Retirement gap analysis: start calculating today for manageable finances

Gregg DiGeronimo, Director of Sales, FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc.

Gregg DiGeronimo, President, FirstMerit Financial Services

With the current interest rate environment and the influx of baby boomers continuing to move into retirement, more people will benefit from a personal retirement gap analysis than ever, says Gregg DiGeronimo, President, for FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc.

Even those who don’t expect a gap between their income and their expenses in retirement can gain from such an analysis. “You will feel better knowing you have a plan in place and can see what options you have down the road,” DiGeronimo says. “We take into account considerations you might not have today, such as healthcare costs.

A retirement gap analysis investigates an individual’s expected retirement income streams, such as retirement accounts, required minimum distributions (RMDs) from any retirement accounts, Social Security, certificates of deposit (CDs), savings accounts, annuities and pensions. It also reviews what the individual expects to spend during retirement on such things as health care, housing, food, clothing, entertainment and travel.

A retirement gap is identified when a shortfall is predicted between income and expenses, DiGeronimo says. Knowing a gap is expected leads to the next step in the analysis—determining how to bridge that gap by looking at how big the difference is and identifying what steps can be taken on both the income and expense sides to lessen the gap if possible.

On the expense side, for example, DiGeronimo says he looks at the individual’s mortgage to see if its impact in retirement could be minimized with a short-term refinance or whether credit card debt can be consolidated and paid off timelier.

On the income side, DiGeronimo looks at what can be done with the individual’s investment portfolio to yield more money.

The analysis also takes into account the different stages of retirement – from the “go-go” years when a retired person normally spends the most money on things like trips to visit grandchildren and country club memberships, through the “slow-go” years in which their spending declines some because the person isn’t as active, and into the “no-go” years when personal expenses are virtually non-existent but health care costs typically increase, DiGeronimo says.

“I joke around and say most people spend more time planning their summer vacation than they do planning for retirement, but it’s true. You need to take a hard look at your financial plan annually to make sure you are in a comfortable position.”

“We can all benefit from a wide range of free retirement calculators that can be found online. Many of these types of calculators take a high level, broad look at how you are doing on your financial path to retirement. Most, if not all calculators, use a questionnaire that models your existing investments and estimates what they might yield over time” adds DiGeronimo.

DiGeronimo stresses that a retirement gap analysis with a financial advisor will be more comprehensive. “The financial advisor takes an in-depth look at income, expenses, cost of living and the goals of your retirement lifestyle and interprets that data to make recommendations that are personal to you. We will also take into account things like your risk tolerance and the stock market. People who do this analysis themselves most likely don’t have the financial background to make a recommendation for themselves.”

It is also never too early to begin this analysis, DiGeronimo says. Retirement planning should begin in an individual’s mid-20s or with his or her first job to avoid a future gap. “You don’t want to wait until you’re at retirement age to have this conversation,” he says.

Want to learn more about retirement gap analysis? Contact Gregg DiGeronimo, Director of Sales, FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc. at [email protected]

Securities and insurance products are:

  • Not FDIC insured

  • Not a deposit

  • Not bank guaranteed

  • Not insured by any federal or state government agency

  • May lose value

Securities are offered through FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC;

Advisory Services offered through FirstMerit Advisors, Inc.;

Insurance products offered through FirstMerit Insurance Agency, Inc., Wholly owned subsidiary of FirstMerit Bank, N.A.

Not FDIC insured; May lose value; No bank guarantee

BKD, LLP

David Hayob, Managing Partner, BKD Houston

Led by Managing Partner David Hayob, BKD Houston has 151 personnel, including 16 partners and 60 CPAs, who provide accounting advisory services to more than 3,000 clients and offer focused solutions for individuals. Their professionals serve industries in health care, government-not-for-profits, manufacturing and distribution, construction, real estate and energy. They are located in the heart of the Galleria.

BKD offers insightful solutions, ideas, attention to detail, expertise and results — they call it unmatched client service.

At BKD, they understand you want an advisor who provides more than just accounting solutions. Their CPAs and Advisors offer specialized skills and expertise, as well as the winning attitude, character and communication skills necessary to help clients achieve their objectives. Accounting for numbers — accurately, objectively and with integrity — is at the heart of their business. But they are also professional, prepared, attentive and ready to deliver their services with PRIDE (passion, respect, integrity, discipline and excellence).

With BKD, you get a trusted, top-tier national accounting firm that understands your business and delivers the resources you need with a service style you will value.

Smart Business spoke with Hayob about how BKD Houston has been able to overcome challenges and achieve success.

Give us an example of a business challenge your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

We have had significant growth in our health care practice, and we needed to find someone with the right expertise to lead that area in Houston. We identified someone who had been with a large international firm and was interested in relocating, and the firm actually brought him in and put him in the Houston office. We also had a partner here transfer to Dallas to lead that office, helping with our goal of building a statewide health care practice. We like to think we will do whatever it takes, within reason, to meet the needs of our clients.

In what ways are you an innovating leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

Our approach to customer service — the concept of writing a book about our philosophy of unmatched client service and sharing it with every employee, requiring every employee to read it and share that with our clients — is something unique. A lot of people talk about good service, customer service, client service, but not very many people do much about it. Even though the book was written a few years ago, it continues to be time-tested and useful every day, every week, every month. We try to differentiate our brand of client service from our competitors and to our customers.

What is the greatest lesson you have learned, and how have you applied it?

If you really get the facts and understand what is going on, you can make good decisions. So often, people try to make decisions without all the facts, and that is because either people will not give you the facts or you have not worked hard enough to uncover them. People talk about how hard decision-making is, but if you can really get all the facts together, decision making is not that difficult. Trying to make decisions without the facts is extremely difficult. You are better off if you are honest and truthful with your employees, clients, coworkers, partners and bosses, and in turn, they will be more open, honest and truthful with you.

How does your organization make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

We have definitely attempted to make an impact on the community. We are active members of the Greater Houston Partnership, and we have a number of our partners and managers in leadership roles with that organization. We also have numerous people on charitable boards in the area.

Through our charitable arm, the BKD Foundation, we have been lead sponsor of the Texas Children’s Hospital Kids’ Fun Run for the last five years. We have also been one of the leaders in fundraising and involvement with the Susan G. Komen Houston Race for the Cure. The foundation’s main goal is to support causes in the communities in which we work, and we have tried to do that.

How have you added “value” to the products and services you provide to customers and clients?

We start with integrity first. With some other firms, clients do not get the truth. However, if you bring honest, truthful information to the client, that is added value. Our true expertise adds value as well. The fact that we have partners, managers and in-charges on nearly every project who have significant industry focus — whether it be energy, banking, health care, manufacturing, government or real estate – brings value to the product.

We also operate under the idea of principled innovation — we bring innovative solutions to clients with a principled base. We do not let innovation lead us into new, untested, unproved or unprincipled solutions; we try to retain true professionalism in the solutions we offer.

What is your philosophy on going “above and beyond” for customer service?

Client service is at the heart of everything we do. We have a service contract with our clients that says we will offer the five core tenets of our philosophy: integrity first, true expertise, professional demeanor, responsive reliability and principled innovation. While it seems on the surface to be a pretty simple concept, in practice it is not executed by very many people as well as it should be. We live those concepts every day, and it shows in our client service.

For more information, contact BKD Houston at 713.499.4600 or visit www.bkd.com.

Winners of the Cincinnati 2013 Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service

CINCINNATI, OH (Jan. 29, 2013) – Smart Business Network Inc. is pleased to announce the category winners of the 2013 Medical Mutual Pillar Award for Community Service program, presented by Smart Business and sponsored by The Eisen Agency, Duke Energy Center, Spectrum Global, and Prestige AV & Creative Services.

At an awards recognition program held at the Duke Energy Center on January 24, 2013, 14 organizations and individuals were unveiled as Pillar Award winners in five distinct categories and participated in a series of discussions about the tie between the for-profit and nonprofit worlds. This year’s winners were:

Pillar Award for Community Service
• dunnhumbyUSA
• Focus Solutions Inc.
• JANCOA
• KDM P.O.P. Solutions Group
• Messer Construction Co.
• PowerNet Global
• Systems Evolution Inc.
• The Hillman Group
• The Sheakley Group
• Union Savings Bank/Guardian Savings Bank

Medical Mutual SHARE Award
• Clark-Theders Insurance Agency Inc.

Executive Director of the Year Award
• Ellen Katz, president & CEO, The Children’s Home of Cincinnati

Nonprofit Board Executive of the Year Award
• Barbara Gould, advisory board member, Talbert House

Kent Clapp CEO Leadership Award
• Thomas Keckeis, CEO, Messer Construction

“This class of honorees, combined with this year’s group of finalists, is truly inspirational,” says Dustin S. Klein, publisher of Smart Business. “They give back individually and as organizations. They get involved in causes they care about. And the nonprofit leaders have forged meaningful relationships with the for-profit companies and their executive teams to better deliver upon their missions. All told, the Pillar Award class of 2013 truly understands how to strengthen the regional communities where we all live and work.”

The Pillar Award program was founded in 1998 and honors organizations and individuals that best demonstrate a commitment to making a difference. For information on the award winners, along with profiles of the finalists for this year’s Pillar Awards, visit www.sbnonline.com. To receive a nomination for the 2014 awards program, or to learn more about the Pillar Awards, contact Smart Business at [email protected] or (440) 250-7026.

What’s the value of first impressions?

Monica Ross, vice president of training and development, InfoCision

Most companies know the key to long-term growth is generating repeat business. Repeat customers mean greater brand loyalty, higher referrals and a steady stream of sales. Adding a new customer also costs considerably more than retaining an existing one.

But creating the kind of brand relationships that drive customers back again and again isn’t easy, especially for businesses that outsource their marketing and sales efforts to third-party call centers.

Smart Business spoke with Monica Ross, the vice president of training and development at InfoCision, on the value of first impressions and how to enhance customer relationships.

It’s about more than just taking orders

You don’t want your brand to get lost by having representatives who might treat a call with your customer as just another interaction. While they can help your customers make their purchases and answer their questions, it’s not creating a customer experience that is going to convert into future sales.

Companies need more than just order takers. To be competitive in this disjointed marketplace you need call centers that can build outstanding interactions by being as professional and connected to the brand as your own employees are. The order taker will process an order and get it done, but brand ambassadors will take it to a higher level to ensure the person feels good after the call.

You need to leverage the people on the phones if you’re looking to create outstanding customer interactions. Your call center is the voice of your company, so it’s crucial to have mature, experienced professionals on the phones. The agents making and taking your calls are representing your company in front of your most valuable asset — your customers. Reputable call centers have highly selective hiring policies. At InfoCision, the average age of our Communicators is 42 years old, close to 80 percent are full time and almost 75 percent are their family’s main provider. Successful call center companies will also have robust recognition programs to retain and reward top performers.

Separate yourself from the crowd

With the trend toward multiple communication channels and a brand ambassador approach, an extensive training curriculum is essential. What separates brand ambassadors from typical call center representatives is their deep level of product and client knowledge, which can enhance the value of a call in a number of ways. Instead of just answering questions, brand ambassadors act as an extension of the brand they’re calling for, so they do a better job connecting with the customer from the first phone call. Brand ambassadors convey the feelings and voice of a brand. They are also comfortable enough with product and service lines to present other opportunities and upsell the customer and boost conversion rates.

Often, people are not 100 percent sold when they call in initially, and it’s going to translate into lost revenue. The phone call should be looked at as an opportunity to pin-point customer wants, answer questions and create need. Because of their training, a brand ambassador is going to know what questions to ask and what benefits their product or service offers. They will take this information and build on it to create that need for the customer.

Creating stronger brand ties

By enhancing brand value, brand ambassadors also add future value in customer retention. The real value of the brand ambassador comes after the phone call is completed: The prospect will have a stronger tie to the particular brand as well as a clearer feeling of who the company is and what it has to offer. Even if it’s a purchase of a singular item, it’s a company that the customer will want to go back to.

The success of brand ambassadors really comes down to the investment a company is willing to make upfront with time and training. The more involved they are in developing training materials and programs, the more ammunition they can provide to brand ambassadors. When those on the phone know the product and client, it’s going to positively impact the bottom line on that initial call. It’s about creating a better impression of who we represent. And, in this economy, where competition for customers is extremely fierce, strategic use of call centers can provide a company with far-reaching benefits that will help them to achieve goals, to enhance market position and to maintain their good reputation.

We’ve reached an age where technology is bringing businesses and customers closer together. Communication channels like teleservices, direct mail, Web allow for a customer’s diverse needs to be met. But it’s only as good as the person on the other end. By improving the quality of a customer’s experience, they will form a stronger bond with your organization and, as a result, increase your profit potential.

Monica Ross is the vice president of training and development at InfoCision. Reach her at (330-) 668-1400 [email protected]

The outlook for the economic and financial markets in 2013: It all hinges on Washington

Bob Leggett, CFA, Senior Investment Strategist, FirstMerit Wealth Management Services

Our economic forecast for 2013 comes down to one simple phrase: “It all hinges on Washington.” The President and Congress must decide whether tax rates rise or fall, whether fiscal stimulus or austerity rules the day, and whether the long term budget deficit issues (entitlements) will be addressed. The Federal Reserve has now promised to hold short term rates low until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent, unless they determine inflation is likely to exceed 2.5 percent. Will the Fed’s newest $85 billion monthly quantitative easing (bond buying) program continue to suppress longer maturity bond yields in 2013? To paraphrase the European Central Bank’s Mario Draghi: “believe us, it’ll be enough” to keep the U.S. Treasury 10 year bond yield from rising much in 2013.

We continue to view the Washington glass as “half full,” so we expect fiscal cliff compromises will be reached by early 2013. Taxes will be raised on the “rich” (however that is defined) but the impact of tax increases on everyone else will be limited by extending the middle class tax cuts, “patching” the Alternative Minimum Tax, and gradually ending the FICA 2 percent payroll tax holiday. Alas, anyone who has a taxable investment account will pay more taxes through higher capital gains rates and higher tax rates on common stock dividends. Entitlement reform will likely be kicked down the road, but we expect the credit rating agencies will be assuaged by an agreement to create a Congressional commission, lessening the risk of a January ratings downgrade. Likewise, there should be just enough spending cuts to allow a compromise on raising the debt ceiling.

The downside risk from here hinges on Washington: policy errors that take us over the cliff might leave the economy crushed at the bottom of the gorge by another severe recession.

Sounds horrifying, doesn’t it? Well, it is — but we think this worst-case scenario is VERY unlikely. Even if taxes are raised, the increase shouldn’t be too stiff and history shows that the impact on spending will be minor. Modestly higher capital gains rates also have a limited impact. Changes to corporate taxes and deductions will be a mix of plusses and minuses, as always. The regulatory burden only goes in one direction — heavier, but who could be surprised by that? Despite volatile gasoline prices, the CPI inflation rate has dropped to roughly 2 percent and that trend should continue in 2013. Energy prices should not rise significantly as increased supply meets very slow demand growth. With regard to consumers, housing activity and prices are on the upswing. In fact, residential construction has been additive to GDP for the past six consecutive quarters! Combined with the doubling of the S&P 500 since 2009 and decline in consumer debt outstanding, household net worth has improved sharply. Continued modest, but steady job growth should result in lower unemployment rates during 2013.

Basically, the economy can do one of three things: improve, stay the same, or get worse. The presence of feedback loops often determines which of these occurs. We began 2012 with a positive feedback loop — rising production of goods and services meant more hours worked, which meant incomes grew, which resulted in greater demand for goods and services, leading to rising production of goods and services! Unfortunately, fears arose during the year that caused great uncertainty for both businesses and consumers. Uncertainty weakens the links of a positive feedback loop and can eventually forge a negative chain. Fortunately, much of the current uncertainty should be alleviated by even a partial resolution of the fiscal cliff/budget deficit issues.

All in all, we expect a slow start to 2013 due to the hangover from Washington’s partisan battles and going over the fiscal cliff (fiscal slope?) to some extent. However, as uncertainties are alleviated, we expect GDP growth to re-accelerate toward 2.5 percent+ in the second half.

Bob Leggett, CFA, is the Senior Investment Strategist at FirstMerit Wealth Management Services. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @firstmerit_mkt.

The opinions and information contained in this message have been derived from sources believed to be accurate and reliable, but FirstMerit Bank N.A. makes no representation as to their timeliness or completeness. This message does not constitute individual investment, legal or tax advice. All opinions are reflective of judgments made on the original date of publication and do not constitute a guarantee of present or future financial market conditions.

 

Joining a nonprofit’s board of directors

Susan D. Krantz, CPA, Partner, Zinner & Co. LLP

Passion for a cause, a love for community and a set of specific skills that can be used to help others are all great reasons to join a not-for-profit organization’s board of directors. But what can you do to ensure that your membership is effective and valuable to the organization and provides a rewarding experience for all parties?

Smart Business spoke with Susan D. Krantz, CPA, a Partner at Zinner & Co. LLP, to find out.

Maintain a Proper Commitment

Through our experience at Zinner & Co. LLP, we have found that board member commitment has a significant and direct impact on the success of a not-for-profit organization. As work and personal commitments change, it becomes necessary to find that balance of time that allows you to properly support your organization.

Efficient and Valuable Communications

Communications among board members and between board members and the management team is one of the most important aspects of the position you hold. First and foremost, boards should meet monthly, or at least quarterly, with regular attendance and participation by all board members who should be familiar with the organization’s major initiatives and mission statement. The board should have adequate skills in the areas of law, accounting, finance and personnel as it pertains to the organization’s major initiatives, even though any one member may not be skilled in all areas.

Be Visible

Try stopping by the organization’s offices unannounced for a friendly and casual visit with management. Join a committee. Board members can even have a presence in the organization without actually being physically present. Get out in the community and talk with people to gain a better idea of how your organization can better serve them.

Oversight and Approval on the Transaction Level

Board members should be involved in the oversight and approval of significant transactions and processes, such as new loans, property and equipment purchases, advances, payments to key employees and all other significant transactions. Proper board member review by designated members should include examining supporting documentation, such as purchase orders, invoices and vendor contracts, and the budget on regular basis.

Familiarize Yourself with External and Internal Factors

In the current social and economic environment, not-for-profit organizations face more risks than ever before. One of the major responsibilities of the board, as well as management, is to continuously assess and manage the risks facing the organization, both externally and internally.

The external risk assessment process primarily involves keeping up to date on changes in the political, social, economic and technological environment surrounding the organization and assessing how those changes will affect the organization’s mission and funding. As a member, it will be up to you to be aware of the changes within your area of expertise in addition to the many multiple sectors of the environment the organization operates in, including new accounting pronouncement, laws and law revisions, social and administrative changes in the political landscape and compliance updates from regulatory and cognizant agencies.

During the internal risk assessment process, the organization as a whole must identify its goals and objectives in the major areas of financial reporting, level of service, and compliance. Internal controls are the key safeguards in meeting these goals. All effective internal control systems contain five attributes: a control environment that sets the tone of the organization from the top down, continuous risk assessment, control activities, information and communication, and monitoring which make certain that all internal controls are operating effectively and as intended.

A knowledgeable board member who is both involved and present is in the best position to help an organization manage risks, make informed decisions and help achieve impact. With extensive experience in the not-for-profit field, Zinner & Co. plays a key role in helping organizations and their board members to overcome a wide range of obstacles and achieve their mission.

Susan D. Krantz, CPA, is a Partner at Zinner & Co. LLP. Reach her at (216) 831-0733 or [email protected]

The golden years

Kurt Marlow, Financial Advisor, FirstMerit Financial Services

As parents advance in age, it often falls on the shoulders of their children or other family members to begin handling their parents’ financial affairs, according to Kurt Marlow, Financial Advisor with FirstMerit Financial Services.  “But this is often easier said than done,” says Marlow. “Many seniors don’t like giving up control of their finances. They are not comfortable, for many reasons, divulging the details of their personal finances. However, failing to help elderly parents put their financial house in order leaves family members in a difficult situation when there is an untimely death or disability.”

To initiate a conversation about this topic with parents and gain their cooperation, Marlow recommends that adult children begin by expressing their genuine concern and desire to help. A family meeting can sometimes be a helpful forum for this conversation.

“There are many different ways to go about planning a family meeting,” says Marlow. “To start, I encourage my clients to meet with me separately beforehand. For example, I will visit with my mature clients privately to discuss their financial situation to make sure I understand the needs and concerns they have. We then set up a separate appointment with the children or a close family member to discuss the parent’s financials and long-term care wishes.”

During the family meeting, extensive notes are taken outlining an inventory of the parents’ assets. Marlow provides a form for their use; a Family Discussion Checklist, a tool that is unique to FirstMerit. The Family Discussion Checklist is designed to help organize all important financial documents in one place. It details monthly income and expenses, bank statements, investment account statements, insurance policies, long-term care insurance, trusts, loans and mortgage documents. The checklist identifies which financial documents currently exist, where they are located, and which documents are still needed.

After the checklist is complete, Marlow works with the family to analyze the parent’s financial situation and see what help may be needed.

“I try to find out what their concerns are, or whether there is a particular piece of the financial puzzle they are concerned with,” he says. “The answers vary from family to family based on each person’s unique financial situation and goals. For example, we discuss adding a Power of Attorney, or after consulting a tax professional, we may decide to add a trusted family member as a joint owner or other similar arrangements may be a solution. In some instances, beneficiaries may be added to the parent’s accounts so that the designation is in place if something unexpected happens to the parent.”

“No matter what solutions are decided upon by the family,” adds Marlow, “the service that many of our family clients value highly is the convenience and assurance of having a trusted advisor to work alongside them.”

The process for connecting generations and coordinating the financial affairs of the older generation can be comprehensive, but at the end of the day, it can be a unifying experience for the entire family when parents have the assurance that their wishes are being followed even after they are gone.

For more information on managing finances for the elderly in your life, contact Kurt Marlow, Financial Advisor, FirstMerit Financial Services Inc., at (708) 529-2158.

Securities offered through FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC; Advisory Services offered through FirstMerit Advisors, Inc.; Insurance products offered through FirstMerit Insurance Agency, Inc., affiliates of FirstMerit Bank, N.A.

Investment and Insurance Products are: • —Not FDIC Insured — • May Lose Value • Not Bank Guaranteed — • Not a Deposit • Not Insured By Any Federal or State Government Agency 

The golden years

Ed Wojciechowski, Financial Advisor, FirstMerit Financial Services

As parents advance in age, it often falls on the shoulders of their children or other family members to begin handling their parent’s financial affairs, according to Ed Wojciechowski, Financial Advisor with FirstMerit Financial Services.  “But this is often easier said than done,” says Wojciechowski. “Many seniors don’t like giving up control of their finances. They are not comfortable, for many reasons, divulging the details of their personal finances. However, failing to help elderly parents put their financial house in order leaves family members in a difficult situation when there is an untimely death or disability.”

To initiate a conversation about this topic with parents and gain their cooperation, Wojciechowski recommends that adult children begin by expressing their genuine concern and desire to help. A family meeting can sometimes be a helpful forum for this conversation.

“There are many different ways to go about planning a family meeting,” says Wojciechowski. “To start, I encourage my clients to meet with me separately beforehand. For example, I will visit with my mature clients privately to discuss their financial situation to make sure I understand the needs and concerns they have. We then set up a separate appointment with the children or a close family member to discuss the parent’s financials and long-term care wishes.”

During the family meeting, extensive notes are taken outlining an inventory of the parents’ assets. Wojciechowski provides a form for their use; a Family Discussion Checklist, a tool that is unique to FirstMerit. The Family Discussion Checklist is designed to help organize all important financial documents in one place. It details monthly income and expenses, bank statements, investment account statements, insurance policies, long-term care insurance, trusts, loans and mortgage documents. The checklist identifies which financial documents currently exist, where they are located, and which documents are still needed.

After the checklist is complete, Wojciechowski works with the family to analyze the parent’s financial situation and see what help may be needed.

“I try to find out what their concerns are, or whether there is a particular piece of the financial puzzle they are concerned with,” he says. “The answers vary from family to family based on each person’s unique financial situation and goals. For example, we discuss adding a Power of Attorney, or after consulting a tax professional, we may decide to add a trusted family member as a joint owner or other similar arrangements may be a solution. In some instances, beneficiaries may be added to the parent’s accounts so that the designation is in place if something unexpected happens to the parent.”

“No matter what solutions are decided upon by the family,” adds Wojciechowski, “the service that many of our family clients value highly is the convenience and assurance of having a trusted advisor to work alongside them.”

The process for connecting generations and coordinating the financial affairs of the older generation can be comprehensive, but at the end of the day, it can be a unifying experience for the entire family when parents have the assurance that their wishes are being followed even after they are gone.

For more information on managing finances for the elderly in your life, contact Ed Wojciechowski, Financial Advisor, FirstMerit Financial Services Inc., at (708) 529-2158.

Securities offered through FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA, SIPC; Advisory Services offered through FirstMerit Advisors, Inc.; Insurance products offered through FirstMerit Insurance Agency, Inc., affiliates of FirstMerit Bank, N.A.

Investment and Insurance Products are: • —Not FDIC Insured — • May Lose Value • Not Bank Guaranteed — • Not a Deposit • Not Insured By Any Federal or State Government Agency 

How green thinking is integral to the design and construction of the Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center

Sustainability is a key focus for Turner Construction Co. and Merchandise Mart Properties Inc. as construction of the Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center continues ahead of schedule and on budget.

Green initiatives began at the design stage – ranging from low-flow water fixtures to a green roof over the Convention Center – and have continued into the actual construction of the complex. More than 98 percent of the demolition and waste products from the old site were recycled, and 30 percent of the material going into the new building will be recycled material.

“Living green is all part of what we need to do for our future – and not our future, but our children’s future and their children’s future,” says Brian Milner, Cleveland MMCC director of operations. “And if we don’t start here from day one on this project, we’re going to be a step behind.”

Executives from Turner gave Smart Business an exclusive video interview to discuss the project’s green initiatives:

Watch: “Cleveland MMCC: Green initiatives key to building construction, design

This 36-month, $465 million construction venture is set to be completed by July 1, 2013 – two months ahead of schedule.

To see the project’s progress for yourself, check out the Cleveland MMCC live webcam.

How to reach: The Cleveland Medical Mart & Convention Center: www.ClevelandMedicalMart.com

Turner Construction Co. – Cleveland: www.TurnerConstruction.com/Cleveland

The 2012 HR Awards – Finalists

Cleveland State University

Tracy Porter, college associate lecturer, Department of Management and Labor, and CSU SHRM Student Chapter co-adviser

Tracy Porter is a college associate lecturer with the Department of Management and Labor at Cleveland State University. Involved in the academic and business community for more than 20 years, Porter has also taken on the role of co-adviser of CSU’s Society of Human Research Management chapter.

DentalOne Partners

Charles Newton, recruiting operations specialist

Currently employed by DentalOne Partners, Charles Newton made a distinct impact as HR administrator/benefits specialist at his previous employer, the Cleveland Sight Center. He incorporated a new applicant tracking system, a new on-boarding program and a new benefits management program for employees of the center.

Greater Cleveland Partnership

Deborah Bridwell, deputy executive director, Commission on Economic Inclusion

Deborah Bridwell is deputy executive director of the Commission on Economic Inclusion at the Greater Cleveland Partnership. She takes a strong leadership role in directing the commission’s efforts in growing the region’s minority-owned businesses, increasing access to well-paying jobs and including more minorities in senior management and board leadership.

John Carroll University

Ryan Zubal, student

Ryan Zubal is an upcoming senior student at John Carroll University with a demonstrated passion for HR. A member of the school’s Society for Human Resource Management chapter since fall 2011, he assumed the role of president in spring 2012 and has worked hard to further develop and grow the organization.

MCPc Inc.

Beth Stec, vice president of corporate communications and human resources

Beth Stec has worked for MCPc Inc. for 14 years. Currently serving on the executive team as vice president of corporate communications and human resources, she continues to drive the HR best practices she’s built over the years to support the delivery of excellent customer service by MCPc employees.

Menorah Park Center for Senior Living

Jamie Herbst, director of human resources

Jamie Herbst has been employed in human resources for 27 years, 16 of them with Menorah Park Center for Senior Living. As the director of human resources, she has developed several initiatives intended to advance the caliber of the nonprofit organization in the eyes of its employees, guests and community members.

MTD Products

Fran Walsh, director of health and welfare benefits

Fran Walsh has been with MTD Products for more than 40 years. As director of health and wellness benefits, Walsh oversees the everyday administration of benefits for more than 4,000 employees in nine locations — earning her three peer-nominated “Golden Sprig” awards for going above and beyond to further the company, employees or mission.

Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District

Douglas Dykes, director of human resources

Douglas Dykes is the director of human resources for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. After joining NEORSD four years ago, he set out to challenge antiquated practices and underdeveloped employees by updating and incorporating new programs and processes in the areas of hiring, wellness, compensation and succession planning.

The Oatey Co.

Nickie DiCarlo, director of leadership and associate development

Nickie DiCarlo is the director of leadership and associate development for The Oatey Co., where she oversees and leads the leadership development strategies, associate development programming, succession planning, organizational change management and internal communication strategies. She held a variety of training and organizational development roles previously with Key Bank and PolyOne.

OrthoHelix Surgical Designs Inc.

Jessica Kelly, human resources manager

Jessica Kelly was hired earlier this year as a HR manager for OrthoHelix Surgical Designs Inc. to organize the company’s newly created HR department and ensure it thrived. She has already begun and implemented many policies and programs, including a grant-funded wellness program initiative.

The Sherwin-Williams Co.

Diane Hupp, vice president of employee relations

Diane Hupp is vice president of employee relations for paint solutions company The Sherwin-Williams Co. She was nominated by an employment litigation attorney who was “cynical about large corporate HR culture” — that is, until Hupp’s “honest, legal and positive” approach to HR changed his mind.

Stark State College

Kristin C. Hannon, career development director

Kristin C. Hannon is the career development director at Stark State College, where she applies her many years of HR expertise to guiding the region’s future leaders. She assists students with mock interviews, resume writing and direct daily support, and serves on one of the college’s committees related to human resources.

STERIS Corp.

Laurie Allen, senior compensation analyst

Laurie Allen has been senior compensation analyst at STERIS Corp. since 2001, where she leads the company’s global merit planning process, among other duties. These include planning, developing, implementing and administering job evaluation, performance appraisal and wage/salary administration and management programs for STERIS and its divisions and subsidiaries, among others.

Summa Western Reserve Hospital

Jennifer Miller, manager of compensation/HRMS and benefits

Jennifer Miller is the manager of compensation/HRMS and benefits for Summa Western Reserve Hospital. She was instrumental in developing the organization’s employee “Gateway,” as well as in continuous development of the organization’s UltiPro system — enhancing overall business operations in addition to HR and payroll.

Vocational Guidance Services

Susie Barragate, director of human resources

Serving as director of human resources for Vocational Guidance Services since 1999, Susie Barragate has transformed the function of the company’s HR department. Her achievements include creating the agency’s competitive, its multileveled compensation structure, an agencywide customer service training program and an organizational review system.