Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Honoring the best of the best

For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who make our economy vibrant.

Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program to recognize those with a passion for “thinking big” and to bring together visionaries and leaders to inspire each other and our communities. We have gathered here and in 25 cities across the United States to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome a new class of entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame, recognizing their resilience, ingenuity and innovation.

We applaud them for overcoming challenges, inspiring others, opening new markets and, ultimately, fueling economic growth in the Northeast Ohio region. Let’s celebrate their achievements, perseverance and tireless pursuit of business excellence.

Congratulations to all 2012 Northeast Entrepreneur Of The Year® finalists.

Whitt Butler is the program director and an advisory partner at Ernst & Young.

2012 Finalists and Honorees


Dr. Robert Kent, Summa Western Reserve Hospital








Published in Akron/Canton
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Honoring the best of the best

For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities.

The blood, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators. Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize this passion for excellence and to build an influential and innovative community of peers.

We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional finalists into our entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for launching start-up companies, opening new markets and fueling job growth.

So let’s celebrate their achievements, their perseverance and their tireless pursuit of business excellence.

Ernie Cortes is the Entrepreneur Of The Year program director. He can be reached at (408) 947-5462.

2012 Finalists and Honorees


• Geoffrey Barker, RPX Corp. (Winner)

• John Woolard, BrightSource Energy Inc. (Finalist)

• Hubert Thieblot, Curse Inc. (Finalist)

Life Sciences

• Lawrence Blatt, Alios BioPharma (Winner)

• Guo-Liang Yu, Epitomics Inc. (Finalist)

• Robert W. Duggan, Pharmacyclics Inc. (Finalist)

Marketing Services

• Tom Bedecarre, AKQA (Winner)

• David B. Goldberg, SurveyMonkey (Finalist)

• Bill Demas, Turn Inc. (Finalist)

Media and Entertainment

• Nicholas Woodman, Woodman Labs Inc. d.b.a GoPro (Winner)

• Matt Mullenweg, Automatic (Finalist)

• Lars Buttler, Trion Worlds Inc. (Finalist)

Retail and Consumer Products

• Dale Carlesen, Sleep Train (Winner)

• John Foraker, Annie’s Inc. (Finalist)

• Neil Grimmer, Plum Organics (Finalist)


• Lisa Im, Performant Financial Corp. (Winner)

John Boncher, Cupertino Electric Inc. (Finalist)

• Mike Sechrist, Elana Whorton, ProTransport-1 (Finalist)


• Tarkan Maner, Wyse Technology (Winner)

• Lee Chen, A10 Networks (Finalist)

• Tasso Roumeliotis, Location Labs (Finalist)

Technology Services

• Matthew Monahan, Brian Monahan, Inflection (Winner)

• Larry Augustin, SugarCRM (Finalist)

• Bruton Goldfield, TriNet (Finalist)

Published in Northern California
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Honoring the best of the best

Jamie SimpsonFor more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who make our economy vibrant.

Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year program to recognize those with a passion for “thinking big” and to bring together visionaries and leaders to inspire each other and our communities. We have gathered here and in 25 other cities across the United States to honor all of our regional semi?nalists and welcome a new class of entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame, recognizing their resilience, ingenuity and innovation.

We applaud them for overcoming challenges, inspiring others, opening new markets and, ultimately, fueling economic growth in Michigan and Northwest Ohio. Let’s celebrate their achievements, perseverance and tireless pursuit of business excellence.

Congratulations to all our 2012 Michigan & Northwest Ohio semi?nalists.

-- Jamie Simpson, Partner/Program Director, Entrepreneur of the Year, Ernst & Young

2012 Winners, Finalists and Semifinalists

Business Services

Bradley Oleshansky, BIG Communications LLC (Winner)

Donald A. Hicks, LLamasoft (Finalist)

Frederick Minturn, MSX International (Finalist)

Richard B. Sheridan, Menlo Innovations LLC (Finalist)

Sabah Ammouri, ATM of America Inc. (Semifinalist)

Lynn Mustazza, JAWOOD Business Process Solutions LLC (Semifinalist)

Mark Symonds, Plex Systems Inc. (Semifinalist)

Consumer Products

Ryan J. Blair , ViSalus Sciences (Winner)

Pam Turkin, Just Baked (Finalist)

Michael Eckele, Eckele Health & Nutrition (Finalist)

Joseph M. McClure, McClure’s Pickles (Semifinalist)

Mark Peters , Butterball Farms Inc. (Semifinalist)


Kevin and Carole Chase , Chase Plastic Services Inc. (Winner)

John Eldred, Midwest Tap LLC (Finalist)

Jameel M. Burkett , Burkett Restaurant Equipment (Semifinalist)

Charles Elliott, Lake Court Medical Supplies Inc. (Semifinalist)

Industrial Products

Douglas J. Grimm , Grede Holdings LLC (Winner)

Tanvir Arfi, SPX Service Solutions (Finalist)

Charles G. McClure, Meritor Inc. (Semifinalist)


Christopher J. O’Connor, Humanetics Innovative Solutions (Winner)

Shiela Kaye Rossmann, Paramount Precision Products Inc. (Winner)

Noel Cuellar, Primera Plastics Inc. (Finalist)

Wilbert W. Williams, Williams-Bayer Industries (Finalist)

Jonathan Paul DeWys , DeWys Manufacturing (Semifinalist)

John Sztykiel, Spartan Motors (Semifinalist)


Manoj Bhargava, Innovation Ventures LLC and Living Essentials LLC (Winner)


Dr. David Kent, Lifestyle Lift (Winner)

Dr. Christopher Newton , Emergency Physicians Medical Group PC (Finalist)

Jeffery S. Prough , Critical Signal Technologies Inc. (Finalist)

Jane E. McNamara, GreenPath Debt Solutions (Semifinalist)

Jason Teshuba, Mango Languages (Semifinalist)

Spirit of Entrepreneurship

Nancy Schlichting, Henry Ford Health System (Winner)

Staffing & Support Services

Claudine George, ICONMA LLC (Winner)

Tel K. Ganesan, Kyyba Inc. (Finalist)

Dianne Marsh and Bill Wagner, SRT Solutions Inc. (Semifinalist)

Marie Seipenko, Preferred Solutions Inc. (Semifinalist)

Published in Detroit
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Honoring the best of the best

Congratulations to all of the nominees, finalists and winners in the 2012 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Midwest Area program. For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women who make our economy vibrant. This has never been truer than it is today. The energy and passion from these entrepreneurs is being felt in a dramatic fashion throughout the Midwest right now. It is great to see!

Ernst & Young is the world leader in advising, guiding and recognizing entrepreneurs and founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year® Program to recognize those with a passion for “thinking big” and to bring together visionaries and leaders to inspire each other and our communities. We have gathered here and in 25 other cities across the United States to honor all of our regional finalists and welcome a new class of entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame, recognizing their resilience, ingenuity and innovation.

We applaud them for overcoming challenges, inspiring others, opening new markets and, ultimately, fueling economic growth in the Midwest Area. Let’s celebrate their achievements, perseverance and tireless pursuit of business excellence.

Join us in congratulating the leaders of today — those innovators that have achieved their American dream right here in the Midwest. Ernst & Young along with our sponsors continue to be inspired by the entrepreneurial success of our nominees. The following list of stories highlight those individuals who pursued and obtained the coveted distinction of an Entrepreneur of the Year Finalist. Ernst & Young is proud to recognize and honor the accomplishments of these finalists.

Congratulations to all of the Midwest Area Finalists from Ernst & Young on your continued success.

RANDALL L. TAVIERNE is the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Midwest Area director, Midwest Area Strategic Growth Markets leader and a partner with Ernst & Young LLP. Reach him at (312) 879-3695 or or @RandallTavierne on Twitter.

2012 Honorees


Ryan Kunkel and Joe Reynolds, Red Frog


Bryan Johnson, Braintree Inc.

Elliot Weissbluth,




Jones, Accuity Inc.

John Pitzaferro, TransNational Bankcard



Mark Thierer, SXC Health Solutions


Dr. Stuart Bernsen, Chiro One

Wellness Centers

Parker Hinshaw, maxIT Healthcare



Storch, AAR Corp.

Steve Russell, Celadon Group Inc.


Rabine, The Rabine Group


John H. Weber, Remy International Inc.

Michael Werner, Gerber Plumbing



Wood, Sparton Corp.



Shekhawat, Fieldglass

Dr. Daphne Preuss, Chromatin Inc.


Maloney and Mike Evans, GrubHub Inc.

Dhiraj Rajaram, Mu



Glenn Lyon, The Finish Line Inc.


McEnery, Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurants


Schulman, Glentronics Inc.



Chalhoub, Heritage-Crystal Clean Inc.


Golden and Thaddeus Wong, @properties


Honomichl, Celergo



Small and Jack Blumenstein, Gogo LLC


Sieja, kCura Corp.


Maling and Geoff Cubitt, Roundarch Isobar

Published in Chicago
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:25

Honoring the best of the best

For more than 25 years, Ernst & Young has celebrated the entrepreneurial spirit of men and women pursuing innovation and entrepreneurial excellence in their businesses, their teams and their communities.

The hours, sweat and passion they’ve poured into their businesses and the triumphs they’ve achieved stand as a testament to the role they play as visionaries, leaders and innovators. Ernst & Young founded the Entrepreneur Of The Year Program to recognize this passion for excellence and to build an in?uential and innovative community of peers.

We have gathered here and in 25 other cities in the U.S. to welcome the men and women who are regional award recipients into our entrepreneurial Hall of Fame and to toast all of the ?nalists and their commitment to succeed. We applaud them for launching start-up companies, opening new markets and fueling job growth.

So let’s celebrate their achievements, their perseverance and their tireless pursuit of business excellence.

OSCAR SUAREZ is the Florida market leader for Ernst & Young LLP. Reach him at (305) 415-1305 or


Lifetime Achievement

William D. Morean, Timothy L. Main, Jabil (Winner)

Corporate Innovator

Jordan Zimmerman, Zimmerman Advertising (Winner)

Hannes Hunschofsky, HOERBIGER Corp. of America Inc. (Finalist)

Distribution and Manufacturing

Janna Ronert, Dr. Marc Ronert, Image Skincare (Winner)

R. Charles Murray, PPi Technologies Group (Finalist)

Amin Rahman Ramjee, BEL USA LLC, dba (Finalist)


Jorge A. Plasencia, Republica (Winner)

Bobby Harris, BlueGrace Logistics (Finalist)

Jose Prendes, (Finalist)

Financial Services

Eric R. Castro, Robert T. Castro, Albert C. Crawford, Bankers Healthcare Group Inc. (Winner)

T. John Jerger Jr., American Traditions Insurance Co. and Modern USA Insurance (Finalist)

David Miller, Michael Miller, Brightway Insurance (Finalist)

Health Care

Michael M. Early, Metropolitan Health Networks Inc. (Winner)

Richard L. Sanchez, Advantica (Finalist)

Shari Dingle Sandifer, Avant Healthcare Professionals (Finalist)

Real Estate and Construction

Charles Puccini, Bauer Foundation Corp. (Winner)

Michael I. Kaufman, Kaufman Lynn Construction (Finalist)

Craig Perry, Centerline Homes (Finalist)

Retail and Consumer Products

Rhonda Shear, Shear Enterprises LLC (Winner)

Oscar Horton, Sun State International Trucks LLC (Finalist)

Jesse Stein, (Finalist)


Harvey Massey, Massey Services Inc. (Winner)

David Clarke, BGT Partners (Finalist)

Steven A. MacDonald, myMatrixx (Finalist)


John Duffy, 3Cinteractive (Winner)

Carol Craig, Craig Technologies (Finalist)

Will Fleming, MotionPoint Corp. (Finalist)

Published in Florida

Whether your business is just getting started or just hitting its stride, finding the right office space is one of the most important decisions a CEO can make. And not just because office space is one of the biggest fixed costs for a company — or, for that matter, because the average CEO spends one third of their waking life in their workspace.

The truth is, your office is much more than just space. It can affect what talent you attract, which vendors you’ll do business with, which mentors you’ll gain access to and just how effectively you’ll transform your customers into fans.

As a young business in the midst of explosive growth, with a workforce that has more than doubled in the past two years, discussions about office space are a near-daily occurrence at Petplan. As a result, we’ve learned a few critical points to consider when choosing office space:

Location, location, location

Legendary actor and comedian Bob Hope once said, “I’ve always been in the right place and time. Of course, I steered myself there.” The location you choose for your business — whether it is your corporate headquarters, regional offices, customer care center or brick-and-mortar retail outlets — will, quite simply, impact every other aspect of your business.

If you’re getting started, your office location will impact the employees you’ll attract, the suppliers you can use and the customers you’ll win over with your competitive advantage — all of which are critical to the pace you’ll set for your business and the successes you’ll achieve.

If you’re already established and are considering a move to accommodate future growth, location becomes an even more critical part of your decision-making process. The right location is an opportunity to reinvigorate your teams, advance productivity and increase employee satisfaction. The wrong location has potential to turn a minor disruption into an HR crisis. When considering potential office space, place the most importance on its location.

Culture cultivator

A close second to location in terms of importance is culture. What kind of culture do you want to create with your organization? Do you really need individual offices? How can the space be optimized for collaboration and productivity? For Petplan, culture is king. We strive to maintain the classic “start-up culture” — an open culture in which everyone is a hands-on contributor and shares ideas and opinions. So for our office, we prefer an open floor plan that promotes interaction across all employees, including staff, managers and executives alike.

 Your office space is more than a place to work. Consider how it can solve the needs of both your business and your employees. Does the building have adequate parking? Access to ground transportation? Proximity to rail or air transport? Are there facilities, such as restaurants, shops, dry cleaners and overnight couriers on site or nearby? Is it safe? Does it allow pets (obviously, an important one for us)? Seek space that answers questions critical to the needs of your business.

One to grow on

Just as you wouldn’t seek a technology solution that merely answered today’s needs without any consideration for the future, seek space that allows you to be nimble. Is there contiguous space available? Is the landlord willing to work with you as you grow? Picture your business 24 months from now — does the space support your needs? Can the building provide additional solutions?

Make a good impression

Your office is an extension of your brand. If your office is dull and disheveled, chances are your business will follow suit. Choose a space that reflects your brand’s personality, and will allow your team to communicate that personality, and your business’ core values, to the world at large.

Natasha Ashton is the co-CEO and co-founder of Petplan pet insurance and its quarterly glossy pet health magazine, Fetch! — both headquartered in Philadelphia. Originally from the U.K., she holds an MBA from the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business. She can be reached at

Published in Philadelphia
Saturday, 30 June 2012 20:00

Honoring the best of the best

Each year in June, Ernst & Young celebrates entrepreneurial leaders across the country as part of the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards. This year marks the 26th year in which Ernst & Young has recognized those leaders.

Over the years, we’ve learned that entrepreneurial leaders are a little different from the rest of us. They can take ideas and put them into action where others cannot, and along the way, they lead others into a better future. We call this “turning vision into reality” as that is exactly what entrepreneurs do.

In recent years, we have had a slower economy and we have seen the start of a recovery. However, during challenging economic times, entrepreneurial leaders step up to the challenge, as you will see with this year’s finalists. The companies represented at this year’s Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year Gulf Coast Area Awards grew the number of people employed in excess of 30 percent and grew revenues in excess of 40 percent during the last two years combined. There can be no doubt that these entrepreneurial leaders, through their vision, will bring our country back to prosperity.

Ernst & Young has been recognizing these risk-taking visionaries for 26 years, and over that time, it has recognized more than 8,000 entrepreneurial men and women. The Entrepreneur Of The Year Award has grown to be recognized as the leading business award. While Ernst & Young is proud of this accomplishment, the credit goes to the thousands of entrepreneurial leaders who have been recognized over the years. The fact that the program has endured and grown for more than 26 years is a true testament to the entrepreneurial leaders themselves.

The program now celebrates entrepreneurial leaders in 26 U.S. regions each year. The regional award recipients then participate in the National Entrepreneur Of The Year awards in November in Palm Springs, Calif.

At that ceremony, 10 award recipients are selected and one is selected as the National

Entrepreneur Of The Year overall award recipient. The National Entrepreneur Of The Year overall award recipient will then participate in the World Entrepreneur Of The Year in Monte Carlo, along with award recipients from 50 other countries. This truly is the world’s business award.

The National Entrepreneur Of The Year Program is the culminating event for a five-day Strategic Growth Forum that had more than 1,500 participants last year. This is the only event of its kind that is focused on the CEOs of companies. The panelists and speakers are unparalleled and have included special guests such as George W. Bush, former president of the United States, and Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Air. This year will feature Frederick Smith, chairman, president and CEO of FedEx Corp., and Irene Rosenfeld, chairman and CEO of Kraft Foods. The content of the program is focused on strategic growth strategies, from initial public offerings to expansion in high-growth markets.

We are honored to present the 26th Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year Awards and to recognize the entrepreneurial leaders of the past, present and future that make this the greatest country in the world to do business. Turning vision into reality, which benefits all of us.

Todd Zuspan is a partner with Ernst & Young LLP ?and is the director of the Entrepreneur Of The Year Gulf Coast Area program.

Finalists & Award Recipient

Business Services

Joe Fowler, Stress Engineering Services Inc. (Award Recipient)

Antonio R. Grijalva, John W. Allen, G&A Partners (Finalist)

Richard Eichler, Hart Energy Publishing (Finalist)

Curtis Brown, Rimkus Consulting Group Inc. (Finalist)

Charles Schugart, U.S. Legal Support (Finalist)

Consumer Products & Services

Earl Hesterberg, Group 1 Automotive Inc. (Award Recipient)

Melvin Payne, Carriage Services Inc. (Finalist)

Donald Klein, Chesmar Homes Ltd. (Finalist)

Drake Mills, Community Trust Bank (Finalist)

Jerry Lasco, Lasco Enterprises LLC (Finalist)

Distribution & Manufacturing – Energy

Terry Looper, Texon LP (Award Recipient)

Thomas Amonett, Champion Technologies Inc. (Finalist)

Ray Rice Jr., RB Products Inc. (Finalist)

C. Jim Stewart IV, Surfire Industries USA LLC (Finalist)

Ron Farmer, US LED (Finalist)

Exploration & Production

Scott Smith, Vanguard Natural Resources (Award Recipient)

Matt McCarroll, Dynamic Offshore Resources (Finalist)

John D. Schiller Jr., Energy XXI Ltd. (Finalist)

Alan Smith, QR Energy LP (Finalist)

Health Care & Health Care Services

Richard Zuschlag, Acadian Ambulance Service (Award Recipient)

Dana Sellers, Encore Health Resources (Finalist)

TJ Farnsworth, SightLine Health LLC (Finalist)

Taseer Badar, ZT Wealth Inc./Altus Healthcare Management Services (Finalist)

Logistics & Industrial Services

June Ressler, Cenergy International Services LLC (Award Recipient)

John Magee, Crane Worldwide Logistics (Finalist)

Carolyn Doerle, Doerle Food Services LLC (Finalist)

Brian Fielkow, Jetco Delivery (Finalist)

Sandy Scott, Sprint Industrial Holdings LLC (Finalist)

Oil Field Services

Cindy Taylor, Oil States International Inc. (Award Recipient)

Darron Anderson, Express Energy Services LP (Finalist)

Chris Beckett, Pacific Drilling (Finalist)

Christopher DeClaire, Vantage Drilling Co. (Finalist)

Oil Field Technology

Richard Degner, Global Geophysical Services (Award Recipient)

Robert Stewart Sr., Lime Instruments (Finalist)

Peter Duncan, MicroSeismic Inc. (Finalist)

Allen Howard, NuTech Energy Alliance Ltd. (Finalist)

Transformational CEO

Bob Beauchamp, BMC Software Inc. (Award Recipient)


A. Jay Harrison, Mav6 LLC (Award Recipient)

James Taylor, Arun Pasrija, CHR Solutions Inc. (Finalist)

Rick Pleczko, Idera (Finalist)

Andres Reinder, PROS Holdings Inc. (Finalist)

Published in Houston
Monday, 30 April 2012 20:01

Reliable counsel

How often do CEOs need to talk to their accountants in order to effectively manage their company’s finances? Obviously, this question can’t be answered with a simple blanket statement: “X times a year for a total of Y hours should do the trick.” There are too many different types of businesses, each with different amounts of expertise and unique needs of their own.

But if you talk to even a small number experts in the accounting field, a couple of themes emerge. One is that when CEOs are contemplating unusual transactions, it’s always better to err on the side of having too much contact with their accountant than not enough. Another refrain is that any time a CEO has any doubts or unease about an upcoming transaction, it’s definitely time to call your accountant to let him or her know you have something you need to talk about.

“Typically, in a larger company, the CFO would take on that role,” says Mark Koziel, vice president of firm services and global alliances for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. “But what about the CEO who doesn’t have the C-suite and the finance function inside their organization? That’s where, in particular, we talk a lot about being the trusted business adviser for that CEO. Especially in family-owned businesses, you see this a lot. You need that financial adviser, but you may not need them full time, so you can lean on your CPA on a regular basis throughout the year.

“They should be there for part of the strategic planning sessions. If the CPA knows what’s going on throughout the year and is present for discussions about important things like expansion, employment and succession, then they can be better informed for when they do the year-end planning and consulting.”

The benefits of touching base periodically with clients throughout the year, not just at year end, is a common theme among those with experience in the accounting field.

“When you meet with clients during the year, you can go over their financial statements, among many other things,” says Sharon Cook, president of the National Society of Accountants. “You can make sure they are doing everything properly. And you can make suggestions about some of the other things they need to do, for taxes and for other financial purposes.”

Think, talk, transact

Talking to your financial team throughout the year enables your experts to make suggestions in advance of key transactions that can greatly alter the tax and financial impact of those decisions.

“When you get to year end, depending on what the CPA is doing for you — if it’s a compiled financial statement, an audited financial statement, a tax return — there are definite tax implications that could be affected,” Koziel says. “And maybe some decisions would have been made another way if the CEO had considered the tax implications of what they were about to do.”

Making assumptions on your own rather than asking professionals for guidance can lead to unpleasant surprises. Accountants come across these types of situations frequently in their daily interactions with clients.

“A situation that I find clients often have problems with is, for example, in a year in which they’re expecting a large profit, they want to be able to reduce that,” Cook says. “So one of the first things they think about buying is a car, because they think they’re going to be able to write that car off in full in the first year. Then, by the time you get the books and you’re ready to do the tax return, you have to tell them, ‘Guess what — you’re not going to be able to do that. You’re going to have some limits in terms of what you can deduct this year.’”

For many types of nonroutine transactions, getting advice beforehand from your accountant or finance team is almost always the wisest course for business executives to follow.

“Some of the types of transactions that should be discussed ahead of time would be, for instance, any type of big-dollar purchases that they’re looking at,” Koziel says. “Buying versus leasing is one that needs to be looked at carefully, such as whether you want to buy or lease a building. Another important one is business expansion: If they’re looking to buy a business or even sell their business, the whole M&A transaction and how that will take place is a very important thing to consider.

“Major investment decisions along the way could have significant impact. And succession of the business — that’s another huge issue. You should be having big-time conversations about that early on.”

Other nonroutine transactions that should be reviewed carefully ahead of time include borrowing money, major equipment purchases and like-kind exchanges.

“Before you do a like-kind exchange, you should definitely talk to your accountant to make sure it’s done properly so it won’t be disallowed somewhere down the line,” says Cook. “There are many types of like-kind exchanges. It could involve property that they own. A lot of times, especially in smaller businesses, it may involve cars or equipment that they have around, where they can exchange it and therefore not pay the tax that they would have had to pay if they had sold it directly to someone else.

“Any time a CEO wants to make a big expenditure on any kind of equipment, they need to talk to their accountant to make sure they’re getting the benefit of everything they have, especially if they want to borrow money to pay for it. Because if they want to borrow money, they’ve got to figure out, ‘What is that going to do to my bottom line? Is this something I really need to do, and is it right for me?’”

Multifaceted advice

An accountant’s value to a CEO or a client company isn’t limited to figuring out the tax effects of transactions before they’re entered into. There are many other types of general business issues for which an accountant can provide valuable advice.

“Strategic planning is a big one,” Koziel says. “One of the best services a CPA can provide to a CEO is to just get them in a room for a day and sit down and talk about the business. Do a strategic planning session. Make it formal, kind of like a board of directors meeting.

“Having frequent conversations throughout the year is useful in many ways. The beauty of the CPA environment is you gain a lot of knowledge about particular industries. Take construction, for example. Typically, the CPA has more than one construction contractor client, so they see good habits and bad habits that are out there, based on other businesses in that market. And they also can sometimes translate things to other types of businesses. Maybe it’s a customer service strategy in a certain retail business that could be replicated in, let’s say, a not-for-profit that you might have as a client.

“The ability to observe how a variety of different businesses operate and being able to assess the good habits from the bad habits and recommending the good habits to other types of businesses that are in their client base — these are valuable services that CPAs are in a position to offer.”

Another important service that accountants can provide is keeping tabs on key financial line items to watch for significant changes, then investigating those changes to determine the factors that are causing them, and, if needed, recommending ways to counteract the changes.

“If you keep in close contact with your clients, especially if they’re doing their own accounting in-house, one of the things you can do is review their gross profit percentages,” Cook says. “Are they staying consistent? Are they changing dramatically from one period to another? What’s the cause of that? And you can sit down and go over that with them and see if there’s a problem. It may be in their inventory control, if they have inventory. Or is the cost of their regular purchases going up? And if so, what do they need to do to offset that? Does that mean that they need to find a way to increase sales? Or do they need to have better controls on what’s in inventory and how it’s coming out of inventory?”

The definition of trust

One of the accountant’s main goals is to achieve trusted business adviser status with his or her clients. It’s a prestigious standing, and it must be earned over time.

“It’s about giving your clients the absolute best service you can provide,” Cook says. “To be able to review and make sure they’re handling their affairs properly, to produce good financial statements, to have the best possible relationship between the accountant and the CEO, and ultimately, to make sure that their business prospers. That’s the key. That’s what you aim for.”

Koziel concluded by telling a story — “the ultimate story of a CPA as a trusted adviser,” as he calls it.

“I was at lunch with a CPA friend of mine about a month ago, and he says to me — because he’s heard me say time and again: ‘Trusted adviser, trusted adviser’ — he says, ‘You know, I never really understood the meaning of “trusted adviser” until just this past weekend. I got a call from the wife of a client of mine. The client is a construction contractor; he owns a construction business.’

“This guy was a huge car buff and had a warehouse full of antique cars. He was in the warehouse tinkering one day, and he fell to his death off of a ladder — changing a light bulb, of all things. So he says to me, ‘I’m sitting there last weekend, and this client’s wife calls me. … A little while later, I’m in her living room. It’s the wife, the two daughters, the two son-in-laws and me.’ He says, ‘That is the trusted adviser relationship. That’s exactly what you’ve been talking about. The only one that they felt comfortable enough with — the only one they felt confident enough with as the outside consultant to the family — was me. It’s almost like I was part of the family.’

“That’s the type of relationship that you start to see in these businesses with their CPAs,” Koziel says. “And as a CEO, if you don’t have that trusted adviser relationship now — well, we’re talking about your life’s savings. Whether it’s invested all in the business or whether it’s held in other types of assets — these are your life’s savings. Who are you going to trust with those types of decisions? And you’d better have that person with you year-round, to help you make better decisions all along the way.”

HOW TO REACH: American Institute of Certified Public Accountants,; National Society of Accountants,

Published in Akron/Canton

When SugarHouse Casino opened its doors to the public in September 2010, the buzz was palpable throughout the region. Located on the Delaware River, it is Philadelphia’s first casino, and its debut came with a full royal fanfare: media headlines, applicants clamoring to apply for jobs and a leadership team assembled from a pool of experienced gaming industry experts from around the country.

At the center was Wendy Hamilton, the casino’s general manager. Like everyone else associated with SugarHouse, she basked in the glow of the casino’s debut. But she also knew the spotlight wouldn’t always be this bright.

“It was all new, novel and exciting,” says Hamilton, now in her second year running the casino. “We were all making decisions every day that were going to determine who we are and how we would do business for the rest of our lives here. It was really a high energy and exciting time for everyone. But now, it’s not so new anymore and it is not as exciting. The media isn’t as interested in everything we do. So the challenge has become about how we ensure this is still a great place to work, ensure people still enjoy coming to work every day when it isn’t so novel anymore.”

It happens to virtually any business that opens to a heaping helping of pomp and circumstance: At the outset, it’s an event. After some time passes, it becomes a job. Even if the Phillies are in first place this month, by now home games have become a matter-of-fact part of summertime life. The buzz surrounding Opening Day is a distant memory.

Replace the crack of the bat with the ringing of slot machines, and you have Hamilton’s predicament over the past year-plus.

“It is something that the leadership team here thinks about every day,” she says. “We are always looking for new ways to keep the team engaged, ways to get everybody on board with what we are doing.”

Plug yourself in

Maintaining a high level of engagement with your employees comes down to how you communicate. That is the simply stated version of the solution. What Hamilton has discovered is that you need to choose your interaction points for the best possible impact.

In an organization like SugarHouse, which employs just more than 1,000, you can build communication touch points through a variety of mediums. The tried-and-true methods include newsletters, e-mail blasts, speeches and videoconferences.

But what works best for Hamilton and her leadership team, and what she emphasizes, is relationship-building through informal interaction. Hamilton walks the casino floor, visits the employee lunchroom, chats with cashiers during a lull in business, so she can learn what they are learning. Hamilton says it is critical to develop a sense of familiarity between the casino’s executive team and the employees working the floor, because those employees talk to customers every day. They find out what customers like and don’t like about their experiences at the casino, and can help the executive team to identify issues at ground level before they become major problems.

“We are in a very consumer-oriented business, in a very high-touch industry,” Hamilton says. “For example, we do a lot of giveaways to certain customers who are worth a certain dollar level to us. They are usually invited to the casino at a specific day and time to pick up their gift. Let’s say it is a set of pots and pans, which is a gift that creates some logistical concerns. A set of pots and pans is not easily handed over to a customer and carried around the casino for the rest of their visit.

“So what might happen is an employee relays a suggestion from a customer about doing the pot and pan giveaway at the end of the visit, so they can just pull up to the valet stand, put the package in the car and drive away. On the executive level, it might make more sense to us if we give the package away at the promotions center, but the people at ground level will have a better feel for the details of the situation.”

Through their daily observations, employees can formulate common-sense suggestions that can have wide-ranging positive results over the long term. But if you don’t put in the time and effort to connect with them and develop a sense of familiarity, they won’t feel engaged, their enthusiasm for the job will wane and they won’t come to you with their ideas.

“I like knowing people’s names, knowing what part of the casino they work in, and even knowing a little bit about them personally,” Hamilton says. “If you can keep it casual and informal, it’s not a big deal to run into them somewhere and ask them to help you out with something. You can comfortably ask them about a new potential policy and how it might impact them in their area of work. It keeps the communication very quick, easy and efficient.”

You won’t be able to use every single idea that an employee brings forward. But even when you have to reject an idea, or table it for a while, you can still use that as an opportunity for connection, engagement and motivation.

“When you can’t use an idea, there ought to be a reason,” Hamilton says. “Either it is a good idea for your purposes or it isn’t. If it is a good idea, you use it. If it isn’t, you need to explain to the person why it won’t work. If it is a regulatory reason or something along that line, just tell them that. More often than not, it’s going to be a situation where you like the idea but you just can’t use it right now. It might be something you can do a couple of months from now. If that is the case, you have to tell them it is a great idea and there is a better chance of it happening in a few months. But it all comes back to how you communicate with the person in that situation.”

Though you can’t often develop the same level of familiarity with customers that you can with employees, you can take some of the same informal communication principles and apply it to how you interact with customers.

“I find that the little tidbit you get from a five-minute conversation with a customer is as valuable as the customer surveys we send out,” Hamilton says. “It’s a lot of being around the operation, being there while they are playing or while they are having dinner. You just ask them what is going good about their experience and how their experience could be better. I would say it is difficult sometimes in a business setting to really get a group of executives used to just being there and having those kinds of conversations – the type of conversations you would have around your own water cooler in the executive offices. You need to be able to talk like that to your customers and your employees because that is where you are going to get the real information.”

Build your team

If you’re going to keep your employees engaged over the long haul, your communication philosophy has to become a fundamental building block of your culture. Putting words on a piece of paper, or stating it to your work force, is only the first step, however. You need to promote your communication philosophy, and you need to have a leadership team that fully buys in to your plan and can implement your communication strategy.

At SugarHouse, Hamilton had the advantage of building her own leadership team from scratch, and doing so months before the casino opened its doors.

“We were very lucky here, because at the time we were hiring, this industry was experiencing some turbulence in other markets like Atlantic City and Las Vegas,” she says. “What it meant was, people who were some of the experts in this business, people who had been in a certain field for quite a while and might have turned us down under other circumstances, were willing to take the risk and come here. The field was kind of open to us.”

After Hamilton made the first couple of management hires, a chain reaction developed as those hires then started recruiting via their own professional connections.

“Once I had one or two people on board, those people did the same things, helping me by recruiting some of their own peers to fill out their own teams,” Hamilton says. “We also hired a number of people who applied to us cold, but it helps to have connections through somebody that you are working with, and you’re able to reach out and recruit through those connections.”

As Hamilton was recruiting to build her leadership team, and her team was recruiting to build their departmental teams, she emphasized three overarching traits that all management-level team members needed to possess.

“They needed to be smart, like any executive would, and they need to be a bit clever about solving problems,” she says. “Beyond that, they also need to be people who can interact in a social setting. If they are people who can function in their neighborhood or in their kid’s school, it’s largely the same thing. Sometimes you have to train people to have those informal conversations at work, because it’s not how they were coached previously. But anybody who is smart and fairly social can pull it off once the main idea is introduced.”

When building a team that can stimulate dialogue and engage employees, you need to consider your culture first. If you want to build a management team that can promote open communication, that concept first needs to be a part of your organization’s core values. If you can’t define your values accurately, you won’t be able to hire to fit your values.

Through her professional connections, Hamilton knew of many people in the gaming and casino industry with a high level of technical competency in their areas of specialization. But by getting to know those people over the years, she developed a sense of who would fit the culture at SugarHouse and who wouldn’t.

“I can name a couple of good finance folks, but I knew right away the one who would fit perfectly into the culture we wanted to build here,” she says. “You really have to be committed to making sure that you don’t have someone who might be very strong on the technical side but won’t add anything to the culture. But while you want everybody to identify with your culture and values, you don’t want to hire people who are all the same. So I don’t like to use the word ‘fit’ when it comes to culture. You don’t want to end up with 10 vice presidents who all have the same type of personality.”

Good team-building falls under the heading of “chemistry.” It’s a nebulous word when it comes to social interaction and what it means to have everybody working together. But somehow, the issue of chemistry must be addressed if you’re going to have a unified management team, and in turn, a unified, engaged and motivated company at large.

“At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make the call about whether a person is a good cultural fit or whether they simply bring the technical skills,” Hamilton says. “You could have the best people, but if they don’t fit with the culture and won’t get along with certain people, it weakens the team.

“You want to create a team that likes being together, a team that will look out for each other and have each other’s backs. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and if you build a team that is complementary, the job gets done, everybody plays a part and nothing falls apart because of a conflict or somebody’s weakness.”

How to reach: SugarHouse Casino, (877) 477-3715 or

The Hamilton file

Born: Philadelphia

Education: Degree in biology from Duke University; MBA in finance from St. Joseph’s University

First job: I sold saltwater taffy on the boardwalk in Ocean City, N.J. when I was 14 years old.

What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?

Don’t take it personally. Let me define that a bit. On one hand, people do their jobs well because they take it personally. However, some days you just can’t get a hit. And when things aren’t going your way, that is when you have to be careful to not lose enthusiasm. Sometimes, things are going to get tough and something is not going to go right. But especially in a leadership role, you can’t let it affect your energy and enthusiasm. You still have to project a positive attitude, because people are going to look up to you.

What is your definition of success?

Obviously, you need to be producing a quality end product. But for me personally, I want to be able to assume those things are happening. It sounds ridiculously simple, but success is when you as the leader have the people around you fulfilled and your employees are happy. You want an environment where people enjoy coming to work. That, to me, is when you can say you are successful in your role.

Published in Philadelphia

Even before he became president and CEO at Mission Hospital, Kenn McFarland knew a change was coming. Health care reform was on the doorstep and it was going to find its way inside, one way or another.

“The new health care environment was taking shape, whether you call it Obamacare or just the country responding to health care taking up so much of our gross domestic product,” McFarland says. “You might call it the riding of two horses, moving from this one horse at a gallop to this other horse that has yet to catch up.”

McFarland had been the chief financial officer at Mission Hospital for nearly 13 years prior to taking over as the interim CEO in May 2011. By November, he had made enough of an impression on the hospital’s board and trustees to receive the position on a permanent basis. With more than a decade of experience as a high-ranking hospital official, he was well qualified to take the reins and help forge the hospital’s future path.

But just because McFarland was experienced doesn’t mean the task was any easier. As part of the national health care reform plan, hospitals around the country were under pressure to transition from fixers to preventers, to medical professionals concerned not just with curing ailments but with managing the preventative medicine and lifestyle choices of their patients.

It was a drastic change in direction for a hospital staff of more than 2,400, used to operating in a specific way. Until that point, preventative medicine largely took place outside of a clinical environment, overseen by nutritionists, physical therapists and other specialists. Now, the staff at Mission Hospital would need to tear down the silos and work hand-in-hand with those specialists.

“We had to do a 180 and embrace this new business model,” McFarland says. “We have this wonderful, successful business model that we had been enjoying, but the old model celebrated a fee-for-service reimbursement. The more you did at a hospital, the more money you made. This new model will have us managing whole populations of people, keeping them healthy and out of the hospital. That is a transformational shift. It’s very taxing, you have to build a compelling argument for that platform and get people to follow that model. That would be, I’d say, one of the most challenging things that any CEO would be facing right now, especially in our health care environment.”

Develop a transition plan

In the case of Mission Hospital — and all the hospitals that comprise St. Joseph Health System — building a compelling argument for change began with locking the door and throwing away the key.

The entire health system set up a series of cascading strategy meetings, with the first meetings pulling together the CEOs from all hospitals and medical centers in the system.

“We basically locked ourselves with our board members and physician leaders, and spent a couple days together,” McFarland says. “We told ourselves, ‘OK, we know how we got here, we know how we got to be successful to this point. We know there is uncertainty in the future.’ We had guided conversations to help construct a plan in which we wouldn’t be victims of the future, but rather we would help shape the future.

“That is exactly what we did. We locked ourselves up and started crafting dimensions of performance, and from there, we started to engage everyone else and cascade it.”

The CEOs came up with three desired outcomes, intentionally throwing the ball a little too far downfield in an effort to force everyone in the organization to reach for the goals.

“The outcomes are fairly audacious. First, we want perfect care. Second, we want all of our encounters with each other, with doctors, with patients and with families, to be sacred. Third, we want all of our communities around all of our hospitals to be in the top decile in terms of their own health — their own weight management, their own dietary consumption, their own mental, physical and spiritual health.”

With the goals set, McFarland returned to Mission Hospital and began working with his leadership team to construct processes that would enable all employees to achieve the organization goals, given a willingness to work hard and stretch their capabilities.

“We built a set of enablers that would allow the work to happen,” McFarland says. “The set of enablers would allow for the fulfillment of the strategy, would show us what would be necessary to allow the strategy to work and be successful, and help us to satisfy our mission and outcomes — the things we are striving for.

“So when you think of the process, first we had to articulate those strategies, then we had to fashion those enablers that will allow those strategies to be achieved. Then thirdly, we had to show everybody how we are going to do this together, and get everybody to pull their bow strings back, aiming their arrives for those three core outcomes that we want to achieve.”

Aim your arrows

From cruising altitude, the concept seems like something everyone should agree with: Change a health care outfit from one that focuses primarily on treatment and healing to one that focuses on preventative medicine and lifestyle management, in an effort to reduce the treatment and healing that needs to occur.

But concept and practice are two different things, and to bridge the gap from the former to the latter, you need to build a compelling argument for why the change needs to happen, then package it in a way that relates to many different employees in many different disciplines, then roll it out in a manner that provides maximum coverage.

For a work force that had been highly successful under the old model, it’s not as easy as giving a speech and changing everyone’s mind.

“I had to paint a picture that showed where the new model would take us,” McFarland says. “I had to show everyone the new order of things and how it would be all about managing whole populations, whole communities and their health, and driving less emphasis on the hospital and the acute care setting. I had to show how if we want to be relevant and viable well into the future, it was necessary for us to partner with other caregivers in the community, partner with everyone from wellness and fitness centers to ambulatory care, diagnostics, recovery and rehab, outpatient rehab, inpatient rehab, long-term care facilities and the hospital setting. We had to be nimble in how we managed whole populations through the whole care process, not just the acute care side.”

Ambitious goals can help your team members draw a line from the present state of the organization to how everything will look, feel and operate once your vision is achieved. But it’s not enough to just tie your organizations future to a broad statement such as “We want to be the best in our industry.” You have to tie the organization’s future to the numbers. You have to be able to show your staff hard data that relates directly to the progress they’re making in relation to the goals you’ve set.

At Mission Hospital, McFarland held up cost per discharge as a key metric. He showed the hospital’s employees how lower the cost per discharge would have the long-term effect of helping to re-focus the hospital on preventative care.

“I communicated to our team that we are a great hospital and we make a lot of money,” McFarland says. “We are one of the top performing hospitals in the country. But we are able to do that because we operate in a very affluent area. Under this new model, where the focus is going to be on the continuum of care and population management, we are going to have to reduce our costs. We are just not going to get the reimbursement that we used to.”

With an average cost of $8,500 per discharge, McFarland set a goal of getting the hospital’s average cost per discharge down to $7,000. He and his leadership team utilized lean management practices and elements of Six Sigma to give employees a method by which to reach the goal.

“That’s huge, and we’re not going to get there simply by cutting a bunch of people,” he says. “We are going to look at our culture, we are going to look at our leadership, and if you are not on board, you are not part of the team. If you are not willing and you do not have the courage, this is not the place to be.”

Assess your staff

As part of assessing the organization’s capabilities, McFarland and his leadership team had to assess the capabilities of the staff, and as part of that, whether the skills sets of certain employees could transition into the new future of the organization, either in the employee’s current role or in another role.

“The skills that make you successful today might not be the skills that make you successful tomorrow,” McFarland says. “So there were some tough conversations in terms of who was going to be along for the ride and who would have the agility to adapt.”

McFarland knew he had to run a more efficient organization, and the people who performed functions in departments that the leadership team deemed inefficient would have to adapt to new or modified roles or, in some cases, depart the organization.

One of the most prominent cases of streamlining involved the departments who manage the hospital’s revenue cycle.

“Throughout the whole process of managing our revenue cycle — and you are talking about starting with the time of admission, patient registration, getting all of their information, discharging them, sending out a bill, collecting on that bill, writing them off and managing the whole medical record along the process — we have approximately 1,200 to 1,400 employees across our health system performing that work,” McFarland says. “Said another way, that is one in 20 employees across the system managing the revenue cycle. That’s one in 20 employees not providing bedside care and not helping the patient experience. We looked at that and asked how we could improve performance.”

With a goal of paring down the revenue cycle management to between 700 and 900 employees, McFarland and the CEOs of all St. Joseph health facilities brought their revenue cycle leadership together for a brainstorming session centered on discovering and implementing best practices. The CEOs used the improvement of the revenue cycle management as a jumping-off point for creating a system of what McFarland calls “value imperatives.” The imperatives are aimed at increasing efficiency in the organization and aligning the skill sets of employees to promote that efficiency.

“We put our revenue cycle leaders in a room for five days and said ‘If you had a blank canvas, how would you design this work?’ McFarland says. “We called that a value imperative, and set about creating a series of value imperatives. We did one around the clinical setting of our emergency rooms, how we can better take out waste, inefficiency and leverage evidence-based medicine. We also did that for how we treat stroke patients; we’re doing it for sepsis, our laboratories and our whole material management department.

“You have to take the process small pieces at a time, leverage the people who actually do the work and allow them to redesign the work, and as leaders, you have to get out of the way to ensure that they can do what is needed to affect those changes. To use the old expression about eating an elephant, you’re just trying to do it one bite at a time.”

How to reach: Mission Hospital, (949) 364-1400 or  

The McFarland file

Education: Bachelor’s degree from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; MBA from the University of California, Irvine.

History: Chief financial officer at Mission Hospital 1998-2011; interim CEO May-November 2011: Installed as CEO on a permanent basis in November 2011.

What is the best business lesson you’ve learned?

When I was a young CPA in my first career, I was pretty naïve and green. One time, one of the partners at the firm I was working for pulled me aside and told me to never be afraid to make a decision. Many people in business are afraid of making decisions and struggle to pull the trigger. It’s not that you should be afraid of being the leader with a philosophy of “ready, shoot, aim,” but that you should be the leader who is always at the ready and aiming. If you are aiming and shoot, and you miss, admit it and be direct. If it wasn’t the right decision, admit it, don’t be afraid to show vulnerability, and allow yourself to drink in the collective wisdom of the people on your team. Use that wisdom to help you move forward. That advice has helped me on a number of occasions over the course of my career.

What is your definition of success?

It is so simple to talk about cash flow and operating margins. But what I believe is if at night I can put my head on the pillow and sleep well, that particular day I showed up, listened and brought energy. I brought my compassion, vision and ethics to the table. I let my yes mean yes and my no mean no. And if I reflect on my day and find things I didn’t do as well as I would have liked, I will aim to do better tomorrow. That will make each day a learning opportunity, and will help me continue to grow and develop as a leader.

Published in Orange County