Orange County (1091)

Real men do get sick. However, their reluctance to seek medical care on a timely basis can take a toll — helping to explain the longevity gap with women outliving men by 5 to 10 years.

If men took better care of themselves, they would lengthen their life spans. Reasons for pushing aside their health needs include not being able to take time away from work duties, inertia, feeling invulnerable and out of control of the situation, or a macho stereotype that believes consulting a doctor is a sign of weakness.

What can men do to improve their health?

For answers, Smart Business turned to Brian Henry, M.D., board-certified internal medicine physician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills, and Frank Marino, M.D., family physician and medical director for the Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley.

How serious is the situation?

Research shows too many men stay away from physician visits and health screenings — activities that can spot medical concerns before they become more serious. While women traditionally have a history of doctors’ visits, know the health system and find it less threatening, men too often put their health needs on the back burner. Managers especially spend so much time taking care of their employees that they often forget to take care of themselves.

When do problems arise?

Because of stress levels associated with management — which often translates into poor eating habits, lack of exercise and not enough attention to age-related screenings — serious health problems can occur at any age. Worsening the situation are managers who will cancel appointments because they feel they can’t get away from work and are less likely to take medications as directed.

What steps should be taken?

Because tests and treatments can add years and quality to one’s life, men can no longer avoid health screenings, ignore warning signs and hide emotions. The best time to visit a doctor is when you are well. This allows physicians to assess your overall physical condition through proper tests and screenings and get a baseline to observe future health.

Why are checkups so important?

Getting the right screenings at the right time is one of the most important things a man can do for his health. Regular checkups and screenings tailored to your age, gender, personal and family history, and lifestyle can lead to early detection and quick treatment of many ‘silent’ disorders lacking obvious symptoms. These include high blood pressure, heart and vascular disease, diabetes, orthopedic (back, shoulder, hip, knee and feet) issues and cancer. When test results warn of such problems as growing cholesterol levels, precancerous polyps in the colon or increased prostate problems, it allows you and your physician to map out a plan to lower the risk of serious disease since concerns are being identified in their most treatable stages.

You can no longer dodge the doctor when faced with serious problems such as shortness of breath and chest pain. Some of the most prevalent medical conditions men face as they age can be cured or controlled if caught early. For example, diseases like diabetes partly result from an unhealthy lifestyle aggravated by stress, which can be controlled by adopting healthier habits.

What about gender-specific diseases?

While men are screened for and adopt preventive measures for diseases mainly afflicting their gender, they are also susceptible to other ailments. Nearly 2 million men 65 or older have disabling bone disease, and nearly twice that number is at risk. Older men suffering hip fractures have more than three times the risk as women of dying within a year. And, while in much smaller numbers, men may be diagnosed with breast cancer, contract bladder infections and are subject to eating disorders.

Where should I start?

Take responsibility for your health. Get regular checkups, preventive screenings, tests and immunizations determined by your physician. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat and alcohol, and eat a balanced diet to help keep a healthy weight. Include activities that raise your breathing and heart rates and strengthen your muscles. Protect yourself by wearing helmets, seatbelts and sunscreen, and wash your hands to stop the spread of germs.

Make prevention part of your business. Collaborate with hospitals and physicians by offering health programs, preventive techniques and screenings at your site or a convenient location. MemorialCare’s business outreach programs include executive physicals and onsite seminars. Our Web site ( offers free online tools, calculators, guides and referrals to physicians that can help you and your work force reach the goal of a healthier life.

If any of this advice rings true, make that appointment now. If someone you know needs to make that appointment, pass this page along to them.

Brian Henry, M.D., is a board-certified internal medicine physician at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills. Frank Marino, M.D., is a family physician and medical director for Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit

America’s hospitals face seemingly insurmountable odds. In this environment of increasing regulations, unfunded mandates, demand for services and rising costs that outpace smaller increases in reimbursement, philanthropy is becoming more and more critical.

To learn about hospital philanthropy, Smart Business spoke to Cecilia Belew, president, Saddleback Memorial Foundation in Laguna Hills and San Clemente, and Paul Stimson, director, Orange Coast Memorial Foundation in Fountain Valley.

How important is philanthropy to hospitals?

These are your community hospitals, and your philanthropy makes a difference. Even in these challenging times with less discretionary income, we are witnessing a larger number of donors committing their support to becoming engaged to ensure their communities have access to the best health care available close to home.

Philanthropic donors and organizations are vital partners in planning for and achieving success at Orange Coast Memorial and Saddleback Memorial Medical Centers. This is especially true at a time when many hospitals report an inability to access the newest technology and expand programs to meet the needs of the community. Thanks to countless philanthropic friends, our hospitals are able to add the programs, services and facilities necessary to keep pace with the latest medical advances.

How does philanthropy support hospitals?

Every gift has a story. These stories all begin with a philanthropic friend, continue through the work of our health care team and then impact the lives of our patients and our communities. Every week premature babies are saved, elderly patients comforted, illnesses diagnosed, bones mended and lives saved — thanks to the generous philanthropy of individuals, corporations and private foundations in our caring communities.

Philanthropy elevates a life of success to a life of significance. We see people making that choice every day: children raising $12 for cancer research through a lemonade stand, adults funding charitable trusts and annuities and making outright major gifts, board members providing expert leadership, hundreds of volunteers and organizations sponsoring fund-raising events — all appreciate the value of having high-quality patient care and want others to receive the same today and in the future. Our foundations have funded patient programs, education, expansion projects and medical equipment with philanthropic funds entrusted to us by our donors and grantors. In addition, many individuals choose to fund endowments that provide sustainability to critical patient programs. The gifts, grants and bequests given to our medical centers help distinguish our hospitals as among the best in the region.

At Saddleback Memorial, recent gifts funded a medical geneticist for our Breast Cancer Genetics Program and a new Women’s Wellness and Prevention Clinic. At Orange Coast Memorial, donations supported the new Hybrid Cardiovascular Interventional Suite as well as staff development and training with the Interactive Patient Simulator technology.

What is the history of philanthropy at your hospitals?

Our decades of offering compassionate, quality care are based on generosity and expertise of extraordinary people.

Saddleback Memorial began when the residents of Leisure World, envisioning a world-class hospital in South Orange County, raised $500,000; and developer Ross Cortese donated nine acres. It opened in 1974 and was the first community health facility serving the growing Saddleback Valley. Philanthropy helped build Meiklejohn Critical Care Pavilion with a gift from the late philanthropists Louise and Bill Meiklejohn, the largest in Saddleback Memorial Foundation history. A current $50 million plan further expands facility needs and technological capabilities. The gifts to Saddleback Memorial-San Clemente helped support heart programs and technology. Orange Coast Memorial Foundation supported development of the new six-story Patient Care Pavilion that provides access to some of the most respected physicians, advanced diagnostic and treatment facilities for cancer, surgery, obesity and imaging services at Orange Coast Memorial, the only not-for-profit hospital in the region.

MemorialCare Health System also does its share to help our communities. In fiscal year 2009, our medical centers provided $158 million in charity care and community benefits. We support local charities like March of Dimes, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Habitat for Humanity and the American Heart Association.

How can employers help?

Philanthropy is an effective tool for companies trying to meet consumers’ rising expectations for the role businesses should play in society, says a McKinsey survey. Employers and their work force can help ensure high-quality health care through many philanthropic channels — individual gifts, corporate grants, in-kind gifts, payroll deductions, major gifts, estate and planned gifts, endowments, tributes, corporate giving, fund-raising events, sponsorships and more. As businesses continue to be impacted by the economy, many are supplementing their charitable giving with longer-term pledges and gift commitments. No matter the size of a gift, we are deeply indebted to those who choose a life of significance through generous philanthropic commitments and trust their philanthropy to us.

Cecilia Belew is president, Saddleback Memorial Foundation at Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. Paul Stimson is director, Orange Coast Memorial Foundation at Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley. The not-for-profit MemorialCare Health System includes Long Beach Memorial Medical Center, Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, Orange Coast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Memorial Medical Center in Laguna Hills and San Clemente. For additional information on excellence in health care, please visit

Friday, 26 March 2010 20:00

Building a team

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Praful Kulkarni struggles with the same challenge many leaders do: finding the right people and aligning them under one vision.

“That’s kind of an ongoing challenge for every leader, to make sure everybody is on board,” the president and CEO says.

Since founding gkkworks, originally his MBA thesis, Kulkarni has kept to a few steps in order to surround himself with the right team and ultimately grow the company.

When it comes to hiring the right people, first you have to determine, as the leader, your strengths and weaknesses. Then determine the talent you need and reach out to those in your industry for suggestions.

If you’re looking for people to subscribe to your vision, you need to communicate it to those whom you’re interviewing and employees who maybe aren’t getting it.

The process has helped Kulkarni grow gkkworks, an architect and construction firm, to 250 employees and $81 million in revenue in fiscal 2009.

Smart Business spoke with Kulkarni about how to surround yourself with the right employees.

Understand your abilities. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses as a leader.

One could kind of take a look at whatever stage they are, or the CEO is, and see what kind of experience base they’ve built. Where they’ve had successes and where they’ve had failures — stepping aside and not getting too much bravado and emotional tie up into what you’re doing. An objective evaluation of what has worked and what has not worked will typically tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are.

When I started the company, I had a good sense of how to create successes in business development, so I needed somebody who could do great project management in the work that we do in design, planning and construction management because that was not my strong suit.

I was reasonable at it, but you want to find people who excel in that.

If accounting and finance and management is something that you need, then you need to find people with that skill set. It also depends on the complexity of the company and what are the different pieces that you’re going to need and what piece you’re going to run as the primary charge.

Find the right people. You have to figure out what your specialty business is, and then you have to look at the talent that you need.

Obviously in a successful business, you’ve got to have the business development portion, then you actually have to produce the work, and then you have to manage it in terms of the finance and accounting side. That means you need people in all of these three areas that are competent to have a successful business model.

Depending on what the leader or the entrepreneur’s strength is, you need to complement for the other pieces to have it as a total business.

Then, it’s just a matter of finding the people in your sphere of influence or in the industry so that, first of all, the people that you bring on board then need to subscribe to your vision, … (and) at the same time, they need to be competent in their area of expertise.

Our experience is if people come through other employees, through our staff and or our clients or some consultants, typically that is a better way to go because then you have familiarity, and these people tend to understand our culture and these people can indicate if it’s a good fit for our company.

Outline your vision. You obviously have to share that vision with (interviewees) and elicit responses from them.

Have discussions in terms of what their philosophies are, and you can get a sense of people whether they’re just doing a lip service or they actually have some strong convictions in terms of where the business may go.

I think it’s very important to share the vision and the culture of the company and see how these people respond. Or ask about their vision and where they see themselves, and see if there is a match.

One of the questions I like to ask is, ‘Where do you see yourself five years from now?’ It’s that old technique of getting people to really start (talking.)

I need to listen to them, [and] then they need to listen to me. If I’m going to hire that individual I need to understand where that individual is coming from.

You obviously want to hire people who have leadership qualities, and you need to figure out by asking questions about their leadership capabilities and what that DNA is of that individual.

The (leadership) qualities you typically can tell with simple questions like, ‘What did you do in college?’ or, ‘What did you do in school?’ There’s certain things that you start to find out about them that will give you clues about what their skill sets may be because that starts pretty early in your student life.

Move employees if needed. You talk to them and you figure out what their desires are to be a part of this company and work with them.

To me, open communication is absolutely the way to go. People need to know exactly where you’re coming from, and you need to be able to understand people that you’re working with and what their goals and desires are in their personal and professional lives.

See if we can find the right position for them within the company or if there is a mismatch, then they need to part with the company.

One of the common mistakes leaders make is when somebody doesn’t want to work with you or move on to another opportunity or you are not satisfied with what they’re doing, the people are terminated.

Invariably the people who are working for you that need to be reassigned or let go, you’re going to run into these people again because they’re going to be around in your industry. That means you have to have the best of relationships even after these people are gone from your company. You need to handle each one of these particular situations on its own merit so that these people are not your enemies. Otherwise, they will come back to hurt you.

How to reach: gkkworks, (949) 250-1500 or

Friday, 26 March 2010 20:00

Long-term outlook

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Loren B. Shook loves telling stories. One of his favorites is the one about Rose.

When she was transferred from a hospital to Silverado Senior Living Inc. — where Shook serves as chairman, president and CEO — 100-year-old Rose Arrington had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and pneumonia. She couldn’t walk, feed herself or speak coherent sentences. People figured she didn’t have long, so it was just a matter of making her final days comfortable.

But within six weeks at her new home, Rose wasn’t just walking, talking and feeding herself. When the residents held a competition at the park, Rose won the medal for throwing the ball the farthest.

Shook doesn’t just share the tale because it’s touching but because it encapsulates what the company he co-founded in 1996 is all about. In other words, he talks about Rose to illustrate his vision and culture.

“The storytelling culture helps keep the culture in place and keep it alive and renews it every time you tell a story,” says Shook, who gathers tales from Silverado’s 20 care communities and several other home and hospice offices across four states. “You can celebrate successes with those stories.”

Silverado’s vision is to give life to memory-impaired seniors, their families and others in the company. With a goal that big, he needs everybody to be totally committed to the vision — which means being totally committed to the culture that will help all of them achieve it.

“It starts with the vision of the company and the clarity of what that vision is [and] clearly communicating that,” Shook says.

That culture is obviously important when it results in success, like thousands of Alzheimer’s patients who regain motor skills and reduce medications. But it also benefits his 2,042 employees and the business he runs.

“You get to have the choice of making a positive difference in your co-workers’ lives as a supervisor or the employer,” says Shook, whose company has made multiple best places to work lists. “It also can be — and is — directly in alignment with making a better business for you to run and a more profitable business and a more secure one.”

Here’s how Shook sustains the culture that carried Silverado to 2009 revenue of $108.7 million and keeps improving life for thousands of patients and employees.

Articulate your culture

Potential employees who interview at Silverado will certainly hear about Rose or Edith or Floyd or any other thousands of success stories Shook shares. The test is whether that matters to them.

You want employees who naturally sync with your culture, but first you have to know what you’re looking for. In other words, be able to clearly articulate and illustrate your culture in order to bring in like minds.

It starts with explaining your purpose to ignite passion for where you’re going before you get into the details of how you’ll get there.

“One of the big [mistakes] is to not clearly communicate a compelling vision as to what the company is about,” Shook says. “You’ve got to have that foundation — what your company’s about and what you’re doing. Without that, you can’t build a culture.”

To make your vision compelling, explain not only what you do but why it matters.

“No matter what you’re doing, what you’re doing is important. Any business has a meaningful place to play or nobody would be buying it as a product or service,” Shook says. “You’re making not only just some old shoes; you’re making shoes that have the benefit of this or that. You can look at whatever you’re doing as just turning out a humdrum commodity or you can look deeper at what it is your product or service does for people — and there is meaning.”

Shook, always the storyteller, gives the example of several men laying bricks to build a church. The first one, when asked what he’s doing, says he’s just stacking this brick on top of that one. The second one says he’s creating a building and getting paid $30 an hour. The third one says he’s building a church where people will get married and find peace.

The way candidates respond to your purpose or even a question like, “Why do you want to work here?” can cue you into how broad of a vision they have for themselves, whether it’s just laying bricks or being part of something bigger.

Continue gauging their responses as you zoom into the details of the culture you rely on to achieve your purpose.

“It extends off of the vision of the company and the purpose and the reason the company exists,” he says. “Then you roll that down to the operating philosophies. … Let people know what it looks like.”

To do that, explain the principles that guide your company. For example, Silverado values the get-give philosophy, which means employees should get more out of the job than they put into it, and likewise, the company should get more from the employees than they give them. You can train them more later on how to practice those principles, but for now, just give them an outline of what to expect.

Part of your explanation is also sharing success stories — whether it’s Rose’s winning pitch, products you launched, clients you landed or sales records you broke. Show them proof that the company is actually achieving what it aspires to and that they can be part of that success.

“Let them know that the company does make a difference, the people who’ve come before them have done that,” Shook says. “So it’s not just a dream; it’s reality.”

Their responses will indicate how well they’ll fit the company.

“Going through those stories with a prospective staff member, you see: Does that matter to them? Do they care about that?” Shook says. “The right person will be blown away at what a wonderful change in Rose’s life that is, and the wrong person will say, ‘So what?’ You don’t even have to hear them; you can see in their eyes whether that’s significant.”

Whether they come out and say it or not, you can sense excitement and passion in their reaction. And, of course, you can just ask if they want to be a contributor to that result.

“It’s all about the view that the employer paints for the employees in producing that and what they feel about it,” he says.

Hold everyone accountable

Shook is quick to admit nobody — including himself — is perfect. But the responsibility of maintaining a culture means keeping yourself and others accountable to it.

“Part of building a culture that’s sustainable and works is you want to make sure that the people from the very top on down are walking their talk,” he says.

Accountability starts with clearly laying out your expectations. The key is to make it digestible by giving employees pieces they can practice anywhere.

“You boil it down into very small parts that are understandable,” Shook says. “Show them the significance of what it means for them: how it solves their real-world problems that they face every day doing whatever job it is that they do.

“You up the ante any time you can say, ‘This is a technique you can use at home to make your life bet ter.’ Extend it beyond just the workplace and provide a ‘what’s in it for me’ kind of thing.”

Of the skills that are crucial across positions and industries, perhaps the easiest place to start is communication. Explain skills that employees will need at the company, providing examples of specific situations they might encounter.

Shook offers sample customer satisfaction issues. A resident’s family members visit and get upset that their mother’s socks aren’t organized the right way. They’re not mad at you, and maybe they’re not even mad about the socks. The point is to teach employees to find out what the issue is and be conscious of their response to it.

“When somebody’s angry or accusing you of something, recognize your own place. Human nature is to protect yourself, to deny,” Shook tells them. “Do the opposite of that: Repeat back to them what you heard them say and make sure that you are hearing them clearly. If they are angry, acknowledge that they’re angry and [say,] ‘I want to know what it is you’re upset about so that I can address that.’”

Only after you’ve provided tools and expectations for upholding your culture can you monitor employees.

Shook’s observation starts with an overall look at the department or location, which includes satisfaction surveys and understanding personnel data. In culturally strong areas, staff satisfaction and retention will be high. But a lot of turnover, low survey response rates and workers’ comp injuries or other liabilities should send red flags.

To pinpoint where the problem is, start at the top.

“First, make sure that the leaders are living that culture and modeling it for their associates,” Shook says. “Because if they’re not, then it’s really difficult to expect the people below them to be doing it.”

Shook and one of his senior vice presidents hold staff meetings at each location — minus the supervisors. He asks employees for their needs and wants as well as the company’s strengths and weaknesses. Then he’ll dig into specifics about the leaders, asking for three things they do well and three things they could improve.

You raise the level of employees’ openness by not including leaders in the meeting and by assuring them you won’t disclose who said what.

While their answers will help you evaluate how leaders model the culture, it’s not all about what they say. Pay attention to how quickly they answer and which list of three comes more easily.

“When I ask about a leader where the culture’s not right, I have silence in the room,” he says. “People have a difficult time coming up with anything good. Sometimes they’ll come up with one thing but they can’t come up with three good things, so I see them struggling.”

If the leader seems to be doing everything right, then you can rely on him or her to help evaluate employees.

“You start with [asking,] ‘Are they living the culture?’” Shook says. “And then, ‘Give me examples of how they’re doing that.’”

If you get a lot of complaints around certain people from peers, superiors and customers, their reaction can say a lot. Do they place the blame on colleagues or talk openly about the issue?

Investigate why they’re out of sync with your culture. If they previously modeled it and suddenly slipped off track, maybe there’s another change in their life affecting them, like a death or divorce. Offer to adjust their schedules or set them up with a counselor.

Maybe they were never on track to begin with. Those are the employees who don’t want to fix the issue. Even if they say they do, the real answer is whether their behavior changes or not.

“My responsibility is to give them a work environment where they can succeed, give them leaders to work under where they can succeed and give them the resources needed,” Shook says. “But it’s up to them to take and use those resources and to improve. They have to be responsible to make themselves successful.”

Those who won’t don’t belong. But the process of helping willing employees improve can also help you keep yourself accountable. Each coaching moment is a chance for you to evaluate yourself on the issue so you can give them an opportunity to learn from your experience.

“I go through my own dilemmas I’ve had and the growth I’ve had as a leader throughout the years and let them know that the feelings they’re having are the same everyone else has,” says Shook, whose sharing gives employees paths to improve how they model the culture, therefore improving the company.

“What’d you learn from your failure that you’re going to do differently next time? What’s your responsibility in that failure, and how can you improve yourself?” he asks. “When failures happen, it’s not that you failed that matters; it’s what are you going to do about it that matters.”

How to reach: Silverado Senior Living, (949) 240-7200 or

Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Get out of your office

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Believe Doug Schneider when he says he knows what trust looks like.

Prior to joining Genea Energy as CEO, Schneider was in charge of an acquisition strategy at Verio Inc., which required him to integrate more than 60 companies, many of which were competitors. Besides coordinating the business and operational issues, he helped employees of rival companies form working relationships.

When dealing with constant change, as many companies are, there is one ingredient that can’t be overlooked, says Schneider. That is trust.

“Building trust is very critical,” he says. “If you do not have trust with your executive team, with the management, with the employees throughout the company, it’s very hard to manage change. It’s also hard to communicate effectively if you don’t have a foundation of trust.”

Schneider now uses that lesson while leading his 62 employees at Genea, a provider of energy consumption optimization services for commercial office building owners.

Smart Business spoke with Schneider about how to build trust among your employee base.

Reach all employees. A lot of it is just being honest and open with people. I think that’s one of the most important things. Also, it’s really about communicating. These things are interrelated.

To the extent you need to drive that open communication at the executive level, you want to drive that down throughout the ranks of your employees. You do that by going out into the field with your employees.

Say you have field employees who are out serving clients. Periodically, I like to get out in the field with them so you can get an understanding from their perspective of what’s going on. You start to build that trust with employees at different levels within the organization.

If you can, do a combination of these one-on-one interactions, smaller group interactions and even large group interactions — every quarter, we try and do an all-associate town-hall meeting.

Communication is not a one-legged stool — it’s something that takes on a lot of different contexts and processes.

Maintain clarity. You have to have a perspective as a CEO that you’re honest and open with people, and when there’s uncertainty, you try to bring clarity.

Even sometimes when you can’t bring clarity, you still tell people what you do know and what the situation is or what the issues are.

For a lot of companies, the past 12 months have been very trying times with what’s called ‘The Great Recession.’ We ourselves as a company, over 12 months ago, went through a reduction in force where we started to downsize part of the company. That starts to create uncertainty for people.

When you start to take an action like that as a company, and then it’s kind of combined with the macroeconomic environment, which itself has created a lot of uncertainty in this case, you have a lot of people saying, ‘Is my job (safe)? Am I next? What’s going on in the company? Is the company going to have further reductions?’

What we did in that case was explained to people why we did this, what the rationale is, how we kind of arrived at some of the decisions. Talked to them about the future health of the business, where things were going well in terms of sales and where things weren’t maybe going as well, and talk about milestones and metrics that we’re trying to drive to.

Sometimes the clarity means not letting rumors take on a life of their own, which means getting in front and getting comfortable talking with people about things that are creating some uncertainty. If you’re the CEO saying, ‘You know what? I understand there’s uncertainty about this.’

Hopefully, you can bring clarity and sometimes you can’t. Sometimes people just want to know that, ‘Hey, we’re working this issue through.’

Listen clearly. To be an effective communicator and start to be open, you have to listen to people first. Be authentic in how you listen to them before you maybe respond to them or disagree with them.

Part of it is building an environment where you actually encourage employees to challenge your thinking. When you do that and actually take in that new information and change decisions that have been made or go down a new path, I think that reinforces to people in the organization that you’re a company that does take feedback from employees to heart. That builds that openness and that trust.

A lot of it starts at the top. It is about how you carry yourself as an executive. I encourage my direct reports to challenge my thinking. Then, the idea is that they likely encourage the folks that report to them to challenge their thinking.

You have to practice what you preach. Go out and really seek that interaction with people in your organization. You can’t be an executive that gets comfortable sitting inside your four walls.

Gauge whether employees trust you. You start to know it when you get a sense that they are starting to challenge, in a constructive way, decisions that get made that they don’t think are the right decisions or their willingness to ask a tough question and not be worried about asking that tough question.

When you start to see two-way interaction, that is a sign that you actually are building up trust, and I also think that sometimes it’s one of those things where you just have a sense of it.

Let’s say there’s something important that the company needs to get done in a short period of time dealing with an unexpected customer issue or there’s some new sales opportunity that just came down but it’s going to require the involvement of a number of different folks from the organization.

When you start to see people rally together in almost a self-initiated team environment, I think that’s indicative that you’re building not just this trust inside the company, but that’s evolving to enthusiasm for people to really try to do what they can do for the greater good of the company.

How to reach: Genea Energy, (714) 694-0536 or

Tuesday, 23 February 2010 19:00

Recovering losses

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If your company lost profits because of another company’s actions, you may be able to recoup some, if not all, of that loss.

“Most civil lawsuits arise out of a plaintiff’s belief they have been monetarily damaged due to actions of the defendant,” says Richard Squar, Tax & Litigation Support director at Glenn M. Gelman & Associates, CPAs and Business Consultants. “If damages exist, the plaintiff’s reward is recovering money to be made whole as if the losses did not occur.”

It’s a complicated process, and both sides will have to work with a financial expert to estimate the damages.

Smart Business spoke with Squar about how the recovery process works.

When are damages due to lost profits recoverable?

There are three requirements that must be met for these damages to be recoverable:

  • The defendant is proven to be at fault.
  • It’s found that the defendant could foresee that his actions would cause damages when he was at fault.
  • Damages can be calculated with reasonable and acceptable certainty, not just through speculation.

What is the role of a financial expert in the recovery process?

First, he or she must come up with an opinion on the damages — how much should be paid if the defendant is found to be at fault. Second, he or she should be an adviser to the lawyers, judges and juries. The expert should use clear language without getting too technical.

An often-used phrase is ‘But for the fact that the damage happened, what would have happened?’ This refers to an estimate of what would have happened if the damages did not occur, less what happened, less what the plaintiff did to try to minimize those damages (mitigation).

How are monetary damages from lost profits calculated?

It doesn’t have to be an exact calculation of the damages. Estimates are OK, just as long as they aren’t speculative. ‘Speculative’ is a term that the opposing counsel will use to try to discredit the expert’s testimony. If the expert isn’t provided with enough information and tries to make a conclusion from limited data, the other side may say he or she is just speculating as to what the number would be.

The expert has to be using some kind of tested techniques and theories that are generally accepted by peers in order to withstand the scrutiny of the opposing counsel.

What methods are used?

The ‘before-and-after’ method deals with the internal data and financial trends. For example, you might look at a company’s past three years and determine an average percentage of growth that occurred. From there, use that percentage to go forward from the day the damage occurred.

If the expert determines that the past trend has been that sales were increasing by 6 percent each year, then he or she might estimate what would have happened after the date the damages occurred to be a 6 percent annual increase. That gives you your projected revenues. Then you calculate your costs associated with those revenues and that tells you what would have happened but for the fact that there were damages. You then subtract the actual sales and associated costs that occurred with the damages and that gives you your lost profits and damages.

The ‘yardstick’ method uses some kind of benchmark or standard figure. For example, the expert looks at what type of growth trends have occurred in similar businesses and looks for comparisons. If you’re a widget manufacturer, then he or she finds another company that makes something similar and finds out what that competitor’s growth has been. The expert then uses that as an estimate of growth and to come up with lost profits. Your benchmark is that other growth from similar businesses in similar situations.

How can a company ensure the financial expert has everything needed to arrive at a conclusion?

The ideal situation is when the company itself has done a summary of what it believes the damages are. It supplies any and all documentation that supports what happened compared to what would have happened. Companies can provide their budgets or any projections they’ve done or are continuing to do. They should make sure they identify for the expert exactly what revenue was lost. For example, if you have five product lines and one line that was damaged, you want to identify that one line along with bulk revenue numbers.

You want the expert to be working with the best available information within the context of the case. The expert usually doesn’t just go in and have total access to any and all information. He or she should have access to information that is produced in the strategy of the case.

Certainly, a company can still make sure the description of the company and its history is made available to the expert. You want to make sure the expert has a very good idea of who you are as a company, so that when the expert makes assumptions or does projections, he or she can do it with a greater feel for what makes sense.

Richard Squar is the Tax & Litigation Support director at Glenn M. Gelman & Associates, CPAs and Business Consultants. Reach him at (714) 667-2600 x254 or

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Preventing the exodus

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Week after uncomfortable week, Donald Trump leaned across the edge of his famous boardroom table, his hands locked together, his lips curled in a sneer, and stared some poor sucker right out the door. During eight seasons of his reality television show, “The Apprentice,” Trump has mastered the ability to pound out the two words that no employee, not even a contestant eager for fame and fortune, wants to hear.

You’re fired.

As has been the case so many times during the last couple of decades, Trump proved to be far ahead of the curve. He mastered the fine art of the fire long prior to the start of our current recession, long prior to millions of workers hearing the same words, more or less, as that unfortunate contestant on the other side of the table. But perhaps Trump — and you — will not need to utter those words as often this year as you did last year.

The national unemployment rate dropped to 10 percent in November 2009 from 10.2 percent in October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That figure, however slight, represents enough of a drop to provide some glimmer of hope to human resources and human capital experts across the nation and some hope that the start of a long recovery will soon be under way.

“This is providing an opportunity to step back, re-evaluate and reset the human capital agenda,” says Jan Rose, market business leader for human capital, Mercer LLC. “Everything is up for examination. Many of our clients are reviewing the effectiveness of all their human resources programs and assessing whether the programs are having the effect they want it to have for their investment.”

All of which means that, after a long and frustrating year filled with layoffs, wage freezes, the elimination of bonuses and perks, and the addition of more assignments for employees already under stress, the economy — and the human resources industry — might start to take a turn for the better at some point this year. Challenges do remain, of course, but there is hope.

Whenever the figures and charts tick upward, the time to move will be as soon as possible. Will you be prepared?

Focus on your top employees

The challenges throughout the last year focused on how to maintain the revenue, trim the budget and retain as many employees as possible. Almost every business of every size lost something and, more important, somebody — as evidenced by that aforementioned unemployment rate, which has increased during almost every month since April 2008.

You might still need to trim your budget, but you will also need to focus on identifying and retaining your high-performance and high-potential employees. So often, those employees might think the grass is greener on the other side of the proverbial fence. But what about when the grass is brown? What about when there is no grass? Heck, forget the grass, what about when there is no fence? They remain where they are for as long as necessary, as they are doing now because there are so few available positions in the marketplace.

Then they leave.

That is, at least, the consensus among dozens of human resources and human capital experts.

“When the economy turns around, and we all believe it will, and jobs become more available, employers will have to ask themselves what they have done to ensure that the people who are important to their success are going to stay with them, that they are engaged, that they are motivated and that they are committed to the organization,” says Thomas Grass, senior consultant, Towers Watson. “Because what they don’t want is to be in a position where they have their employees right now, but as soon as things turn around, those employees say, ‘Good, I made it through that. Now let me go and find a good job.’”

The process of retaining those high-performance and high-potential employees has already started, with your top workers likely influenced by how you handled the fallout from the shock of the recession. If you handled layoffs with dignity, communicating why decisions were made and what they meant for the future, that helped — so did any revenue investment in those top workers, from compensation and bonuses to training programs and seminars. And if you talked with those top workers and relayed to them where they fit in the vision for your business, that would have been about the best thing you could have done.

“One thing we’re beginning to understand that is really important, perhaps the most important thing, is to have employees feel connected to their sense of purpose in the organization,” says Bruce Barge, market leader and principal, Buck Consultants, LLC. “There’s more and more research showing that’s the most important motivator. Not that compensation and other more traditional motivators aren’t important, but what really matters, especially for your highest-performing employees, is that sense of purpose. They want to feel like what they do makes a difference.”

Develop and share your plan

In addition to identifying and targeting your high-performance and high-potential employees to prepare for a future of healthy economics, you should develop a plan to address possible human resources challenges and plot the path you want your business to follow during the next couple of years.

“One thing that will hinder your growth is a lack of a plan,” Grass says. “Planning is really important.”

Chief among your objectives for that plan should be the development of a balance between continued cost reduction and simultaneously positioning for growth. During the last year, many companies have aimed to manage and contain all costs related to human resources and human capital because they have been trying to do little more than survive. Survival is important, but it is also important to not damage the viability of your business in the big picture, well beyond these few years and even beyond this new decade.

Once you develop your plan, share it with your employees, especially your key employees. That advice might sound obvious, but experts say that too many business owners fail to relay information to their managers and their employees. And even in a good environment, employees who only hear about meetings behind closed doors and have no idea what is happening — and what is about to happen — will often speculate incorrectly, either causing additional stress or inadvertently spreading incorrect information. In short, you can still have those meetings behind closed doors, just be sure to share what is said on the other side of the oak.

“A lack of communication could really hinder any type of growth or improvement,” says Mistee Torres, director of human capital consulting for Southern California, TriNet Group Inc. “If people are uncertain, it can hinder your business, too.”

Communication is a key to developing a successful human resources department, either internally or by bringing in an outside firm. You want your employees aware of what is happening in your business, and you want them to be engaged.

“I want someone who knows where we’re going as an organization and who knows how they’re helping us get there,” Grass says. “That’s engagement.”

Tuesday, 26 January 2010 19:00

Protecting your property

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You don’t need to own a boat, transport goods across the ocean or be lost at sea to make good use of inland marine insurance. Do not be confused by the name of this coverage. Inland marine insurance actually protects property during transit (whether by common carrier or by company-owned vehicles), held by a bailee, stored at a temporary location, such as a trucking depot, or movable goods, such as tools or contractors’ equipment.

“The most important thing to know is once materials, supplies, equipment or products leave your premises, you need to secure the proper inland marine insurance to protect you from the perils of theft, fire and other damage while the items are in transport or storage,” says Calvin Sistrunk, a principal with GMGS Insurance Services.

Once you take goods off an insured property, those goods are generally no longer afforded protection — unless a form of inland marine insurance kicks in.

Because inland marine coverage is somewhat flexible, it can also be broadened to cover a variety of exposures and property that is not covered by traditional property insurance, Sistrunk adds. And whether or not you transport goods, you’ll want to know about this insurance, especially if you ever ship property — and that involves almost every business.

Smart Business spoke with Sistrunk about the purpose of inland marine insurance and how it can protect businesses.

Why inland marine insurance?

The origins of this insurance actually started with Lloyd’s of London, a provider of insurance dating back to the 17th century. Lloyd’s insured cargo ships, and eventually that coverage was expanded to include cargo after it had been offloaded. Today, inland marine insurance has grown to cover cargo in transit or while in storage, providing more complete coverage to policyholders. Most of the businesses that benefit from this coverage are nowhere near water and have little, if any intention of shipping goods by sea. The coverage is important for businesses in all industries to consider because it can extend a company’s protection beyond its place of business to highways, railways, or even across town. Think how often you utilize a shipping service or delivery truck, warehouse goods or hire a third-party cargo carrier to transport property. Any business that has moveable property should consider this coverage.

What misconceptions do business owners have about inland marine insurance?

First, the name is confusing and leads people to believe the insurance involves the ocean or boat transport. Also, many business owners don’t realize that their present property and general liability insurance does not protect their goods in transport. As a result, once your property leaves your fixed location, the exposure to loss is great. If a serious accident or disaster like fire or theft were to occur, it could potentially cause irreparable harm to your business. Also, business owners do not realize that inland marine insurance does more than protect goods in transport. Its many coverages represent everything from accounts receivable, contractors equipment and leased property to valuable papers, motor truck cargo, guns, jewelry, fine art, communication towers and equipment — the list goes on. To understand the full picture of inland marine insurance, a business owner really should consult with an experienced risk manager or insurance broker.

What type of businesses can benefit from this coverage?

In order to determine if a company has need for inland marine coverage, certain questions need to be answered: Do you use delivery trucks to transport goods? Do you rent equipment for construction job sites? Do you contract with third-party cargo carriers to transport goods of any kind? Does your company transport goods? Do you transfer materials or supplies in any way?

Why will businesses that do not ship or transport their own goods appreciate the coverage?

It’s important to understand what type of coverage a third-party cargo carrier has and whether it is enough to cover your goods they are transporting. Even if you ship via UPS or Federal Express, you might find that their coverage is limited if your goods are damaged or stolen during transit. You may even need to carry some of your own inland marine coverage to properly protect your assets. Discuss this with your risk manager or broker, and always ask a third-party carrier for copies of its policy.

Will a commercial automobile policy cover transit claims?

No, though some business owners assume that the goods they transport are covered because they secure commercial auto insurance. It’s not like a homeowner’s policy that will generally cover property that is stolen from an owner’s automobile. Even goods transported in a company’s vehicles are not covered under commercial auto insurance. However, inland marine insurance does extend coverage to protect those goods during transit. Remember, as soon as goods leave your premises — the second you pull out of your driveway — those goods may not be protected without proper inland marine insurance.

What steps should a business take to obtain inland marine insurance?

You need to discuss with your risk manager the various transport activities your business engages in to protect your goods in transit. Inland marine insurance is a specialty area, so be sure your broker has experience with this coverage. Finally, it’s a good idea to ask your broker to explain all areas of inland marine coverage — the exposures and coverages are vast and, as you can see, extend to areas that surprise many business owners.

Calvin Sistrunk, CIC, is a principal with Garrett/Mosier/Griffith/Sistrunk Insurance Services. Contact him at (949) 559-3373 or

Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

Penny-wise, pound-foolish

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Most companies have been faced with tough employment decisions during the past year, from staff, pay and benefit reductions to other cost-cutting measures. Before making these tough choices, you need to look at how they will impact your business, including employee morale, long-term costs and future staffing issues.

“You have to evaluate your personnel and consider whether a reduction in staff will compromise the quality of services you provide,” says Ellen Kamon, senior attorney at Theodora Oringher Miller & Richman PC. “Look at restructuring and economizing in some creative ways, instead of just downsizing. Some options include hiring or salary freezes, raising employee contributions to health care premiums, salary reductions, restrictions on company travel policies or having employees play dual roles. That way you keep people on without having to compromise staffing.”

Smart Business learned more from Kamon about how to develop legal and consistent employment practices and make sure all employees are classified properly.

What risks do you face by not evaluating employment decisions properly or not having consistent employment practices in place?

Making the wrong employment decision can have a long-lasting economic impact on your business. It will cost you more money in the long run. You will not be able to compete in the market if you terminate people who are critical to your business and cannot keep up with demands as business picks up.

You could face lawsuits, audits and labor board investigations. Wage and hour disputes can very quickly turn into class-action lawsuits. For example, a terminated employee may go to the labor board to say he or she was not paid properly and did not say anything while employed. This person was actually improperly classified. Other employees might catch wind of this and get involved, as well, which can become quite costly. You need to work quickly to resolve any job classification problems internally before you have other employees making similar claims.

How can you develop legal and consistent employment practices?

You need to develop a business plan and work with your attorney or human resources consultant to evaluate your business to resolve employment issues. Companies sometimes try to make this easier by having a financial person serve in the HR role, since it’s tied to payroll, but this can present challenges. Financial people bring a different philosophy to the job and concentrate on saving the company money. They may not systematically evaluate employee classifications and you can run into disputes, lawsuits and audits if employees are not properly classified.

Companies should perform self-audits to make sure all employees are classified properly and paid correctly. This involves going through all job classifications to make sure each employee fits the requirements. This should be done on a continual basis to make sure you’re classifying correctly.

You need to openly communicate these practices to employees and have someone available to answer any questions. All practices should be clearly printed in an employee handbook so they have a reference point.

What are the different job classifications and how can you avoid liabilities and penalties for improper classification?

The first is independent contractor versus employee. This depends on the degree of control you exert over the person. If a person is told when to come to work and what to do, he or she is an employee.

The second is exempt versus nonexempt. Someone who is nonexempt has to be paid minimum wage and overtime. An exempt employee would be an executive, administrative person or a professional, and his or her salary would be equivalent to no less than two times the state’s minimum wage for full-time employment. That person also has to be primarily engaged in duties that meet the definition of exempt work for more than half of their work time.

What must be considered to avoid California Labor Code violations when you terminate an employee?

You have to make sure the terminated employee is paid everything he or she is owed the day of termination. This includes earned but unused vacation time and wages earned. You also have to consider paid time off, which is a combination of sick and vacation time. Any paid time off that has been earned but unused should be paid at the time of termination. There are penalties for every day you do not pay somebody what you owe him or her, which can be quite expensive. You have to make sure the payment matches your policies for vacation and sick time and paid time off.

What are some employment considerations you should be aware of when the economy does start to turn around?

You will need to evaluate staffing needs and determine how you will move forward. Maybe you have to hire more people, offer other benefits or bring back benefits that were taken away during the recession. You have to constantly evaluate, because you need to be competitive once again. Keep an eye out as it starts turning around, because you don’t want competitors to take away your valuable people.

Ellen Kamon is a senior attorney with Theodora Oringher Miller & Richman PC. Reach her at or (310) 557-2009.

Saturday, 26 December 2009 19:00

No fear

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Michael Schwartz will tell you that strategic acquisitions are about people.

Sure, the deal may begin with a focus on the business itself, as it did when MetLife’s vice president of dental product management began eyeing SafeGuard Health Enterprises Inc.

MetLife was looking to couple its preferred provider organization products with SafeGuard's dental health maintenance organization ones, providing customers dual options.

But Schwartz, who became SafeGuard’s president, knew even a strategically sound acquisition would fizzle if the deal didn’t have a foundation bigger than the basics.

“It tends to start with the financial implications of the business,” says Schwartz, who maintains his roles at both companies now. “Sometimes you’ve got to think broadly about this. It’s not just the financials: It’s the people. It’s the infrastructure. It’s the process.”

“Such an important part is assessing how the organizations are going to fit together. At the end of the day, it’s people and it’s the leadership. The underlying components … are really the folks that are going to make this successful.”

Schwartz looked beyond the books of business, focusing on setting expectations, understanding the culture and using regular communications to make the integration a success.

“You try to build trust and get feedback and have people engaged and bring the cultures together,” Schwartz says. “You do an enormous amount of that up until your close, and then you do more. Think about that as an ongoing commitment to the success of a transaction.”

Through the process, SafeGuard became a successful MetLife company with 2008 revenue in excess in $200 million. Here’s how Schwartz’s focus on people smoothed the acquisition.

Establish expectations

If you want your people to be successful in a merger or any other process, you have to set clear expectations for them.

“Set the expectation of what you want, and it’s beyond just deal value,” he says. “It may be people and assets and platform and technology and customer relationships. Make sure you’re addressing that as early in your due diligence process as possible.”

You can set specific expectations, such as what you’re analyzing and what you’d like the outcome to look like.

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you shouldn’t be surprised that you don’t get there,” Schwartz says.

Once the goals are articulated, you’ll have a gauge for measuring how well employees do that. So those goals will become the metrics for judging individual performance and contribution as well as the success of the change.

“Be very clear on what’s considered meeting expectations, exceeding expectations or not meeting expectations,” he says. “It’s really important that you define what those measures are upfront before you do the transaction, because you want to be able to look back and know you were successful.”

When all the changes are swirling around you, you’ll be grateful that you took the time to set those metrics ahead of time.

“With everything moving around — when you’re doing a deal like this and you’re new to taking over an entity and you still have a lot to learn — you need a good radar screen,” Schwartz says. “That’s why, if we set clear expectations upfront of how people are going to be measured, that can tell us whether somebody is delivering on what we’re looking for them to do.”

Do your research

In any change, you have to understand the issues your people are facing.

When it comes to merging people from different cultures, you have to interact with them so you can get an idea of what you are dealing with.

“Engage folks that are going to have the most insight into that culture, because you’re going to be under a time frame for how much learning you can do before you have to move on to other things,” Schwartz says.

For him, that wasn’t just the leadership team but also the human resources managers. Not only do they interact directly with employees, but they also have the best insight into the policies and guidelines that shape the culture.

“You can learn an awful lot just looking at what the company does on a more formalized basis,” he says.

Policies around vacation time and volunteer activities, for example, can indicate how a company feels about and treats its employees. Those people policies can reveal company values, like contributing to the community or finding a work-life balance.

Through conversations with the HR director, Schwartz also learned how SafeGuard employees communicated. He found out that many product and policy ideas came from internal entrepreneurs within the company’s inclusive culture.

That finding helped shape how he communicated with employees — and predict how they might communicate back.

“Don’t lose sight on the work and effort that you need to do in due diligence to know exactly how to demonstrate your plan and be able to communicate effectively,” Schwartz says.

Of course, staying in touch with employees along the way will also help you gauge how integrated they feel. Pay attention to what people say and how they interact. From their responses, you can distinguish the followers from the stragglers.

“Some of the ways that you can see how effective you’re being in that cultural integration are: Are people actually talking? Are they asking questions?” Schwartz says. “Do people act like they’ve been told what to do or do they feel like they’re part of it? When you ask them a question, do they have an opinion?”

Communicate changes

People going through changes in an organization don’t like to be left in the dark.

From the beginning, Schwartz set the stage for open, honest communication by promising employees he’d share everything he legally, morally and ethically could. He made sure to note that his commitment would hold true even when the news wasn’t good.

“People tend to manufacture the drama if they’re not given facts,” Schwartz says. “It’s not always going to be great, but acknowledge that and take the mystery out of it. That lets people have a more fact-based understanding of what’s going to happen. It is usually better than the drama they create by not knowing.”

Throughout the acquisition, Schwartz relied on communication to smooth the way. While this is a crucial part of due diligence before the deal closes, it’s also the bridge to a seamless integration going forward.

“We worked very closely with SafeGuard’s leadership pre-close to get out in front of, listen to and talk to every single employee in that company,” Schwartz says. “It wasn’t necessarily one-on-one, but we did an extremely significant amount of interaction. You don’t just get to the close date and start doing that.”

He didn’t reach all 400 employees individually. But he dug down to engage employees at all levels in multiple ways — from typical town halls, written communication and Q&As to small focus groups and skip-level meetings, where managers interact with employees two levels down.

To reach a goal of integration, you need to communicate as a single, unified company. That means leaders from both sides should address employees together. At monthly town halls at each site, for example, Schwartz made that unity visible by presenting alongside a SafeGuard senior leader.

“People in these types of situations tend to look to the leadership at each company to decide how they feel about something,” he says. “They saw people speaking together. And that cascades down into the organization as people started being included.”

Of course, it’s not just the presentation but the message itself that matters. In any acquisition, employees will be anxious about the future. Alleviate those worries with transparency.

Even before Schwartz made final staffing decisions, he made sure to explain both employee benefit programs and severance packages to everyone. Get those “me issues” out of the way right away so people can move past worry and focus on their work.

Be very clear about your timelines for making those decisions, too. Schwartz found that employees usually imagined tighter deadlines than he set, so even if they were let go, there was some relief in how much time remained before the ball dropped.

Just as communication should come from a unified source, the message itself should be created through a joint effort. So Schwartz also gathered input from everyone possible.

You already have avenues set up if you’re using multiple methods to reach employees. All you have to do is request feedback through those avenues.

“You just have to ask,” Schwartz says. “It is amazing what people want to tell you if you just ask them their opinion and you actually care.”

Just make sure your employees understand why you’re asking. Sometimes their input will help shape the direction you take. And other times, the outcome is less flexible and the decision must come from the top — maybe it’s already made. You may have to administer certain policies or regulations, for example, such as benefit programs. If employees don’t have a say, don’t ask what they want.

“Only ask questions when you’re willing to listen,” Schwartz says. “You lose credibility if you ask people their opinion and you’re not willing to listen.”

Whether it’s a decision-in-the-making or already made, you should communicate and give people the opportunity to respond. But asking for input often comes with the expectation that it will be used, so acknowledge the difference between course-altering input and response-gauging feedback.

“There’s a difference between communicating and asking,” he says. “I want to hear everyone’s feedback, but we were very, very clear whether we were asking for feedback because we could influence a decision or we were communicating a decision and listening to their feedback.”

Not only will you tap a wealth of diverse ideas you couldn’t come up with alone, but you start to build consensus toward future decisions when you ask for input.

“What that does is it makes the message ours versus theirs,” Schwartz says. “When you engage folks that way, they feel like they’re part of something. They’re aware of the direction we’re moving in. They feel ownership of that.”

How to reach: SafeGuard Health Enterprises Inc., (949) 425-4300 or