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Nine award finalists, three special honorees

Leann Hicks
Pharos Systems International Inc.
With Leann Hicks as its chief financial officer, Pharos Systems International Inc. has experienced growth in a stagnant economy.
The company ranked No. 26 on the 2011 Rochester 100 list of fastest-growing private companies. Pharos entered 2012 with 140 employees worldwide and plans to add more than 30 by the end of the year.
"Our product, services and message are about saving companies in print costs," Hicks said. "When our customers decide it is appropriate to save money, our product will help them achieve savings. That’s definitely been on our side."
A major milestone for Pharos was its acquisition in 2009 of the PathForward business unit from Standard Register Co., a provider of document and print management services in Ohio.
"It helped us round out our products and service offerings to our customers," said Hicks. "The acquisition moved us into the corporate office space. That gave us the opportunity to look into the imprint of printing at an organizational level and be an adviser for commercial printing."
Hicks said acquisitions such as PathForward have helped Pharos expand over the past several years, something she expects to continue.
"Pharos continues to experience a significant growth rate," said Hicks. "We started as a small company, and we’re pushing into that midsize range."
Hicks’ success at Pharos showed how fast she was able to adjust to a new industry.
Pharos provides software and services to educational institutions and other enterprises looking to print less expensively and become more environmentally responsible. Prior to joining Pharos in 2004, most of Hicks’ experience was in the manufacturing realm with companies such as East Rochester-based Sentry Group.
Merging the skills she obtained at previous companies with Pharos’ entrepreneurial spirit has been a key to her success at Pharos, she said.
"Things like financial skill, treasury and proper controls in an organization are transferable to lots of organizations," she said. "The difference with Pharos is that we are very much an entrepreneurial environment. It’s about achieving the right balance of procedure, but still allowing flexibility and creativity."
  -Troy L. Smith

Jill O’Dea
Parlec Inc.
The most challenging part of the job for Jill O’Dea is leading and managing through adversity.
As chief financial officer at Parlec Inc., O’Dea had to face that challenge starting in 2009 when the company struggled as a result of the global recession. O’Dea had to make tough financial decisions at the time to ensure the long-term success of the 128-person company.
During that period, she worked to adjust payroll and expenses, negotiated with the bank to maintain credit lines and led the sale of one of Parlec’s unprofitable product lines.
The plan worked, she said. While sales for the firm were down from $27 million in 2010 to $21 million in 2011, the company posted a record profit in 2011. Parlec also has increased its employment by 30 people since the end of the recession.
"During times like that, it is important to react expeditiously and maintain open and honest communication with employees, shareholders and lenders," O’Dea said.
O’Dea has worked at Parlec since 2006. The company engineers, manufactures and distributes machine tooling and measuring equipment for manufacturers in the aerospace, agriculture, automotive, pump and compression industries.
In her position, O’Dea supervises all aspects of finance, including preparation of monthly financial statements, management and analysis, annual budgets and financial forecasts. In addition, she supervises Parlec’s corporate business systems and human resource functions.
O’Dea was nominated by Richard Krucher, a partner at Insero & Co. P.C.
Michael Nuccitelli, Parlec’s president and CEO, said O’Dea has the ability to grasp business quickly.
"She works to make the businesses she works for more successful," he says.
O’Dea is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is active with the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. She has worked in the past with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
She most enjoys addressing the challenges that exist in a manufacturing environment.
"Working in manufacturing provides the opportunity to work with many different disciplines and truly influence results," O’Dea said.
  -Andrea Deckert

Greg Siembor
Odyssey Software Inc.
When California-based software company Symantec Corp. purchased Odyssey Software Inc., it had to feel a bit like deja vu for Greg Siembor.
Siembor, who served as Odyssey’s chief financial officer, had held the same post at X/Net Associates Inc., a Fairport computer technology company, when it was acquired in 2004 by S1 Corp., a Georgia-based software development firm.
Siembor helped transform X/Net Associates from a consulting firm to a software products provider. When he joined Odyssey, growth once again followed.
Odyssey was founded in 1996. The company’s software has been used by business enterprises that want to secure the phones and tablets their employees use to access mobile resources. The enterprise-class mobile and embedded device management company’s clients included Microsoft Corp., the Coca-Cola Co. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Odyssey had 39 employees at the time of the acquisition, all of whom went on to work for Symantec.
In the eight years he served as CFO, Siembor said, Odyssey’s revenues grew more than 30 percent annually. He said much of the credit is owed to founder and CEO Mark Gentile and to James Sullivan, vice president of technology.
"You have to have people like Mark and Jim who had the vision for the technology," Siembor said. "They understood the mobile marketplace. Once we were able to take our product and make it work in the Android and tablet markets, it exploded."
Siembor said Symantec’s acquisition of Odyssey shows what Rochester technology startups are capable of.
"It shows that growth in the industry can happen here," he said. "Rochester is a great place, especially for technology. With the University of Rochester and RIT here, we’ve got some great talent to choose from. This is a great place to grow a company."
Siembor is a Rochester native and graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology. He is also a board member for the Rochester chapter of Financial Executives International.
Since the acquisition of Odyssey, Siembor has served as finance director for Symantec. However, he will leave that post in August to pursue his next endeavor.
"I’m committed to Rochester," he said. "I’m really looking forward to finding another company I can help grow."
  –Troy Smith
Michael Bartusek
Sutherland Global Services Inc.
Since Michael Bartusek became chief financial officer of Sutherland Global Services Inc., the company has increased its revenue more than 80 percent while also expanding its workforce and global reach.
Sutherland, which provides analytics-enabled business-cycle support systems for companies, has more than 35,000 employees and more than 30 global delivery centers worldwide. Since Bartusek joined the company, Sutherland Global has expanded to include operations centers in Egypt, Colombia, Bulgaria and the United Kingdom.
Bartusek also has been a part of a team that has expanded the company’s domestic operations to include operations centers in Tulsa, Okla., and Houston, while continuing to grow in Rochester.
Sutherland Global ranked No. 11 on the Rochester Business Journal’s most recent list of private-sector employees with more than 2,600 local workers.
In February, the company was named on the 2012 Global Outsourcing 100 list for the fifth straight year. The list, put together by the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, features the top companies that offer outsourcing services.
Bartusek’s tenure with Sutherland Global is not the first time he has found success with an international company. Prior to Sutherland Global, Bartusek served as a director of finance for Xerox Global Services. Before that, he helped lead the financial and controllership activities as a corporate controller for Xerox Capital Services, a joint venture between Xerox Corp. and GE Capital, the commercial lending unit of General Electric Co.
Michael Russo is director at Freed Maxick & Battaglia CPA P.C. and has known Bartusek for 20 years. Bartusek has played a key role in Sutherland’s success, Russo said.
"Clearly, Sutherland has continued its growth both domestically and internationally," Russo wrote in Bartusek’s nomination letter. "The shareholders and executives at Sutherland continue to rely on Michael as a true professional to guide them in all matters relating to accounting and finance as well as leading them through their next chapter of global expansion."
  -Troy L. Smith
Laurie Leo
Klein Steel Service Inc.
Laurie Leo and her colleagues at Klein Steel Service Inc. see challenges as opportunities.
The best part of Leo’s job as chief financial officer at Klein Steel is having the opportunity to work in a fast-paced environment, she said.
Her job can involve working with colleagues on the executive staff to come up with more rigorous and effective methods of planning and executing the firm’s strategy, or she might be helping team members see how they contributed to Klein’s success.
"As a result, every day we learn and grow stronger together," she said.
Leo has been with Klein Steel since 2005. In her role, she is a member of the company’s executive team, responsible for finance, accounting, treasury, legal, risk management and information technology activities.
Leo was nominated by Nancy Catarisano, managing partner at Insero & Co. P.C.
Since joining the firm, Leo has led the finance and information technology staff as it supported a business that grew from $41 million a year in sales and 100 employees at four locations into a $73 million company-based on 2011 revenue-with 230 workers and six locations.
Leo is a member of Vistage International Inc., which provides executive coaching, and is enrolled in the Metals Service Center Institute’s strategic metal management program at Washington University in St. Louis.
A former adjunct lecturer at Nazareth College of Rochester, Leo regularly teaches classes on topics such as financial management and time management at the Klein Steel University’s certified leader program. She seeks to show co-workers how each can contribute to improving profits for the company, its customers and suppliers.
One of the most challenging aspects of Leo’s job comes from the environment she loves-a business that moves very fast and ambitiously.
"As a result, effective change management-leading our team members through significant change-is a crucial challenge to meet," Leo said. "A continual and deliberate focus on our mission and strategy as well as a commitment to communicate, coordinate and plan ahead help to meet the challenge."
 -Andrea Deckert
Robert Petrone
xpedx division, International Paper Co.
Robert Petrone began his career in paper distribution 23 years ago as an employee of Rochester-based Alling and Cory Co. He now serves as Northeast Group controller for the xpedx distribution unit of International Paper Co.
When Alling and Cory was acquired by the larger Union Camp Corp. in 1996, Petrone stayed with the firm. Two years later when it was swallowed by the still larger International Paper, he stayed again.
Petrone, now responsible for a $700 million organization, eagerly embraced the challenge when confronted in each acquisition with the prospect of having to broaden his perspective and take new responsibilities in a wider field of operation.
"I enjoyed it," he said. "I asked for more responsibility. I liked being able to operate on a broader stage, and I appreciated that the companies were willing to give me the opportunity."
Petrone’s supervisor, Merit Wilkinson, xpedx vice president and general manager, said Petrone-an astute judge of business opportunities as well as a skilled financial manager-plays a pivotal role.
As the xpedx group’s controller, Petrone now handles credit, compensation modeling and finance functions for eight xpedx locations in five states with a total workforce of 375. He personally leads a 10-person staff.
Accomplishments above and beyond Petrone’s regular chores that Wilkinson regards as noteworthy are implementing finance software for 17 xpedx divisions and 22 retail outlets, developing a customer profitability model for local use that has been adopted by the paper distribution unit nationally, and helping to design xpedx’s national accounting shared service center, which merged back-office functions of 60 locations into a single facility at International Paper’s Cincinnati headquarters.
Last year, Petrone managed xpedx’s withdrawal from the Canadian market, winding down operations at five locations.
The Canadian operation, which xpedx had kicked off several years earlier, turned out not to be profitable, making the shutdown necessary, he said.
Liquidating the division’s equipment and inventories and making final collections of accounts was challenging, he said. But the greater challenge lay in making sure the Canadian unit’s staff-legal, human resources, purchasing, finance and logistics personnel-left "with their dignity intact."
 -Will Astor

Scott Adair
Monroe County
Scott Adair, Monroe County’s controller in 2007 when the county decided to participate in the state Medicaid swap program, has been chief financial officer during its implementation.
He was not involved in the decision-making process five years ago but has helped reap its benefits. The county has maintained a property tax rate of $8.99 per $1,000 of assessed value for the last eight fiscal years. Under the swap, the Monroe County gives the state roughly 40 percent of its sales tax revenue in exchange for the state paying all of the county’s Medicaid costs.
"It got met with some skeptical eyes when we originally made the decision to go that route, and I think the results speak for themselves," Adair said. "This year, we’re projecting that we could save up to $40 million. No other county can say they’ve saved that kind of money under the Medicaid program."
Monroe County was alone among New York’s 57 counties in accepting a state offer.
Adair, a 1988 graduate of SUNY College at Geneseo, supervised audits of local governments as a senior accountant at Raymond F. Wager CPA P.C. for eight years before going to KPMG LLP for eight years.
He became county controller in August 2004 and left in December 2007 for a job with the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. He returned to the county six months later as director of management and budget. The county announced his appointment as CFO in August 2008.
Adair is responsible for all financial functions of county government, County Executive Maggie Brooks said in a letter nominating Adair. Monroe County has an operating budget exceeding $1 billion, more than 4,000 employees and a population of nearly 750,000.
"I consider myself fortunate to work alongside a CFO who is wholly committed to implementing our vision for a county government that is smaller, smarter and more efficient," Brooks said.
The 2012-13 state budget contains a provision allowing counties to opt out of the Medicaid swap as New York assumes financial responsibility for Medicaid cost increases.
"That’s the way the law reads," Adair said, "but there’s only one county that opted in to the swap. That’s something we’re currently analyzing to determine what the right course of action is."
  -Thomas Adams
Dominic DeBonis
Advantage Federal Credit Union

Advantage Federal Credit Union has doubled its assets since Dominic DeBonis was hired in August 2005.
DeBonis, vice president and chief financial officer, has overseen two mergers and the launch of a new branch in a challenging and evolving regulatory environment, President and CEO Jeffrey Bocach said.
"His input has been invaluable as he focuses on ensuring our long-term success in addition to our achievement of short-term goals," Bocach explained in a nominating letter. "His work ethic and dedication to our success set a high standard for the rest of the organization."
Advantage, which has its headquarters in Gates, ranks sixth among credit unions in the Rochester market with assets of $165 million. It has six locations and 18,000 members.
"We would like to continue to grow at a measured pace," DeBonis said. "We are opening our seventh branch in Penfield this summer, so we will have to make sure to manage our growth in relation to income, as we will incur new expenses associated with this new location."
Advantage employs 60 full-time and 15 part-time staffers.
"We have plans to add staff and strengthen our infrastructure to support our future expansion," DeBonis said. "It is essential that we balance our growth, income and superior service as we move forward."
DeBonis graduated from the University of Rochester in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a minor in economics. He earned an MBA in public accounting from UR’s Simon Graduate School of Business in 1988.
Prior to joining Advantage, DeBonis was controller at Tra-Mac Builders Inc. in Hilton for two years, after working for one year as accounting manager at Monro Muffler Brake Inc.
DeBonis joined Advantage as controller. He was promoted to CFO in 2008.
"On a day-to-day basis, Mr. DeBonis is responsible for cash management, accounting, investments, asset liability management, collections and internal audit," Bocach wrote. "As an officer of the credit union, Mr. DeBonis is also responsible for contributing to our strategic success and interacting with our board of directors."
  -Thomas Adams
James Whalen
The DePaul Group Inc.
In the past 20 years, the DePaul Group Inc. has grown from a modest-size organization providing mental health services into one of the area’s largest non-profits with programs of multiple types. James Whalen had his fingerprints on nearly all of it.
The organization’s chief financial officer, Whalen has ensured that DePaul had effective procedures and policies as it grew into an organization stretching across New York and into North Carolina, one with a budget approaching $20 million and more than 1,800 employees.
Though Whalen credits the organization’s growth to the vision of its leadership, he said he has been proud to help it remain stable throughout the expansion.
"We’ve made sure that throughout all this growth we had effective systems in place and controls to make sure our fiduciary responsibility is managed," said Whalen, who also oversees information technology for DePaul. "We’ve always been able to handle our growth without significant increases in administrative costs."
Whalen is now a pivotal part of DePaul’s expansion into low-income housing, which he calls "the next big thing" for the organization. The initiative will provide housing for its clients in a way that reduces Medicaid costs, he said.
Whalen is involved in other local organizations as well, serving as board secretary for AIDS Care. He is on the board for Coordinated Care Services and has served with other, smaller organizations, including the Webster Avenue Family Resource Center and the newly formed Eagle Star, a group that provides low-income housing for veterans.
Whalen said his own recognition reflects on the strides DePaul has made to lower costs for services to developmentally disabled people and other groups. Last year the organization’s president, Mark Fuller, was named executive of the year at the Greater Rochester Awards.
Throughout its growth, DePaul has remained a team effort, Whalen said.
"I’m very happy to be nominated, and it just shows the strength of DePaul as an organization," he said. "That vision of leadership has made this a great organization to be with in my profession because of how we’ve been able to expand and grow. It’s given me a significant amount of opportunity."
  –Nate Dougherty

David Graham
Bonadio & Co. LLP
Monica Savino, chief financial officer of Bonadio & Co. LLP, says she made a mistake in the hiring of David Graham as controller.
"If I had been a smarter person, he would have joined the firm in the fall of 2008," Savino wrote in a letter nominating Graham. "When the controller position opened up that fall, Dave interviewed, but I felt we needed someone with more experience."
Savino soon realized that the job required a hard-working, focused, organized, enthusiastic, out-of-the-box thinker.
"Age didn’t matter," she added.
Savino was given a second chance in February 2009, and Graham was available.
"I was definitely disappointed at first," Graham recalled, "but assumed they found a candidate with more experience and a background that better fit their needs. When they contacted me a few months later to interview, I was shocked.
"I knew this time I had to sell them on my work ethic and convince them that I had experience beyond my years. The first interview was a good learning experience, and I felt better prepared the second time around. I knew if it was meant to be, it would all work itself out."
Graham is respected by everyone he works with at Bonadio’s six offices statewide, Savino wrote.
"He has proven his outstanding value many times over," she added.
Graham graduated from Nazareth College of Rochester in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and a minor in finance. He was a senior accountant at Davie Kaplan CPA P.C. for three years before becoming controller at the Advantage Group Enterprise Inc. in 2006.
He passed the CPA exam last year on his first try while working full time and with his first child on the way.
Bonadio ranks first on the Rochester Business Journal’s list of CPA firms with 80 local employees. It employs 72 CPAs outside the area, and overall it has 327 full-time and 29 part-time staff members.
"The Bonadio Group is comprised of the traditional accounting firm and seven subsidiaries," Savino says. "With such diversity, it is a challenge to meet everyone’s expectations, let alone exceed them on a regular basis.
"Dave is able to provide outstanding support to all of the employees of the group."
  -Thomas Adams

Kathleen Saville
Town of Ogden
When Kathleen Saville applied to be finance director for the town of Ogden, she did not really know what she would be getting into.
"It was put to me that there might be some challenges, but I really had no idea," said Saville, who had served 10 years as the city of Batavia’s assistant finance director.
The town’s finances were in what the newly elected supervisor, Gay Lenhard, called "a shambles." Two funds turned out to have unsuspected deficits, and to balance the books, the town was forced to raise taxes 17 percent.
Thirteen years later, the town’s budget of more than $13 million is in good shape. Ogden owes little and has seen almost no fallout from the 2008 financial meltdown.
Lenhard credits Saville with straightening out the books of the town, which has 20,000 residents and 120 employees, and putting its police force, highway department, town court and six other departments under a unified system of financial management.
"I may have been discouraged at first," Saville conceded. "But I’d faced challenges at Batavia, and there’s always light at the end of the tunnel."
To Lenhard, Saville demonstrated "a high energy level and a strong work ethic" supported by financial savvy and superior administrative skills from the start.
Installation of a new software system tailored to municipal recordkeeping and putting in a new network were among Saville’s first moves. Existing financial systems did not provide departments with timely budget information, she said. Without knowing the state of their budgets, departments habitually exceeded them. Department heads at first resented more centralized financial control but have come to appreciate it.
"Information is powerful," Saville said.
Other money-saving measures she took included buying rather than leasing vehicles, replacing a 64-line PBX phone system with a 24-line digital system and reducing town borrowing by paying cash whenever possible. The new phone system, for example, was paid for in two years. And because it more than halved the number of individual lines, it lowered monthly charges.
Saville also took a lead role when a group of Monroe County towns organized a municipal coalition for workers’ compensation insurance. As a member, Ogden now pays 55 percent less for workers’ comp coverage.
Saville revamped the town’s investment strategy to make its surplus cash work harder.
"Things are going well," Saville said. "The tax rate is stable, and policies are in place."
  -Will Astor

Ronald Little
Heritage Christian Services Inc.
New York is undergoing drastic change in the way it funds services for developmentally disabled people, focusing more on keeping them in the community. So when the state looked for a stable, efficient organization to serve as a case study for the new system, it came as no surprise to Ronald Little that Heritage Christian Services was chosen.
Little, senior vice president of finance and agency advancement, is being honored for his lifetime service to the organization. In the past 17 years he has seen Heritage grow from a $9 million operation when he first joined to one with a $56 million budget today. The organization’s sites have grown to 105 from 17 when he started.
Throughout that growth Heritage Christian Services has maintained an entrepreneurial spirit, working with private industry and government sources long before such public-private partnerships were the norm, Little said.
"We’re proud of the relationships we’ve been able to make with the government and vendors and entrepreneurs," he said. "Those relationships will help us continue to grow."
A supportive board and a commitment to the organization’s Christian mission have also pushed it along, Little added.
Aside from the partnerships it has formed, Heritage Christian Services has also undertaken many large projects. He highlights the Pieters Family Life Center, a 21,000-square-foot facility that provides a range of services, including child care and a wellness center.
The project with the state to test the new funding model also reflects the organization’s entrepreneurial focus, Little said.
Little started another partnership at the organization, teaming up with a former classmate from the SUNY Buffalo Law School to start an initiative that promoted low-income housing projects.
"Those relationships we’ve established are what will help us continue to grow," he said. "It also reflects well on us as an organization and shows our ability to work as a team."
Outside of his work at Heritage Christian Services, Little serves on the finance committee at Foodlink Inc. and is active at his church, Twelve Corners Presbyterian Church.
 -Nate Dougherty

5/18/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.


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