November 20, 2017
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One-Stop Shop

Fifth-generation business still going strong after nearly a century
Tom and John Mathias are driving Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. into its fifth generation.

 A rare fifth-generation business owner, Evansville Electrical and Mechanical Services Company, Inc. (EEMSCO) vice president Tom Mathias is proud to carry on a longtime family tradition. Since taking leadership from his father John Mathias in June 2015, Tom focuses on demands new technology will bring while maintaining signature services on which the company was built nearly a century ago.

As a one-stop industrial maintenance shop, EEMSCO rewinds and repairs AC/DC electric motors, pumps, and gearboxes, and also performs millwright and machine shop services for businesses within a 150-mile radius, which includes Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and Western Kentucky. Its services benefit a wide range of industries, including plastics, aluminum, steel, automotive, pulp and paper, power plants, refineries and pipelines, aggregate and mining, utilities and municipalities, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food processing, and colleges and universities.

“Businesses count on us to keep them running,” says Tom, an Evansville native who earned his bachelor’s degree in business management from Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, and master’s degree from Belmont University, Nashville, Tennessee. “If their industry is succeeding, then we’re succeeding.”

Tom attributes the company’s nearly century-long success to its adaptation to the region’s new and diverse industries, continuity in management, and longtime employee tenure, as well as constant dedication to its customers.

“We want to continue to grow and find ways to improve so we are always able to meet all of our customers’ needs,” says Tom. “I talk to the guys on the floor and ask about certain processes and ways to improve. We don’t want to say we can only handle a portion of your repairs — we want to fix it all. We want to listen and ask questions and always be looking for ways to do things better. If we do that, we will never stop growing.”

Founded by Tom’s great-great-grandfather John Poling and great-grandfather Gil Poling, the business moved into its current facility at 600 W. Eichel Ave. in 1920 and was incorporated in 1921 to serve the booming coal mining industry. John relocated to Evansville from the Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania area upon realizing coal had become the leading source of heat and power for transportation, fueling locomotives, paddlewheel boats, and in turn, the companies of the Industrial Revolution.

Back then, EEMSCO manufactured parts for railroads and railroad cars serving the coal mines. In addition to the growing coal mining industry, the Polings also saw the rise of electricity as a common power source, leading it to begin rewinding and repairing some of the earliest industrial-sized DC electric motors in the infancy of the electric age.

As the region’s coal industry gradually diminished, other industries rose and filled the gap left by fewer mining jobs.

“This area has always had a great industrial base — even in the transition from mining to other heavy industries, such as plastics,” says Tom.

EEMSCO remains at the same location where it has been standing for almost 100 years — on Eichel Avenue, just west of Garvin Park. Today, the 45,000-square-foot facility consists of three areas: a storage warehouse, built in the late 1800s; a machine shop, constructed in the early 1940s; and an electric shop, including management offices, added in the 1980s.

The company has specialties across four divisions: electrical services, mechanical services, field services, and new motors and warranty services. In the electric shop, services include AC motor rewinding and repair — up to 3,000 horsepower — and DC armature winding and repair — up to 2,000 horsepower.

“We can fix just about anything,” says Tom. “And if we can’t fix it, we have the resources to find you a new one for a great price.”

The facility’s major capabilities include a 30-ton crane capacity for lifting motors during repairs, and a 4,160-volt test panel for assessing how motors are functioning. EEMSCO also provides field services, such as predictive and preventative maintenance, and can send teams out for any on-site repair needs.

“Machinery breakdowns can be much more costly than routine maintenance,” says Tom’s father John.

EEMSCO helps companies maintain, repair, or replace critical motors to keep daily operations running, says Tom. With in-shop repair available from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. and offsite after-hours repairs, EEMSCO offers its services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“If you have a critical motor down, your operations grind to a halt, your production line stops, and you can’t do anything,” says Tom. “You call us — even in the middle of the night — and we will be there and get you back up and running. Our quality and our turnaround time are why people come to us and stay with us.”

Because EEMSCO works with specific industries and their highly technical and specialized equipment, customers also rely on the longtime staff’s experience and guidance.

“We have the technical knowledge to advise the customer on the right product,” says Tom. “Our knowledge is a great asset for our customers.”

That knowledge has been passed down from generation to generation.

“There isn’t a school for what we do,” says John. “Employees receive on-the-job training.”

Through the years, continuity in management was maintained by keeping the business in the family and consulting past owners. Workforce continuity also helps the company be successful. From motor technicians, winders, field-service specialists, machinists and bookkeepers to inside and outside sales representatives, average tenure is more than a decade — and eight of the 25 employees have been with the company for more than 20 years.

“Our longest-tenured employee, Flavian Elpers, retired this past spring with 53 years of service under his belt,” says Tom. “We have very little turnover. We really are a tight-knit family.”

As the company continues to grow, so do Tom’s 1- and 3-year-old sons — the sixth generation that could potentially take the company into its next century.
“I would love for them to continue the family tradition,” says Tom. 

For more information about EEMSCO, call 812-426-2224 or visit eemsco.com.

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Bull Market

Ben S. Bernanke shares experiences as chairman of Federal Reserve with USI students
Dr. Ben S. Bernanke answers questions from moderator Dr. Karen H. Bonnell, University of Southern Indiana professor.

Tucker Publishing Group collaborated with Dr. Marie Bussing, assistant professor of economics at the University of Southern Indiana College of Business, to give 35 students in her Economics 361 Money and Banking course, an upper level class of juniors and seniors, an opportunity to be published in Evansville Business. Students were asked to write about Ben Bernanke, who presented “A Conversation with Ben Bernanke” during the Romain College of Business Innovative Speaker Series on March 23 at USI. Dillon Davenport, who recently graduated from USI, was selected for his piece.

Walking to the podium with a white shirt, grey suit, and a striped tie, he looked as normal as someone would in the audience. The man, Time Magazine’s 2009 person of the year, is referred to as the person who saved the U.S. economy, and has imposed some of the most innovative strategies the Federal Reserve System has ever seen. His name is Dr. Ben S. Bernanke.

Bernanke was born in Augusta, Georgia, and later raised in Dillon, South Carolina, a small rural town. “Dillon makes Evansville seem like New York City,” he jokes. Bernanke shared stories about his wife and how she has kept him grounded by asking him to take out the trash every week and clean the dishes after every meal.

He spoke intelligently, as someone might expect from a Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology alumnus, but not arrogantly. He is considered one of the most powerful people in the world, and that story began on a Fall weekend in 2008, known as “Lehman Weekend.”

Lehman Brothers, a massive investment bank in New York, was failing. Bernanke says the widespread consensus among economists, politicians, and the media was that it was time to let the company fail. Bernanke, who was serving as chairman on the Federal Reserve, thought differently. They knew if Lehman Brothers failed, it would magnify the crisis and make it worse. Bernanke explains the Federal Reserve brought Lehman, potential buyers of Lehman, and 12 CEOs of top Wall Street investment firms to the New York Federal Reserve to find a solution for this company that was on the brink of collapse.

Unfortunately, the potential buyers dropped out and Lehman Brothers had no collateral for the Federal Reserve to lend the firm cash. Then, the event Bernanke and the Federal Reserve feared would happen did. Lehman Brothers failed, beginning what became known as the recent Great Recession.

After sharing his experiences on 2008, Bernanke took a seat and answered questions from moderator Dr. Karen H. Bonnell, USI professor of communications. One of the questions was: “Do you believe or even acknowledge the existence of a student loan bubble?”

Bernanke’s answer particularly applied to current college students and students wanting to continue their education.

Bernanke says he didn’t believe there was a bubble or that student loans affected the financial sector but did give advice to students seeking financial aid in the form of loans. Bernanke says when students are taking out a loan, they should first develop a sense of whether or not the program they are attending is right for them and whether the program will lead to a job. He also says students should enroll in a program that will lead to a job and will ultimately enable repayment of their student loans.

“It is extremely tough to get out of student loans, not even through bankruptcy,” says Bernanke.

Bernanke testified before the U.S. Congress that his son is on track to leave medical school with $400,000 in student loans.

As former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Bernanke was asked about his most important contribution to the system. He credited the success as a team effort. Bernanke was an academic and needed diverse opinions, solutions, and ideas to solve the unusual and unprecedented problems he faced at the Federal Reserve. He described his leadership approach as collegial, not authoritative. He wanted to involve everyone at the Federal Reserve because of their diverse backgrounds in education and experiences.

When asked about innovative practices he implemented as chairman, Bernanke talked about transparency. He wanted the Federal Reserve’s actions to be open to the public and reach a broad market. Bernanke implemented an explicit 2 percent inflation target, held press conferences, appeared on “60 Minutes,” and spoke to universities about what was occurring at the Federal Reserve. He noted that transparency was in part a failure. In 2009, the Federal Reserve was the most unpopular government agency, even lower than the Internal Revenue Service.

Bernanke served as the chairman of the Federal Reserve for eight years and worked in several additional roles. Currently, Bernanke is finishing a book about his tenure at the Federal Reserve. He also is a member of a think tank at the Brookings Institution. Bernanke will be remembered as one of the most influential people in U.S. history.

For more information about the Innovative Speaker Series at the University of Southern Indiana, call the Romain College of Business at 812-464-1718 or
visit usi.edu/business/speaker-series.

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Family First

Kevin Schwartz came home to help form Myriad CPA Group
Kevin Schwartz helped form the Myriad CPA Group in 2011.

Kevin Schwartz still has the first dollar he ever made.

Tucked in an old yet rather ornate gold frame against a simple piece of cardboard, it sits atop his desk to serve as a reminder that every task, no matter how big or small, is worth the effort.“I was probably 5 or 6 years old,” Schwartz recalls. “I went to play with a friend, and he and his dad were picking up twigs. I helped for about 30 minutes. He paid me a dollar, and I was so excited to take it home and show my dad.

“He put in that old frame, and I have kept it ever since,” he says. “He told me that if I saved it, I’d always have it to spend. At the time I didn’t realize he was talking about more than just that dollar.”

A love of family and a commitment to hard work has been a running theme throughout Schwartz’s life. Every decision has come back to staying true to those two values — values that led him down the path to being a successful CPA and, now, a partner with Myriad CPA Group, one of the Tri-State’s largest accounting firms.

“When I talk to people wanting to start their own business, I can draw from a lot of experience now,” says Schwartz. “I’ve been through that psychological, emotional process of making those tough decisions. And they are tough.

“When I first started my own firm, I started it from scratch, with experience and knowledge but limited resources. But it was all worth it.

Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Schwartz graduated from Apollo High School in 1992. A track and cross country stand out, his image now adorns its Athletic Hall of Fame.

He went on to the University of Kentucky in Lexington where graduated with a degree in finance in 1996, but it wasn’t until he attended his brother’s graduation from Parris Island, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in South Carolina, that he finally felt called to a specific purpose.

“I had no military interest at all,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t even come from a military family. But it was my senior year. I was 21 and going to be graduating in a few months. I was trying to figure out what kind of professional job I wanted to take. That’s when I watched my younger brother graduate from Parris Island (Marine Corps Recruit Depot). I decided, then and there, on the drive back, that I wanted to join the military and serve my country, too.”

He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri, a small base whose overall purpose is to provide support to the B-2 Stealth Bomber. In civilian’s terms, he acted as a liaison between those who needed to spend money to support the B-2 Stealth Bomber and the lengthy federal guidelines to which they had to adhere.

He spent his nights working on a graduate degree from Central Missouri State University, now the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, Missouri, says Schwartz, and volunteering to help troops with their tax returns.

But after four years in the military, opportunity came knocking, and Schwartz was offered a position with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the country’s Big Four accounting firms.

“It was my dream job,” he says matter-of-factly. “I mean, the training you receive at a Big Four accounting firm, the people you meet, the projects you get to work on, it was a really awesome experience. My goal was to stay there and try to make partner. I was in St. Louis. I was relatively close to home, but then everything changed.”

Schwartz’s grandfather died in 2002, and the then 28-year-old began questioning the goals he had set for himself. Family suddenly became more important, he said, than continuing to climb the Big Four corporate ladder.

“It was really the first time I’d thought about life and how important family is,” Schwartz said. “I just felt like I needed to be closer to home.”

So after a year of soul searching, Schwartz quit his Big Four job and moved home to Owensboro. He started his own accounting firm, Schwartz CPA Group, and a year later met his wife, Rebecca, also a CPA.

He focused his energies on growing his small business, picking up clients and even took on businesses from as far away as Northern Indiana. He was elected president of the Kentucky Society of CPAs and was named the Owensboro Chamber of Commerce’s director and entrepreneur of the year.

He also got involved in the Owensboro community, serving as a Chamber board member, on the board of trustees to Brescia University, treasurer to the Owensboro Rotary Club, and he sits on the executive board to Junior Achievement of West Kentucky. He was on the Downtown Development Committee and is treasurer to the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden.

Then in 2011, Schwartz was at a training seminar when he met a group of four other like-minded CPAs from the Tri-State area, each with a love of community but each also with their own special brand of expertise in the field.

Their friendship grew and flourished, and later that year, the men joined to form Myriad CPA Group, a company with a broad tax and accounting-based service with offices in Owensboro, Evansville, and Henderson.

“Everything has gone so well,” Schwartz says of the partnership. “The accounting industry, public accounting, is very fast-paced, and there are lots and lots of challenges.”

But with his professional life finally coming together, Schwartz began losing control over aspects of his personal life. The one-time track star put on nearly 60 pounds. Then, in early 2012, he vowed to make a change and hired a personal trainer. He took up running once again, and he and his wife began eating clean, organic foods. In a year’s time, he dropped nearly 10 pant sizes and 60 pounds. Today, he logs 20-25 miles per week.

Schwartz turned 40 in April, and when he looks back on his journey he’s humbled by how far he has come. The decision to return home was a difficult one, but as it turns out, the path to success doesn’t always come by way of the Big Four.

“I can’t believe how fast time has gone by,” he said. “I spent all of my 30s growing the business, staying active, staying involved. And that makes you really appreciate time because it has absolutely flown by. But I guess that means I’m having fun and enjoying doing what I’m doing.

“What I find myself reflecting on more than anything,” he said, “is that the more you give, if you give with the right heart, the more that comes back to you.”

For more information about the Myriad CPA Group, visit myriadcpa.com.

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The Sky’s the Limit

Entrepreneur Kent Parker predicts networking through cloud communications will define business in 2033
Entrepreneur Kent Parker spoke at the Rotary Club of Evansville about what the world will be like in 2033.

Luke White didn’t actually lug an entire piano onto the New York City subway. There was no bona fide drum in Tobias Smith’s hands. And guitarists Eric Espiritu and Philip Galitzine weren’t even close to real, tangible strings. Yet the rock band Atomic Tom didn’t need instruments to launch itself to stardom. Instead, it reached its key demographic with four iPhones, a battery-powered speaker, and a YouTube video.

This is why connected technologies are changing the world, says entrepreneur Kent Parker. Because even if you’ve never heard of Atomic Tom, it’s likely that you do know about smart phones, YouTube, and the cloud that connects the two. These technologies are what allowed White to use two, and what sometimes looked like three, fingers to play the keys of a simulated piano on a tiny iPhone on the B line in New York City. They are why Smith was able to use another iPhone to drum the beats to that same song, “Take Me Out,” which now has more than 5.4 million views on YouTube. These connected technologies are why the band landed a spot on Jimmy Kimmel Live! the same month it uploaded that video. And these technologies are a significant reason why the world will be very different 20 years from now.

“The reality is that business leaders must endeavor to understand (connected technology) … before it is too late for them and their employees and investors,” Parker says. “At the very least, understanding how to operate more effectively and efficiently in this new connected world is crucial (in) hiring, managing people talent, marketing, sales management, supply chain management, financial management, and more.”

Parker has a unique vantage point. A Gibson County, Ind., native, he grew up on a farm. He has a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Evansville and an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business Administration at Dartmouth College. He’s worked in business commerce and software; in coffee; in strategic sourcing and procurement; as an engineer; and in sales. Parker is also an avid lover of the arts and history, and he’s involved in numerous economic development ventures as well.

But the 51-year-old is probably best known for his recent retirement from Ariba Inc., a leading provider of business commerce network, software, and services solutions based in Sunnyvale, Calif., after the company was purchased by SAP AG. From that experience and others, Parker is intimately aware of what’s happening in Silicon Valley, how insiders there view the intersection of technology and innovation, and how business leaders and employees here in the Tri-State area can use that information to their benefit.

That’s what he did when he spoke at the Rotary Club of Evansville on March 5 to give his speech, “The World in 2033.”

One of Parker’s key points is that people are more connected by technology and mobile devices than ever before. At the heart of this connectedness is cloud computing, in which computing resources (hardware and software) are delivered as a service over a network, typically the Internet. Rather than being dependent on hardware and software installed in a particular location or on users’ own equipment, users of cloud computing services are able to connect and access computing resources and information remotely, often from a variety of devices and locations. And savvy upstarts like Atomic Tom are using the cloud and technologies that share information through the cloud to circumvent established business models. What’s even more important is that it’s working, because radio and record companies aren’t nearly as powerful as they once were. “The record industry is really in a state of disarray,” Parker says. “Artists and musicians can disintermediate radio and record labels to find each other.”

That’s what Generation Z has done by making YouTube — and not the radio — its main source for new music. Rock bands like Atomic Tom that are looking to succeed know this. They are getting their product directly to their customers at all times and almost anywhere their customers go. The cloud makes that possible.

The cloud is impacting other industries, too, Parker says. Beyond the notion of cloud computing, Parker defines a broader concept he calls the cloud community effect: the realization of a “community” consisting of the hardware, software, information, knowledge, capabilities, and human participants, all connected by the Internet. Under this notion of a cloud community, the access to and impact of technology is becoming embedded in our lives in a ubiquitous way, and it’s actually changing the way we live our lives. And these cloud communities can be very powerful. Take Maker’s Mark. It took less than a week for the company to reverse its decision in mid-February to lower the proof of its whiskey from 90 to 84. The reason? The public hated the idea. It flooded the company with emails and phone calls. “This is the cloud community telling (Maker’s Mark), ‘Bad idea,’” Parker says. “They changed … very quickly.”

Companies that want to be successful in the future are going to have to be comfortable using the cloud and in managing their cloud communities, Parker says. They can’t stick their heads in the sand. Instead, they will have to be experts at managing their cloud community experiences in at least three areas: with customers; with employees and management; and in their relationships with their commerce partners, investors, and others who are involved in those businesses but who are not employees.

In other words, the cloud has created a community of people who are constantly sharing data. In the future, companies that are able to analyze that data and use it to help their businesses have a greater chance of success. Additionally, data culled from the cloud could be used to solve problems that have never been solved before, Parker says.

“When you get this community that’s driven by these cloud communications … all of a sudden we can start to make sense of behavioral or social or economic activity in a way that we couldn’t before,” he says.

In the future, people will have much shorter memories. The old adage of “people never forget” will disappear, Parker says. Instead, that will be replaced with some form of “What have you done for me today?

“Here is one of the new rules: There are no secrets,” he says. “In the era of the cloud, there is no hiding from the crowd. You are going to have to understand the communities that dictate how your customers make decisions, and you are going to have to listen and be responsive to those decisions.”

That’s happening now, and it will continue to happen in the future — largely because of Generation Z, which is very comfortable with technology, connectedness, and the ability to multitask.

“Their expectation of honesty and straightforwardness is going to be very high,” Parker says. “It’s going to redefine how we as business leaders, or business leaders in that era, are going to have to relate to them. Cloud technologies are at the root of this.”

Entrepreneur Kent Parker may be reached at www.linkedin.com/pub/kent-parker/0/9bb/778/.

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Building Opportunity

Bridges, boats, and binary for middle and high school students
A group of girls participating in the UE OPTIONS program took a trip in 2011 to Vectren’s A.B. Brown Generating Station.

Engineering is a man’s world. At least that’s what statistics say. Today, women comprise just over 9 percent of all U.S. engineers — a percentage that has quadrupled since 1978 when women made up less than 2 percent of the engineering workforce. The numbers still are exceedingly lower than those of men in the field. Lucky for the local climate, the status quo doesn’t suffice for the University of Evansville, which for 20 years has been combining the technical, industrial, and professional aspects of engineering into a unique program, UE OPTIONS, geared toward middle and high school girls.

Dick Blandford, department chair of electrical engineering and computer science at UE, says it’s been difficult for women to break the glass ceiling, but with UE OPTIONS, which he helped create in 1992, the school is doing its part to bridge the gap — and the results are encouraging.

Between 30 and 40 percent of program participants go on to major in engineering (be it electrical, mechanical, civil, or computer-related) in college, and 10 to 20 percent attend UE. “It starts with eight- to 12-hour courses taught by professors and professional alumni, culminating with in-depth, hands-on projects to inspire girls to continue with math and science,” says Tina Newman, the administrative associate in the college of engineering and computer science and coordinator of the OPTIONS program for 16 years. “Our goal is to build connections and have females explore these areas without typical gender peer pressure, and our mentors show the girls how to handle and gain respect in a male-dominated field.”

Bringing in local businesswomen, professors, and undergraduates in fields related to engineering, the program offers a weeklong residential camp at UE that includes field trips to local industries, guest lectures from professionals, and group projects. Melissa Bippus went through OPTIONS her sophomore year of high school in 1995, and went on to become the senior engineer of the ice and water group at Whirlpool. She attributes the program for introducing her to the field. “I had no idea what engineers did,” she says. “As I grew up I wanted to teach history, but it was amazing as a high school student to meet professionals and ask, ‘What do you do?’”

Bippus continued with the program as a counselor all four summers throughout college, and after growing connections with a mentor from Whirlpool as a UE mechanical engineer undergraduate, she became a mentor herself.

Rather than the emblematic balsa wood bridge pieced together with scissors and hot glue, OPTIONS creates group projects that teach application and process. Past experiments have included a water balloon catapult and a tethered balloon launch. “We add a professional component,” Newman says. “With a civil engineer showing them how to build a bridge or tower, a level of sophistication is added.”

In addition to the weeklong camp, the program also has offered abroad experiences to students. In 2008 and 2011, the Lilly Endowment provided funds for a group to go to Harlaxton Manor, UE’s English campus, for four days. “We took a trip to Skegness on the coast,” Newman says. “The girls were given a tour of a wind energy farm, with turbines on the water, by three representatives. One was an engineer, the other a biologist, and the third a public relations person, which goes to show the scope of the field.”

Although originally catered to high school females, OPTIONS was made available to middle school girls in 1994, and now has a separate middle school boys’ camp. With limited student enrollment — between 20 and 30 — participants get as much one-on-one attention as possible. Most of the students in OPTIONS are from the Evansville area, but past participants have come from as far as Pennsylvania, Oregon, Missouri, and Texas.

David Bothast, director of corporate and foundation relations at UE, says OPTIONS fits neatly into STEM, a national initiative to offer opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and math for underrepresented populations. This past September, OPTIONS’ success was reflected in a $30,000 grant received from the Alcoa Foundation.

“Alcoa was one of the original sponsors of the program,” Blandford says. “We’ve sent a number of women engineers back to them, and we’re lucky to have the support.”

The grant, according to Bothast, will be used toward the next two summer OPTIONS programs. “It provides scholarships for 24 high school or middle school girls in Warrick County and the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp.,” he says.

Bippus says that, as an engineer, she has developed problem solving skills and enough flexibility in her degree to do anything she wants. “Engineers can become lawyers, medical students, or bridge builders,” she says. “Honestly, my mom made me go, and I’m glad for it. If nothing else, the money spent on the program can show people what they don’t want to do, which is cheaper than a year of tuition.”

OPTIONS has created opportunities for aspiring women, and the results show more college students, particularly female, matriculating into engineering fields.

“The program creates potential for bright students to make a difference,” Blandford says. “We give them the options.”

For information on registering for UE OPTIONS, visit options.evansville.edu.

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Suit Up

A Vietnamese business comes to the U.S. with UE business students at the helm
The venture is spearheaded by UE students, including Michael Armanno, graduate Cody Land, Lan Do, and Samantha Miller.

Since 1891, Tien Son Custom Tailored Suits has handcrafted quality apparel in Vietnam. With 70 custom tailors who each have completed a rigorous five-year training process (from buttons to sport coats), this company takes its clients stitch by stitch through the custom tailoring process. When Lan Do, a Vietnamese native representing the eighth generation of Tien Son, enrolled as an accounting major at the University of Evansville (she graduates next May), her plan was to learn how to expand the family business in Asia. With the help of UE graduate Cody Land, Do changed her focus to the U.S.

This spring, Land and Do showcased purple and orange, UE-colored ties, cuff links, and suits for their business entrepreneurial project, which took a year of preparation. “We had a lot of positive responses from UE and the community,” Land says, so the pair took their project a step further and incorporated the Americas Division in March.

As a fully-apprenticed tailor herself, Do has brought Tien Son’s quality products to the American market. “Our manufacturers in Vietnam control every variable,” Land says. “They cut and construct the entire suit from start to finish.”

According to Land, the director of the Tien Son Americas Division, most full-custom suits cost about $1,200, and come “made to measure,” which means tailoring is necessary to make final adjustments to fit your size. Luckily for customers, Tien Son’s traveling tailor is a direct link to the talent. “Lan meets with our clients and learns a little about them — what kind of job they have, how often they wear suits, where they live, and their personality,” says Land. Tien Son offers free, full-service consultations to clients in the Tri-State. Home or office, Do helps clients find fabrics, colors, and styles that fit them best.

After meeting with Do, a customer’s measurements and preferences are entered into a profile at TSCustomSuits.com, where that client can order or gift suits using actual measurements. Also innovative are the self-measurement tutorials on the website, with video instructions on how to take 32 different measurements.

Even more unique is the virtual tailor, an online suit-designer. “The virtual tailor lets you see a suit before purchasing one,” Land says, and adds that from checkout to inspection to your doorstep is a 21-day process.

Customization is as important as ever with the virtual tailor. “We’ve had clients switch their inner-pocket just so it could fit their cell-phone,” Land says, and everything from jacket cuts, lapels, vents, collars, cuffs, pleats, and 40-character inner-suit monograms are made to fit the wearer’s needs.

“We opened a pop-up retail store at the Evansville Regional Airport during a weekend in August,” Land says, and they plan on doing one in Nashville, Tenn., as well. This allows the company to model full-constructed mannequins and lets potential customers see and touch the suits.

Enlisting three current UE students, Tien Son spreads the word through social media and word-of-mouth advertising. Michael Armanno, a UE senior communications and media production major, is the director of communications for the business. “I have a lot of faith in the company,” Armanno says. “And with the website, it really stands out.” Updating more than eight different social media outlets at a time is just one way these vibrant and energetic entrepreneurs work.

Students Samantha Miller and Alison Petrash are the website’s fashion bloggers. As one of the most visited pages on the website, this blog is kept up-to-date with fashion tips, resources, information, and styles.

Tien Son covers all of the bases, from custom fittings and suit audits to recreating personal wardrobes and recommending pocket squares. The Americas Division of Tien Son lives and breathes suits, working as living models in their 21st century suits of armor.

“Personal image and communication create first impressions,” Land says. “Tien Son wants to inspire confidence in our clients.”

Schedule a free consultation with the traveling tailor by calling 331-222-7848, or check out the innovative, fully-functioning virtual tailor at www.tscustomsuits.com.

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Covenant Clause

From sticky situations to win-win agreements, it pays to do your research on non-competes

In December of last year, Halifax Media purchased 16 newspapers from the New York Times Company Regional Media Group. The new ownership submitted a covenant not to compete (CNC) to every employee, restricting employees from working or being financially associated with any media outlet in any U.S. city where Halifax operates at any time during employment and for a period of two years following termination. The uproar that followed from employees and national media forced Halifax to reconsider, and they withdrew the covenant in January.

Terry Farmer, managing partner at Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald, and Hahn, LLP, speaks to Halifax Media’s problems, understanding the difficulties companies and their employees have in truly understanding what CNCs are. A thorough understanding is essential: There is virtually no business, employer, or employee outside the range of a CNC’s influence.

Farmer believes most, if not all, problems related to CNCs stem from a general misunderstanding from both parties — companies who haven’t taken the time to carefully think about why they need CNCs, and employees who over or underestimate the influence of the covenant they’re signing.

“One of the things you hear a wide range of opinions on, usually uninformed opinions, is whether or not they’re enforceable,” Farmer explains. “They clearly are, if they’re well drafted.”

Advice for Companies
Employers should begin by asking themselves what the purpose of a CNC is for their specific industry, Farmer says. “When I counsel employers about using covenants not to compete, one of the things I really try to do is slow them down, make them think through whether they really want a covenant not to compete, and try to decide what the interest is that they want to protect.” In some cases, he explains, CNCs are exactly what employers want and need, and in other cases they simply are unnecessary and can lead to morale problems in the work environment.

Farmer notes there are situations better served by options other than a CNC. For companies wanting to safeguard specific trade secrets, Indiana offers trade secret protection, and for those worried about former employees soliciting current employees or customers, a non-solicitation agreement serves better than a broad, general CNC.

Even if a CNC is best for your company, there still are traps to avoid. A common mistake, says Farmer, is making the covenant that’s geographically too broad or for too much time. Instead of handcuffing your employees for several years after they’ve left your company, Farmer suggests a covenant in the 6-12 month range. “Most of the benefit of having an employee not compete against you is gone after 6-12 months,” he says, “and the law tends to enforce these more readily the shorter they are.” Recent non-compete national drama, such as Halifax Media’s troubles, affirms Farmer’s advice.

Advice for Employees
In some instances, CNCs can be worth the benefits of the job, Farmer notes. “If you’re an employee, and someone’s saying, ‘We’re going to pay all your expenses to move you and your family from Hawaii to Evansville, and pay you a high salary to do a specialized job function, but we don’t want you competing against us if we give you an opportunity,’ that’s a pretty fair trade-off, and you may well want to do that.”

But if you sign a CNC, “you’re telling the employer you’re not going to compete,” Farmer says. And while a covenant “may not be legally enforceable, you need to think about it as if it’s going to be, and decide whether or not you can live with that.” In addition, carefully considering a CNC before signing can save more than your reputation, according to Farmer. While a covenant may be easily recognizable as too broad, Farmer cautions, consider the legal fees and time it will take to fight the CNC in court.

“If you’re an employee, and you’re asked to sign one of these things, you’d better know what your plan B is,” Farmer says. “You may get this job, and that’s great and hopefully it works out for you, but what are you going to do the day you’re not working there anymore?”

Further Advice
Some scenarios where courts are more likely to enforce a CNC include the sale of a business, where the previous owner will be asked to sign a covenant that will prevent him from coming back and gutting the new owner’s business. Also, courts are more willing to side with an employer who offers an employee a monetary bonus in exchange for signing a CNC. Whatever the scenario, Farmer’s advice for both employers and employees remains the same: “Think it through.”

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A-Game

How busy executives stay energized and focused
From top: Robert Keller, Linda White, and Mike Hinton

It’s no secret that in today’s fast-paced world we feel pressured to accomplish more in less time. So how do we manage our to-do lists in the daily 24 hours we all have? In 2011, the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found those who exercise at least 2.5 hours per week feel more productive, accomplish more, and take fewer sick days. In an interview, Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson said running every day keeps his endorphins going and his brain functioning well. “I definitely can achieve twice as much in a day by keeping fit,” he said.

Another tip for higher productivity at work comes from the late Steve Jobs, former CEO of Apple, who suggests taking an unforgiving look at all commitments, projects, and goals, and deciding which ones are great and which ones are “crap.” It’s key, he told Nike CEO Mark Parker, to “get rid of the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff.”

Closer to home, Evansville Business spoke with three local professionals, all of whose workweeks far exceed the traditional 40 hours, about how they tackle their demanding schedules.

With such a busy schedule, what do you do to stay on track?
Keller: Even on the weekends, Keller writes out a to-do list every morning in his little black book. “I have at least 10 filled up,” he says. Although he almost always has carry-overs from the day before, the list gives him something tangible to guide him.

White: Calendars and attitude. Keeping notes and dates is how White stays on target, but it’s the attitude she brings with her each day that gets the job done. “I had a very influential father. He inspired me to give work everything I had,” she says. “For him, it was never work, but just “I have a job to do.” Work never had a negative connotation — it was an honor.”

Hinton: Electronics have proved to be Hinton’s saving grace. “I always had assistants who were very good at keeping me organized,” he says, “and the worst thing they did was give me a calendar of my own to take with me.” Now, with a Blackberry, an iPad, and computer all linked, “I can’t possibly screw it up because it’s all right there in real time.”

How would you describe your leadership influence/style?
Keller: Throughout his time as CEO, Keller has had to prioritize. “One idea I have learned,” he says, “is that good leaders define what must be done, but great leaders also decide what must be given up to reach the goal.” He’s tried to incorporate that idea into the internal affairs at Escalade: eliminating unnecessary meetings and focusing on a smaller amount of key brands. Keller also is motivated by a 30-year-old promise he made as a Boy Scout: to keep himself “physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” “Those words are more than just words to me,” he says. “They’re an oath.”

White: For White, successful leadership lies in the ability to delegate and empower others. “No one person can do it all,” she says. “It’s all about teamwork and relationship building and giving everyone opportunities to do their best.” White sees each person at Deaconess as key players and she knows nearly all of them by name — from housekeepers to executives.

Hinton: “I have been one of the most fortunate people,” says Hinton. “I don’t think I’ve ever been without a mentor.” From his father to his bosses, there’s always been somebody to look to. One lesson he’s learned is the proper treatment of others. As someone who enjoys a challenge when it comes to the freedom to use his own thoughts and ideas, Hinton strives to give those opportunities to his employees. “That’s the way I like to treat other people,” he says, “but I really like to get some consensus built around direction before we head off.”

As the face of the company, do you feel that physical image is important? 
Keller: As the face of Escalade, Keller strives to represent his company as a well-rounded leader. “That includes my physical image,” he says. “I believe in living your brand. Being that we are an active and fun brand, I try to exercise every week, eat healthy, and take care of myself.” The Escalade brand is sporting goods — to live it, Keller gets to play with it. Currently, the CEO is into bow hunting. “We’re making products that are exciting and fun — we should be engaged in them.” With his bow pulled back, he leads by example.

White: “I try to incorporate physical fitness into every day,” says White. “We (Deaconess) are a face of health to the community.” It’s important for her and the entire staff at Deaconess Health System to stay in tune with their health. To help them keep up, the hospital requires an annual wellness screening for each employee, which tracks blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking habits, BMI, body fat, and blood glucose. If someone falls outside of the standard, says White, they are then required to attend health coaching. “It’s not a perfect way,” she adds, “but it is an incentive.”

Hinton: Portraying a good, clean image to clients is something Hinton expects of all of his employees. “You certainly don’t have to look like Brad Pitt,” he says, “but it would be wrong to ignore how you come across and what you look like.” As for himself, Hinton still uses the same barber he’s used for years, and has been a longtime customer of Scott Osborne at Tom James Company, a manufacturer and retailer of custom clothing. As long as they’re performing, Hinton sticks with them. “That’s exactly what I hope my clients will do,” he says.

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Seven Ways to Become a Speaking Star

What Hollywood teaches about great presentation skills

Imagine that you have unlimited resources to design a speech that will make you the hottest commodity on the market, inspire your sales force, or close more sales. Where would you go to get the best, highest-priced writers and directors in the world?

Hollywood.

What makes a good Hollywood movie? Exactly the same principles that make a great keynote speech, executive presentation, and sales conversation.

The good news is that you probably don’t need the unlimited resources to hire an Oscar-winning writer and director. Just learn to adapt seven basic Hollywood techniques to increase the impact of your keynote speeches, business presentations, and persuasive sales conversations.

Embrace the creative process.

Our first step is to look at the creative process. The late, great comedian George Carlin said, “Creating a great speech or comedy routine is more like going on a field trip than working in a laboratory.” What he meant: The creative process is messy, more free-flowing, so just embrace it. Forget the PowerPoint. That’s tidy. With a yellow pad, a flip chart, a whiteboard, just list or mind map what content could go in your presentation. You want stories, examples, quotes, statistics, your corporate message, and client successes. Then organize the structure of your presentation in a conversational and logical way and add the visuals. Special effects are not consulted until the “storyboard” is created.

Consider collaborating.

Collaboration is the norm in Hollywood, and it can work for speakers and presenters no matter what their audience or venue. In Hollywood, you have directors, producers, actors, set designers, makeup artists, and editors who all work together in front of and behind the camera. If you are a sales professional making a big sale, a corporate leader who wants to inspire your international sales force, or a professional speaker whose keynote speech is setting the tone for a convention, you can get value from remembering it is very difficult to be creative in isolation. When creating the next great American film or even when creating a masterpiece speech, presentation, or sales conversation, who can you get to help? Do you have a mastermind group, speaking buddies, team members, a sales manager, or professional speech coach?

Start with a great story.

We all love stories, and whenever we hear one, subconsciously we feel it is a luxury. With your corporate stories, identify your main theme, premise or purpose — your plot — and any subplots. I coached a recently promoted retail executive who found, a week after his promotion, he was invited to speak at the company sales meeting to 500 young store managers. His challenge was to inspire the managers to enthusiastically embrace a program to get their employees to contribute money-saving ideas. His subtext was “Now you can see why I deserved this promotion.”

I suggested he walk on stage, look at the audience, and say, “We are here to talk about heroes.” In seven words, he proved that this is not another dull, corporate speech. “We are here to talk about heroes. They may be sitting in front of you. They may be sitting behind you. They may be YOU. In the trenches, heroes!”

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Andrew Rice

Financial Representative, Northwestern Mutual
Andrew RiceAndrew Rice
Andrew Rice in his office at Northwestern Mutual.

That recession was hard on all of us. Valuable lessons were learned. Andrew Rice began his career as a financial representative at Northwestern Mutual in 2007, just before the economy nosedived. Here’s what he learned battling on the recession’s front line.

I don’t know too many people who can say, “Hey, the recession is over.” There’s certainly people smarter than I that can’t really put a finger on it.

Last fall, I got to hear Steve Forbes of Forbes Media and John Schlifske who is the chairman and CEO of Northwestern Mutual speak. They both said, “Yes, there are signs that we’re coming out of a recession, although it will take time for the economy to fully recover.

Now they are referring to (the economy) as the new normal, a time when people are starting to plan longer in advance and not take as many risks with their financial foundation.

I don’t think I’ve ever called a client with a tip or a hot idea. That’s not really our wheelhouse. We’re not constantly watching the ticker symbols across the screen to decide who we need to call and tell to buy.

It’s not all about the market. You must financially strategize and consider risks about other things in your life such as job security, becoming disabled or sick, etc. when you consider your investments.

I think that with the economy, people are starting to change the way they feel about financial security. They’re starting to realize that the market and economy are unpredictable, and more people are seeking professional guidance to make sure all monetary needs are met and secured

Meet with your financial professional more than once every five years. Bonds with a client are most important, and I believe that if you have a solid relationship based on trust, then the communication will be there to handle things correctly when they need to be handled.