Issue 45

Nov. 2011

mit professor & author

noam chomsky

contributes to our reports on war & protests


The cost of defense and its grip on America


Are men finished? New trends on women in business

The growth of a horizontal movement

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ISSUE 45 | OCT / NOV 2011

Publisher Erwin E. Kantor Editor-in-Chief Jacey Fortin Managing Editor Michael Gordon Editorial Robert Jordan Maria De Luca Kristen Grant Staff Writers L. A. Rivera Sara Salono Wendy Connick Andrea Lehner Almatese Osborne Patrick Sullivan Frank Graziano Guest Writers David Novak Anthony Nelson Creative Director Christopher DeBellis Asst. Art Director Marienne Hilahan Illustrators Shafali R. Anand Marketing / Advertising Monica Link Christopher DeBellis
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Taking Stock


In Changing Times

ere in New York, the leaves are falling and the temperature is dropping. As we prepare for winter—they’re predicting a harsh one—we’re also noticing big changes in the world around us. In the world of business, for instance, the battle of the sexes is taking quite a turn. We cover the changing dynamics on page 10. And there are some interesting new ideas in the field of marketing; you’ll see on page 12 why traditional advertising methods may no longer cut it. And that’s not all. Just a few miles away from our offices, protesters are waving signs in Zuccotti Park, and the movement is spreading across the country. We investigate the occupation on page 4. And overseas, we’re scaling down one war while ramping up another; on page 8, we report on the real costs of these battles. For both of these articles, we included input from Noam Chomsky. He first rose to fame as a linguistic scholar for his theories on transformational grammar. Since then, he has made headlines as an economic and historical commentator. He had some insights for our story on the true cost of war, and his statements at the protester gatherings in October informed our investigation into the Occupy Wall Street movement. We appreciate

Above: Central Park, New York City

his contribution to our November issue Seasons change, but spring always comes again. Likewise, the business owners we profile in this issue exhibit the same confidence and adaptability as they always have. In uncertain times, this steadfastness is reassuring. I learned a lot from putting together this issue of The Suit, and I know our readers will too. Make sure you visit us online at to let us know what you think. In the meantime, bundle up… it’s getting cold out there.

Erwin Kantor
Erwin Kantor Publisher



OCT / NOV 2011

The Burden of War
It’s no easy task to calculate the true cost of military engagement. There are the obvious expenses for troops and training, weapons and equipment, intelligence and analysis. But a report released this year also factors in the costs of lives lost, mounting debts, and veteran care. What is the Unites States truly paying for battles waged abroad?
photo courtesy: united states government works






16 17 18

Ahead of Market

A Critical Mass

An advertising firm ahead of the curve

23 24 26 28 29

When Waste Becomes Resource

The Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading from downtown New York to cities all around the world.

How recycling can generate revenue

Getting Out There


Passing Parity

Effective marketing doesnt come from a can!

An Overseas Connection

The time of male dominance in the American business world may be on its way out.

The Great Eastern Group helps link the world together

Business Briefs



Aiming for the Middle, From Startup to Success

Tech Briefs

A Positive Environment, To the Grid and Beyond

19 12 14 42
Build & They Comment

Taking a Chance on Change

Powers Combined

Helping families thrive in Georgia

Smart mergers at the right time lead to tech success

The unexpected ways that social media is changing the face of advertising.

20 21 22

Taking Charge

Green Tech Briefs

Beryl Ramsey upholds the highest standards

Gearing up for Takeoff, The Internet Innovator

The New Cousteaus

Ian Koblick and Craig Mullen search for buried treasures in the dark blue depths of the Mediterranean Sea.

Business Briefs

30 31

Tech Briefs

Power of Appreciation, Covering All The Bases

The Interface Experts, Solid Planning

Innovative Brilliance

Steve Jobs transformed the world of consumer electronics – can Eric Smith’s business model similarly transform the financial services marketplace?

Right Resources

Learning to Adapt

Solving the HR issues that slow companies down

Transforming to meet new technology demands


business infrastructure

32 34 35 36 38 39 40 41

On the Right Track

A new golden era is just around the bend

Building on a Firm Foundation

Staying in the black… and giving back

Infrastructure Briefs

Smoke on the Water, An American Manufacturer

Powering Up

A private company in pursuit of fuel solutions

Charitably Creative
finance (cont.) lifestyle (cont.)

Using community resources to fight for a cause

Salvaging Scrap

Hidden treasures on the factory floor

46 47

Finance Briefs

Mortgage Meets the Golden Rule, Keep it Moving


Insuring the Future

Bringing value back to insurance

Focused Quality Consulting Business Briefs

Keeping Costs Covered


Presenting the Case

For GGI, it’s quality over quantity.

New healthcare laws call for a bold business plan

The lost art of legal civility



The Medical Decoders, Reinventing the Wheel

48 49 50

True Hospitality


Attending to every last detail of hotel operation

53 54

The GadgetGUY

David Novak on the latest and greatest in tech innovation

44 45

Finance Briefs

Lifestyle Briefs

Supply on Demand

All in the Family, Acquisitions Support

New Heights of Service, Traveling Right

Anthony Nelson on new trends in supply chain management

On the Arm

Lifestyle Briefs

Cornering the market for business transactions

The Dutch Destination, Impeccably Groomed


image credits: reuters


reported on location by jacey fortin

The Occupy Wall Street movement is spreading from downtown New York to cities all around the world. York The Suit Magazine investigates The what they’ve done, how they work and what they want.


here are bonfires in Oakland. Property violations in Boston. Arrests in Atlanta. And in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, the activists who started it all are pitching tents in preparation for a long, harsh winter. One month ago, the 33,000 sq. ft. plaza was overcrowded with people, clothes, posters and makeshift workstations. At any given moment, there were several competing points of interest: people gathering, arguing, marching or performing. It was difficult to walk across the park without stepping on sleeping revolutionaries. But things have changed. A haphazard pile of books has been shelved to create a small library, where interested visitors can borrow or donate reading materials. Wooden crates filled with apples once obstructed the pathways, but now there is a well-stocked food station under the

cover of blue tarps. A mountain of discarded clothes has been organized into a donation center, enabling the occupiers to dress in layers as the temperature drops. Highprofile visitors have come from nearby and abroad to give speeches, clarifying the movement’s place in history. In Boston on October 22, famed linguist and historian Noam Chomsky addressed a welcoming crowd at Dewey Square. There were audibility problems. Chomsky held two microphones to his face, and when listeners in the back began to chant for higher volume, he laughed. “You can’t hear me? I don’t know what to do about it. These [microphones] are in my mouth.” Despite technical difficulties, he commended the protesters for their efforts. “If the bonds and associations that are being established in these remarkable events can be sustained through a long, hard period ahead—because


image credits: roger l. wollenberg

plex system that there needs to be a lot of goals,” Harris said, “and a lot of people working toward different goals.” Mary Topper, who occupied the plaza for seven days, didn’t seem so sure. “I came because I think the people on Wall Street should be held accountable for what they have done to the people in this country,” she said. “But I think this has become a really left-wing festival. I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of really different goals, some of which I don’t agree with, and some that I do. I don’t really feel that much is going to be accomplished, aside from media attention. It’s a media circus. No offense.” The circus came to town on September 17, but the real starting point was back in July. That’s when the Canadabased magazine Adbusters published a call to action on its blog, encouraging readers to “flood into lower Manhattan.” Kalle Lasn, editor-in-chief of Adbusters, is modest about his involvement. “We were the people who catalyzed this thing behind the scenes,” he said, “but that’s all we did. Then the people took over in New York and organized the meetings, and they had this magical way of running Zuccotti Park that caught everyone’s imagination. Those are the real heroes.” The heroes may lack a clear mission, but Lasn wouldn’t have it any other way. “In a strange, messy, somewhat crazy way, we have launched this huge conversation about the future of America. So you cannot deny that it’s been hugely successful,” he said. “I think a lot of the people who are criticizing it for not having clear demands…that is the old vertical way of looking at things. This young generation grew up in the internet age. They’re horizontal people, and they’re quite happy with the messier way of doing things. And I can assure you that over the next few weeks and months, some very crystal-clear objectives will emerge.” * * * Not everyone at Zuccotti Park is there to protest Wall Street. Last month, two young men in suits went down to the plaza holding signs proclaiming, “We are the 1%.” Instead of using sharpies on cardboard, they presented their statement in clean black type on an iPad screen. Though they asked to remain anonymous in print, these counter-protesters had no qualms about showing up in person at the scene of the protest. They took to the streets, spoke to participants and passerby, and were eventually offered some protection from the New York City Police Department. “The police have been very kind to us; the other day they created a cage for our safety,” they told The Suit. “It’s nice to have a separation so we can comfortably express our views. There are some crazy people here.” The counter-protesters were there to preserve the status quo. “We’re perfectly happy with the current state of affairs,” they said. “This is America, and we’ve got the American dream. Why would they want to take that from

victories don’t come quickly—it could turn out to be a really historic and significant moment in American history.” * * * Protester Brian Harris has been working as an organizer at Zuccotti Park since day one, and he’s exhausted. “It’s incredibly difficult to organize this. Every person is an autonomous activist,” he explained. “Here’s how it all works: the decision-making process is based off the General Assembly, which is made of components of working groups. Information, outreach, labor, internet, finance, comfort—there are tons of different groups, meeting twice a day. They all report back to the General Assembly every night at 7:00.” And what is all this hard work for? “This is such a com-


us?” It’s hard to gauge the specific intentions of these two young men, but there are plenty of people across the country who agree with those basic sentiments. Billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson had some well-targeted criticisms, which he released in a public statement. “Instead of vilifying our most successful businesses, we should be supporting them and encouraging them to remain in New York City and continue to grow,” he said. “The top one percent of New Yorkers pay over 40 percent of all income taxes, providing huge benefits to everyone in our city and state. Paulson & Co. and its employees have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in New York City and New York State taxes in recent years and have created over 100 high-paying jobs in New York City since its formation.” This is partly due to the fact that New York State has one of the most progressive tax codes in the country. In terms of state taxes alone, it’s one of the least profitable places to be rich. And if that’s the case, should the protesters turn their attention elsewhere? * * * For input on specific objectives for the movement, The Suit spoke with Mike Lapham. He’s the project director of Responsible Wealth, which is one division of an organization called United for a Fair Economy (UFE). “Our goal is to call attention to the growing income and wealth gap,” he said, “and the dangerous consequences of that on our society and our democracy.” In terms of straight dollars, Paulson is right: New York millionaires and billionaires pay much more money to the state than do average citizens. But a look at these payments as percentages of income casts things in a different light. “I think it would be really helpful if more people knew how taxes work,” said Lapham. “For example, at the state level, taxes are regressive. Lower-income people pay a higher percentage of their income in state and local taxes than upper-income folks in every state in the nation.” A 2009 report released by the Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy states that even in New York, which has one of the most balanced tax codes nationwide, the richest one percent pay 7.2 percent of their income in state and local taxes after federal deduction offsets, compared to the 9.6 percent paid by those in the lowest income bracket. Those numbers are arguable, since it is difficult to calculate exactly how much people pay in sales and excise taxes over a given year. But looking beyond New York at the national averages, the tax rate inequalities are very clear. The report estimates that in 2007, the lowest-earning fifth of U.S. citizens paid about 11 percent of their income to state and local taxes, while the highest earners paid little more than five percent.

Ending regressive tax codes nationwide is one of Lapham’s missions as the director of Responsible Wealth, which is an organization of affluent individuals across the country. They write letters and articles, make media appearances and lobby the government, asking to have their taxes increased as Warren Buffet famously did in a New York Times op-ed this August. In 2009, Lapham and his colleagues successfully effected change in New York, which may be why Paulson today shares so much of his income with the state. “A couple years ago, about 100 of our Responsible Wealth members in New York got together and signed a letter to the governor and the legislature saying, ‘Tax

us more,’” Lapham said. “No one was willing to say that until those individuals stood up, and suddenly the politicians and the media were all over it. And that’s what happened. They were able to pass new surtaxes that raised about $5 million per year and reduced the regressivity of the state’s tax system. And I think that needs to happen at the federal level.” Federal taxes are more progressively structured than those of states and localities, but even they have been trending in a regressive direction since the 1960s. Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez published a 2007 report on the history of the U.S. federal tax system in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, noting that tax rates for the highest earners have fallen dramatically. This is due largely to conservative policies implemented in the 1980s under Reagan and in the early 2000s under Bush. “For example,” wrote Piketty and Saez, “the top .01 percent of earners paid over 70 percent of their income in federal taxes in 1960, while they paid only 35 percent of their income in 2005.” So although billionaires like Paulson pay a substantial sum to the government each year, they actually enjoy one of the lowest federal tax rates in American


history. Not only are the wealthy paying less—they’re earning much more. As Piketty and Saez found, “the share of income going to the top 0.1 percent of the income distribution has grown tremendously since the late 1970s; the share of total income received by the top 0.1 percent was around 2.5 percent of total income in the 1970s and reached a peak of above 9 percent of total income in 2000.” The gap between the rich and poor today has grown to a level unprecedented since 1929. To shrink this gap, Lapham suggests we take a closer look at tax codes for capital gains, since most of the wealthiest Americans’ income consists of capital gains in the stock market. “If there was one specific fact I would love more people to understand,” he said, “it’s that capital gains are taxed at 15 percent. That income—making money from money—should be taxed at least as much as ordinary income.” At his speech in Boston, Chomsky voiced similar concerns about income inequalities. “It could continue like this,” he said. “And if it does continue, this historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movements are the first real major popular reaction that could avert this.” *** The people at Adbusters also offer some guidance to steer the protesters’ efforts. They send out tactical briefings via email and update their blog regularly, highlighting issues of interest and helping to organize gatherings around the world. Lasn himself had some thoughts on what the protesters might achieve. “There’s really a lot,” he said. “One big thing: I think that down the road, this movement will ask for the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act.” He may be right; this idea been percolating at Zuccotti Park and other gathering spots across the country. GlassSteagall was implemented in 1933 during the Great Depression, and its basic function was to divorce commercial banking from securities and speculation. It dramatically restricted the extent to which banks could take risks with their depositors’ funds, protecting the general public but also hampering banks’ ability to turn big profits and compete globally. When the act was repealed in 1999, banks were once again able to merge with other entities—including insurers and investment brokers—and to take greater risks with customers’ money. Some critics of the repeal call it the primary cause of the subprime mortgage crisis and massive bank failures of 2007 and 2008, arguing that a reinstatement of Glass-Steagall would achieve some much-needed regulation. But if we are to effect policy changes like this, Lasn added, the first step is to end corporate influence in politics. “Above all,” he said, “I think [the protesters] will demand an end to this corruption that goes on every day in Washington, with the big corporations bribing our democratic leaders to get their way with laws that are passed. I think that will be one of the really big fruits of the movement.”

Above: The 1% were also at the protests, carrying signs of their own.

Lobbyist expenditures, for instance, still follow a pattern of incredible growth despite the recession. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that lobbyist spending has more than doubled over 10 years, reaching $3.51 billion in 2010. The spending itself is not necessarily unethical; entities as diverse as major banks, small credit unions, labor groups and even nonprofits get through to Congress via K Street. But such a large infusion of funds into our public policy machine strikes many as a cause for concern. That’s why Lapham thinks the occupiers are right to set up camp on Wall Street instead of on Capitol Hill. “Wall Street are the folks who are making those political contributions that ultimately resulted in us loosening banking resolutions, which led to the crash in 2008. Wall Street has an outsized political influence, and that’s not fair or sustainable for us as a country.” * * * Tax policies, capital gains, banking regulation, lobbyist influence—none of these are simple issues. And that may be why the Zuccotti Park occupiers have yet to be clear about their goals. As things progress, protesters like Harris are content to wait for a consensus to emerge. “I would really love for this movement to be a wakeup call for working people,” he said. “And obviously that’s going to manifest itself in unknown ways—multiple ways.” Lasn agrees, and he tries to walk the fine line of inciting the protestors without taking on a leadership role. “I have absolutely no advice for them!” he said with a laugh. “But you know, I’ve been a student of revolutions all my life, and I can tell you that revolutions come and go, and sometimes they change things. But ultimately, revolution is known for how it changes culture. These kinds of deepdown everyday life cultural changes are what revolution is ultimately about.”


by l.a. rivera

The numbers are in, and the costs are staggering. How much have Americans really sacrificed in the name of defense?

lthough President Barack Obama announced in October the withdrawal of the remaining 40,000 troops from Iraq by Christmas, anti-war critic Noam Chomsky contends that American taxpayers, in part, will inherit the inevitable price tag from the countless wars fought in the Middle East. “These are actions not taken for the benefit of the domestic population,” Chomsky explained to The Suit. “Quite the contrary; they are costs, a burden for them.” Proof of this burden is buried in a blistering report dubbed “The Cost of War,” released this year by the Brown University Institute for International Studies. To compile the report, groups of senior professors, economists and military spending experts mulled over hundreds of documents to calculate the contentious cost of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The statistics are staggering. In the decade since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan, in part to search for the Al-Qaeda forces behind the 9/11 attacks, total expenditures on the conflicts have reached an amount between $2.3 trillion to $2.7 trillion. The lat-

est great expense, the report says, is the launching of drone aircrafts targeting militants in Yemen and Pakistan. When it comes to human lives, the report offers plenty of alarming figures: “More than 2.2 million Americans have gone to war and over a million have returned veterans,” but more alarming are the civilian death tolls. The report contends, “wars in the Middle East have claimed an estimated 225,000 casualties.” Costs will continue to rise dramatically, especially considering the necessary long-term commitment to wounded veterans and further projected war spending from 2012 through 2020. These numbers do not include an estimated $1 trillion in interest payments and many billions more in unforeseen debt, the report says. Catherine Lutz, co-director of the study, said a detailed assessment of the cost of war should raise a crucial question: what did the U.S. gain from these trillions spent? “The long term consequences include massive debt. Remember, this is borrowed money,” Lutz remarks. “Obviously, our American reputation is on the decline as a result of the ‘invasions.’” Lutz argues that the lack of transparency in the Pentagon has been a troubling reality. “I think the


U.S. Army Ranger 173rd Airborne Division

American public wants to know about our foreign policy decisions,” she added. “A number of defense contracting companies have been profiteering from this fraud, waste and abuse.” Winslow Wheeler, director of the Straus Military Reform Project of the Center for Defense Information, agrees. “The Department of Defense has been keeping sloppy records. We have inherited huge costs that the veterans of these wars will be paying for decades. For these wars, we have incurred huge national debts. The spending for these wars was a major part of the run-up of debt started under George Bush and continued under President Barack Obama. And for rebuilding the physical equipment over the last ten years that has crapped out, and for the veterans, we’ll be paying for decades,” Wheeler said. “This incompetence has been with us for three decades at least, and you have to suspect that it’s not just by incompetence, but by design. Since the Chief Financial Officers Act of 1990 was passed, the DOD has repeatedly promised to clean up its books by a certain date in the future. It’s never met its deadline. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the House Arms Service Committee recently that he was going to accelerate that deadline. Time will tell. I would be very surprised if they meet their criteria. It will be a superficial audit,” he said. “We have incurred bills that we have to be paid whether you like it or not. We are morally obligated to support these vets who have come home, with various problems that the nation has imposed on them, for a decade into the future.” At the same time, Wheeler claims that Congress should step up to the plate regarding the Pentagon’s spending. “We should have an operative functioning Congress that can study these things and require the kinds of audits that are needed,” he said. Economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, takes a more detailed look at the countless wars fought by United States, arguing that it’s a good economic indicator for the future. “World War II actually did finally get

us out of the Depression. That was the only thing that gave the political will to spend the money. In that sense, World War II from an economic vantage point was actually a positive, insofar as that it is the only way you can spend money to get out a political depression,” he said. But, certainly, the 1960s brought different political climate. And as the Vietnam War pressed on, the United States was virtually alienated. Protests and riots exploded on the national scene. And many politicians were pitted against each other on both sides. Vietnam was a national debacle costing an estimated 58,000 American lives and billions of dollars. “But in the case of Vietnam, the economy was not in a downturn but in a period of very good growth,” Baker said, “which was directly pulling away resources from the productive economy. So we had less investments, spent less on education. We had fewer workers here as part of a productive economy, because we had many resources devoted to the Vietnam War.” September 11th 2001 changed the game entirely; now we’re fighting expensive battles during the worst economic period in almost 75 years. “In the case of Afghanistan right now,” Baker explained, “I can’t say that’s pulling resources away from a productive economy, except insofar as we might say that if we weren’t spending that money on the military, we would have support for spending on infrastructure, education or some productive use.” Meanwhile, Congress has proposed to cut at least $450 billion from the military budget over the next decade. This is only a start, and with a disappointing record of defense contractors, politicians and government officials having their way with military spending, it’s worthwhile to ask whether American workers will be left holding the bag. Historically, the Pentagon’s extravagancies have wasted taxpayers’ money. But in the end, Chomsky said he supports a non-partisan commission to assess the financial cost of the war. “Can’t hurt,” he said. “I doubt it will come up with much that we don’t already know.”


photo courtesy of caren firouz

/ reuters

by jacey fortin

“God has decided that men are finished,” proclaimed ABC News Legal Analyst Dan Abrams to a packed auditorium on September 20. “Between 1995 and 2008, 82 percent of lightning strikes were on men!”

Passing Parity

The audience laughed, but Abrams was engaged in a serious debate. He and three other panelists faced the spotlights onstage at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. The event was hosted by Intelligence Squared, sponsored by Slate Magazine and attended by over 800 ticketholders. Abrams and his debate partner, journalist Hanna Rosin, argued in support of a controversial motion: “men are finished.” Arguing the counterpoint were feminist scholar Christina Hoff Sommers and David Zinczenko, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health. “The idea that men are finished is crazy,” said Hoff Sommers. “Men and women complement each other.” “It’s preposterous,” insisted Zinczenko, who urged the audience to vote against the motion several times during the two-hour event. Zinczenko’s repeated exhortations didn’t work. His opponents did more than win—they broke the Intelligence Squared record for changed minds. By the end of the evening, 66 percent of attendees were convinced that the era of male dominance was coming to an end.

• The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a report in June of 2010 called “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in 2009.” The study confirms what most of us already know: females in the United States earn less than men. Specifically, “women who were full-time wage and salary workers had median weekly earnings of $657, or about 80 percent of the $819 median for their male counterparts.” So how is it that Rosin and Abrams were able to convince an initially skeptical audience that “men are finished”? Rosin defined her terms early on, insisting she did not believe men were about to be rendered obsolete, nor that women were already in the lead. “Think of this as the writing on the wall,” she said. “What we will prove is that the world where men dominate the public sphere, and where male traits are the ones that lead to success, is the world that we are currently saying goodbye to.” Rosin went on to note that in 2010, for the first time in history, women became the majority of the workforce. They are still behind in terms of leadership, but that may be changing too. The latest U.S. Census reports that women owned 7.8 million nonfarm American businesses in 2007, amounting to little more than half of the 13.9 million businesses owned by men. But a closer look at the trends in ownership over time reveals quite a difference in pace: since 2002, the number of women-owned nonfarm business grew by 20.1 percent. The total number of

businesses owned by men, on the other hand, grew by just 5.5 percent. Women, it seems, are catching up fast. • Are females better suited to thrive in the changing economy? Yes, said Rosin—in fact, women enjoy an advantage even before they enter the workforce. “Most economists agree that what you need to get ahead these days is pretty simple; it’s just a college degree,” she said. “But women, for some reason, are much better these days at getting college degrees than men. For every two men who get a college degree, three women will do the same.” Hoff Sommers agreed, calling it “a matter of grave concern” and proposing that we change the educational system in order to make school more engaging for boys. “The reasons for girls’ educational success [are] complicated, and surely have something to do with a complex combination of innate and cultural differences,” she said. Those differences also help women outside of the classroom, especially in today’s economic climate. The American recession has hit men particularly hard, since the fields they once dominated are going overseas. A 2010 report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York highlights the alarming trends. Authors Ayşegül Şahin, Joseph Song and Bart Hobij note that “a breakdown of employment figures shows that men have been affected more adversely than women during the economic downturn.” Men’s unemployment rate in August of 2009 hit 11 percent, compared to just 8.3 percent for women. This is the largest gender gap since the postwar era—and the first time women are coming out on top. Why are men more affected by tough times? According to the report, “this disparity can be traced in large part to… the fact that job losses have been highly concentrated in the goods-producing industries of manufacturing and construction, which generally employ a higher proportion of male workers.” • Even outside of the manufacturing sector, women have certain traits that help them succeed in business. The Suit spoke with Patricia Werhane, executive director of the Institute for Business and Professional Ethics at DePaul University and a co-author of “Women in Business: The Changing Face of Leadership.” To write the book, Werhane and her colleagues spoke with 22 of the most successful women in the United States. “We wanted to see if there were some characteristics of these women that were not the standard characteristics of leaders,” she said. “And we discovered that most of them are very collaborative. Most of them work in teams rather than as individuals. They try to flatten the hierarchy in their organizations, they encourage others and they hire people who are smarter than they are.” This kind of behavior is essential for success during tough times, and Werhane pointed out numerous studies confirming that collaboration yields profit. One 2010 report published in Science Magazine, for instance, found that business performance tends to depend heavily on “a general collective intelligence.” Authors Anita Williams Woolley, Christopher F. Chabris, Alex Pentland, Nada Hashmi and Thomas W. Malone posit that this collective

Above: Hanna Rosin makes her case during heated rebuttals.

intelligence is “not strongly correlated with average or maximum individual intelligence of group members, but is correlated with the average social sensitivity of group members, the equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking, and the proportion of females in the group.” If it’s true that women are less individualistic and more open to input from others, they have a big leg up on profitable decision-making. A look at the track record of American enterprise over the last few years reveals the proof in the pudding. During the debate, Abrams shared some illuminating statistics on the male-dominated finance industry. “Female hedge fund managers outperformed their male counterparts from 2000 to 2009…by a whopping three percent. Business Week reported that when the downturn began, funds run by women lost 9.6 percent, compared to 19 percent for men,” he said, attributing this to men’s tendency to take more risks based on less information and with less input from others. “All other things equal, anyone who wants to make money ought to go with a woman.” • Still, there are some important industries where women still lag considerably: math, science, engineering and technology. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that women hold less than 25 percent of jobs in these areas, noting that “this has been the case throughout the past decade, even as college-educated women have increased their share of the overall workforce.” But to hear Rosin and Abrams tell it, women are still on the verge of flipping the scenario across the board—math and science may simply be the toughest nuts to crack. “Men have been at this for 40,000 years, and women have been at this for 40,” quipped Rosin. “So of course the world does not flip upside-down overnight.” Abrams concluded with his own thoughts on why women aren’t quite there yet. “Three reasons,” he said. “One: married or unmarried, they’re still primarily responsible for childcare. Two: they often lack the overconfidence of men. And three: sexism. Number one may not ever change for certain. Numbers two and three will. They must. And then us men are in big trouble.”

by frank graziano

If You Build It,

They Will Comment

The unexpected ways that social media is changing the face of advertising.
searcher’s curiosity about its trends. But predicting his industry’s future depended on a present that’s anything but clear. The Internet’s effect on marketing is no trade secret. In 2006 the Economist’s Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Google, published “The Future of Marketing: From Monologue to Dialogue.” The Above: Jeff Rosenblum, co-founder of Questus Inc. report compiled quantitative data from an online survey of over 200 senior global mardisrupted marketing as much as keting executives and qualitative everything else. So Rosenblum exinsights from follow-up interviews pected his documentary to be about with willing responders. Its execuhow those technologies would carry tive summary opens on a scientific marketing into the future. note: “The past two years have witAnd those expectations were largenessed the first examples of true ly met. Companies were using sotwo-way marketing ‘conversations’ cial media, digital technologies had between customers and some of the changed the marketing landscape, world’s leading consumer brands.” et cetera. That was all fairly obvious Read today, “The Future of Marto anyone with access to cable news. keting” reveals a prescient analysis. But Rosenblum was surprised by It declared that CMOs would need other reoccurring themes. to rethink branding, channel integra“It turns out the future of advertion, efficacy measurement tising, it’s a different story,” he says. and internal organization. “It’s a story of transparency. And It also tentatively tried to what that means is consumers have predict the future, giving the ability to find out anything about nods to the growing ima brand in real-time.” portance of mobile devices Five years ago, marketing could and social networking. But in be defined as ‘event-oriented.’ Ad2006, MySpace and YouTube vertising was based on reactions to were the dominant social media events—a fall in sales, the release of platforms, and smartphones a new product—but is now a streamwere relatively primitive—the ing conversation with consumers. iPad and Twitter were mere Marketers, in other words, need to specks on the horizon. constantly be managing their digital In the past five years, software touch points. and hardware innovations have Further, Rosenblum found, the


ocial media will play an important role in the future of marketing, but in a different way than you might think. That’s what Jeff Rosenblum found while producing a documentary on the topic. Rosenblum is a marketing pioneer who was one of the first to incorporate website usability, digital analytics and online surveys into his research. He’s now co-president of the marketing firm Questus, and since his company’s inception he has embraced digital tools as vital. “There are so many different ways [consumers] touch a company digitally. So rather than relying on this really big advertising campaign, we like to focus in on every single one of those touch points,” he explains, “And any one of those touch points tends to be as important as that big overarching campaign.” The documentary seems a natural extension for Rosenblum, who helped to define modern digital marketing and has a re-


average consumer, who has access to a wealth of instant information on multiple devices, now has manifold platforms with which to “call bullshit” on advertising campaigns. Consumers have quantified business reputations online through reviewing tools like Yelp and other rating systems. Three pivotal but until now disparate reference points—how a company actually performs, how that company projects itself, and how the audience receives that projection—are converging as the audience takes a large part in projecting the company’s image. “People are going to know whether a brand acts ethically, or whether a brand creates good or crappy products,” said Rosenblum. “[Companies] need to find a way to disseminate information naturally and honestly in order for customers to trust their message.” But his film focuses on large corporations: Patagonia, Pepsi, Zappos, Red Bull. How should a smaller company behave in the world of growing transparency and accountability? In late October, Alina Dizik wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal entitled “@Foodies: Peek Into My Kitchen” about the way some chefs and diners are using Twitter. Dizik writes, “Many chefs tweet before dinnertime about what they are planning to cook that night…Foodies, meanwhile, are also avid Twitter users, snapping pictures with their smartphones and tweeting real-time reviews in between bites.” This is an illustrative example of how a small business can effectively use free social media platforms. Where analytics and other methods for reading customer sentiment were formerly cost-prohibitive, there

are now plenty of free tools. Where TV ads were the most direct way to reach a customer, it can now be done constantly and in real-time. But stepping into the digital domain merits the same careful consideration devoted to traditional marketing channels. “The number one piece of advice I could give to busi-

nesses is to be true to yourself in terms of how you’re marketing online,” says consultant and designer Jason Amunwa. His blog, The Zest, focuses on small business marketing. In a post called “Are ‘social media campaigns’ missing the point?” he warns that tweeting for tweeting’s sake is as vapid as it sounds. Amunwa says small business owners need to be honest about what digital channels they can fill with meaningful content. Customers are no longer wowed that a business is merely available online. If they’re going to be engaged face-to-digitalface, they expect nuggets of useful, relationship-building information, ala chefs tweeting the evening’s specials. And when consumers feel engaged, they’re more likely to share brand impressions amongst them-

selves. In a way, this makes them an extension of a business’s own marketing efforts—except that consumers have no obligation to report favorably. That means it’s up to businesses to step up their performance. It’s less about talk, and more about action. And for small companies without the resources to put together a huge marketing campaign, this is great news. As Rosenblum explains, “There’s probably never been a better time to be a small company because the playing field has been completely leveled.” Expensive advertising is simply losing its power to persuade. Social media remains an effective, low-cost way to get consumers involved. But when it comes to projecting a brand image, interaction must be backed by integrity. “[Digital tools] are going to help you build awareness for your products, but they’re not going to sufficiently shift perceptions,” said Rosenblum. Today’s well-researched customers are more sensitive to discrepancies between their perception of a company and a company’s attempts to alter that perception. So tomorrow’s businesses will need to act responsibly, communicate authentically and realize that consumers are always calculating the distance between representation and reality.


by patrick sullivan

The New



icture this: you’re on an 85-foot research yacht called the Fortaleza on the Mediterranean Sea. The sonar you’re using to map the seafloor shows a large anomaly lying on the sea floor, and you have a hunch. So you send down a remoteoperated vehicle (ROV) to take some pictures. As you suspected, the giant mass is not a rock, a log or an animal; it’s a shipwreck. And there are hundreds of ancient amphorae onboard, which tell you that this is no ordinary find. It’s a Greek vessel from about 400 B.C that will never make it to port. You call your local partners in the Ministry


of Culture, who are absolutely ecstatic about the find. They request that a sample of the cargo be recovered, and soon that sample is on display at a museum for the world to see. That’s just a day in the lives of Ian Koblick and Craig Mullen, directors and founders of the AURORA Trust, a marine survey and exploration foundation that has worked in the Mediterranean Sea for the past seven years. Koblick has been doing undersea exploration since the late 1960s, “living and working in the sea like Jacques Cousteau used to do,” he said. But it was not until 2004 that Koblick and Mullen founded the AURORA Trust. The company got its official start with what Koblick terms a “small proj-

ect” looking for the wreck of the Canadian tribal-class destroyer HMCS Athabaskan, presumably lost to German torpedoes on April 29, 1944. One of the expedition’s investors was the grandson of a sailor lost in the tragedy, and when Mullen located the vessel, the investor finally found closure in the case of his grandfather’s death. He encouraged the AURORA Trust to continue with similar work. The company’s next stop was Malta, where the AURORA team established a formal relationship with a government corporation—Heritage Malta—to systematically survey Maltese coastal waters. In an initial seafloor survey off the north coast, AURORA achieved a truly unique find:

Left: The 2400 nautical mile range ‘The Fortaleza’ is the support vessel for Aurora’s operations.

a massive debris field of ancient pottery. Nearby, AURORA also discovered the oldest shipwreck ever found in the Western Mediterranean, dating to the eighth century BC. After that, they spotted a previously unknown World War II shipwreck where the port authority had planned to dump dredge spoils. “Our goal,” said Mullen, “is to systematically survey Malta’s coastal waters and provide the government with a record of our finds, both natural and man-made. This allows Malta to manage its marine cultural heritage and protect sites from exploitation or destruction.” Over the years, AURORA’s relationship with Malta has been used as a model for establishing formal Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with other national and local partners throughout the Mediterranean. These have included the ministries of culture in Spain, Italy, Sicily and Croatia. Local partners have included universities, museums and recognized non-profits. “Establishing a solid working relationship with our partners is the key to a successful operation,” Mullen said. Centrally located in the Mediterranean, Malta is AURORA’s base of operations. Two ships—a main support yacht called the Fortaleza and the survey vessel ISIS—are at port there. “The ISIS is our workhorse,” said Koblick. “It’s outfitted with a complete suite of subsea hydrographic survey and robotic work equipment. We have a very, very sophisticated operation that can map coastal waters and identify objects on the seafloor.” Mullen explains the technical details. “We use side-scan sonar towed from the ISIS to create a ‘sonic picture’ of the seafloor in the area under investigation,” he said. “This is typically followed up with passes over objects of interest using the sonar in a very high-frequency, high-resolution mode to further refine the information. With high-frequency sonar, we can often tell whether it is man-made even before sending down the ROV

video camera. And once we do get footage, our director of archeology can generally give us a rough age and the likely cargo.” Once AURORA finds a wreck, it’s up to authorities to determine the next step: preserving the finding in place, recovering everything or recovering a representative portion. Koblick cites these authorities and AURORA’s relationship with them as an unexpected benefit of the job. “We have made connections throughout the Mediterranean,” he said. “Once AURORA arrives in a new

“ [Aurora] is outfitted with a complete suite of subsea hydrographic survey and robotic work equipment.” - Ian Koblick
place, we become part of the local community and establish close working relationships.” A good example of this is the Ventotene project. Ventotene is a small island off the west coast of Italy in the Tyrrhenian Sea. It was a port for ancient Rome, and it contains the ruins of a villa built by Augustus Caesar for his exiled daughter, Giulia. Leading the AURORA team and carrying an expedition flag from the Explorers Club, Mullen and Koblick worked around Ventotene for three summers. Their efforts yielded five previously unknown shipwrecks. Collecting a team of professional techni-

cal divers—underwater cinematographers backed up by divers from the Italian Carabinieri—AURORA took the lead in making a documentary about its discoveries in the area, which aired on National Geographic in Europe and PBS in the United States. Even an organization as successful as the AURORA Trust must deal with the challenges of a flagging world economy. The company is at a crossroads, in search of new business partners with a thirst for new experiences. AURORA’s expeditions so far were funded by donors who underwrote the expeditions, as well as a separate investment group that bought the beautiful Fortaleza and leased it to AURORA during the summer operating season. After seven years of great expeditions, the investment group has decided to sell the Fortaleza in response to tough times. The vessel is now on the market, presenting an opportunity for new investors to join this highly acclaimed ocean exploration business and continue the adventure. Koblick says that the business has had to find ways to fund itself. They have, for instance, raised capital by chartering the Fortaleza in July and August, when a high tourist presence in harbor areas impedes AURORA’s work. About 18 months ago, Koblick and Mullen also started chartering their research vessel, the ISIS, for commercial ventures. Despite the challenges of harsh weather, demanding scientific work and a tight worldwide marketplace, the partners still love making their living from the sea. “It’s a fun job, “they say. “It really doesn’t feel like work. We just hope we can keep it together so others can experience what we do.”

The Aurora Trust 97665 Overseas Highway Key Largo, FL 33037 USA (305) 451-1139

by andrea lehner

ix years ago renee Fraser, president and CEO of advertising firm Fraser Communications, recognized that digital technology was the new frontier. Today, she knows it’s all about social media. And tomorrow? Whatever the newest trend, Fraser Communications will be on the leading edge. Fraser has capitalized on her research background to understand the social media marketing trend that’s sweeping the industry today. “So many clients don’t want to talk about television or radio any longer. They want to focus on how to effectively use social media,” she told The Suit. When Fraser sets her sights on commanding a new niche, she knows what she’s doing. In 2005, she committed to becoming a digital agency despite resistance from employees and clients. Her diligence kept Fraser Communications at the forefront of the field. “We were just named digital agency of the year by thinkLA, the largest advertising trade association in California,” she reported. Social media is a powerful new way to cultivate relationships with customers and prospects. Fraser has a department focusing on content development and relationship building with brands, using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for clients like Toyota, First 5 California, Business Wire and the Fraser financial clients. Communications plans at Fraser are developed strategically so that consumers and business prospects are touched with the best type of communications— including events, Facebook, digital ads and television



Fraser Communications 1631 Pontius Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90025 (310) 319-3737

ads—at the best times to deliver the highest ROI. Digital technology changed the face of advertising, and Fraser is glad to see so many opportunities opening up as a result. Her team is using SEO, SEM and new video content to drive powerful digital campaigns. With 25 years of experience, Fraser has led her company through some tough economic times. When clients wanted to curtail spending in 2009, Fraser had to make some tough choices, like pay cuts and furloughs, to keep her business running. Then she faced the daunting job of convincing clients to spend. “We discussed how spending in a recession can actually help you gain market share,” she said. Toyota, one of her largest clients, has been hit particularly hard by the recession and the recent earthquakes and tsunami in Japan. “We conduct national advertising for their parts and service business,” Fraser explains. “We’ve been able to help them keep a steady flow of Toyota owners going into the dealerships through very careful and strategic advertising.” “When there are troubled times,” she adds, “act quickly and decisively.” Growing up with a father in advertising, Fraser initially resisted the industry. “I said I’d never do it,” she laughs. But after earning a PhD in social psychology, she went into market research. “I learned how psychological insights could drive great strategy and powerful ad campaigns, so I joined an ad agency. From then on, I loved advertising.”


by wendy connick

The best marketing plans don’t come from a can. Specialized, creative efforts reap the best results without breaking the bank.


hen a company faces financial problems, marketing is often one of the first departments to see budget cuts— but this strategy can result in a vicious cycle. Reduced marketing efforts lead to fewer sales, and that puts more strain on revenues. In a situation like that, the best solution is to get creative about new ways of marketing, making the whole process more targeted, more effective and less costly. Since the recession began, Gayle Naftaly, president of, has made a point of offering exceptionally innovative marketing and PR services. “We look for low-cost, highly effective marketing tools, and we enhance these tools depending on the client,” she said. “Marketing and PR are more important now because of the economy. With any dollar spent, the value has to be realized. We seek and identify opportunities and connections to share with our clients and colleagues.” She encourages her clients to use social media, for example, but doesn’t recommend they limit themselves to just one marketing channel. Naftaly has chosen to differentiate herself from other marketing and PR firms by providing custom-designed programs for her clients. “We’re a boutique marketing and PR firm, which means that there’s no cookie-cutter plan used by us. Each client has individual needs and goals, and each activity we embark on comes from a clear and focused strategy,” she said. has also reacted to the economic downturn by offering more payment options. “We offer tailored payment terms to make services more available. The current market has enabled us to really think creatively and help our clients gain visibility and build their businesses,” Naftaly said. “In some cases, we run group telephone conference calls. We offer them marketing tips, PR and low-cost tools, and we bill them at a group rate so they share the fee. That makes it more affordable to them.”

Above: Gayle Naftaly, president of

One of’s techniques is its focus on networking, which is an inherently low-cost marketing medium. In fact, Naftaly first became involved in marketing work by attending networking events. “I was on the trade show floor attending breakout sessions, dinners, cocktail parties and everything connected to these activities. And I met several noteworthy clients, manufacturers and distributors, and I studied their marketing strategies,” she said. “There are many trade shows, networking groups and award celebrations emerging daily, so as we network, we identify connections and opportunities for our clients. That saves them time. We have the knowhow for strategic networking and forming strong alliances.” On the horizon for Naftaly is the Great Neck, N.Y. Multicultural Business Expo on March 15, 2012. “It will be a great face-to-face marketing tool,” she said. “The expo incorporates print marketing and strategic networking meetings before, during and after the event. It’s a full-service marketing strategy that reaches large audiences.” 8635 Sancho Street Hollis, NY 11423 866 391 2780


business briefs

by patrick sullivan ometimes a disagreement with a superior can be good for one’s career. Before she founded Meridian Associates in 1987, Diane Meister was working for a major advertising agency, and she and her boss could not agree on the direction to take a client. This experience has influenced her business practices ever since. “It was a fun ride, but I decided to get my MBA and go out on my own,” said Meister. Meridian Associates consults middle-market companies with revenues ranging from $30 million to $400 million a year, offering services in strategic growth planning and execution. That includes facilitating team strategy sessions, identifying novel growth opportunities, strategically assessing risk, tracking predictive trend indicators, and other services that keep senior business executives on top of changes in their external environment. Meister says the company’s fluidity and adaptability set it apart from its competitors. “It is our ability to change with clients’ needs and our ongoing dedication to helping clients prepare for the future in unpredictable times,” she


says, that defines Meridian. Innovation drives her success. Ten years ago, Meister had a client who was unable to halt a decline in sales. So Meridian helped the business reinvent itself, before its competitors adapted to changing trends. “We’ve taken what we did with that company and developed a dynamic new practice area around it,” said Meister. She calls this practice ‘scenario planning,’ which involves making flexible contingency plans for alternative future scenarios. Meister says scenario planning had usually been the purview of large companies. “Very few people are doing that for middle market companies,” she said. By delivering proven new methods for smaller clients to prepare, in advance, for an uncertain future, Meridian has found a niche with incredible potential for continuing growth.
Meridian Associates Inc. 1 East Erie St., Suite 240 Chicago, IL 60611 (312) 335-8050

From Startup to Success


by the suit staff

he economic downturn and credit crunch of the past few years have not been kind to small businesses. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, loans from big banks to small businesses dropped by 14 percent between March 2010 and March 2011. Many small business owners seeking to expand will have to do it on their own. It’s a daunting prospect, but Lucid Business Strategies founder Jeff McElyea believes it’s the best way to gain that extra edge. Lucid’s approach to helping small businesses is two-pronged: first, it offers performance improvement consulting, where McElyea and his team diagnose and fix problems that could be holding a business back. Lucid’s second service is marketing strategy, which takes a similar diagnostic approach. “We look at every conceivable thing that could be driving revenue or holding revenue back,” said McElyea. Lucid is truly a full-service firm; it guides small com-

panies from creating a plan to troubleshooting to execution. The company started with business plans and soon added marketing plans. But McElyea said that too often, the third-party design firms his clients would use ignored Lucid’s plans, so McElyea recently added design services as well. “We added those things so we could actually implement the plans we put together,” he said. All of McElyea’s hard work pays off when he sees his companies succeed. He talks about one client who went from teaching to starting a business that now has more than 20 employees. “We helped the client from inception to growing and becoming successful,” he said. “For Lucid, that’s incredibly gratifying.”
Lucid Business Strategies 8187 Rodhe Drive, Suite D Shelby Township, MI 48317 (586) 295-5277


by wendy connick


ometimes the risky choice of striking out to create a business turns out to be the safer move. In a troubled economy, entrepreneurs have to worry about the same issues that plague larger businesses—but at least they can’t be laid off. Tonya McMillian was a senior consultant at Deloitte Consulting, LLP when the opportunity arose to start her own company with her mother, Dr. Irene S. Houston. “I was happy at Deloitte and was doing a good job,” McMillian said. “Being a consultant had always been a dream of mine, but then ProActive Management Consulting happened. It took a lot to step out and say, ‘Okay, I’m going to leave this job and enter a business I’m not sure will last. Are we ever going to make money?’ You know, it was a huge leap of faith.” ProActive Management Consulting, LLC, their new company, has indeed shown increased profitability over the past five years. ProActive offers counseling services to children, adolescents and adults as well as various agencies in Georgia. Much of this work targets children and adolescents who are suffering from behavioral problems or mental health issues. “Let’s say you have a youth who is acting out at home, in school or in the community,” McMillian said. “We

go into the home and utilize a team approach to help the youth identify positive ways of dealing with their emotions. We provide family counseling, individual counseling and a family advocate or mentor who works individually with the youth. We’ve had numerous success stories in the history of ProActive, which has helped change the lives of numerous

quality service to our customers while meeting the state mandates.” McMillian has taken action to mitigate the effects of the recession, for both the company and its clients. “The majority of the population that we serve falls into the lower- to middle-income bracket, and when the economy falters, it instantly affects our families.” she said. “So we partnered with a non-profit, Be Proactive, to assist with some of the unmet needs of our families. We hope this will bridge the gap with other community resources to help our customers identify other places to find assistance.” Due to the hard work and commitment of the staff at ProActive, they have been able to empower many individuals, families and communities through innovative behavioral health practices, advocacy and consulting services. McMillian said, “Every day my staff strives to practice the philosophy that we hold so dear: Change is Possible. Growth is Possible. Success is Possible. One Step at a Time.” Readers can learn more about ProActive at www.proactive-management. com, or visit their non-profit site at www.
ProActive Management 770 319 7468 THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.19


children and adults.” Because ProActive works primarily with federal- and state-funded clients, the recession has led to a decrease in funding over the past couple years. “Georgia, for example, has implemented many new policies and procedures to address this issue,” McMillian said. “We’ve had to identify ways to continue to provide

by andrea lehner

aced with the challenges of being a female entrepreneur with indomitable ethics, Beryle Ramsey had to prove her mettle while getting Ramsey Enterprises up and running 16 years ago. Ramsey came out of retirement to start the business, and she has no regrets for standing by her values while building her now nationally successful telecommunications training, staffing, and consulting firm. “The company was founded on providing excellent customer service,” Ramsey said. “We wanted to ensure our clients’ success as well as our own. My determination played a large part in our success in terms of overcoming roadblocks. From the beginning, I insisted on being an ethical company.” Ramsey provides a broad spectrum of services to telecommunication companies, including wireless. The company offers instructor-led training for business, consumer and network, along with virtual training if requested. Services provided include classroom training for new and incumbent employees in the areas of sales, customer service, coaching leadership and design. Also included are basic safety, basic installation, DSL, T1 and engineering to the highest level of central office technical training in the telephone industry. Ramsey Enterprises trains everyone from clerical support employees to upper management professionals, covering subject matter both basic and complex. Supported industries include call center operations, banking, healthcare, hospitals and utility companies. In addition, they provide personnel for fiber, installation, cable splicing and inside wiring. Ramsey’s first roadblock was separating from three male partners who didn’t share her sense of values. “Their last words to me were, ‘I don’t think you can succeed on your own,’” she said. But succeed she did, and she attributes that success to the ethics she fought to uphold, and to hiring an excellent management team and staff. “A major reason for the success of the company is my decision to recruit my son Don Ramsey to join the company as a partner. Since Don
photo courtesy of

Upholding the highest standards is no easy task, but Beryle Ramsey has made it her mission.

“My aspiration has always been to be the best, not necessarily the biggest.”
- Beryle Ramsey

and I share the same work ethic and values, the company has progressed at full speed.” Ramsey strives for uniformity, consistency, trust and fairness throughout the organization. “This is the type of employee that we hire, and it’s been remarkable the way it’s worked out.” Ramsey’s first master contract bumped her from regional to national status, and it came as the result of fighting yet another obstacle. The person assigned to handle her contracts had made excuses and told her not to bid on certain jobs. He questioned her qualifications and experience, even though she had plenty of each. “I didn’t let that roadblock deter me. I called the vice president of the company, who researched my company and granted me a master contract.” In the fast-paced world of telecommunications, staying abreast of new technology is essential. “It’s constant change,” Ramsey explained. “Right now there’s integration of voice, data, video—it’s just such a rapid change in the industry with new products coming out. But we train our employees to stay ahead of changes. We continue to provide excellent service by going above and beyond. We try to do even more than what clients expect of us. We try to be a loyal and trusted partner to our clients and our employees.” Higher taxes, increased regulations and less work as a result of the recession have presented new hurdles. “Having a strong balance sheet and cash flow helped us survive. We had to make some changes, but thanks to our management team and our reputation, we were getting our share of work.” Now Ramsey is looking toward global expansion. “I’m getting inquiries from my clients to do international work, and we are very interested.” She adds, “My aspiration has always been to be the best, not necessarily the biggest. “ Ramsey Enterprises 714 N. Burnside Avenue Gonzales, LA 70737 (225) 647-2919


business breifs

the power of
by frank graziano

ust this september, the new York Times reported that two disgruntled interns were suing Fox Searchlight over their menial duties on the set of a blockbuster film. Many have come to the personal verdict that these plaintiffs were making a big deal of a non-issue. But maybe there was a time when you could relate to these bitter, underpaid young men. If so, employee recognition expert John Schaefer wouldn’t blame you. “When employees don’t feel understood, valued, appreciated or well-informed, productivity plummets, along with morale,” says Schaefer, who leads the Schaefer Recognition Group. His consultancy employs the “umbrella solution,” where instead of disparate appreciation, employees get unified and concrete acknowledgement of their accomplishments. When the Schaefer Group evaluates how a client’s managers motivate staff, they typically find an ineffective list of disjointed corporate programs. Schaefer and his team offer a series of tools that raise company morale and provide a measurable return on investment. This field may seem obscure, but Schaefer been demonstrably helping companies reduce wasteful spending since 1989. After working as an engineer in a factory and at a small family business, Schaefer “was just amazed at how unproductive employees were when they felt underappreciated.” Bringing an analytic approach to office politics, he found that by communicating ineffectively, supervisors were missing opportunities to boost productivity. The keys to a happy and productive staff, according to Schaefer, are managers whose good intentions are believable to employees. An honest listener gets “that extra effort and productivity you can’t buy, but can only earn through trust.” Those movie set interns might be outrageous in their allegations. But if Schaefer’s decades of experience are any indication, a little appreciation could have avoided the high-profile lawsuit in the first place.

Covering All the Bases
by wendy connick hen starting a business, neither talent nor passion alone is enough to create a success. An entrepreneur must have both the skills to do the job and a genuine dedication to success. These attributes together can lead to lasting profits. “Around the time I started my business, everybody wanted to be an entrepreneur. So everybody was starting businesses. It was kind of the cool, hip thing to do,” said Michelle Kunz, owner of PEL Coaching, a corporate coaching and training business. “I think it’s important that we have entrepreneurs, but I think it’s also equally important, maybe even more important, that we have thoughtful entrepreneurship.” Kunz believes that an entrepreneur should have a strategy in place before starting a business. “Personal passion and desire is really easy. Where the need is in the market and how that matches up with your passion is not always so easy and clear,” she said. “It’s easy for coaches to coach people around the passion and the desire. But when it comes to strategy and commitment, that’s where it gets really tough.” In her executive coaching sessions, Kunz stresses the need for business leaders to provide transparency. “There are times when we intended something when we said it, but now things have changed. We didn’t always have control over the change. And I think it’s really important, at that point of change, to be completely transparent about what is happening at that time. That’s what maintains our ability to be credible and maintains our ability to inspire,” she said.








Schaefer Recognition Group, LLC 7131 W. Planada Lane Glendale, AZ 85310

PEL Coaching, LLC (703) 272-7542


photo courtesy of

by altamese osborne

The Right Resources
Entrepreneur Amy Letke solves the HR issues that slow companies down.


hen a business inevitably encounters a human resources issue, be it an employee who needs managing, compensation that needs updating or a principal who needs consulting, Integrity HR Incorporated comes to the rescue. “We solve human resources problems,” said Amy Letke, founder and CEO of the company. “As long as there are employees in the workplace, business owners and human resources professionals are going to have challenges.” The genesis of the company was serendipitous. “Sometimes you take a look at what life throws at you, and you think, ‘Well, is that something I want to catch and run with, or is that something I want to throw to the side?’” Letke said. She had been running an HR consulting agency for the insurance firm where she worked, but when a bank acquired only the insurance part of the business, she seized the opportunity—and the contacts she accumulated while consulting—to start her own human resources consulting business. In 2007, Integrity HR was born. “It has been a great opportunity, and I’m very grateful that it happened,” Letke said. There are two main aspects to Integrity HR’s offerings. First, the consultants serve as an outsourced HR department for small and medium businesses. Secondly, they provide consulting services and projects on larger initiatives to support HR professionals within a company. “We can take all that pressure and stress and drama away from a business,” said Letke, “and get them back to a place where they’re running more smoothly.” And despite the turbulence other businesses are going through right now, Integrity HR has been inundated with requests from businesses seeking to increase their efficiency. Letke has witnessed incredible success of a sort almost unheard of in times like these: over 50 percent growth

every year since its foundation. “We are very appreciative of the opportunities that are coming our way, and work hard to make sure new staff gets the training and resources needed to help clients right away,” said Letke. “While it’s challenging to make this happen as we continue to add staff, our standards are rigorous and maintaining consistent quality is extremely important to me.” The consultants are all certified and have held primarily directorlevel positions in a wide variety of industries before joining the firm. The depth of expertise that the organization offers is extraordinary, and the business model allows for tremendous scalability. For that reason, Integrity HR is not a typical nine-to-five firm. “Every day provides a unique experience. I might be speaking on hot human resource topics for a group of business leaders, or coaching a client on a difficult employee situation, or helping a team work on a difficult project,” Letke said. “Every time it’s something completely different.” It’s clear that Integrity HR is on the way to continued growth at the same remarkable pace. Letke is hoping to expand the business from its base in Kentucky into other regions across the country. “I have high expectations for continued growth and expansion of our company,” she said.

Integrity HR Inc. 2013 Frankfort Avenue Louisville, Kentucky 40206 (502) 753-0980


by wendy connick

When Waste

Becomes Resource
hen something breaks or is no longer useful, we throw it away. For one person—or even one business—this may not seem like a big problem. But it’s a whole different story when you multiply that by millions. The United States alone produces 230 million tons of waste per year, and processing that much trash is both difficult and expensive. “Landfills take up space, they cost money, and sometimes there’s some recovery of methane gas... but in most cases, that doesn’t happen. The material just sits in a landfill,” said Paul Woodruff, president of the Sustainable Resources Group, Inc. “One of the major problems in this country, for instance, is that we throw away several hundred million tires a year. And they just pile up, occasionally in huge piles. Sometimes spontaneous combustion takes off and these things burn for years.” Sustainable Resources Group is an environmental services firm, specializing in facilities optimization, brownfields transformation, and residuals management. In other words, the company finds better ways of coping with waste, aside from the traditional options of bury or burn. In the case of used car and truck tires, several possibilities have arisen. “Some of that rubber is ground up and goes into bituminous paving, and some of it winds up in the support for railroad tracks at crossings,” Woodruff said. “That’s the idea. It is to take material that has had its useful life and find a way to use it again.” Woodruff works closely with manufacturers to find ways to reuse materials that are left over from producing goods. “Unfortunately, you can’t wind up with 100 percent of your raw materials in the end product. So the materials that you can’t sell usually go to a landfill,” he said. “Right now we are trying to help a client that manufactures automobile and vehicle batteries. They do take batteries back after use and recover the lead, but that leaves a waste acid that’s in the battery. So we’re going to try to find a beneficial use for that waste acid.” Recycling or finding other uses for trash can even create a second revenue

Recycling waste is about more than the environment—it can actually help businesses generate more revenue.

stream for manufacturers. In essence, they gain a second product as a byproduct of making the first. “Each manufacturing operation presents unique challenges as to the waste streams that emanate from them. Frankly, some are beyond the reach of finding an economical way to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse,” Woodruff said. “And in other cases, it is possible. So we’re in a business of trying to find those cases where it is possible, and making it happen.”

Sustainable Resources Group 440 Creamery Way, Suite 150 Exton, PA 19341 (610) 840-9200


by wendy connick

An Overseas
bout 30 percent of the world’s population—more than 2 billion people—use the Internet every day. And as the web continues its explosive growth, the need for an infrastructure to support all of this traffic also continues to grow. Connecting computers from one end of the earth to the other requires fiber-optic cables— lots of them. And that’s where companies like The Great Eastern Group fit in. The Great Eastern Group, a marine engineering company located in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., specializes in underwater cable installation. The company’s expertise has made them a natural choice to run fiber-optic cables for telecommunications companies and further expand the World Wide Web’s physical component. “Technology development on the marine fiber side is driven by the capacity demand. In other words, as more people use the internet, more capacity is required,” said Virginia Hoffman, president and CEO of The Great Eastern Group. “One of the items that drove fiber installation was the Beijing Olympics. And we saw a great deal of work prior to that. It

The Great Eastern Group is the company behind the infrastructure than keeps the whole world connected.
slacked off, but now we have the Olympics next year in London, and there is some fiber work happening to support that capacity. There’s a lot of data streaming from the Olympics.” In addition to its telecommunications line, Great Eastern Group also works on marine engineering, environmental engineering and renewable energy projects. “At first glance, they appear to be fairly discrete. But each one of them has overlapping areas, and each one has developed from the fact that we do cable installation,” Hoffman explained. “We do just about everything to do with the marine environment.”


Because these projects often take place underwater and on the ocean floor, GEG pays strict attention to environmental factors. “Each one of those cable projects requires us to provide a full environmental impact suite,” Hoffman said. Great Eastern Group conducts environmental assessments in several marine locales. “For our environmental engineering line, we have done

numerous small projects,” Hoffman said. “For the U.S. Coast Guard out of Miami, Fla., we do underwater biological assessments and surveys for either endangered species or for analysis of what’s on the bottom prior to planned construction. We also have several projects that are in Australia, to investigate permitting for oil and gas over there.” With electricity use on the rise while resources like oil and coal are increasingly limited, the search for renewable energy resources has intensified. The U.S. Department of the Interior estimates that the average U.S. household uses around 10,655 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. A single mid-sized coal-powered plant produces around 350,000 kilowatts. An off-shore wind

“Our goals are to continue our growth, which has been extraordinary, in a very controlled, sustainable way.”

- Virginia Hoffman

energy system, on the other hand, is estimated to be capable of producing around 463,000,000 kilowatts. That’s enough energy to power over 150 million homes. GEG has installed power cabling for off-shore wind farms, and is beginning to expand into other renewable energy technologies. “We just had a meeting in Boston to get other types of alternative energy installations: tidal, current and solar,” Hoffman said. GEG also designed and is building a PV solar array for the town of Barrington, R.I. Great Eastern Group’s focus on cable installation projects means that the economic downturn mainly affected the company due to its impact on fiber-optic cable prices. “The strength of the euro determines the amount of fiber-optic cable that’s installed around the world. There’s a lag time, so if the euro is strong this year, or weak, we won’t see the results for about another 18 months to two years,” Hoffman said. Fortunately many of Great Eastern Group’s projects are contracts for the U.S. government, particularly the Navy, and as a result were not affected by the recession. “One project we’re doing for them is for the operation, maintenance and repair of the Navy high-speed catamaran, and that’s out of Panama Beach, Fla. among other places,” she said. “We have a second for what’s called barrier and mooring, and that’s out of

Calif., out of Port Hueneme. In the Navy it’s a different scenario. It’s the U.S. government. They pay their bills.” Indeed, Hoffman credits part of her business’s success to her close relationship with government agencies. “I realize that some people will think I’m nuts, but we have a very good working relationship with various agencies, and that’s allowed us to be successful,” she said. Hoffman intends to keep building on those successes, but doesn’t want to grow Great Eastern Group too quickly. “Our goals are to continue our growth, which has been extraordinary, in a very controlled, sustainable way,” she said. “I think a large company will grow to a certain point when it becomes extraordinarily inefficient and expensive. And I think the smaller businesses, being lean and mean and down to the edge, are well-poised to move the technologies forward.”

Great Eastern Group 7027 W. Broward Blvd., #174 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317 (954) 205-9795


green tech

With unexpected success, Philip Brewer shows that nice guys can finish first.
by altamese osborne
lpha environmental, inc. is one of those rare companies that has grown every consecutive year since its foundation. The environmental services firm not only offers ESAs, management, design, cleanup and more; it also makes a consistent effort to add value to each client’s experience. The goal is quality output, not competition. “I don’t really get too concerned with my competitors,” said company president Philip Brewer, who founded the business in 1995. “I believe if we do our job, we will have work. I never like to see another company struggle.” Brewer is not the average businessman, and he admits that his company began due to unexpected circumstances. After quitting his environmental consulting job in or-

A Positive Environment


der to visit his future wife in Scotland, he earned extra cash by performing lawn care around his community and attempting to start other businesses. A neighbor, who mistakenly thought Brewer was starting his own environmental consulting business, began recommending him to various colleagues. Soon Brewer’s phone was ringing off the hook—he had inadvertently founded Alpha Environmental. Today he is considered one of the best and most innovative environmental consultants in the Northwest. Since that first year, Alpha has grown by an astounding 500 percent. Last year alone, profits increased by 30 percent. Most of their business comes from the private sector, although they serve the public sector as well. Upcoming big projects include cleanup sites in New Mexico and along the Columbia River. Brewer wants to continue to grow so he can increase employee pay, add profit sharing and hire more professionals. Great team members, he says, are the cornerstone of the business. “I look for people who will have a positive influence and prosper here.”
Alpha Environmental Services 19630 SW Shaw Street Aloha, OR 97007 (503) 292-5346

by andrea lehner


enewable energy is more than a burgeoning reality; it’s the future for global energy economics. Raven Technology partners Chris Tupper and Duncan Wood are solidifying their role in enabling that transition. Raven has proven success with specialty variablespeed generators developed for military and emergency response vehicles. This is leading to wide-ranging involvement with emerging technologies. Current projects include adaptations for on-and off-grid wind and solar energy applications, and over-the-road refrigeration. “While high tech has lured much of the industry away from classic techniques, we have focused on patenting cutting-edge enhancements that leverage robust, timeproven methods,” Tupper said. “The driving forces for most of our projects come from the developing world: India, China, and places where the central grid can’t be taken for granted. These places are desperate for reliable power to drive their growing economies. Given their limited fuel resources, they have very high interest in efficiency and renewable energy.” Tupper explained. In this industry, every day brings new challenges and opportunities. “We go from working on new projects in

the lab one week to climbing a customer’s experimental wind turbine tower the next week, and then on to explaining our patented resident excitation technology over lunch to a Chinese visitor through an interpreter. It sounds very mysterious when it’s repeated in Mandarin,” he laughed. Raven combines a systems approach with core technology attributes of “inherent flexibility, robustness, and simplicity leading toward effective, low cost systems.” With a focus on global opportunities for energy efficiency, Raven is hard at work on innovative power solutions for the future.
Raven Technology Inc. 14 Industrial Parkway Brunswick, ME 04011 (207) 721-1044



by andrea lehner

ancy heen, president and CEO of MP Tech Consulting, sees her role as one of executing operations rather than taking entrepreneurial risks, and this careful planning of progressive growth has brought her 8-year-old management and technical consulting firm to the precipice of a new beginning. After completing a merger with MasikaTech in June, a change that added public sector consulting to MP’s portfolio, Heen told The Suit that another acquisition is planned for November. This will bring the company’s long-time software developer, Axelerate, into the fold. “We’ll be even stronger and more able to offer even broader capabilities,” Heen said. “They bring a lot of software development and application development to our suite of services, so we can offer more technology solutions under one umbrella.” MP Tech will take the Axelerate name following the acquisition. “We’re very excited about some work we are doing right now for the public sector. We’re helping [local governments] develop an internet response management system. It’s going to improve efficiency and offer an opportunity for further public safety. We think there will be a need for this type of system for other counties, as well.” Heen comes from a background in aerospace engineering and has extensive experience in leadership and operational management. “After 17 years in that industry, I thought it was time to explore something different,” she said. “I was starting a non-profit and moved back into consulting work. MP Tech grew from there.” A proactive approach to surviving the recession not only helped Heen handle the setbacks of 2008, but also made MP Tech stronger today and ready to have its most profitable year yet. “A game changer was that I hired a business coach as the recession was hitting,” Heen recalled, saying she decided that was the time to invest in future growth. “While everybody was scrambling to take cover, I said, ‘Now is not the time to let up.’”


“While everyone was scrambling to take cover, I said ‘Now is not the time to let up.’”
- Nancy Heen

A careful plan and a series of mergers are turning one independent technology consulting company into a force to be reckoned with.
Heen credits MP Tech’s success to her dedicated team of consultants and a positive working environment. “When we treat our employees and our consultants with respect and make sure they get their needs met, they in turn go out and make sure our clients are happy and kept very satisfied. And because we are diverse in our hiring practice, we have a richness and fullness that sets us apart,” Heen said. Heen’s favorite aspect of her role as CEO is offering clients personalized attention. “I love meeting with clients and making sure they are getting what they need,” she said. “We define their exact needs and help them solve issues within their budgetary boundaries and constraints.” The future of MP Tech—Axelerate—is a promising blend of public and private sector growth, expansive technological capabilities, and a carefully planned consolidation of talent.

MP Tech Consulting LLC 14450 NE 29th Place, Suite 116 Bellevue, WA 98007 (425) 922-8996 THE SUIT MAGAZINE - OCT / NOV 2011

photo courtesy of

business briefs

Gearing up for Takeoff


by altamese osborne

he aerospace engineering services company, which provides data, models and information for class aircraft training simulators, bore the brunt of the backlash when the company heads of America’s biggest automakers were taken to task in Washington, D.C. for flying in private jets. The aviation industry suffered as a result. But after a wave of downsizing, companies like Kohlman Systems are slowly recovering. “From late 2008 all the way through the end of last year, there just were no bright spots in the aviation industry,” said company president Terry Marshall. “But starting last fall, that started to turn around. We’ve seen a very big uptick in our business since then.” Under Marshall’s direction, the company has provided flight training materials for Learjet, Inc., Lufthansa and Pan Am International Flight Academy, to name a few. Marshall graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in mechanical engineering. He spent some time

working for a NASA flight research center in California before earning an advanced degree in propulsion from UCLA. After that, another stint to NASA was followed by a position in the farming industry. But he never lost his passion for aviation. Kohlman Systems began in the fall of 1982. Marshall arrived in 1983, and in 1999 he become the company president. Despite the corporate success keeping Kohlman airborne today, Marshall’s desires for the company are down to earth. “Our primary goal is to get the company on more solid ground and grow it again.”

Kohlman Systems Research (785) 843-4099

The INTERNET Innovator I
by frank graziano n 1994, tony dean was a full-time student at austin College studying computer science and mathematics. He was also in the middle of changing careers from restaurant management to software development, all while supporting two young daughters as a single parent. The private sector was only taking baby steps on the Internet, but Dean saw an opportunity. “That’s when I got my first introduction to websites, and I knew where I needed to be,” he says. Dean learned web design and found his niche: helping businesses transition into the new world of digital marketing. In 1999, he founded DSBWorldWide, a web site design and marketing firm based just north of Dallas and Fort Worth. DSB is an acronym for “Designing Successful Business,” and since inception the firm has lived up to its name. Dean and his team have designed, marketed and optimized hundreds of sites, from the initial coding to a polished final product. A streamlined staff performs a full suite of services, including software development, consulting, brand development, copywriting, and design for both web and print. Dean has a unique knack for keeping his business

ahead of the curve. Clients use DSB’s own WebItems® Software to manage content on their sites, and DSB’s entire workflow is managed through this innovative program. “We’re able to offer cost-effective custom designs, convenient administrative options, and quick turnaround thanks to the software we created,” he said. DSB was also quick to offer social media integration to clients, and has launched its own highly successful search engine marketing service for SEO and PPC for businesses. And as new tablet and smartphone technologies roll out, DSB is rolling along with them. “We are currently developing apps for clients,” said Dean. If the past is any indication, DSB will remain at the forefront of any new technologies that hit the market.

DSB Worldwide 103 S. Travis, Suite 200 Sherman, TX 75090 903 813 4188


tech briefs

The Interface Experts


by wendy connick hen ken jones co-founded his company ivc Displays in 2003, he planned from the beginning to use the Internet as a marketing tool. “Our thought was that in the near future, customers would be going to the internet to do research, to get to know products, and to keep on the leading edge of what’s available. We knew there would be competition, and that people would find it no problem to be able to buy on the web,” Jones said. “And our success is due to the fact that this is exactly what happened.” IVC Displays is an industrial computer provider that makes touch-screen display systems to interface with PLCs, particularly for manufacturing companies. PLCs, or programmable logic controllers, are computer systems used to automate systems such as assembly lines. “We’re focused on a narrow segment of what you would find from a PLC manufacturer,” Jones said. “Our focus is that operator interface—to have a display that’s reliable, and that meets the requirements of their application.” Jones chose to specialize narrowly so that his company could provide the highest possible quality and service. It’s an approach designed to win over customers in a highly competitive industry. “Both my partner and I are well experienced in industrial computers, the marketplace, the users’ requirements and the various applications where the products are used,” Jones said. “The other contributing factor to our success was giving the technical support and knowledge that would assist customers in being successful themselves.”
IVC Displays : 734 786 8259 P.O. Box 481 Saline, MI 48176

ome entrepreneurs are experts in their industries but soon discover that they lack the skills to run a business. Others know how to administrate a company, but struggle with certain technical aspects. Lee Nisley, founder of TeleData, Inc., had technical training and years of experience in the telecommunications industry when the company he was working for folded in 1989. And when he set out to form something of his own, he had the foresight to seek outside advice on the business side of things. “I found out there are certain things you need to find a professional to help with,” he said. It was the right call. Today his company, TeleData, successfully provides business phone systems and VoIP (voice over internet protocol) communication systems for a variety of clients in Indiana, specializing in the niche area of recreational vehicle manufacturing companies. One of TeleData’s biggest challenges is finding the right suite of features for each client. TeleData examines how businesses are run and looks at what products it has that can fulfill the clients’ needs better. “Internet and VoIP are big drivers,” said Nisley. “Both give more opportunities and more concerns. We have to keep up with training, but we can use the technologies to help our customers.” Nisley says 2008 and 2009 were particularly difficult, forcing him to pare down the number of technicians he employs. But those challenges also helped him streamline and become more efficient. “My solution has been to plan, plan, plan, but always remember that God has the ultimate plan for me,” he said.
TeleData Inc. 1402 W Wilden Avenue Goshen, IN 46528 (574) 533-0699
photo courtesy of


by patrick sullivan


Learning to ADAPT


by frank graziano
standard, a busing technology that allowed the exchange of measurements and commands between units with standardized interfaces. ICS enjoyed explosive growth by offering GPIB interface products that were compatible with the variety of ‘desktop calculators’ used at the time. But with the advent of the PC and its open-source architecture, several companies immediately developed GPIB controller cards and software for controlling test systems. “We didn’t invest the effort into it. Our reps didn’t know how to handle it, so we fell behind, and the business decayed until about 1990,” says Mercola. The company scrambled to update while flirting with bankruptcy—a plight to which many modern CEOs can relate. ICS redesigned its GPIB products

f you ever feel that your business is beset by the woes of staying technologically relevant, think of Jerry Mercola. He has been overcoming technology changes for 30 years. In 1978, Mercola helped found ICS Electronics, a General Purpose Interface Bus (GPIB) manufacturer that has weathered constant technological tumult. Soon after ICS’s start, IBM revolutionized the design of test systems with the personal computer. Mercola now admits, “We failed to move into that. That was a big error on our part.” Automated test equipment blossomed in the 80s and 90s, when it was used to test everything from microwaves to car components. Pre-PC, test apparatuses connected to early computers via custom interfaces. Later, Hewlett Packard developed the GPIB

and invented new, more user customizable interfaces that found a welcome home with OEMs. ICS also moved into the new VXI technology when that standard was created and has recently released a new driver for 64-bit Windows 7 PCs. Today, while the GPIB bus is still being used in many new test systems, more of the newer systems are being designed around networking technologies and ICS is transitioning again. “GPIB bus products started out as 100 percent of our business. In 2000 it was 62 percent, and in 2010 it was down to 48 percent,” says Mercola. But he also notes that the business is not going away. Test systems are not replaced as long as they do a good job for the manufacturer. And in a slow economy, companies are less likely to replace systems as soon as the newest innovation rolls out without a good economic justification. In the past few years, LAN-based instruments have become popular. The LXI consortium (LAN Extension for Instrumentation) has done an excellent marketing job. In 2009, Mercola accepted the En-Genius Network’s “Most Practical Piece of Test Equipment Award” for an interface that adapts GPIB instruments for LAN and LXI test systems. ICS is currently undertaking research and development with plans to release several LXI-compatible products in 2012. “To sell anything, you really have to be a service organization,” Mercola says. As clients have become more cost-conscious, ICS offers them costeffective products with increased capabilities, the ability to switch the external interfaces, and customized firmware to match the final product. “I enjoy that kind of a project,” he says. “When you can talk to somebody and help him or her save money and offer them an enhanced solution, then you can get yourself built in as part of their product.”

7034 Commerce Circle Pleasanton, CA 94588 (925) 416-1000 THE SUIT MAGAZINE p.31

by andrea lehner

Right on Track
Bruce Burrows V.P. Public Affairs

The rail industry has seen its up and downs, but a new golden era is just around the bend.

ruce burrows, vice president of public and Corporate Affairs at the Railway Association of Canada, is excited about the future of rail transport. Once branded as a romantic but old-fashioned way to travel and move freight, rail is going through a major reimaging. “Many of us in the rail industry are starting to talk about the second golden age of railroading now,” Burrows told The Suit. With 30 years in the industry, Burrows has seen the down days of an industry plagued by flat growth for many years. But he notes that many exciting events in the last decade have really started turning things around. “I think we dropped the ball for a number of years,” Burrows said, describing what he referred to as a 50-year rail industry hiatus following World War II. “Trucks really ate into our market share big time starting in the mid-1950s. Now, that has started to reverse itself.” Burrows attributes the change to massive growth in trade to China, which started six years ago. “That meant a lot of goods were then coming in through the ports into the market. It was the opportunity for rail to really play its strong suit, which is handling similar types of goods over long distances, and containers are perfect by rail.”


In addition to the influx coming into Canadian ports, a demand for outgoing commodities has also increased. “Our potash, our grain, coal, forestry and mining products—all these things were in heavy demand suddenly,” Burrows said. “There’s been a change in domestic logistics patterns and lots of consolidations with companies and manufacturers. They’re developing larger regional hubs, closing local plants and distribution centers,” Burrows said. These new mega-distribution centers are more conducive to cost-effective rail transport than to long-haul trucking. Passenger transport has also enjoyed new growth. Because of heavy congestion in cities and along key highway corridors, the Canadian rail commuter business is booming. “From the public’s perspective, there are now huge environmental safety and security land use issues that all lead to one conclusion— rail is growing again,” Burrows explained. Commuter trains in large metropolitan areas are becoming increasingly popular. “People are getting fed up with being caught in their cars and traveling several hours in each direction. There is way too much congestion on the highways and around our major city centers, so commuter trains are blossoming. They generate 25 percent of the greenhouse gases that autos generate, so this is a huge reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.” Burrows added that rail consumes far less energy than its air and truck competitors. “Rail is three to five times more fuel-efficient. We’ve got lots of capacity and a small carbon footprint. Transportation, in general, is 25 percent of North America’s greenhouse gas emission problem. It’s really the automobiles and large trucks that are at the core of the problem. Here in Canada, rail handles about 70 percent of all surface freight, but in terms of emissions, we only account for 3 percent of transport GHG emissions.” Burrows explained how utilizing rail transportation benefits land use. “A freight train can handle the equivalent of 280 trucks. A passenger train is the equivalent of about 1,100 automobiles. That’s a huge saving. We are very efficient in that regard.” Another growing segment in the rail industry is optimizing intermodal transport, which uses a com-

bination of services from trucks, ships, and trains. “Trucks will do local pickup and delivery, and then the long haul portion of the move would be done by rail,” Burrows said. “That’s the fastest growing part of our business.” Burrows’ mission is to promote Canadian Rail to the government, the public, and to other shipper groups. “I deal with a tremendous breadth of different people. We have diverse group stakeholders that we are responsible for, both nationally and provincially.” He routinely handles media relations, meets with elected officials, and even participates in U.S. rail lobbying efforts in Washington. “Our goal is to raise awareness of how innovative the rail industry is,” Burrows said, adding that many new technical innovations are currently being implemented and more are planned for the future. “For example, we are running really long trains now by successfully placing locomotives throughout the train. Instead of the traditional two or three at the front end, we are now distributing power throughout the train. This allows us to run long trains safely and much more cost-effectively.” Burrows explained that 60 percent of the modern locomotive is comprised of computer circuitry now, and that hybrid and electric-powered alternatives are being explored. Gamma ray scanning technology is also used to ensure track safety and security on all lines throughout North America. Without stopping, engineers can scan an upcoming track to ensure it is clear of people, animals, obstructions or explosives, making rail transport safer and more secure than ever. This year marks the 175th anniversary of railroads in Canada, but it is also the beginning of an exciting new era. As Burrows reports, “We are a very forward-looking, technically savvy, and innovative industry.” Railway Association of Canada: 99 Bank Street, Suite 901 Ottawa, Ontario K1P6B9 (613) 564-8092


by andrea lehner

rom day one, william Bracken made a commitment to stay away from debt. It’s a strategy that’s paid off for his Tampabased business, Bracken Engineering. Though he didn’t foresee the looming recession back when he founded his niche engineering firm in 1995, Bracken knew that starting off small and independent was the best way to stay in the black. “We’re very sound and are actually growing,” Bracken said. “Our growth is all organic; nothing is financed. Everything has been done based on the cash we had.” Bracken’s strategy also included hard work and patient growth. For a year, the business was a one-man show. “I went from working 40 hours a week for someone else to working 80 hours a week for myself,” he quipped. Later, he hired part-time help and began growing methodically from there. “I believe we’ve succeeded in building a culture here that is focused on honesty and integrity first. Everything flows and follows from that,” he said. “As a small entity starting out,” Bracken explained, “we went for the smaller projects that the mid-size and the larger firms didn’t want to touch. That evolved into recognizing, exploring, and developing niche markets. I prefer to think of us as a very large niche firm that has gotten very good at identifying niches.” His ability to become a recognized specialty firm has helped Bracken avert the woes many large engineering firms experienced during the recession. While several firms reliant on government contracts have closed,

“I believe we’ve succeeded in building a culture here that is focused on honesty and integrity first. Everything flows and follows from that.”

Bracken Engineering has remained solvent. “We’ve stayed plugged into our markets. We’ve always been into these niche markets, and they haven’t gone away. We’re actually busier now than we were in 2007.” By using proactive communication throughout a project, Bracken’s team builds client relationships that are based on trust, respect and confidence. “When our clients give us an assignment, they know it’s going to get done, and it’s going to be done right.” “It’s never the same from day to day. We have a unique set of engineers and technical people here, and we are constantly pushed outside our box,” Bracken said. He recalls coming to work one day expecting to catch up on paperwork, getting a phone call from a client, and then finding himself on a plane to Alabama. He and two engineers would spend the next two weeks there, stabilizing a 250-foot smokestack that was teetering on the verge of collapse after an explosion blew out the bottom third of its foundation. Bracken and his team embrace a business ideology of giving back by volunteering as trained structure specialists, assisting Florida and FEMA with search-and-rescue when structures collapse or communities are devastated, often spending weeks away from the office to help save lives and minimize damage to property.

photo courtesy of

Bracken Engineering 2701 West Busch Blvd, Suite 200 Tampa FL 33618 (813) 243-4251


business briefs

by sara solano alter godfrey, founder and president of Fire Reconstruction Consultants, Inc. in Cape Canaveral, Fla., succeeded by taking advantage of a niche market: marine fire and explosion investigations. He travels around the world to make first-hand evaluations and determine the origins of fires, and his engineering team analyzes the various sources of the fires to assist his efforts. When the company was founded in the early 1980s, no other fire investigation company specialized in marine fires, Godfrey said. After being asked to investigate a boat fire for a client, Godfrey, with 30 years of experience as a licensed captain, focused on gearing Fire/Reconstruction Consultants’ services toward a specialization in that area. They have a forensic dive team and utilize remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to complete underwater fire and explosion investigations. The company also reconstructs above-water scenes in instances where the site is largely destroyed, which happens frequently in rural Central


America, South America and the Caribbean due to a lack of firefighting efforts. The economy has caused a downturn in the marine industry; boat manufacturers are closing, fuel costs are high, less goods are being shipped and there are few- er vessels on the water due to less personal time for boat owners. But Fire/Reconstruction Consultants stays strong by picking up the slack of marine investigations, and by providing technical investigations for property and casualty insurers, manufactures and lawyers involved with personal injury and death cases. With such specialized offerings and a diversified revenue stream, Godfrey and his team are in a good position to weather this economic storm.
P.O. Box 307 Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 (321) 868-7890

An American Manufacturer
by wendy connick


any u.s. manufacturing companies are losing customers to overseas firms that can cut prices to a level domestic businesses can’t match. But for Russell Steenhoff, CEO and president of Andros Manufacturing Corp, the answer is diversification. Andros specializes in screw machine parts and products. “The units started coming from China cheaper than the pieces could be made here, so we lost a lot of work to China,” Steenhoff said. “My idea now is to start diversifying and do other kinds of machining. I’m going to start looking at other machining capabilities.” Steenhoff believes that if a company is having trouble bringing in new customers because of low-priced competitors, it should focus on increasing its product offerings for existing customers. And as Andros gears up for its new production, he’s using a variety of cost-cutting measures to finance the change. “We’ve had to train the guys to run three machines instead of two. We’ve arranged work schedules to get the maximum hours for the machine without having to pay overtime. We’ve had to do a lot of tricks to stay competitive,” Steenhoff said.

Steenhoff is also counting on the company’s long-time dedication to customer service. “I think what contributes to the success is we work very closely with our customers,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of long term relationships with a lot of customers. Some customers have gone elsewhere and then returned, as they found out that we care about their needs and we really care about them.”

30 Hojack Park Rochester, NY 14612 (585) 663-5700


by patrick sullivan




merica needs energy. The United States consumes roughly 25 percent of the world’s energy supply. The cars we drive, the houses we heat and cool, and the gadgets we enjoy all consume energy, and the vast majority of energy in this country is produced by fossil fuels—oil, coal and natural gas. Oil powers most of our vehicles, and most power plants burn coal. But natural gas is catching up to coal; it is cleanerburning and, with the last half-century’s great strides in drilling technology, increasingly abundant. Natural gas

may be the fuel of the future. DJ Simmons, Inc., an oil and gas company based in New Mexico, recognizes this. Recently, said the company’s president and CEO John Byrom, “We’ve seen more electricity generation from gas. [Plants are] moving away from coal fires because natural gas is cleaner. The market share growth potential is tremendous.” DJ Simmons is a family-owned company that was founded in Texas in the 1930s by David Jack Simmons of Fort Worth. The company had fields in Oklahoma and Texas and drilled its first well in the San Juan Basin of north-

western New Mexico in 1952. Ashton B. Geren, Jr., Simmons’s nephew, took over in the 1970s and moved the company headquarters to Farmington. In 1991 a second division, Twin Stars Ltd., was set up to capitalize on the growing demand for wellhead compression and equipment maintenance in the San Juan Basin. A mechanical engineer by trade, Byrom joined the company in 1994 as an operations engineer. In 2001, he became president and CEO. Geren, who now serves as chairman of the board, is also Byrom’s godfather and has been a close friend of the Byrom family for decades. So Byrom truly grew up around the company, and his mission now is to keep the business going strong into the future. “My role has been to formalize the organization of the company and move it forward,”

are more short-term focused. “The competition is often externally funded and on the fast track, trying to grow quickly and sell out or go public.” DJ Simmons operates mainly in the Four Corners area, where the states of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and

market. One might think that an increase in natural gas consumption (between 2001 and 2010, the United States increased its natural gas consumption by 1.85 trillion cubic feet) would make life easier on the company, but breakthroughs in natural gas production have changed the game. New technologies in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have produced a glut of gas on the open market, which has driven prices down. “It’s been great for the American economy but hard on smaller companies like us,” said Byrom. DJ Simmons was forced to enact hiring and wage freezes for a while, but Byrom thinks the company has gotten through the toughest times. He believes that challenges force a company to grow, adapt, and ultimately become stronger. “When

“Our goal is to be the premier oil and gas company in the Rockies. We know we’re a long way from that, but it’s still a vision that inspires us.” -John Byron
he said. His duties include strategic planning, corporate oversight, partner relations and leadership of the 60-employee DJ Simmons and Twin Stars organization. Instrumental to his success as a manager, says Byrom, has been his use of the Malcolm Baldrige framework. Malcolm Baldrige was Ronald Reagan’s secretary of commerce, and his commission examined the top companies in the world to see what they were doing right. The framework defines criteria for seven areas of management: leadership, strategic planning, human resources, information and analysis, customer and market focus, process management and business results. “It lays out the key things your company should be doing to be exceptional,” said Byrom. Byrom thinks it is the corporate culture that ultimately sets DJ Simmons apart from its competitors. “We are a long-term-minded, family-owned company,” he said, noting that many other energy exploration companies Arizona meet. Its focus is in the San Juan and Paradox basins. “We like the Rockies,” said Byrom. “This is where we live; we know it. We feel we our hard-earned knowledge and expertise in the geology, operations and regulatory environment of the area give us a real advantage here.” New, more stringent environmental regulations mean new opportunities for DJ Simmons, especially its Twin Stars division. The company has now expanded into southeastern New Mexico, where hot new oil plays are booming. In the past it has been the practice to let the gas vapors that bubble out from the oil in storage tanks simply evaporate to the atmosphere. Now, increasingly stringent emissions regulations combined with the economics of capturing those valuable gases are motivating companies to install vapor recovery units, which Twin Stars sells and maintains. Despite the Twin Stars division’s recent expansion, DJ Simmons has been dealing with a rather tepid natural gas you go through difficult times,” he says, “it enhances your focus on what’s really important, makes you pay more attention to what you’re doing, and makes you look at…getting processes fine-tuned to make money with less.” Though every new project brings a sense of uncertainty, “There’s always a lot of suspense and excitement when drilling a new well,” said Byrom, who likens the practice to gambling in Vegas—it’s all about playing the odds. “Our goal is to be the premier oil and gas company in the Rockies. We know we’re a long way from that, but it’s still a vision that inspires us.”
DJ Simmons, Incorporated 1009 Ridgeway Place, #200 Farmington, NM 87401 (505) 326-3753


by wendy connick

Funding isn’t everything. When revenue streams slow to a trickle, one non-profit makes creative use of community resources to support the cause.
points out that non-profit organizations struggle just as corporations do. Not only do they find it harder to get funding, but the people they help are making do with less. “The biggest impact we’ve seen from the downturn has been a reduction in services available to our families,” said Thompson. “But we see that as an opportunity, because we really began this work with the philosophy that in our local communities we have all the resources necessary to provide what our families need by working together.” That’s why the Thompsons encourage communities to develop their own support systems. “Over the past 25 years, we’ve developed sort of a learned helplessness,” he said. “If a government agency such as a social service or a school district has a service cut, then we really feel helpless because that’s where we’ve always gone for that help.” Thompson believes that families of children with special needs can reduce the impact of the recession by turning to non-traditional means: building a local support structure instead of depending on state or federal programs. “It really feeds into our belief that communities have everything they need to help each other,” explained Thompson. “And when we get the right people in the room and we ask the right questions, we find that there are assets available that we wouldn’t have known about if we hadn’t been asking the question.” Thompson has also begun looking for funding in unexpected places, including pharmaceutical companies. “We have seen that many low socioeconomic communities have very low immunization rates. Well, a pharmaceutical company would have a vested interest in raising those immunization rates, and in a moderate-sized practice it would only take a couple of percentage points’ rise in the immunization rate to pay for that person in the office,” he said. This creative dual approach—finding funds in new places while learning to function with less— has kept The Hali Project active for 12 years and running. Thanks to the Thompsons’ dedication, children and young adults with special needs across the country are finding the resources they need to live fuller, healthier lives.

Above: Hali Thompson and her family enjoys their time together.


Hali Project Inc. 4515 Cornell Street Amarillo, TX 79109 806 676 1773

ali thompson is a student at west Texas A&M University. She loves volleyball, stays involved with community church ministries, and loves to watch movies and play Wii. She lives a full life despite the fact that she suffers from cerebral palsy and seizures, and her parents, Karen and Brad Thompson, couldn’t be more proud of her success. The lessons they learned from their daughter culminated in The Hali Project, which they founded in 1999. The non-profit helps families with special needs children, connecting them with the right resources to face their unique challenges. The organization educates everyone involved with special needs children, from parents to doctors to teachers. But in tough times like these, Brad Thompson


by the suit staff

Salvaging Scrap
photo courtesy of

he scrap m etal business is all about turning trash into treasure. When manufacturers assemble their products, they’re often left with an abundance of extra metal scraps. Scrap companies keep this commodity from going to waste; they buy those bits and pieces from manufacturers and sell them to steel mills to be melted down and re-fabricated. “We provide the opportunity for manufacturers to get revenue,” said Harold Goldfine, a consultant and minority owner at Alliance Steel Service. “In some cases it’s their biggest revenue, because they work so hard in selling their product that they don’t always make a good margin.” Scrap recycling allows manufacturers to make money on what would otherwise be another expense, and it also reduces waste by allowing steel mills to remake scraps into fresh metal. Rapid price fluctuations are one of the biggest challenges in the scrap metal business. “Markets fluctuate; they’re cyclical,” Goldfine explained. “Let’s


say that markets changed $5 a ton. It wouldn’t be a big effect if you had a little extra inventory at the end of the month, even on the down side. But if scrap markets changed $40, $50 or $60 dollars a ton, and you had ten thousand tons sitting on the ground, you’re starting out with a $600,000 change in inventory value at the beginning of the month. And if it’s a negative change, it’s hard to make $600,000 in a month.” Alliance Steel found a way to beat the price change issue by pioneering its own “just-in-time” inventory system. Instead of buying scrap and then looking for a buyer while the metal sits on their lot, Alliance Steel sells the scrap as soon as it comes in—or even before it comes in. “I would pre-sell, at the beginning of the month, everything that I thought would come in,” Goldfine said. “In the worst case scenario, more would come in and we’d have a little extra, or less would come in and we would have the opportunity to sell the difference next month to balance it out. No one ever did that prior to us.” Goldfine’s other building block to success is superb customer service. “My work is really at the beginning of the month, when those dealers that we

buy scrap from need to know where the markets are. I make them feel like someone is still paying attention to them. That’s what I want to pass on when I retire—that they don’t get ignored,” he said. “We have to aggressively compete with other people to give them the best service, the best price, the best equipment to handle their scrap, the most reliable relationships. Things like that keep an account.”

195 Nevada Avenue South Golden Valley, MN 55426 (612) 588-2721

Alliance Steel Service Co.


by sara solano

FOCUSED Quality Consulting
n a world that puts stock in a “bigger is better” attitude, Bradford L. Goldense, owner of Goldense Group, Inc. (GGI), sees true value in small business. As an MBA student at Cornell’s Johnson School, he took his experience working for his family’s small business to create an entrepreneurship organization that laid the groundwork for the school to better accommodate those wishing to start their own businesses. After working for a multitude of companies after graduation, a business reengineering initiative he contributed to developing at the former Index Group helped him use his engineering management expertise to branch out into an independent business endeavor. GGI focuses primarily on consulting in R&D and product development, but has also expanded into executive education and market research in these areas. The company produces studies on effective practices in innovation, development and metrics. Their findings are held in high regard by business owners across the county. Networking keeps them ahead of the curve; through participation in trade associations and speaking engagements at high-profile conferences, Goldense and his associates keep the spotlight on the company’s


achievements. When the group was founded in 1986, the initial goal was to expand. But four years later, Goldense realized he was spending more time doing administrative and sales work instead of practicing his fundamental craft. He opted to keep the company at around 10 employees and abide by a qualitybefore-quantity strategy to keep the company focused on its clients. The plan worked; according to the company’s website, more than 95 percent of their clients end up rehiring the GGI team. “Our clients know us and know they’re not going to be juggled with other clients,” he said. “Once we’re engaged, they have our attention and share our attention with only a few other companies at a time.” Goldense considers the current vacillation of the markets to be a huge challenge for industry, but sees behavior profiles as more of an issue than finances or technological adaptations. Those working in product management and development need to be bold, motivated and persistent, he says, which poses a challenge to many businesses in the industry. The fast-paced services sector also involves a lot of variables when it comes to handling clients’ individual situations. When the phone rings, says Goldense, some clients may present the need for a pragmatic, thought-out plan. Others call with a critical business emergency, which could be so dire as to require hopping on a plane to address the problem the same day. In the upcoming year, Goldense expects to be competitive in spite of the suffering economy. In addition to strengthening business relationships and refreshing primary research, he is looking to realize a stronger online presence for the company.

photo courtesy of

Goldense Group Inc. 1346 South Street Needham, MA 02492 (781) 444-5400


business briefs

Reinventing the Wheel
MEDwheels is dedicated to enabling mobility.
photo courtesy of


by altamese osborne or jane gonzalez, merely supplying a set of wheels to sick or immobile patients isn’t enough. Caring for the client’s quality of life is what really matters. Gonzalez is the owner of MEDwheels, a company that provides orthotics, wheelchairs, vehicle lifts and home health equipment so that patients can get moving. To accomplish this, Gonzalez relies on service—and the right staff. “It’s having a staff that cares,” Gonzalez said. “It’s having a staff that doesn’t just come to work and look at it as a job. They understand that we are in people’s lives because of some medical condition. It’s an understanding of the value that we can bring into their lives to make them better.” Gonzalez, who always wanted to start her own business, got her chance as a secondary creator of MEDwheels, in partnership with her brother and sister-in-law. Six years later, the company primarily services veterans and senior citizens with health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. Many patients appreciate the sincerity of MEDwheels. One client left a competing medical mobility company in favor of Gonzalez and her associates’ great service. Another feisty patient uses the MEDwheels lot as her own personal drive-through, pulling up and honking the horn until Gonzalez hustles out to take care of her. “Those are the moments that set us apart,” said Gonzalez with a smile. “We provide a very important contribution to our community.” Medwheels


by frank graziano

hile the greater face of american healthcare has yet to be determined, the relationships between doctors and insurance companies will always be tense. To ensure smooth reimbursements, MedeTrac Systems LLC, based in San Diego, offers its clients the most authoritative and up-to-date reference tools. “At the end of the day, if you don’t code correctly you’re not going to get reimbursed,” says MedeTrac CEO Jacqueline Cohen. MedeTrac’s extensive website offers medical and dental coding and billing references, as well as nursing and pharmacological guides. Cohen thinks medical coding reference books are inured to the threat of digital publishing, if only due to sheer intimidation. For example, the ICD-9, the American Medical Association’s diagnosis codebook, weighs seven pounds and requires a sophisticated understanding to navigate. “People think that anyone can do it, but they can’t,” Cohen says of medical coders, whom she admires. “There are so many different variables.” After building client loyalty for a decade, MedeTrac is not afraid of online sellers preying on their business. “[On Amazon] there is no one to go to if you have a question about what to do. We will always research and get back to the client with the correct answer.” And in an industry where accuracy saves not just dollars but lives, MedeTrac has proven its mettle by retaining an impressive list of clients. Cohen’s lean, efficient firm distributes materials from over a dozen major publishers, including the AMA, ADA, AHA, Ingenix/OPTUM Insight, Lippencott Wolters, Kluwer and Cengage Learning. “We work hard. In a small business, you don’t have time off,” Cohen says of MedeTrac’s success. “We always answer the phone.”

10970 Ironwood Road San Diego, CA 92131 858 566 6558

1322 East Houston Street San Antonio, TX 78205 (210) 223-7167


photo courtesy of

by wendy connick

Above: CEO of CSSC Eric Smith believes his solution, a client-centric “buy side” approach, will fundamentally change the financial services marketplace.


Steve Jobs transformed the world of consumer electronics – can Eric Smith’s business model similarly transform the financial services marketplace?

hat do you do in a world of too many choices, too much information and not enough time or personal expertise to properly evaluate those choices? Isn’t this the problem everyone faces in trying to navigate the financial services marketplace? With more than 22,000 mutual funds, over 5,000 private account managers and thousands of insurance products, can anyone cut through all of the marketing hype, filter out all of the behindthe-scenes deals and relationships, and make effective use of all of that information to empower the public to make better informed product

and service selections? Eric Smith and Consulting Services Support Corporation (CSSC) may well have found the answer—and they have a new process patent that testifies to the uniqueness of their solution. Prior to founding CSSC, Smith was a practicing estate planning and business transactions attorney for 22 years. He told The Suit how his experiences as an attorney led to the development of CSSC’s unique approach. “In routinely referring my clients to financial services providers, most of them would say, ‘I don’t want to go to someone who will just try to sell me something. Can’t


you just handle it for me?’ Unfortunately, I couldn’t. I didn’t have the product knowledge to do so. But that didn’t stop them from bringing the recommendations back to me and asking, ‘What do you think?’ The problem was that I had no better way to look behind the curtain than they did, to try to figure out why one product or service—rather than any of the hundreds of others—would have been recommended. The process was simply opaque.” Smith’s epiphany came when he realized that his clients really had only one question— one that, despite its obvious simplicity, no one ever seemed to expressly ask: Of all the available choices, which one is best for me? “It was incredible,” Smith said, “to realize that no one dealing within the financial services marketplace could go through a selection process and, at the end, definitively state that they had gotten what was objectively the best for them. Everyone in the marketplace seemed to have an agenda – something they wanted you to buy.” Here was a broad need Smith was prepared to fill. “We focused on how we could empower our clients to answer this basic question. And ultimately, we found a way,” he said. Smith believes his solution, a client-centric “buy side” approach, will fundamentally change the financial services marketplace. He’s not alone; some prominent ERISA attorneys agree that this could become the next fiduciary standard for how money managers are selected and performance is monitored in large

institutional plans. And the innovation doesn’t stop there. CSSC has developed a unique model for distributing this new process. It’s enabling law firms, accounting firms, community banks and other advisory firms to set up separate consulting entities to provide this new and expanded range of services to their clients. CSSC serves as an outsourced staff for these new consulting entities, leaving the lawyers, CPAs and community bankers free to advise clients, which Smith believes to be the best use of their time. “We do all of the other work necessary for them to credibly render financial and other consulting services to their clients beyond what normally falls under the definition of the practice of law or accounting,” Smith said. “In other words, we help diversify and expand their sources of revenue, while they provide their clients with a true alternative to a toooften predatory and corrupt financial services marketplace.” Interestingly, Smith pointed out that “this leveraging of their time can often produce per-hour earnings significantly in excess of what they might earn from their accounting and legal work.” Smith believes that through the active assistance of a growing cadre of lawyers, CPAs and community bankers, CSSC’s methodology will effectively transfer the balance of power away from the vendors and distributors of financial products and services, and into the hands of the investing public. This transfer is CSSC’s stated goal. “What makes us truly different from traditional financial services providers is that our unique ‘buy side’ methodology does not in any way compromise the traditional roles of attorneys and CPAs as the providers of independent, objective advice,” Smith said. “We don’t care which product a client selects, as long as the client has determined that it is best for them. Moreover, we are so confident in our belief in this new process’s potential to improve investment results that, to our knowledge, we are the only consulting firm in the country

willing to offer institutional clients pure performance pricing. In other words, if the results produced by the use of our patented process do not exceed the institution’s benchmark indexes—what they could have earned by passively investing in index funds—we don’t get paid.” Most great business ideas are really quite simple, and Smith has a very simple and compelling argument. “If you could go to somebody you already know and trust—your CPA, estate planning attorney or your community banker—and if through that person you could gain access to virtually all investment and insurance choices, but could have those choices scored and ranked specifically to your individual or business needs, and you could see the objectivity of the study fully transparent on its face, enabling you to make a better decision for yourself, your family or your business, why would you ever deal with a product salesperson again?” He believes the answer is obvious: you wouldn’t. And he may well be right about that. If so, his business model might prove to be just as transformational within the $24 trillion financial services marketplace as Apple’s has been in consumer electronics.

Consulting Services Support Corporation
755 West Big Beaver Road, Suite 2000 Troy, Michigan 48084

(248) 244-7980


business briefs

lexander contract Services, which began as a humble meter-reading business over 40 years ago, has turned into a 50-person, computersavvy company that brings in about $4 million annually. “Our goal is to become the premier meter-reading and bill-printing software division in the country over the next year,” said company owner Tim Alexander. Alexander Contract Services first began in 1968, under the direction of Tim Alexander’s father Nelson Alexander. The younger Alexander joined the family business upon graduating high school, in the early 90s. At that point, the meterreading business was breaking into two divisions: meter reading and printing of municipal and government notices. ACS has developed its own software to meet ever-changing industry demands, and that keeps them uniquely efficient.


Tim Alexander has followed in his father’s footsteps to take Alexander Contract Services from outside to online.
by altamese osborne “We’re constantly upgrading the software. Constantly,” said Alexander of the California and Oregon-based business, which has plans to expand into Florida and Texas. “It’s a never-ending process.” Despite the growth of the business, Alexander acknowledges that they are not the largest providers of meter reading services and software. To that end, he says, the company has to make sure that their services, particularly their software, are top-notch. Relying on their own tech-savvy software writers, Alexander and his business partners Mark Hibshman and Jim Beck keep all the work in-house. “What we have to be is that much more adaptable and that much more unique so that the people who do see our product recognize instantaneously that it’s superior,” Alexander said. “We lead in the ability to critique ourselves, to improve—to not be accepting of the status quo.”
ACS Billing Inc. 8656 Morro Road Atascadero, CA 93422 O: (805) 461 3457

Acquisitions Support as a Federal Contractor
ith the nation’s unemployment rate at about nine percent, plenty of big thinkers are using their spare time to start independent businesses. But owning a company comes with a host of new challenges; according to the Small Business Administration, about 30 percent of businesses fail in the first two years. There is no magic formula for success, but for Jeffrey Pan, owner of Pan Professional Services, it helped to have grown up in an entrepreneurial family. “The parental influence, in terms of industry and entrepreneurship, was significant,” he said. Both of Pan’s parents were small business owners and managers of federal contracts, and he cites family support as one of the reasons he was able to start his first business—Digital Solutions, Inc., which provides IT support for the federal government—and grow it for 16 years. After doing an average of $15 million in sales for five years, Pan sold Digital Solutions to Bart & Associates, Inc. in 2008, staying on as president until 2010. “I believe Jesus


by patrick sullivan Christ blessed Digital Solutions and me with success,” said Pan. Now, the serial entrepreneur is using his time and effort to start Pan Professional Services. His new business targets providing acquisition support for the federal government, helping the government draft statements of work, and acquisitions plans. When there is no conflict of interest, Pan also works with businesses that seek to bid on federal contracts. To help his clients in any way possible, Pan Professional Services offers a range of options. These include management consulting, proposal development and cost accounting support. Although the market is more competitive now than in 1992 when he first entered the industry, “that doesn’t mean there’s not room for people to succeed,” said Pan. “Effort is for man, but the outcome is up to God.”
PAN Communications 255 State Street Boston, MA 02109 P: (617) 502-4300


by andrea lehner

hile the largest banks were asking for bailouts, one young startup was forging ahead to take its place as a premier commercial lender. Crestmark Financial Corporation and Crestmark Bank opened in 1996 with a performance of just under $10 million in financing; this year, they anticipate over $3 billion. Founder and president David Tull attributes their success to having developed a highly-defined specialty niche. “We primarily finance companies that can’t get working capital from traditional banks,” Tull said. “Although we are a bank ourselves, we don’t do all the things that most banks do. For example, we don’t do consumer loans or offer checking accounts. All we do is finance businessto-business transactions.” Within the commercial sector, Crestmark provides working capital to a wide variety of businesses. Tull told The Suit, “We finance all kinds of companies, from auto suppliers to perfume manufactures to furniture distributors. We are very big into financing truckers, the transportation world, and staffing companies. And we even have one client that manufactures gourmet dog treats.” Crestmark currently employs over 160 people in five locations. “We’ve accumulated one of the best teams in the industry, and I wanted to make sure we keep them,” Tull said. “As a company, we’ve strived to maintain the best benefits and bonus programs we can. We recently instituted a stock ownership plan, so now all of our employees have a vested interest in how the company does because they are not just employees; they are also

Crestmark carves a niche by financing business transactions

owners.” Growth during a recession is not easy to accomplish, but Tull explained how Crestmark benefited under such extreme circumstances. “We get most of our business as referrals from other financial institutions. As they pulled back out of the market, they had a lot of clients that they wanted to exit. We’ve been the beneficiary of that.” Those benefits didn’t come without challenges. Tull acknowledged that finding financing solutions for clients undergoing financial difficulties was not always easy. “One of our risks is that we are either buying or financing our clients’ account receivables and inventory. Another potential negative is that the people who are buying from our clients may not be as strong as they once were, so the risks may be a little greater from the possibility of default standpoint.” Tull described his strategy for Crestmark as having four categories: control, profitability, growth, and a culture of positivity. Since the first two goals have been achieved, growth is

now his primary focus. “We’re achieving growth organically through our sales force and through acquisitions,” Tull said. “As the CEO, most of my time is dedicated thinking ahead, from six months to three years or more, as to where we want to be and how we are going to get there.”

5480 Corporate Drive, Suite 350 Troy, Michigan 48098 (248) 267-1600


business briefs

by sara solano bove all else, adriana perciballi believes quality customer service is at the root of her success. With the help of former clients, her realtors and other legal and financial consults, Perciballi, owner of Castle Rock Mortgage, Inc. in Melville, N.Y., has managed to sustain healthy business growth and foster a positive reputation. “I’m thankful that clients see who we really are and how we treat our people,” she said. After developing a solid clientele of her own through constant referrals spanning her 20 years of experience working for other companies, she founded the Castle Rock Mortgage in 2003. She firmly believes treating customers as you would want to be treated is vital to sustaining good business. “It sounds so cliché, but I really, really feel that this is so key in everything in life,” she said. “I truly appreciate and am grateful for all of my loyal clients.” Because the mortgage application process can be frustrating and tedious for customers, Perciballi makes a


point to go over every detail and make it as easy as possible. To take the pressure off, she tells anecdotes about past clients and makes jokes about the abundance of paperwork. It’s reassuring for people to know everyone else is going through the same process, she said. Although a rough economy resulted in a downsizing of her company, Perciballi looks at the situation in a positive light. Because new regulations required employees to hold a license, those who were not fully dedicated to the business left. The restructuring of the company was not an easy endeavor, but Perciballi knows that for a business to succeed in her field, it needs to be flexible and willing to keep an open mind.

150 Broadhollow Road, Suite 111 Melville, NY 11747 (631) 351-8221



by andrea lehner

ruce macdonald, president of macdonald Moving Services, knows about overcoming challenges. As an avid cyclist sidelined by a heart arrhythmia during his 40s, MacDonald called upon his entrepreneurial spirit to fight for life. When medication didn’t help, MacDonald underwent the minimally evasive Maze procedure, essentially curing his arrhythmia. Just months later, in 2007, MacDonald completed the grueling 755-mile Paris Brest Paris bicycle race for the second time. “It was very difficult,” he said. “I did it as a sign that I was able to get my life back.” MacDonald’s accomplishment demonstrates that true success comes from strength of mind. But he had already learned that same lesson once before, when he opened up his own business. “At that time the moving industry was regulated, so all pricing was the same,” MacDonald recalled. “The accounts that I called on already had contracts. There was no perceived benefit to change.” But he knew that his company could out-service the competition, and through perseverance, he was able to establish a foothold and grow his business. “The economy has impacted us tremendously,” Mac-

Donald said of his most recent hurdle. “We are the tail of the dog, you might say. When companies have hiring freezes, they don’t relocate employees. So, our business goes down.” MacDonald responded by diversifying their service offerings. “Because of the changes we’ve made, we’ll come out of it a stronger, more viable company.” MacDonald’s employees are as satisfied as his clients. Many have been with him for over 20 years. “I’ve tried to create an environment that people enjoy,” he said. “As long as we get our job done, it’s okay if we laugh during the day.”
MacDonald Moving Services 434 Elm Street Bridgewater, MA 02324 (508) 930-1850


by frank graziano

For small insurance and brokerage companies, new healthcare legislation calls for a whole new business plan.
s the patient protection and Affordable Care Act rolls out, Mary Boggs, like many whose livelihoods revolve around healthcare, is still trying to determine where she stands. But after almost 20 years as owner of Texas insurance brokerage Benefits Plus Service, she’s well-suited to help clients transition. Since 1992, Benefits Plus Service has “grown steadily by providing personalized service to clients who are often ignored by larger agencies,” said Boggs. She has experience as a human resources director, and enjoys helping customers who don’t have someone working to optimize employee benefits such as health, life, disability, dental and vision. For small businesses, balancing costs and benefits amidst a sea of insurance acronyms can be overwhelming. So Boggs, who understands the HR perspective and provides expertise on options from PPOs to HSAs to PEOs, is a valuable asset. “As a liaison between clients and insurance companies,” said Boggs, “we provide consultation to help clients to understand the different types of plans and benefits and obtain the most affordable coverage. It’s not just about selling products and services; even after a sale, we’re there to help with claims, explain the effects of various state and federal laws, and


offer recommendations regarding additional services.” For customers affected by the recession, her experience made all the difference. “I worked with several of the clients in those situations to make changes to their plan to reduce their costs. And for the businesses that closed, I’ve been able to assist their employees individually so they wouldn’t have a lapse in coverage,” she says. The healthcare act has added an extra plate for Boggs to spin. Just this year, the PPACA began regulating loss rates. When providing small group health plans, insurance companies must now maintain a Medical Loss Ratio of 80 percent. This leaves only 20 cents of every premium dollar for covering the cost of doing business. As a result, “[Insurance companies] are reducing commissions,” says Boggs, who depends on a percentage of sales for income. “And some larger groups are taking commissions out totally.” Instead, brokerages like Benefits Plus Service may need to start charging consulting fees—but brokers are understandably wary to

tarnish hard-earned customer relations. “We certainly don’t want to have to charge our clients extra fees when it’s always been included with the premiums.” As the Supreme Court begins its new term, the longevity of the PPACA’s changes is uncertain. While things are sorted out, Boggs continues offering wisdom from a career on both sides of the desk. “When working with a client, my goal is to find what is in their best interest, because there are a lot of different options,” she said. Benefits Plus Service is expanding its online presence in 2012, “so people can find me and know what I have to offer,” says Boggs. With more healthcare regulations starting New Year’s Day, her expert services are sure to be more in demand than ever.

P. O. Box 293865 Louisville, TX 75029 (972) 315-7431


photo courtesy of

by patrick sullivan

ith a president who literally grew up in the hotel business, it’s safe to say that Paramount Hospitality is not your average hospitality management company. Paramount currently manages two properties in Orlando, Florida: the Floridays Resort, which enjoys a number-one rating on, and The Point Resort, both condo-hotel properties. But company president Marco Manzie wants clients and potential clients to know that Paramount is more than just a two-property, 200-employee, central Florida operation. “We are a company that is made up of hotel veterans with a strong infrastructure, strong ethics and strong financial achievements,” he said. “The executive team is positioned for expansion.” Manzie says that the time is now ripe for the company to grow because its current properties have become very successful. In the past, Paramount has been reluctant to expand, opting instead to dedicate 100 percent of its efforts to growing the properties it already managed. “It isn’t about the volume of properties for Paramount,” said Manzie. “It’s about quality and success.” Manzie’s managerial watchwords are “inspect what you expect,” meaning it isn’t enough just to want some-

For Marco Manzie, attending to every last detail of hotel operation is Paramount
thing from your employees; you need a hands-on approach to motivating those who work for you. “I have a strong passion, and I drive that in my employees,” Manzie says, adding that his employees do not do anything he wouldn’t do himself, and he expects the same from his managers. “It’s the culture at Paramount,” he said. Not only is there nothing Manzie wouldn’t do; there’s really nothing he hasn’t done when it comes to the hotel business. He went to work in the business at the age of 17 and has never left. By his own admission, he can do anything from making a bed to plunging a toilet to running multiple hotels. Working his way up, says Manzie, has given him a “good overall grounding operationally.” He adds, “I know what it takes to get the job done from anybody’s perspective. I think that’s a leg up.” Manzie has also worked for most of the major hotel brands, or “flags,” including Hilton, Sheraton, Park Hyatt and Holiday Inn. With such a wide breadth of experience, Manzie was able to cherry-pick the best practices of each flag while avoiding what he saw as mistakes. “It gave me good overall knowledge,” he said. Ultimately, it is the customer service and the executive team’s attitude that sets Paramount apart from its competition. In many other companies, after the initial meeting with the president or CEO, a client is passed off to an underling—not so with Paramount. “I don’t want to get to a point where I can’t be involved in the success in each and every one of my properties,” said Manzie.

Paramount Hospitality Management 12562 International Drive Orlando, FL 32821 O: (954) 914-5464


business briefs

Taking Service to New Heights
by andrea lehner eff well knows the power of flight. during his time as an Air Force pilot and instructor, Well saw just how far a pair of metal wings could take you. “I got to see the pyramids and the Red Sea and the Sphinx,” he said. “I became acquainted with the culture and the people. It was such a drastic change of life from the U.S.” It’s no surprise that Well is still up in the air on a daily basis. He’s the owner of Rite Bros. Aviation, serving the Pacific Northwest. “Our main revenue stream is on-demand charter,” he said. “Most of our customers for that are professionals who need to go places. Just think of us as a taxi, but by air.” The company also offers flight instruction, scenic tours and maintenance for other airlines. Well is determined to keep his company viable for his employees, and his method is diversification. “I make sure I have lots of options with the revenue stream to be flexible,” he said. At the heart of all the hard work is a real commitment to clients. “We’re an on-demand service,” Well explained. “So we’re never closed; we can never plan for a day off. I


can get an emergency phone call at any time, day or night.” Regardless of the hour, he assures distraught clients he’ll meet them at the airport and fly them to their destination. The economy has presented many challenges for Rite Bros., as did the 9/11 attacks when the government shut small aviation down for weeks. So Well has developed a no-nonsense approach to setbacks: “Just work harder, work longer and go without. I couldn’t be in this business if I wasn’t an optimist. You gotta keep forging ahead.” Rite Bros. Aviation Inc. 1406 Fairchild International Airport Port Angeles, WA 98363 (360) 452-6226

Traveling Right


by andrea lehner

ravel agents are expected to know everything about their clients’ destinations of choice. When they need help with the Caribbean Islands or Southern Europe, particularly Italy, they call Judith Davis Baer, president of JDB Fine Hotels & Resorts— the travel agents’ travel agent. “We are Italy experts,” Baer said. “We know every inch of that country.” Baer invests in her employees by sending them to Italy to gain firsthand knowledge of the country and the hotels she represents. She is looking to repeat JDB’s success in Italy by using the same strategies with Spain and France. JDB specializes in custom, individualized travel rather the predesigned packages. “We design trips for very upscale travel agencies,” Baer said. Baer got her start in 1978 when she acted upon an offer to run a resort property in Jamaica. “I really built up a great travel agent loyalty. That allowed me to expand and

grow more business.” Despite the negative impact the recession has had on tourism, Baer found ways to remain stable and adjust to trends. As cruise vacations became more popular, she responded with private on-shore excursions and customized pre- and post-cruise stays. She also introduced a rewardbased program to encourage early hotel bookings. Now in its third year, Smart Start was designed to help hotels avoid “garbage rates that attracted the wrong client and didn’t allow hotels to provide usual levels of service.” Baer’s enthusiasm is reflected in everything she does. “I’m the head cheerleader and motivational speaker,” she said. “I’m very knowledgeable, and I impart that to everyone who has come to work here.”
JDB Fine Hotels and Resorts 114 North Alfred Street Alexandria, VA 22314 703 395 3651


business briefs

by andrea lehner


or 40 years, das dutchman essenhaus, an indiana-based inn and restaurant, has been a favorite of locals and tourists. Co-owners Sue Miller and her husband Bob Miller say Essenhaus is best known for giving tourists a taste of the area’s Amish-Mennonite culture since 1971. “Our niche is home-style cooking with homemade breads and pies—making everything from scratch— and buggy rides, which help our customers experience the Amish culture,” Sue said. “We do not sell alcohol and we are closed on Sundays to our give our employees opportunities for church or family activities.” In addition to being a popular shopping stop for bus tours, Essenhaus hosts retreats and special events, including weddings and family reunions. With 96 guest rooms and ample open space, the facility offers an ideal atmosphere for social gatherings. “It’s a pleasure to see families come together and have a great time,” Sue said. Even though Essenhaus is firmly rooted in the community, the Millers continue to look for new trends, such as a lighter menu and ways to supplement business during the off-season. One of their unique ventures

is making homemade noodles, which they provide wholesale to stores in 48 states. Still, Essenhaus was not immune to the economic downturn. “Food costs are extremely high, especially in our wholesale foods division where we make noodles,” Sue said. “Wheat prices are very volatile; when that cost goes up just a little bit, it makes quite a difference.” Like many in the hospitality business, the Millers had to make difficult choices to survive the recession, including cutting jobs and freezing wages for a year. But as the economy recovers, things are still looking up. The Millers’ goal for Essenhaus is to pass the reins to their grown children, who are now active in the daily operations of this unique destination business.
240 U.S. Route 20 Middlebury, IN 46540 (574) 825-9471

by wendy connick

One small business owner proves that having a heart is the key to success


tighten their belts. Carol Hood, owner of the East Side Grooming Shop, has educated her customers on the importance of pet grooming, placing it on the level of healthcare in her clients’ minds. As a result, her business has flourished despite economic tough times. “Our business hasn’t suffered from what I call the recession at all. And it’s because of the owners’ attitude toward their animals,” she said. The company has also taken steps to make it easier for clients to pay. “If I know that a person is out of work and they have a dog that needs grooming, they call and we work with them. They can pay in partial payments if they

uring economic slumps, small businesses usually suffer more than large ones. One way to keep afloat is to “recessionproof” the businesses by presenting its products as necessary commodities. Then customers are more inclined to continue purchasing, even as they

have to,” Hood said. For ethical reasons, Hood has focused on grooming pets rather than show dogs. “So many of your show dogs don’t ever live a real life, you know,” she said. This sound moral business code has proven to her clients that Hood truly cares about every pet she handles. “They’re living in people’s homes and they’re considered as members of the family,” she said. “And they are treated like that, too.” East Side Grooming Shop 2105 County Road 2300 E. Minonk, IL 61760 (309) 432-3075


Housing Authority Insurance Group, led by CEO Dan Labrie, is about more than commodities. It’s about value.
by altamese osborne

Insuring the Future


ther businesses may vice for the public and affordbe taking steps backable housing communities ward due to the ecothat has garnered them monnomic crisis, but Dan Labrie’s etary benefits. Starting with Housing Authority Insurance $3 million in capital and surGroup is proudly going in the plus, the company now has opposite direction thanks to $289 million in surplus and its one-stop insurance shophas paid over $100 million ping service. Made up of 10 in dividends. “We were not companies, half nonprofit expecting significant income; and half taxable, the Housing we were much more focused Authority Insurance Group is on the relationship with our equipped to provide valuecustomers,” Labrie said. added products and services “Over the last six to seven to public and affordable housyears, our income level has ing providers. “We wanted to exceeded our expectations.” set up a strategy that gave our According to Labrie, the policyholders one place to only significant challenge his buy the insurance they needcompany has faced is unpreed,” said Labrie. dictable weather. “We proLabrie, a 30-year veteran vide property insurance, and of the insurance industry, the weather has not cooperpreviously worked as an unated very much. We’re also derwriter for large companies. looking right now at the po“We’re coming up with a 10-year But soon he decided he had tential of hurricanes, so there’s vision of what this company is going more to contribute; in 1987, he a concern about that because took a chance on HAI Group, to look like, [and] I’m very optimistic.” those can generate huge lossa small start-up company with es.” four staff members. He beBut those problems haven’t - Dan Labrie. came the fifth. stood in the way of growth. And in 1999, Labrie became Despite meteorological unHAI Group’s CEO. predictability and revenue that slowed mildly in a trouLabrie’s main focus since that day has been to construct bled economy, HAI Group has recently added two new a business model different from other insurance compacompanies to its list: a software company and a business nies. While others focus on commodity-based products, that researches and analyzes U.S. housing data. The addiHAI Group pays attention to a value-added product, which tions make HAI Group more knowledgeable about their means that they attempt to foster long-term relationships industry—and better equipped for the future. with clients rather than simply maximize profits. “We are “We’re coming up with a 10-year vision of what this able to help them improve their management, help them company is going to look like,” said Labrie. “I’m very solve business issues, and help them come up with products optimistic.” and services beyond insurance that will make a contribution to their success,” said Labrie. “The experience of a customer is very important. It goes 189 Commerce Court beyond paying premiums.” Cheshire, CT 06410-0189 It is HAI Group’s attention to exemplary customer ser(203) 272-8220
photo courtesy of


by frank graziano s a young lawyer, charles cole was drawn to trials. “I liked being able to talk to juries and see the courtroom almost like a theater, a form of performance art,” he told The Suit. It’s a philosophy that, as a trained dramatist, he employs with success. In fact, 55 of the 60 cases Cole has tried before a jury have won favorable or projected outcomes. In his 13 years at Schuyler, Roche, & Crisham, he’s been instrumental in expanding the firm’s size and scope. In 2008 he spearheaded a merger that added 10 lawyers to the roster and opened the practice to medical cases. Now, in addition to commercial litigation, Schuyler, Roche & Crisham also handles malpractice defense for physicians, specialists, and medical device manufacturers. Cole is a shareholder in the firm and has been practicing law since the 1970s. He has also trained at Chicago’s famous Second City, a comedy club and school of improvisation. “It helped me greatly in terms of my courtroom


skills and being able to and entertain and stimulate jurors, keeping them engaged in the argument I’m presenting,” he says. Lately, there’s one change in the field of law that’s been bothering Cole: a growing lack of civility in the courtroom. As a man with unwavering faith in the judicial system, Cole believes that when opposing parties behave amicably and professionally, it’s a more efficient machine. “Maybe that’s a pie-in-the-sky kind of view, a very optimistic kind of view, but that’s sort of been my M.O.,” he said.

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Technology is changing more quickly than ever, and David Novak has the scoop on the latest gadgets that are changing our lives.
This month: Samsung gets jumpstart in smart-phone market with Google preferredvendor-status and the Galaxy Nexus!


oogle’s upcoming Galaxy Nexus, manufactured by Samsung, ushers in the latest Android OS: Ice Cream Sandwich. Introduced in Hong Kong recently, the smartphone promises to be one of the most influential mobile technology innovations to date, with a slew of more handsets on the way. Ice Cream Sandwich also touts the ability to run on any mobile device, unlike previous versions. "Ice Cream Sandwich demonstrates the Android platform's continued innovation with one release that works on phones and tablets and everything in between," said Andy Rubin, head of Google's mobile business. Samsung and Google definitely have a growing love for one another, considering Google chose Samsung again as the manufacturer for their Nexus-brand flagship phone. (The Google Galaxy Nexus is the successor to the Google Nexus S by Samsung.) Samsung hasn’t historically led the way in the smartphone industry, but over the last couple of years, their Galaxy line has dominated the scene— particularly with their recently introduced Galaxy S II phone. When the Nexus S entered the market last year it was pure Google, boasting some specifications unlike any phone the public had seen. Samsung won’t disappoint this year with the all-new Nexus phone, the 8.9-mm Galaxy Nexus. Housing a screaming 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor, it shines with a 4.65-inch 1280x720-pixel Super AMOLED HD screen, 1GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and a distinctive curved shape that molds to the face. Additionally, there's a 5-megapixel zero-shutter-lag camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats, and support for 1080p HD video capture and playback. Google plans to launch the Galaxy Nexus in November in various markets, including the United States, Europe and Asia. But it won’t be launching into a competition-free market. Announced around the same time was Motoro-

la’s 4G LTE Droid Razr, a few weeks after the Droid Bionic announcement and amid news that Apple is still selling iPhones like gangbusters. Google premiered the Google Nexus brand three years ago with the Nexus One by HTC. It was the Mountain View, Calif.ornia based company’s first attempt at selling smartphones directly. Since then, it has used the Nexus line to introduce the latest iterations of Android OS. The Nexus brand is actually a very valuable one. The vendor chosen to manufacture the next Nexus gets the benefit of seeing Android OS improvements early. This is useful because it allows that manufacturer a jump-start at planning out the rest of their Android lineup. Samsung has held that coveted title with the last two versions of Google’s Nexus phone line, which has allowed Samsung to stand out from the pack in smartphone offerings. The Nexus S, for example, introduced NFC and Google Wallet. The Galaxy Nexus will also have an NFC chip. Will Samsung continue to support the Nexus line? Some industry experts think not. Google plans to enter into the hardware business with its plan to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. And while Google’s strategy of working with multiple partners has catapulted them as a mobile market leader, this Motorola purchase may not be the smartest move. It didn’t work with the Nexus One, and it remains to be seen if a second stab at direct smartphone marketing will be successful.

Editor’s Note: David Novak’s column, the GadgetGUY, appears in over 120 newspapers around the world each week. The GadgetGUY has his pulse on everything related to new gadgets, computers, camcorders, car tech, cameras, gaming, TVs, computers, wireless devices, media devices, cell phones, home appliances, wearable technology, sports science, power tools and gadget news.



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: Increasingly accessible and affordable process automations offer huge improvement opportunities for small and mid-sized enterprises.


o big or go home… With the proliferation of cloud-based services and accessible data repositories, even micro companies can afford—or can’t afford not—to automate processes and integrate with their trading partners and suppliers. Once the necessary data flows are in place, mining that data for business intelligence (BI) and reporting purposes becomes a natural next step. Extracting and displaying a few key performance indicators (KPIs) from readily accessible data can often be realized for less than a thousand dollars. Knowing in real-time what inventory is on hand and in-transit, or being instantly notified of customer compliance issues, is no less valuable to a small medium enterprise than to the giants of industry. Within many company routines, chances are high that there are daily email forwards of actionable business information, periodic excel sheets providing details to be manually keyed into standalone applications, and likely a host of other time-sensitive and error-prone activities. The first step for any company should be to determine their process pain points and improvement opportunities through internal discussions and analysis. If lacking direction or analytical expertise, consultants or third party service bureaus can be of great assistance at that point. Small or medium businesses with a modest budget can begin by selecting only a handful of those process improvements to get started. With proper diligence and a little shopping around, you might be surprised at just how flexible and affordable supply chain solutions have become. Start small and keep on progressing!

Well, that’s easy enough to say when your company is already big or enjoying rapid growth. What if it’s not? What if your customers expect you to accommodate a 4 to 8 percent year-over-year price reduction via increased efficiencies? What if you’re up to your eyeballs in competitors and facing rising input prices? Whether you’re a one-man show or a multi-billion dollar behemoth, the bottom line is that there are systems and products available to help automate even the smallest of timeconsuming tasks. What would you do with additional time at work? Improve processes and work on innovations? Chase new business or work on customer retention? Kick back and take an extra break? If you keep on plugging away at manual and repetitive tasks (along with the corrective actions inherently attributed to error-prone activities), you will never know. So let’s make a slight adjustment to the old adage. Go big or go home? How about start small and progress? Once upon a time, the idea of automating financial data, shipment notices, purchase order processing and production data were beyond the realm of possibility for small and mid-sized businesses. Tackling even a portion of processes could run from tens of thousands to millions of dollars in investment, coupled with lengthy implementation timelines. Those days are long gone. Today, there are many system integration and EDI companies that convert, re-format and validate electronic data on demand for hundreds to low-thousands of dollars instead. Established vendors with large repertoires of developed conversion programs can offer their products for even less than that, often implementing within a day or so of order. It’s not even unheard of for service bureaus and vendors to offer their services at no upfront cost, charging small monthly or yearly flat fees for low-usage clients. The landscape has definitely changed. The barriers to automation and integration are as low as they have ever been.

Editor’s Note: Anthony Nelson (BA Econ, CSC, APICS member) is the Operations Manager 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


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