Tag Archives: business

Women with top focus

Ten percent of Legatus’ qualifying members are women. Three of them, Tillie Hidalgo Lima, Lisa Kazor-Christovich, and Pam Veldman, talked with Legatus Magazine about their professional journeys to the top. Although they have built impressive companies, all three agree that God and family are their greatest treasures.

Lightening Life Chores – For Better Business-As-Usual

Tillie Hidalgo Lima and her husband, Dave, are members of the Cincinnati Chapter. Tillie is the CEO of Best Upon Request (bestuponrequest. com), an on-site national concierge service provider for two business realms: for employers looking to improve employee recruitment, retention and engagement; and for healthcare providers, for improving their patients’ experience. It is a unique business that helps people to feel valued – serving employees, hospital patients, and pregnant/new mothers.

For employees, the service helps lighten outside responsibilities so they can better focus at work. It includes conveniences such as mailing packages, helping find a repairman, exchanging currency, taking a car in for an oil change, and much more. Non-medical patient concierge services help with things such as shopping for groceries for the family, buying and getting prescriptions, getting help with the admission process. The maternity concierge program for pregnant and new mothers helps with things from planning a baby shower to providing information on what to pack for the hospital.

Tillie worked for 13 years as a pharmacist and manager while their three daughters, Jessi, Natalie, and Sofia were young. Dave acquired the contracts of a concierge company that started in 1989 and then created the innovative concept of an employer-paid employeebenefit concierge program. “In ’96, he asked if I knew someone who was great with people and numbers, and gave me a wink,” Tillie explained.

She laughed and told him: “Dave, you can’t afford me.” However, they did indeed join forces. “My attention to quality, management experience, and looking out for customer well-being were a perfect fit.”

By 2002, Dave wanted Tillie to take over as the CEO. In 2003, BEST had 13 employees; now there are 135 in 44 on-site offices in 11 states. BEST became “Great Place to Work”-certified this year, and is receiving media attention and many awards.

Despite such success, Tillie’s heart was never far from home. In fact, the business has been a family affair. Their daughters would come by the office after high school and help out. Today, all three work at BEST. It was her daughter, Jessi, who developed the maternity concierge program. “She was able to deliver the Maternity Concierge proposal, then deliver her third baby,” Tillie explained.

Dave has taken on a behind-the-scenes role as a Holacracy coach, business advisor, and overall support person on the home front which includes picking up grandchildren after school. “I could not do what I do without him,” she said.

The two older daughters are married with children and everyone gathers most Sundays for family dinner with one strict rule: no business talk. Tillie’s Cuban-born parents, Alberto, 84, and Matilde, 79, often join them from Tampa, FL for the holidays. They came to the U.S. from communist Cuba to escape religious persecution when Tillie was just 10 months old. “My parents had friends shot by firing squads and put in prison,” she said. “There were many miracles of faith, courage, and love. My parents are my role models.”

Tillie’s personal values, the 7F’s, are “faith, family, friends, fitness, financial strength, freedom, and fun.” “Legatus provides a framework for us to grow in our faith,” she said. “Faith should determine how we live out our calling in every environment using the gifts we’ve been blessed with.”

Strong-Women-Led Company – With God First

Lisa Kazor-Christovich and her husband Dan belong to the Washington D.C. Chapter and have a blended family of six children and one grandchild. While Lisa was pregnant with her second child Jonathan, and her daughter Rebecca, was three, Savantage Solutions (www.savantage. net) was born in September of 1999. The company is an award-winning software development organization providing consulting, integration, technology, and support services to federal agencies. It has 100 employees with annual revenues approximating $17 million.

After college, with a degree in accounting, Lisa had gone to work for one of the big 8 firms and became the CFO. She created Savantage as a shell company and then merged a stock acquisition of one company and an asset acquisition of another. Her story of success includes healing from an abusive childhood and abusive first marriage. “When Rebecca was 18 months old,” she said. “I knew I had to figure out how I was going to change my life.” But then, she became pregnant with her son. “I went to therapy and started to sort my life out,” she said.

Lisa divorced when Rebecca was 5 and Jonathan 2. “I was a workaholic; it was my outlet,” she said. Her kids were often with her late at night at work. “I had a playpen and crib in my office; they would build playhouse in the cubicles.”

Four years after the divorce, Lisa met Dan at a conference. Dan was retiring from the Coast Guard and a friend of his who worked for Lisa made the introduction. “We’ve talked every day since,” she said. They married a year later in 2007 on a beach with a Baptist minister. After some church shopping together, Dan returned to the Catholic Church and Lisa went through RCIA. Their marriage was convalidated, after annulments.

Since Dan was retired, he not only helped me out at Savantage but also took care of the home front. “It was perfect,” Lisa said. “He managed our personal life and I had an assistant that managed the business side, so it maximized my ability to attend the kids’ events physically and mentally, too.”

Lisa considers the monthly Legatus meetings “a lovely spiritual date night.” She enjoys learning more about the faith and getting to know other Catholic business leaders. The value of giving back to the Church and community aligns perfectly with Savantage ideals. The company gives between 30- and 50-percent aftertax profits to charitable causes. “Just as we want to help our customers succeed, we also want to help our communities succeed,” Lisa said.

She credits Savantage’s success to God bringing so many of his “strong women” together—the leadership is 75 percent women. They even have a prayer chain at work. The company priorities are: God, family, work, and self, in that order. “And if you tend to prioritize yourself over God, family, and work,” Lisa said, “this probably isn’t the place for you.”

Building Family, Business, Faith On Sure Footing

Pam Veldman met her husband Bernie when they were teenagers. They now have five children (the youngest is in high school) and five grandchildren under the age of four. This year marks 20 years as co-owners of Dienen, Inc., Surestep (www.surestep.net) and Transcend Orthotics and Prosthetics (transcendop.com), specializing in orthotics and prosthetics for children. Pam is vice president/COO and Bernie is the president/ CEO. They are members of the South Bend Elkhart Legatus Chapter in Indiana.

While Bernie served in the military as a U.S. Army Ranger, Pam worked as a legal secretary. After four years of service, Bernie went to work for The Tire Rack in South Bend, IN, also owned by Legates. Four years later, he was recruited by his future brother-in-law, who owned and operated an orthotics and prosthetics business. Bernie managed the fabrication lab while Pam worked from home doing transcription and caring for their three young children.

Bernie soon became a certified prosthetist orthotist, able to fit patients with corrective and supportive devices. Coincidentally, at this time, they noticed their oldest son had severe pronation which affected how he ran. Bernie developed a unique custom lower leg brace that corrected his pronation and allowed flexibility to run, jump, and play. It became known worldwide as Surestep.

Pam and Bernie were able to buy one office of their brother-in-law’s practice with the goal of serving as many children as possible while marketing the Surestep brace. “We started with just the two of us and two employees,” Pam explained. “Bernie provided patient care and traveled around the U.S. educating on the benefits of Surestep, while I ran the office and had our fourth child.”

Three years and one child later they built their current office, initially with only 25 employees. Today, they have about 130 staff members in that same office and another 100 employees at 13 Transcend locations throughout the U.S. Their Surestep products are sold to thousands of companies in the U.S. and 33 countries around the world.

“I have worn many hats over the years,” Pam said, “from managing human resources, billing, accounts receivables, customer service, trainer, coordinator, facilities design, board member, decision maker, trouble shooter, even a little IT, but my favorite hat is as mom.”

Most of their children work for the business now, while Pam and Bernie are looking forward to scaling back one day.

“Having our once-a-month [Legatus] ‘date night’ with a focus on faith rejuvenates us,” she said. “We love the opportunity to share our faith and learn more about it, and how to better incorporate our faith in our work and home life. We have gone on pilgrimage to Italy which was amazing. The other pilgrims were so wonderful; we think about them often. I benefited from going on the Women’s Enclave retreat recently with other women Legates, and the kinship and immediate connectedness was wonderful.”

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer

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15 Shared Lessons

  1. Learn from mistakes, but keep emotions out.
  2. There is value in every movement, even the backward ones.
  3. Be generous in everything—time, money, knowledge, talent, etc. Isn’t that the best way to show gratitude to God for all He has bestowed?
  4. Build trust with the say-do ratio. Be transparent, authentic, and reliable. How you do one thing is how you do everything.
  5. Delight your team members, customers, and clients by anticipating their needs.
  6. Try your best, let God do the rest. Release and receive grace by embracing God’s plan for your life.
  7. Surround yourself with thought leaders – like a board of advisors, business coach, or CEO roundtable. Borrow brilliance. Iron sharpens iron, and asking for help is a sign of strength not weakness.
  8. Be a lifelong learner.
  9. As a CEO, be the Chief Encouragement Officer. Listen to your team, as they are sensors for your organization. Make people and culture your priority; results will follow.
  10. Follow the Platinum Rule: do unto others as they would want done unto them.
  11. Start your meetings with a mission moment.
  12. As long as you stay close to God through prayer, trust your instincts, even when those around you have more experience and advise you otherwise. If it doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t.
  13. Trust God to put good people in your life and let them help you. You really don’t have to do it all alone.
  14. Look for God in the moment, not just in the rear-view mirror.
  15. If something needs attention as a team, get together and correct it. Don’t sit back and let things go undone.

Forgiveness And Faith

Legate’s friendship helped traumatized man find healing

Y.G. Nyghtstorm had experienced a difficult life: poverty, an abusive and broken home, sexual abuse, homelessness, suicide attempts, employment struggles, failed marriages, and a child’s death.

As a result, he struggled deeply with depression, anger, and lack of forgiveness for those who had wounded him.

But a chance meeting with North Georgia legate Mike Drapeau developed into a bond of friendship that led Y.G. on a path toward healing and full embrace of the Catholic Church.

And it all began with a cup of lemonade.

A TROUBLED JOURNEY

Y.G. – for Yahanseh George, but Y.G. “is easier for people to remember” – grew up in the Atlanta area as an only child of bickering parents. His father left while he was very young, only to return periodically for another violent fight. His mother grew increasingly hostile to Y.G. because he resembled his father.

In 1985, Y.G. attended a summer camp. There a counselor befriended the socially awkward 11-year-old, made sure he got involved in camp activities, and spoke with him about God and Catholicism. On the camp’s final day, he took Y.G. into a cabin and raped him, quoting Scripture as he did and telling Y.G. God would kill him if he ever told anyone.

Y.G. came away from the abuse hating himself. His relationships deteriorated. And he kept silent. Above all, he hated Christianity and especially the Catholic Church for what that “wicked man” had done to him.

At 18, Y.G.’s mother kicked him out of the house. He lived on the streets, surviving hunger, beatings, and muggings. He attempted suicide more than once. One day, a wealthy and elderly Good Samaritan stopped, took off his own argyle socks, put them on Y.G.’s bare feet, and told him: “As sure as these socks are covering your feet, young man, God will cover your life. Embrace God and go make a difference.”

That single act of kindness “ignited my soul for God,” Y.G. said. But sustaining faith was much more challenging.

Y.G. got off the streets, “got saved” in a Pentecostal church, and married a pastor’s daughter. That marriage dissolved after a few years and a couple of kids, and so did his faith. Depression made it difficult to keep a job. He married again, had more kids, and together he and his wife raised a blended family of seven children.

After his oldest stepson was killed in a workplace accident in 2008, his faith began to return. “I felt powerless and needed strength to support my family during this very difficult time,” Y.G. recalled. “My children needed their dad to be strong, and leading my family back to Christ helped us so much.”

Over the next several years, Y.G. and his wife, Toby, established a foundation in their late son’s name, opened a business, and became motivational speakers and radio co-hosts on life management, marriage, and parenting. But the issues of his past still haunted him. He knew he had to forgive those who had hurt him but could not bring himself do so.

Yet a small, still voice was speaking to him. “God was planting seeds in me about becoming Catholic,” Y.G. said. One night as he slept, he heard the voice of Christ tell him plainly: “I want you to become Catholic and help others who have been hurt in my Church.”

The experience startled him. “I jumped out of the bed drenched in sweat, and I was angry,” said Y.G. “I was livid that Christ would tell me to go to the very place that nearly destroyed me as a child. I literally cussed at God and said that he was lucky I didn’t burn down Catholic churches.”

LEMONADE DIPLOMACY

Several months later, in 2015, Y.G. was driving through a subdivision in Cumming, GA, when two little girls stepped into the street and flagged him down to sell him some lemonade.

Y.G. couldn’t resist the hard sell. He produced a quarter and drank a cup. Impressed by the girls’ entrepreneurship, he asked to meet the father who taught them such skills.

That’s when he met Mike Drapeau.

“He invited me into his home,” Y.G. recalled. “I am a large, 330-pound black man driving in a prestigious neighborhood, a little white girl beautifully smiles at me while selling me lemonade, and her dad invites me into his home while our country is still bickering over race relations. I am an open and inviting person, and it impressed me that Mike was the same way…. And he just happened to be Catholic.”

The two men talked about lemonade, work, life, and faith. At some point, Drapeau invited Y.G. to a meeting of his Regnum Christi prayer group. Y.G. graciously accepted.

Mike’s friendship “allowed me to open up to the possibility of learning more about Catholics, whom I had been hating for decades,” Y.G. said.

Y.G. returned home, prayed, and apologized to God for the bitterness he had felt. “I was still adamant about not becoming Catholic, but I agreed to be open-minded,” he said.

Within that Catholic prayer group, he found compassion, acceptance, and healing. He also began drawing closer to the Church.

“Mike and the other good men of the faith showed a lot of love to me,” he said. “Their families embraced my family while Christ was ministering to me and comforting me the entire time. I had to finally put down my ego, let go of my pain, trust God, and forgive the Church.”

Drapeau said that although the group was “a pretty stable group of guys” that had been meeting for more than 15 years, they welcomed Y.G. with open arms. “He was definitely a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Drapeau marveled at Y.G.’s progress through the group.

“Part of the methodology is to not only break open the Gospels but also to study aspects of Catholic history, spirituality, theology, and apologetics,” he explained. “So week by week he encountered that. Sometimes he listened. Sometimes he reacted. Sometimes he was stupefied. But always he came back. And, little did we know, he was systematically knocking down his prejudices and misperceptions about the Catholic Church as he interacted with us.”

RESTORATION

Ultimately, Y.G. did more than just forgive the Catholic Church: in January 2018, he was received into the faith at St. Brendan’s Church in Cumming.

“It was an amazing Mass,” recalled Drapeau, who was Y.G.’s confirmation sponsor. “The entire parish appeared to know him, and they all clapped. It was a powerful moment for those in attendance.”

Drapeau said he and Y.G. have a “close personal relationship” and have participated together in charitable endeavors, mission trips, and the National March for Life.

Y.G. said that with his Catholic friends’ encouragement, he has reached out to his mother in reconciliation. He has even forgiven the “wicked man” and what he came to represent.

“I carried around unforgiveness in my heart against the Catholic Church for over 30 years,” he said. “What started with one wicked Catholic man snatching away my self-worth and power when I was a child has transcended into a life of unimaginable power as I am loved by a group of Catholics that helped me in more ways than I can count.”

Gerald Korson is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Business heroes don’t tell us what to do – they show us

Business heroes are all around us. We recognize them in the little things they do that make a big impression. They teach, mentor, and inspire us to become better people. Their example in doing little things well makes them heroes in our lives. 

When I think of business heroes, three people come to mind: First, there’s the company president who demonstrated that individual performance “above and beyond the call of duty” doesn’t get you extra pay, just the opportunity to do it over again. Second, there’s the entrepreneur who showed me how to “turn the other cheek” when dealing with an irate customer; and third, there’s the sales manager who demonstrated how friendship in business can often overcome weaknesses in product or service. 

But my first important lesson in business ethics came from my father. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II, and applied much of that good Marine training to my development. Marines are intensely loyal. My dad demonstrated that loyalty by giving me, his first son, the first name of his commanding officer.

Dad owned a residential heating and cooling business, and I, an impressionable teenager, remember accompanying him on a service call. Dad examined the customer’s heater to determine what was wrong, then told him, “The thermocouple is shot. We’ll replace it and get your system back in order in no time.” 

The homeowner then asked how much Dad would charge for a new heating and cooling system. “But you don’t need a new one,” my dad said.

The man replied, “Well, I replace my car frequently, why shouldn’t I replace my furnace?” 

My dad explained that furnaces and air conditioners have fewer moving parts and are built to last much longer than a car. He assured him that buying a new system wouldn’t be cost effective. And he refused to give him a price.

 On the way home, I asked Dad why he wouldn’t sell the man a new system. “It’s not right to sell someone something they don’t need,” he explained. “That furnace of his will last another 15 years, and the money it would cost could be put to much better use now. He could save it for a rainy day, take his wife on vacation, or pay for his children’s education.” 

Whenever I tell this story, listeners often say that if a customer wants to buy something, that’s his or her business, not the seller’s, and that my dad was out of line in discouraging the transaction. 

But imagine if many townspeople spent their money foolishly on new furnaces every year. Buying un-needed products can impoverish consumers, and also the community in which they live.

My dad’s explanation impressed on me that a good business person should not pursue every opportunity that earns a profit, only those that make good sense for both buyer and seller. That’s the essence of “win-win.” By following this regimen, Dad earned a sterling reputation that helped him attract repeat business year after year. People knew he would give them a fair deal, and they knew he wouldn’t sell them something just so he could fatten his own wallet.

Pope Benedict XVI explored this idea in his apostolic letter, Caritas in Veritate. First, he noted that all businesses should focus on offering truly good products and services that not only help the purchaser, but improve the common good. Then he wrote, “But should profit become the exclusive goal of the enterprise, the business risks destroying true wealth and creating poverty for all concerned.” My dad was able to make this idea very memorable.

Business heroes don’t just tell us what to do. They demonstrate how to do it through witness of their lives.

BRIAN ENGELLAND is the Pryzbyla chair of business and economics in the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. His latest book is Force for Good: The Catholic Guide to Business Integrity, published by Sophia Institute Press.

Business and faith: A match made in heaven?

I recently served on A discussion panel where Catholic business leaders explored the degree of compatibility between faith and business practices, including corporate charitable giving. A distinct mix of opinions was expressed. In an era when it cannot be agreed that 2 + 2 = 4, can business people be as divided as the rest of the country? Or perceive that faith presents different dictates to different people? Is there no common denominator?

Probably not, but let’s try two ideas on for size.

My dad, a businessman and one of the most charitable people I’ve known, always spoke of “helping the least of our brethren.” Judging from our mailbox at home while growing up, it seemed that every mission around the world depended on his good will.

Try one more. “Children are a gift from God,” said Mother Teresa, whom my wife and I met many years ago while volunteering at Caligat, her “Home for the Destitute Dying” in Calcutta. She was remarkable in her approachability, energy, and good humor.

Perhaps not all readers would agree with my dad and Mother Teresa, though it’s hard to argue with the Gospels and a saint. Thus, in exploring the alignment between business and faith, it might be instructive to ask business people to assess their actions, processes, and charitable commitments through the lens of how well they are serving the least of our brethren, including children.

Looking through this lens, I would submit that in the sea of all the good things that businesses and their people do, there are two opportunities that are overlooked: improving education and addressing fatherlessness.

Improving education has many definitions. Many businesses donate books, provide reading tutors, and teach STEM classes. All good. But to me, real improvement will rely on market forces – yes, good ol’ competition – when poor kids and their parents are given the freedom to select from a menu of public, private, religious, cyber, and home educational options that fit their circumstances and preferences. But the forces of the public school monopoly are strong, vocal, and well funded. Some school choice advocates have declared this the civil rights issue of our day. But where are voices of business leaders, whose instincts I have to believe, despite divisions, lean toward free markets? I don’t hear them.

Nor do I hear business leaders weighing in on fatherlessness despite nearly 20 million kids in the U.S. living without their dads. Most are being raised by single mothers, nearly 50 percent of whom live in poverty. Too many families, the key building blocks of society, are shattered. Too many kids live desperate lives marked by loneliness, neglect, gangs, drugs, crime, pregnancy, hopelessness, failure in school, and lack of love. In the mid-1960s, the vast majority of children lived with both parents. To be sure, some were poor and faced enormous challenges.

But with two parents in their corner, they at least had the fighting chance that too many kids today lack. What happened? We could debate the causes forever. But sadly, and with tragic consequences, our culture seems to have concluded that dads are obsolete and unnecessary, to be tossed onto some 21st-century trash heap with other anachronisms. And so too many of our kids suffer without the love, hard work, protection, discipline, and guidance of their fathers – while we delude ourselves that mothers can do it all.

What can businesses do? Plenty. There are numerous agencies, non-profits, private groups, and individuals doing heroic work both to offer kids a better education and rebuild fatherhood. In supporting any of these initiatives with their drive, creativity, and intelligence, business leaders can help many of the least of our brethren while witnessing to what our faith prescribes.

BILL MCCUSKER is Founder & CEO of Fathers & Families, Inc., whose mission is improving the lives of children, mothers, and families by building awareness of the importance of fathers, and by helping fathers be better fathers. He is recently retired from the business world where he spent 36 years in executive and marketing leadership roles. www.fathersfamilies.com.

When Pro Athletes Evolve from Sports to Business

Every professional athlete knows his playing days will eventually come to an end. Most try to put that conclusion off as long as possible, but former Jacksonville Jaguars’ Pro-Bowl linebacker Paul Posluszny freely chose to retire in April of 2018. Despite the Jaguars nearly making it to the Super Bowl three months previously — they lost to the New England Patriots by four points in the AFC Championship — Posluszny knew his own playing days were over.

The 34-year-old father of two holds high standards—he has won many awards and was even named to the Pro Bowl in 2013—so he was not content with merely remaining on a roster. “After the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, I knew my career as a professional athlete was complete. I didn’t want that to be true, but my body had reached a point that I could no longer function at a level I would find acceptable to play in the NFL.”

Posluszny’s high standards, along with his longtime interest in aviation, led him to start flight training in 2013, long before his athletic career wound down. The Pittsburgh-area native knew he would have to move on from the game at some point, so started learning how to fly a plane even at the height of his personal success in football. It was at his flight training that he met the Malone family, who owns Malone Air Charter. The company, based in Jacksonville, Florida, is where Posluszny is currently being trained as an airplane mechanic.

STARTING AGAIN

“Aviation is my passion,” Posluszny said, “so I want to learn all aspects of the industry, starting with the planes themselves, and then moving into corporate management and decision-making skills.” He plans to pursue an MBA, starting in the fall of 2019, at one of three schools—the University of Michigan, the University of Florida, or Carnegie Mellon University—to add to his aviation experience and his undergraduate finance degree from Penn State University.

While Posluszny wants to make a positive impact in the aviation industry, he is not sure of the specifics once graduate school is completed. In the meantime, he is enjoying the learning process and using the same general philosophy that worked for him in football: faith in God, hard work, and servant leadership.

“Father Andy Blaszkowski, who offered Mass for the Jaguars’ players and other team personnel, would talk about servant leadership.” Posluszny said. Jesus, the greatest servant leader ever, did not come to be served, but to serve, and Posluszny recommends that contribution centered mentality in order to be successful in any endeavor.

Posluszny has found his current workplace to share the same values he heard Father Blaszkowski emphasize. “The corporate culture of the Malone family is deeply rooted in the principles of servant leadership, humility, and integrity. They are a truly outstanding family, and the Christian principles of hard work, honesty, and helping others is prevalent throughout the organization.” 

TENDING A NEW FIELD

Former professional baseball player Bobby Keppel has also been able to carry his Catholic faith and sports industry experience into a new field of work. What most players would consider a heartbreaking setback, Keppel took as a simple transition out of baseball and into landscaping. The ground work for his ability to peacefully accept the unforeseen event was laid many years previously, as he had been taught to put family before personal ambition.

In the year 2000 as a senior at De Smet Jesuit High School in St. Louis, Missouri, Keppel was selected by the New York Mets in the first round of the MLB draft. He worked his way through the minor leagues and made his MLB debut with the Kansas City Royals in 2006. He then played for the Colorado Rockies and Minnesota Twins before lending his skills to a Japanese team for four years. By the spring of 2014, he was more than ready to become a starting pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds.

Then the unexpected happened.

Bobby’s father, Curt, who was battling cancer, called and asked his son if he could come back to St. Louis to help run the family’s landscaping business, Mid-America Lawn Maintenance. Because the company’s contracts are year-to-year and most of its workers are seasonal, selling the business as a whole was not an option. The only other option was dismantling the business and selling off its equipment.

 RETURNING TO HELP DAD

Most players would have found it extremely difficult to choose between living their Major League dream and coming home to help the family business. However, Keppel was sure what he wanted to do. “I knew that family comes first, even before big career advancement that had taken years to secure. I wouldn’t have been in the position I was in for 2014 spring training had it not been for my father. He helped me out in countless ways through the years, so when he needed my help, I was happy to give it,” Keppel explained.

The right ordering of human interaction, or subsidiarity, is a big theme for Keppel, one that he recently addressed at a men’s conference at St. Joseph Church in Cottleville, Missouri. The father of seven emphasized to the men present that there is a distinct hierarchy that should determine who receives the most attention from them. He explained: “Of course, God is most deserving of our attention, but after Him, a man’s wife should be his first priority, followed by his children, other family members, neighbors, fellow parishioners, and then business associates.”

RUN BUSINESS BY PUTTING IT LAST 

Keppel does not think this order is detrimental to running a business well. On the contrary, he believes it is the proper philosophy for productivity and happiness. “These days you sometimes hear people say their jobs do not ‘fulfill’ them. I think they have it backward. We shouldn’t look to our jobs for obtaining happiness; we should bring the happiness we have found in the Church into our jobs. It’s a mindset of contribution rather than extraction.”

 Continuing on the theme of putting value into the work, Keppel uses baseball analogies with his father in the landscaping business. The elder Keppel is seen as the general manager of the team who makes the big decisions about contracts and personnel, while the younger Keppel is the manager who makes day-to-day decisions about which “players to put in the lineup on the field.” 

Although Bobby Keppel studied business at the University of Notre Dame during three off-seasons early in his playing career, he has not used much of what he learned. “Maybe if I were in another business, the schooling would come in handy, but in landscaping, it’s a matter of common sense. You treat others as you would want to be treated, charge a reasonable price for the work, pay a reasonable wage to the workers, and so forth. No advanced training is needed; you just need to have the resolve to do the job well.”

 KEEPING THE LORD’S DAY

Some of the basic values Keppel has found to be essential for doing the job well are showing up for work on time and giving one’s best effort every day—except Sunday. Keppel keeps the traditional understanding of the Sabbath as a time of rest.

There have been Sundays on which the company has been open because of weather-induced maintenance backups, but it is nearly always a time of rest from work and reverence toward God. “God makes the Commandments of relating to Him and others,” Keppel said, also noting that “There will always be challenges to deal with, but If we follow God’s commands, things go more smoothly at home and at work.”

TRENT BEATTIE is a Legatus magazine contributing write

For better or worse –in business and marriage

“Married couples who work together to build and maintain a business assume broad responsibilities,” said Melissa Bean, now a vice chairman for JP Morgan Chase, from the floor of Congress during her years as a U.S. representative from Illinois. “Not only is their work important to our local and national economies, but their success is central to the well-being of their families.”

Husbands and wives who manage businesses together while raising their families can experience special challenges as well as joys. A few entrepreneurial Legate couples recently shared a bit about what that’s like and how their Catholic faith helps them succeed at work and at home.

Keeping work and marriage ever well

Dr. Chris Zubiate was in the behavioral health field when he met his future wife, Leah, who then worked in private equity. She became involved in behavior health through a volunteer opportunity and had her “eyes opened to a new world I had never been exposed to or really thought about,” Leah recalled.

Now married with two young children, the San Francisco Legates operate Ever Well Health Systems, a network of residential treatment facilities for adults with serious mental and emotional problems. Chris is Ever Well’s president and CEO, while Leah serves as an administrator with broad oversight of the flagship facility.

In the early years, Chris and Leah commuted two hours to their first facility – sometimes separately, sometimes together. “Initially, we weren’t covering our bills, and the time away from the family filled us with doubts,” Leah remembered. “Now, looking back, our commitment to the work was never more tested.”

On the days they commuted together “our commitment to each other was strengthened,” she added. “It allowed us to be together as a couple and reflect on our purpose and our faith.”

Work-life balance remains difficult, but having two little ones keeps the home life in the forefront. “Having the flexibility to start our work days at different times, the ability to work from home, or being able to alternate ‘late days’ is incredible at this stage and a real gift,” said Leah.

The company is open 24/7, she explained, so “it’s easy to become engulfed. We have to set boundaries with ourselves to not always be talking about work. Or for me, to not get so emotionally invested.”

Competition and compromise

Drs. Frank and Cheryl Mueller met as undergrads in the pre-med program at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, Texas. “I was attracted to Cheryl not only because she was pretty and smart, but also because she came from a Catholic family with strong work ethics and strong family ties,” Frank recalled. They were married shortly before entering medical school.

Cheryl planned to go into pediatrics, but Frank convinced her to join him in family medicine. Sharing a practice, he reasoned, would facilitate coordinating parental responsibilities.

“We have been practicing family medicine together in the same office for over 30 years,” said Cheryl. “We each have our own patients, but we cover for one another and are business partners as well as life partners.”

The San Antonio Legates’ three sons are grown now, but the Muellers remember the challenges during those child-raising years. Cheryl said she and Frank agreed that at least one of them should attend every important event in their kids’ lives.

“Even though our jobs required being ‘on call’ and responsive to our patients 24/7, we sincerely tried to be the best and most involved parents we possibly could be,” she recalled. “We both are so grateful to God and our families for providing the ability to accomplish this goal.”

Frank noted Cheryl and he have a “natural competitiveness” as to who brings in more patients or income, or who makes final decisions on managing staff or redecorating offices. “However, armed with Christian ethics and compromise, the problems get solved, and our relationship stays intact,” he said.

Passions and priorities

“For me, the challenge of being in business together is having to intuitively navigate two great passions of my life,” said Charlie Domen, president and CEO of DisplayMax Inc., a retail merchandising firm he founded in southeastern Michigan around 1993 with his wife, Susan, who is vice president. The Ann Arbor Legates admit “it is only through the foundation of faith that we are able to balance the peaks and valleys of managing business and family life.”

Charlie worked in sales and Susan was in office administration in the early 1990s when they each took side jobs merchandising products in grocery stores. That experience and their respective skill sets inspired them to start their own company offering services including inventory resets, retail fixtures, and store remodels

“Faith and our family are absolutely our priority,” Susan agreed. “However, as entrepreneurs, our business is certainly our passion. We are always open to looking at ways to improve our organization, to better serve our clients, improve processes and communication, and looking at better ways to integrate systems and software.”

Ensuring that their drive for entrepreneurial success doesn’t compromise family needs – the Domens have three daughters, ages 11 to 18 — is a key concern in addition to simply weathering the ups and downs of business.

Susan recalled a lean December when cash was tight and credit was thin. After a long-awaited receivables check finally arrived on Christmas Eve, jubilation turned to desperation when the bank placed a five-day hold on the funds. A generous bank manager came to the rescue and waived the hold. “That was our Christmas miracle,” remembered Susan. “We went out, got our tree and a few presents, and had one of our best Christmases ever!”

Faith as a guide

These couples have in common a strong faith that permeates their lives both at work and at home.

“Our Catholic faith doesn’t only inform and impact our business, it forms and impacts our hearts, our families, our schools, parishes, and workplaces,” said Charlie Domen.

“One of the more practical and basic ways our faith has impacted our business is it allows us to see each person for who they are, the way Jesus sees them, not as a human resource, but as a human person,” he explained. That translates into generous wages and benefits for employees, prayer before meals, sponsorship of charitable events, and a culture that promotes trust and teamwork.

At Ever Well, Chris and Leah Zubiate echo that perspective.

“Our Catholic faith helps us steward our employees and resources to affirm the dignity of the vulnerable people we serve,” Leah said. “A lot of what guides us is opening ourselves to the Holy Spirit and following God’s will. We try to be open with our employees, residents, and customers about the strength of our Catholic faith and frequently make connections between what we do for work and our personal mission to serve the mentally ill.”

That principle is reflected in the company tagline: “Everything. For everlasting change.”

The Muellers rely on faith to guide their marriage as well as their medical practice.

“Our faith has always been extremely important to both of us,” said Cheryl Mueller. “It is important to be compassionate and understanding to patients who may be discouraged or irritable because of serious health problems. Both of us feel that spirituality is an important part of healing, and we try to include this in the way that we minister to our patients and our employees.”

Frank told of how Mass, prayer, the sacraments, and even Legatus gatherings help them decompress and “enjoy life again as a married couple.”

The Muellers will celebrate 40 years together in 2019, “and God-willing, we will work together another 10 years or so before retiring,” said Frank. “It has, in all aspects, really become a family practice.”

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Occupational hazards – persevering with grace

Married couples know it takes “work” to make a marriage thrive.

Some spouses work not just on nurturing their relationship, but on maintaining their business.

Two Legatus couples who own and operate companies shared their experiences and lessons learned from working together in business.

Mike and Judy Thompson, members of Legatus’ Rockford, Illinois Chapter, are co-owners of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a leading global ultrasonic cleaning equipment company.

Andrew and Eva Berney, members of Legatus’ Phoenix, Arizona Chapter, for 18 years have together been running Titan Power Inc., a privately held for-profit specialty contracting business that employs 19 people.

Both couples navigated early difficulties to build businesses now thriving in competitive marketplaces. The Thompsons and Berneys also lead their respective companies with unapologetic Catholic worldviews. Both couples credit God for sustaining them in difficult times, and with blessing their businesses.

Mike and Judy Thompson – Rebuilding neglected family business

Any visitor walking through the corporate headquarters of Ultrasonic Power Corporation in northwestern Illinois will see numerous crucifixes at various entryways, and may spot Mike and Judy Thompson praying together before a meeting.

“It’s about witnessing and evangelizing. We don’t park our Catholic faith at the door. It’s a part of us and our business,” said Mike, 61, who along with Judy, his wife of 38 years and business partner, are co-CEOs of Ultrasonic Power Corporation, a company they bought from Judy’s father in November 2011.

Mike and Judy were living in Houston, Texas, when they decided to purchase the company from Judy’s ailing, elderly dad. As a young married couple in the 1980s, they had previously worked for the company until Mike took a job in the oil and gas industry.

When they returned to Illinois, they found a struggling business that suffered from a lack of top-level leadership.

“Whenever the primary owner becomes ill, no matter where you are, a company might run on momentum for a time, but ownership discussions and strategic decisions about the future get delayed,” Mike said.

For more than two years, Mike and Judy worked long hours at the office to stabilize the company’s financial footing and reposition it for growth.

“In the beginning, there was a lot of taking work home,” Judy said. “There were long days trying to understand the ins and outs of the business. Eventually, we made the rule that the work stayed at work and we separated that. Because otherwise, it would be all-consuming.”

Under Mike and Judy’s leadership, Ultrasonic Power Corporation has grown its bottom line and doubled its workforce from 15 to 30 employees. The Thompsons said they strive to establish a work culture that understands that family comes first.

“We’re not resting on our laurels,” Mike said. “We know we’re blessed, but we also know we’ve been put through trials. Had it not been for our faith in God, or even our association with other like-minded CEOS through the Legatus organization, I think we would have been less happy and given in somewhat to despair.” “This was definitely a learning experience for the both of us,” Judy said. “But I can’t imagine doing this with anybody else. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without him.”

Mike compared growing a business “in phases” to developing a marriage over many years.

“We’ve gone through a lot of those learning curves, the ups and downs, the frustrations, the feelings of despair and thinking, ‘Why the heck did we do this?’” said Mike, adding that he and Judy feel the responsibility for the well-being of their employees.

“I think Jesus was the first and greatest servantleader,” Mike said. “If we’re not serving our people and helping them to get their jobs done, tearing down any barriers and encouraging them, then we really are not going to be a successful business.”

Judy said she and Mike have also learned to complement each other for a job well done. They have grown in their faith, gotten more involved in their parish, and last year both went on a pilgrimage to Rome.

“Even on the most difficult of days,” Judy said, “We remind ourselves it is our job to get each other to heaven.”

Andrew and Eva Berney – Recognizing skill sets, faith priorities

Like any successful management team, Andrew and Eva Berney have an organizational chart.

“One of the things we discovered when we started working together as husband and wife was that there was a tendency to not know which areas you should step your foot in or not,” said Eva, who is the vice president and director of finance and administration for Titan Power, Inc.

“One of the things we did early on that helped was we created an organizational chart so that we would really be aware of what his responsibilities were and what my responsibilities were, and communicating that to the rest of our team,” Eva said.

Andrew worked at Titan Power, Inc., for seven years before he purchased the company in 1997. Eva, who had a background in property management, joined the business shortly after she and Andrew married in 2000.

“I brought a different set of skills than Andy had,” Eva said. “He’s more on the technical side of the business and I’m more of the management, HR, and accounting side.” The organizational chart helped Andy and Eva, as well as their employees, to better understand their roles in the company.

“It really helped us respect each other, and it also helped communicate to the employees who was responsible for what,” Eva said.

There were some early financial difficulties. Andy and Eva often worried about making payroll.

“We dealt with it together,” Eva said. “Both of us realized how important it was to seek counsel, so we sought counsel from professionals such as CPAs, attorneys, and people we knew who were already in business. We both realized that we don’t know everything.”

Both also relied on their Catholic faith to establish an ethical business culture. They pray everyday before work and tithe ten percent of their business earnings and personal income. They say that God has rewarded their faith with amazing growth in the company.

“We’ve seen that the more we give, the bigger the company gets,” Andrew said. “We see God working in that. And as we grow, our charitable donations grow too. He has blessed us in that area.”

“We’re very aware of how our faith and the decisions we make affect our employees,” Eva added. “We really feel that God has put them with us and we’re supposed to take care of them. We do that through our prayers and making good decisions for the company so they can have a stable environment and go home at the end of the day and be with their families.”

Andrew and Eva are already thinking about their lives after Titan Power. They recently brought their son, Stephen, aboard, and he has already shown good business instincts. Andy and Eva joke that he is their retirement plan.

“Our goal is when we retire to do more ministry work,” Eva said. “We don’t envision ourselves retiring and sitting around. We know the rewards that come from doing God’s work that He is calling us to do.”

BRIAN FRAGA is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Business meets faith – and they get along well

“Don’t let the collar fool you,” our executive director (and Legatus member) Janet Morana tells the new employees of Priests for Life, as she speaks about my role as national director.

She helps our staff – which consists of approximately 50 people in various branch offices — to avoid a common misconception people have about the connection between their work and their faith.

The misconception is that somehow, conducting business in the context of faith means being less business-like, or exempting oneself or one’s company from the very best practices and highest standards of the profession with which one is associated.

Faith does not justify being less qualified, less disciplined, less professional, less precise, or less determined to succeed. If anything, conducting business as believers means we are more compelled to strive for excellence.

Why? Because we know that our work not only means earthly progress but heavenly progress, and by our professional excellence we seek to give God the glory, as His sons and daughters.

Indeed, the Church teaches that the good we bring into the world by our professional work endures into the world to come! (see Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, n. 36-39).

Janet tells our Priests for Life employees, therefore, that the priest who is also their employer is going to be no less demanding than any other employer.

Let’s take a practical example that often arises: the need for good planning. As people of faith, we believe in the Holy Spirit and rely on his inspirations. But it would be silly, and indeed contrary to faith, to think that this stance of faith exempts us from board meetings, rigorous business plans, training sessions, and accountability to deadlines.

On the contrary, the intelligence we exercise in strategic planning, the wisdom to consult our own experience and that of others, and the discipline to set and keep deadlines, are in themselves gifts of that same Holy Spirit. Planning should never be divorced from prayer, but neither should prayer replace planning.

Another aspect of the relationship between faith and the business environment is that one’s place of business should be a place where the religious freedom of the employees and the employer can live nicely together.

A Christian business is not a religious community; the employees can be of different faith backgrounds. And Christian employers want their employees – whatever their faith may be – to feel free to express and practice it.

And the same goes for the employer. His or her practice of the faith is not at all an imposition of religion on the employees. This was made clear in the whole battle over the Obama HHS Mandate, which sought to force employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in the health insurance offered to their employees. Priests for Life, as well as Legatus and many others, challenged this mandate in court. We ultimately prevailed.

But one of the arguments the other side made – and a common misconception – was that we were forcing our employees to adopt our religious beliefs and practices. Not at all. Rather, the legal argument was that the government could not force us to violate our faith as we conduct our business.

My friend Joe Brinck told me long ago that on his business stationery he had the motto, “We Defend Life from Fertilization to Natural Death” – a simple, powerful example of being God’s witness in the workplace.

The Christian faith is based on the Incarnation. God really does get mixed in with human flesh and blood, relationships, families, businesses and nations. We can, indeed, each be a faithful believer and a top-notch professional.

FRANK PAVONE is national director for Priests for Life – the largest ministry in the Catholic Church focused exclusively on ending abortion. Learn more at www.ProLifeCentral.com

Live your Catholic faith confidently in business

“Dividing the demands of one’s faith from one’s work in business is a fundamental error which contributes to much of the damage done by businesses in our world today.” So said the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in its Vocation of the Business Leader. This sentiment will come as no surprise to Legates, who have committed themselves to learn, live, and spread the Catholic Faith. But living one’s faith in the business world raises two fundamental questions: What does our faith say about how we practice business? And how can we protect our businesses when we make the decision to live our faith in the workplace?

The answer to the first question flows from the Church’s teachings that all human life is sacred, and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral version for society. We are called to treat our employees, coworkers, customers, and even competitors as brothers and sisters in Christ, because that is what they are. As a Catholic business owner or executive, you will never look into someone’s eyes without seeing someone whom God loved into being

That sounds like a great principle. But the implementation can be difficult. Is there a specific level of benefits that we’re called to offer employees? Should an employee’s immoral conduct outside of work affect his or her hiring? Are there moral obligations that run with our advertising? How about with the quality of the goods and services we offer?

Fortunately — and surprisingly for some — the Church addresses these and many other practical business questions in Papal Encyclicals (e.g., Rerum Novarum), writings of pontifical councils, papal addresses, and other materials. An excellent compendium of these resources is A Catechism for Business, edited by Andrew Abela and Joseph Capizzi. The source materials may not tell you what is a “just wage” for a software engineer at a high-tech company in 2019. But they will provide the Catholic Church’s teachings for thinking about and making such a determination.

The trickier question is how to protect your business from attack when using faith to run your business. Following Christ’s law in the public square is increasingly dangerous in a culture seeking to stamp out religious exercise. Just ask Hobby Lobby, Masterpiece Cakeshop, and many other businesses that have been forced to defend their religious practices in court, sometimes all the way to the Supreme Court.

Here, too, there is guidance in An Employers Guide to Faith in the Workplace, published by Alliance Defending Freedom. (A free copy is available at ADFlegal.org/campaigns/faithin-the-workplace, with an updated version coming in early 2019.) The Guide provides advice regarding the sharing of religious information and literature in the workplace, characteristics that may be considered when making hiring and promotion decisions, and how to support marriage and family in your business without violating federal law.

Helpfully, the more religiously you run your business, the greater your legal protection. For example, in Hobby Lobby’s litigation involving the ACA’s contraceptives mandate, the Supreme Court cited Hobby Lobby’s owners’ written statements of religious faith and purpose in ruling in the company’s favor. Such a statement not only expresses a business owner’s core religious beliefs, it serves as clear evidence of those beliefs should an employee or customer ever question them in a lawsuit.

JOHN BURSCH owns Bursch Law PLLC and serves as vice president of appellate advocacy at Alliance Defending Freedom. He has argued 11 cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and frequently represents companies and business owners exercising their religious faith in the public square. He is a past president of the Grand Rapids Chapter.

Confusing ownership with stewardship

The concept of a steward is a sensibility badly needed in today’s business world. For several years, business news has been rife with reports of men (yes, they have all been males) who were charged with looking after the welfare of public corporations but who behaved like robber barons, brutalizing millions of stakeholders by raiding and robbing the assets of the very corporations they were entrusted to protect and grow.

What is the problem? At the obvious level, it involves greed. These men’s lives are models of insatiable appetites gone wild. At another level, these crimes are rooted in pride, for as some of the culprits have admitted, accumulating personal riches and indulging themselves in unspeakable extravagance was how they kept score in the game of success – which they mistook for the purpose of life.

But at a deeper level, their wanton criminal self- indulgence seems to be the natural expression of a flawed understanding of reality. They handled the assets with which they were entrusted as if the assets were their own. That is, after all, the prevailing metaphor we use to describe the very top officer in a public corporation. The company is his. He has the power to make its final decisions. We regard him – and he comes to regard himself – as the sole owner of the corporation.

If that were really the case, CEOs would wallow in self-indulgence until either their assets or their hearts gave out. But because this is not the case, many end up having to hide their skewed view of reality by cooking the books or otherwise lying to investors and other stakeholders. Eventually, reality bites: they have to forfeit their power, fortunes, reputations, and in some instances, even their freedom.

The reality is that the power the top official has in a corporation has been given to him by its rightful owners, who hold the company’s stock. They are free to take away the power they have given him if they decide it is in their best interests to do so. With that in mind, perhaps we will find a newfound emphasis in business schools on the notions of steward and stewardship at all levels of the corporate ladder.

Excerpt by Owen Phelps, Ph.D., from Chapter 9, “Called to be a Steward,” of his book The Catholic Vision for Leading Like Jesus (Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, 2009), pp. 107-08 – “Guys Gone Wild! Confusing Ownership with Stewardship.”

OWEN PHELPS, PH.D., a writer, college professor, master catechist, and trainer, is director of the Yeshua Catholic International Leadership Institute (Durand, IL). Likewise, he is author of three other books: The Believer’s Edge, The Secret of Wealth, and A Steward’s Journey: The Early Years.