCash is another means to allow them the time and the dignity to keep their attorney working on their case to get a fair and equitable settlement.” Hirschfeld takes pride in knowing LawCash upholds the highest ethical standards. He is proactive about seeing these standards implemented throughout the industry by acting as chairman of the American Legal Finance Association. The power to help people weather financial storms has proven a worthy venture. “Most of what we do stops foreclosure or eviction,” Hirschfeld said. He enjoys reading testimonials about how LawCash was able to help families stay afloat, how clients’ kids didn’t have to quit college or get jobs to help make ends meet, and how victims didn’t have to agree to decreased settlements out of necessity. Hirschfeld recalls helping one client who had survived a tragic accident and was about to accept a small settlement in order to pay her mounting bills. With help from the LawCash team, she was able to wait for a fair final settlement of three times the initial offer. “She was so appreciative of our belief in her case that she offered to buy a car for my partner Dennis Shields. I told her, ‘There’s no need for a car. Just make it a hug!’ I guess I’m a terrible negotiator,” Hirschfeld laughed. But in this case, he added, a client’s gratitude was all the reward they needed.
For all ot your litigation finance needs
1-800-LAW-CASH (1-800-529-2274) www.lawcash.net
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by frank graziano
Taking Aim at Shaky Claims
s founder and CEO of Frye Claims, Tom Frye has worked to revolutionize investigating and reporting within the auto-insurance claims process. The first tweak Frye made was to change his company’s product: the reports that result from a claim investigation. “Since I had a busy reader, we redesigned how the reports would read,” he said. Frye eschews the common “wall of words” approach for one that utilizes graphs, white space and color to increase readability. He also increased the quality of the reports—while a claim adjuster would traditionally self-edit, Frye employs claims managers who proofread and correct every report before it goes out. Frye also has some unique motivational tools at his disposal. To ensure timeliness, he awards a $35 bonus for cases handled within eight workdays. He estimates that 80 percent of his staff receives these bonuses. On top of
that, employees have a monthly opportunity to submit a 50-word essay on how they wowed a customer. Frye then picks the top three and gives out a total of $1000 in bonuses. In addition to a unique product and a motivated work force, Frye Claims boasts an efficient business model. All of the firm’s processing, for instance, is centralized to reduce costs. Staff motivation is also key; when Frye started the company, he invested in hiring experienced self-starters who wouldn’t require micromanaging. Frye explains that although many clients are trying to cut expenses, his services are essential—there’s no getting around the fact that many claims require thorough investigation. “So we try to be very competitive price-wise so we’re their best opportunity to control an expense that they really need,” he said.
3500 Breakwater Court, Bldg. A Hayward, California 94545 www.fryeclaims.com
Economics in Orbit Grace Morris’ AstroEconomics, Inc. looks to the stars. by altamese osborne
any of us check the local paper for a daily personal horoscope, but Grace Morris has a new idea: why not use astrological guides to help steer businesses? It may sound out of the ordinary, but AstroEconomics, Inc., which combines fundamental, technical and planetary cycle analyses to publish prophetic newsletters on the state of the economy, is usually right on point. “In the January 2009 issue of our stock market newsletter, I wrote that the stock market would bottom on March 2009, and it certainly did,” said Morris, the company’s founder. “We also called the recession of January 2008 long before it was acknowledged as a problem.” The company puts out two newsletters: the monthly “Astro Economics Stock Market Newsletter” and its quarterly companion, “The Right Time.” AstroEconomics, Inc. also publishes an annual book: “How to Choose Stocks to Outperform the Stock Market,” which has offered prescient advice throughout its 15 years of printing. And that’s not all they do. “We offer PowerPoint presentations in addition to CDs, books, newsletters, work-
shops, stock surveys and company profiles,” Morris said. AstroEconomics, Inc. also offers consulting for both businesses and individuals. The Illinois-based company has already helped State Farm agents, McDonald’s franchisees and small and large businesses set up their own incorporation dates. “I think that it’s important to serve the clientele and subscribers, understand their needs and help them grow,” Morris said. “Offering them information that helps to grow their businesses, grows our business.” AstroEconomics Inc. www.astroeconomics.com
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Supply on Demand A supply chain is no stronger than its weakest link. Businesses at every phase of the supply/demand relationship need to embrace best practices and technology if they intend to remain relevant and flourish. Supply chain expert Anthony Nelson knows how to make it all work. This month: The prep work for business intelligence is more than just a forward-thinking idea—it’s a necessity during competitive times.
ime waits for no man (or woman). Competitive businesses are typically pro-active, innovative, and quick to adapt. Critical decisions need to be made swiftly and decisively, and outside of some monopolies and sheltered industries, the margins for error are slim. Timely information can make the difference between success, missed opportunity, or disaster. As most people would assume, planning, positioning, and project executions evolve over extended periods of time. Contingencies are accounted for at inception, and safety measures are put in place. Unfortunately, forecasts and long-term plans are exactly that … forecasts and plans. In highly competitive markets, reactive forces can alter even the surest of predictions in a hurry. With many assets being fixed in the short term, the sooner information is available for review, the sooner measures can be taken and plans adjusted. There are innumerable factors affecting competitiveness, many of them dependent on one thing: knowledge. Information allows for informed decisions, and gives us the baselines we need to pursue the correct endeavors. So where does all this information come from? That is undoubtedly a huge topic within itself, with unlimited case-by-case particularities. When considering direct and immediate operational information, a common first thought is often “from internal reports and business intelligence.” While that may be true when infrastructure to support business intelligence is already in place, the more common truth is that there are several key decision-critical factors passing under the radar at any given moment. When dealing with multiple products, processes, facilities, tiers of suppliers, agreements and contractual obligations, there are only so many details and reports a decision maker can sift through in a timely enough manner to make a difference. So what is a company to do? Simple. Analyze, automate, consolidate, gain visibility… then automate some more. Make sure decision
THE SUIT MAGAZINE - DEC 2011 / JAN 2012
makers get the relevant, streamlined information they need in front of them sooner rather than later. The most forward-thinking companies are taking full advantage of the best available technologies and practices. They are revising the way they handle every aspect of their supply chains in order to increase efficiency and to obtain visibility as close to real-time as possible. Manual processes are being replaced with automated ones. Both up and downstream links are analyzed and updated with those goals in mind as well. Numerous positive spinoffs aside (which may themselves be primary incentives), automating processes in order to access the data quickly and reliably is a major end in and of itself. While that is occurring, necessary consolidations are also taking place. Consolidating redundant processes and process data as well as creating accessible repositories and information flows are the precursors to implementing a successful and robust business intelligence asset. They mark a commitment to longevity. It is from these data streams, reports and notifications that much knowledge and real-time visibility is gleaned. Once the appropriate automations, consolidations and BI analytics are in place, the cycle is repeated. Neither competition nor innovation ever sleep. Companies that are not taking steps to maximize efficiencies now are simply positioning themselves to play catch-up sometime in the near future…if the competition is gracious enough to let them try.
Editor’s Note: Anthony Nelson (BA Econ, CSC, APICS member) is the Vice President of Operations for Meade Willis, a cloud-based supply chain service provider. He also has hands-on experience as a shop floor foreman and quality control supervisor. Contact him at email@example.com.
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