Tag Archives: work

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.

Executive women don’t ‘lean in’ by sidelining family

The pew research center reported in 2018 that despite the overall ‘baby bust’ in U.S. fertility, the education gap in childbearing has been closing rapidly, with the most dramatic changes among women with Ph.D.s and professional degrees. In 1994, only 65 percent of such women aged 40-44 had given birth to a child, compared with 76 percent of women with bachelor’s degrees and 88 percent of women with high school degrees or less. But by 2014, that percentage had reached 80 percent for the most educated group of women, representing a 15-point increase in two decades, and a rate nearly identical with the 82 percent for women with bachelor’s degrees.

These univariate point estimates don’t tell the whole story of fertility among well educated women here, but they hint at important facts often glossed over in the contemporary narrative about women and childbearing. The first is this: education and fertility don’t have to move in opposite directions. If vastly more professional women are having children today compared with20 years ago, then education alone is not responsible for declining U.S. fertility rates. The second is that patterns of fertility in the modern economy are by no means settled. The tired idea that executive-level women will ‘lean in’ to careers by setting aside traditional aspirations for family life simply fails to get it right. We still have a lot to learn about why women choose to have the families they have, and what these choices mean to them.

It seems to me that Catholic women have a tremendous opportunity to bring a certain amount of richness and human interest to the contemporary narrative about women, work, and family. In the first place, we believe that the fundamental vocation of woman in nature and grace is to be a wife and a mother, whether lived out through family life, or a spiritual vocation. This means a woman never ‘sets aside’ her natural gift for nurturing others when she develops her talents and takes on a professional role. In other words, if she is called to a professional vocation – which many women are – it isn’t a question of balancing work and motherhood. Rather, with God’s grace and in prudence, it’s a matter of living her motherly role and her professional work each as fully as possible, while keeping her priorities in right order: God, family, work. When work is necessary for the well-being of her family, it is not a distant third but a very close third.

But another way Catholic women can enrich the conversation is this: since we believe in the eternal destiny of the soul and the infinite value of every child, we are more likely to bear witness to life through having bigger families. It’s not a stereotype for nothing. Going back as far as data exists, U.S. Catholic women have had about one more child per family than others. What this means, I think, is we can give witness to the fact that children are worth choosing for their own sake – we don’t need special reasons or perfect circumstances.

I think many people intuit this but strong cultural norms in our increasingly secular country prevail against it. A friend of mine (with a master’s degree in statistics) recently told me about an African immigrant who visited her home as part of a construction crew. When he met her larger-than-average family he exclaimed: “This is the first time I’ve seen something in this country that I want!” We can relate to this sentiment, but we can also provide its source and foundation: our entire faith is predicated on the blessing and beauty of human life. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jer 1:5), and “Whoever welcomes a child in my name welcomes me” (Mt 18:5, Mk 9:37, and Lk 9:48). L

CATHERINE RUTH PAKALUK, PHD is an assistant professor of social research and economic thought at the Tim and Steph Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America. She is the author of the #postcardsforMacron viral hashtag. Pakaluk lives in Maryland with her husband Michael and eight children.

When a leader has soul

We work with varying types of leaders – in business, parishes, neighborhoods, schools, and professional groups. Some succeed, some slide.

Christine Valentine-Owsik

Like a strong business plan, a good leader’s strategy assures attainment of his objectives. It doesn’t mean he seeks to dominate the team, or steal credit for their ideas, or run his ship like a tyrant. He hits the home run when he effectively inspires the group — they want him to succeed, and he mentors them — and his team puts forth whatever it takes. Surprisingly, they’re not envious of his money, stuff, or stature. They love him, and find joy in working with him.

In almost four decades of professional work, I’ve come across very few leaders I’d categorize like that. But one stands out.

In the ad agency business, almost anything goes. They’ve been known to employ ‘creative moral constructs’, shortcuts, deceptions, idea-lifting, and employ any vice to get clients and make big money. Fresh out of college at my first big agency job in the early 80s, I excitedly wrapped an ad-strategy book I’d give at our lunchtime pollyanna at a swank hotel Christmas party that day. They’d have a live big-band, I’d wear my new velvet dress, get up early and fancy my hair and makeup, and catch an earlier morning train into Philadelphia. After ogling over endless tables of ice sculptures, cocktails flowing from multiple bars, disco lighting effects, and designer hors d’oeuvres, it was finally time for the blind gift-exchange. As each staffer’s name was called, he or she was presented a name-labeled gift from a large grab-box holding them all.

I couldn’t make sense of it. A number of senior staffers were unwrapping little bags of what looked like sugar or flour. Did they bake after-hours? Huh?

My supervisor, a middle-aged, very orthodox Jewish man, signaled me over to the lobby door.

“Listen, I know you don’t know what you’re seeing here…but they give ‘substances’ as gifts.” Then he said, “You need to move on from this place. I hate to lose you on the team, but will give you a glowing reference. Just don’t waste your time here anymore.” And he helped me get my next position as a legal writer and researcher.

What I remember most about him was, he put in a full day (almost no one else did), and he won many awards for his terrific work, but the agency wouldn’t promote him. He’d always say just the right – but wrong – thing. He’d blurt out the truth about duplicitous co-workers, crooked clients, invoice- and timesheet gouging, hushed office affairs, ‘situations’ that everyone else accepted.

But he told the truth. And he wore his integrity and faith on his sleeve. He prayed before eating lunch at his desk, and took Jewish holidays off to go to synagogue. He was a gentleman and a devoted dad and husband. He coached me in writing tactics, on making winning business pitches, and approaching media executives.

Much of what I learned about my craft – and owning my integrity – I learned from him. We keep in touch to this day.

CHRISTINE VALENTINE-OWSIK  is Legatus magazine’s Editor.

Virtuous leadership is key to energizing workforce

According to Gallup’s World Poll, many people hate their job and especially their boss. Only 15 percent of employees worldwide are enthusiastically engaged in their work – the rest would rather be doing something else. If we could successfully engage the remaining 85 percent, imagine how much more effective businesses would be.

Brian Engelland

Here’s the problem. Bosses often treat employees as a cog in the wheel of production rather than as unique human beings created in the image of God. Bosses mistakenly look past the individual person and instead look at the job he or she is performing rather than the incredible potential that the employee can offer. Employees respond to this myopic view by giving minimal physical effort while parking their minds and hearts elsewhere.

But people, not equipment, are the lifeblood of any business. Some time ago, my company invested in an expensive state-of-the-art production line. We treated that equipment with great care, established shop rules and procedures for its protection, and doubled our maintenance efforts to keep it operating in pristine condition. That machinery was accorded better treatment than any employee! But in just three years, it was obsolete, and sold for scrap at the junkyard.

As Saint John Paul II taught, the worker is significantly more important than capital, and human labor is not merely one factor in production. The great untapped source of economic growth is not physical capital, but human capital leveraged by the creativity and dedication that workers can bring to work each day. Unlike capital equipment, employees can adapt to changing conditions and, through training, be continually refreshed. People really do count.

So, how can we reflect that difference in our businesses? Virtuous leadership has the ability to bring out the greatness in others. The secret to obtaining the faithful collaboration of employees is for the boss to exemplify the two most important leadership virtues, magnanimity and humility. Magnanimity is the realization that individual talents are a gift from God and are only valuable when they are used to help others become better at what they do. Humility is the conviction that everyone is important and Christ is present in the least of us.

Virtuous leadership creates enthusiastic followers. The teachings of Pope Paul VI explain why. When employees perceive that the boss is offering the opportunity to help them perfect their own individual capacities, to engage in work that is both useful and profitable, and to contribute according to their abilities to the service of the company, they respond favorably. Employees feel compelled to adopt some of the boss’s same energizing spirit.

A restaurant run by my “bring out employee greatness” friend doesn’t open on Sundays. Why? He explains that his restaurant concept requires a high degree of personal service, and that means hiring and retaining good employees. But none of his really good employees want to work on Sundays – they’d rather spend quality time at home with their families. By implementing his “closed-on-Sunday” policy, he helps bring out the greatness in his staff. His employees are happier, his service quality is higher, and his training and retention costs are lower than his 7-day-per week competition.

A boss who exemplifies magnanimity and humility can help employees understand that work is an essential expression of our human nature as created in the image and likeness of God. Be that virtuous boss! Understand the potential of each employee, and help each one reach their potential. Help them learn new skills, gain insights, make friends, enhance self-esteem, and become more than they were before the work began. Employees who experience this type of boss will engage, and become the outstanding workforce we all desire.

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