Glass Doctor of Syracuse has a Clear Advantage Over the Competition

Aaron Look, Owner of Glass Doctor of Syracuse and Watertown has been in the glass business for 22 years, first working for a local glass company and then starting his own business in 2004. With two locations in Syracuse and Watertown, Glass Doctor performs full-service glass work for home, auto, and commercial customers either in their shops or onsite with a fleet of mobile glass vans. A locally owned and operated company, Glass Doctor prides itself on creating both a family-friendly workplace and an exceptional customer experience.

Family First Work Environment

One of Look’s main goals as an entrepreneur is to create a business where his employees are happy, and that means putting them and their families first. “I don’t want to own a business where there is no community,”

says Look, “the reason I wanted to be an entrepreneur was to employ people, give them a career, and put them in a position that’s good for them.”

Glass Doctor follows a Code of Values which includes Respect, Integrity, and Customer Focus. These values inform how they operate and how their employees conduct themselves on and off the job. By creating an environment where employees feel respected and valued, Look says they will enjoy coming to work. “If your employees are happy, then your customers will be happy too.”

Frank Watson, Director of Sales and Marketing for Glass Doctor has been with the company since 2019. Watson says Look understands the importance of family because it’s important to him as well. In fact, Look’s mother Katie has been working at Glass Doctor in billing and accounting for the past six years.

Look maintains an excellent relationship with his 14 employees by going out on jobs when they need an extra pair of hands. He also will work with employees to make sure their schedule meets the needs of their families, such as getting home in time to be with their children after school. “He focuses on the future and wants his employees to be healthy and happy,” says Watson, “and in return, his employees work hard for him.

Specialized Knowledge and Expertise

Look prides himself on having the best people for the job. “We use the term specialist instead of technician,” says Look. Expertise is at the core of being a specialist and Glass Doctor employees are trained to answer any question a customer may have. If an employee does not know the answer immediately, Look says, someone in the organization will. All Glass Doctor specialists focus either on flat glass or auto glass and while a job may require someone to cross over to another area, they try to keep specialists within their area of expertise. “The lead specialist on any job is an expert,” says Watson, “we only hire the best.”

The Right Tools for the Job

In order to do a job right, Look believes you must have the right tools. Glass Doctor specialists can do a job onsite using mobile flat glass and mobile auto glass vans.

The vans are mobile workstations, completely stocked with all the supplies a specialist needs to complete the job successfully.

Auto glass vans are equipped to do work on the road, but Look says, he does not send his specialists out in challenging weather conditions. “I am not going to put my employees in an environment where they can’t perform their job properly,” Look says. In instances of heavy rain, snow, or extreme cold, customers can bring their vehicle to the Syracuse or Watertown shops to have work done, or specialists will come to their home or business if they have a garage. “We can do work inside our shop or in their garage. We can supply heat if we go to a customer site and we bring all the tools we need. We try to accommodate our customers as best as possible,” says Look.

Glass Doctor’s flat glass vans are set up with lighting, work benches, and heaters. Specialists can work right inside the van, regardless of weather. “We have the newest technology and our specialists have the best tools,” says Watson.

Exceptional Customer Experience

Look’s second goal as a business owner is to provide Glass Doctor customers with an exceptional customer experience, which begins with excellent communication over the phone and continues when the Glass Doctor specialist arrives at the job site. All of Glass Doctor’s vans are fully wrapped with company branding and are clean and presentable. Glass Doctor specialists are in full uniform and wear a badge to easily identify them. Specialists are also drug tested and background checked. The specialist will lay down a branded Glass

Doctor doormat and put on boot covers before entering a home. “Our service starts on the phone, but where we really shine is when we are in the house,” says Look.

Watson says every Glass Doctor specialist is a sales representative for the company. “They are the ones doing face to face with customers and contractors. We understand the importance of doing a great job, doing it on time, and if there is an issue, we address it and make it go away.” Solving problems for customers is a key part of how Glass Doctor operates. “If we are supposed to complete a job today, we have to deliver when we promise a certain time frame. Delivering the product on time is as important as a fair price,” says Watson.

Look wants his customers to be 100% satisfied with the end result, calling customers personally to thank them for their business and see if there are any issues he can help resolve. “I can’t sleep at night if someone is upset with our work,” says Look. That customer focus is essential to Glass Doctor’s company culture. “It’s great to have growth,” Watson says, “but the key to growth is to retain the customers you already have. It goes back to making a commitment, doing what you promise, and following through. You have to keep those customers happy that made the phone ring in the first place.”

A Clear Advantage for Home, Auto, and Business

Glass Doctor specialists are able to customize and install glass products for home, auto, and business customers. For homeowners, they make tabletops, design  and  install  frameless  and  semi-frameless

showers, insulated glass units, foggy glass, glass handrails, and replace windows and glass doors. “When a customer breaks a window,” says Look, “they think they have to replace the entire window. In reality, they might just be able to replace the glass and that can save them time and money.”

Glass Doctor Specialists do all auto glass, windshield glass, door glass, back glass, and ADAS calibration for cars, fleets, and trucks. Glass Doctor guarantees their windshield replacement for one year, something that sets them apart from their competitors. “If we replace a windshield for you and something happens to it, whether it’s a day later or 364 days later, we will replace it for free,” Look says.

In the last five years, the auto industry has changed remarkably and in the next five years, Look predicts at least 90% of new vehicles will have Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) features. ADAS features include auto assist, lane departure, and forward collision alert, for example. These features are controlled by a camera behind your rearview mirror, says Look, and when a car windshield is replaced, the camera has to be uninstalled and remounted after the work is done. “When you reinstall the camera,” says Look, “you need to ensure it is recalibrated so that the safety features will work properly. We can do ADAS recalibration in house, so drivers do not have to go to the dealership after their windshield is replaced.”

For business customers, Glass Doctor specialists install glass for storefronts, tabletops, commercial doors and provide lock repair and maintenance, emergency service, and board ups. For large office and commercial buildings or apartment buildings, Glass Doctor offers an apartment advance measuring service. Look explains that large commercial buildings have many of the same window size. “We measure them and manufacture some in advance, so when a window is broken, we can go and replace them same day, instead of having to wait a week or more to have one made,” Look says.

Building the Future for Glass Doctor

The home shower business is Look’s next focus, hoping to double or triple his business in the next year or two. “We come right to your home with samples and provide a full CAD drawing of what the shower would look like. There is so much customization that is possible with shower glass,” says Look.

A recent project included 70-80 showers for the lofts at

300 East Washington Street in Syracuse. “We are available to work with contractors and builders when they need to build out showers or mirror work,” says Look.

Since 2020, Look says they have experienced 600% growth in their business. Look attributes their massive growth to hard work and the right employees. Things have been going so well, they are considering opening a third location in Utica.

Watson says, “Glass Doctor supplies the best technology, the best tools, new vans, and safety protocol for specialists going into people’s homes. We take the extra steps to make people feel comfortable and want to do business with us.”

Glass Doctor has locations in Syracuse and Watertown. For more information, visit glassdoctor.com/syracuse-ny.

Sarah Arnold, Insurance Agent and Glass Doctor Customer

Sarah Arnold is a Glass Doctor customer and an insurance agent. When Arnold and her

husband were building a home, she chose Glass Doctor to build her glass showers. “They were fairly and competitively priced. They are easy to work with and educated me  on  all  the  glass

options available. I was extremely impressed when the owner came to do the install himself. It’s clear that they want every customer to have a great experience.”

Arnold says any time she has an insurance client in need of glass repair whether auto or home, she doesn’t hesitate to refer them to Glass Doctor. “They are professional, timely, and clean,” she says, “Glass Doctor is great to work with.”

Key Considerations in Valuing a Construction Company

Deborah E. Finch, CPA/ABV, CVA, CDA, Dannible & McKee, LLP

As the owner of a construction company, there are many possible reasons for needing to know the value of your business. Whether you are contemplating a sale or merger, planning for internal ownership succession, considering gifting stock to family members, or obtaining financing, determining what your company is worth is one of the first steps in the process. Just as importantly, understanding how your company is valued can provide valuable insight into the measures that you can undertake to enhance the value of your business over time.

Traditionally, there are three primary approaches to valuing a business

  • Market-based approaches, which look to transactions involving the sale of similar companies in the same line of business in order to derive multiples of sales, earnings or other metrics to apply to the company to be valued.
  • Asset-based approaches, which value a business based on the fair market value of its assets less its
  • Income-based approaches, which value a business by looking to the future earnings or cash flows it is expected to generate in the future.

Market-Based Approach

Since most construction companies are closely held businesses, obtaining information on transactions that have occurred in the market can prove difficult. So too can obtaining the necessary information to determine the true comparability between two construction companies before applying valuation multiples under the market approach. As a result, most valuations of construction companies focus on either the asset approach or the income approach.

Asset-Based Approach

For construction companies with significant equipment and facilities, such as a highway contractor, the asset-based approach may yield the highest value in a transaction. In addition, since many heavy equipment contractors are required to be the low bidder on many of their contracts, they are often poor candidates for employing an income-based approach.

In determining value under an asset approach, the company’s financial assets, such as accounts receivable and unbilled contracts in process are revalued based on the amount that is likely to be realized in cash. Similarly, tangible assets are revalued to their fair market value based on the current cost to acquire or reconstruct a replacement asset of comparable utility. After determining the fair market value of the company’s financial and tangible assets, the existing liabilities of the company are subtracted from this value, resulting in the entity’s Adjusted Book Value.

In some instances where significant intangible assets value may exist in addition to the value of the company’s “hard” assets, these intangible assets may also be separately valued and added to the Adjusted Book Value. Examples of intangible assets include contract backlog, name recognition/reputation, a trained and loyal workforce, and strong client and vendor relationships. These intangible assets are generally reflected as “goodwill” in the context of a business valuation. Valuing the goodwill component of a construction company is generally accomplished through an income approach such as the capitalization of earnings.

Income-Based Approach

For general contractors or specialty contractors with fewer assets and a higher reliance on credit, the income-based approach is generally preferred. This approach to valuation is based on the company’s expected future annual returns to an investor. Where reasonable future cash flows of the company can be projected, these future cash flows are converted into current value. This is accomplished by discounting the future cash flows to today’s dollars using a discount rate based on the risk inherent in an investment in the company. In essence, the discount rate reflects a safe rate of return, plus an additional return that will compensate the investor for the risk of achieving the projected future cash flows.

As an alternative to discounting future cash flows, historic earnings or cash flows can be adjusted and capitalized. Where earnings are used in lieu of cash flows, the earnings measure most often utilized is EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization). Regardless of the measure used, the company’s historic earnings or cash flows must be “normalized” in order to reflect the benefit stream an investor can expect to receive in the future. Typical normalization adjustments include owner’s compensation and fringe benefits, related party transactions, and nonrecurring or extraordinary items. Once an average annual earnings stream has been determined, this amount is converted into value by dividing it by a capitalization rate (a derivative of the discount rate) that reflects risk and future growth.

As you can see, there is no single approach or simple formula to valuing a construction company. Just as every construction company is unique, so too must the analysis

of the company be in order to select the best valuation approach, discount or capitalization rate and other valuation adjustments. Engaging a professional with the experience and expertise in valuing entities in the construction industry is critical to arriving at the true value of your company.

Deborah E. Finch, CPA/ABV, CVA, CDA, is a tax partner at Dannible & McKee, LLP, a public accounting firm with offices in Syracuse, Binghamton and Albany. The firm has specialized in providing tax, audit, accounting and advisory services to the construction industry since its inception in 1978. Debbie has extensive experience providing business valuation and succession planning services. For more information on this topic, you may contact her at dfinch@dmcpas.com or (315) 472-9127 x160.

The Critical Role of Apprenticeship and CTE Programs in the Construction Industry

Earl R. Hall, Executive Director Syracuse Builders Exchange

Labor shortages continue to plague the construction industry both regionally and nationally, with such issues happening long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the pandemic has increased the shortage of workers, the long-term solutions to solving the labor shortage in construction remain complex. Two such solutions which have proven to be effective are the apprenticeship programs offered via the many local building trade unions and the Career and Technical Education programs offered by local school districts.

There is a renewed focus on apprenticeship and training programs by the trades across upstate New York. Apprenticeship programs combine classroom and industry-related instruction provided by the union, with on-the-job learning provided by employers. All apprenticeship programs are registered with the New York State Department of Labor and governed by a Board of Trustees which include both employer and union representation.

Capital investments into new or existing apprenticeship and training centers can be seen right here in central New York. The North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters Local 277 built a state-of-the-art training center in 2018 in Syracuse. During 2021, the union recruited 250 apprentices and new journey men/women into the union. As a result, the union is planning to expand the training center to not only accommodate the new apprentices, but to provide the delivery of additional training and education.

Apprenticeship programs remain attractive to young men and women as they provide a career pathway without having to incur debt to pay for the training and education. The “learn while you earn” concept is a delicate balance of providing apprentices with required training and on the job work. As a trustee on many of these Funds, I see firsthand the immediate benefit of this model for both the career-minded apprentices and those employers who hire them.

Pre-apprenticeship programs attract candidates who may  explore  the  construction  industry  at  a  very elementary level while deciding if it is a career for them, and if so, what trade is of most interest. In central New York the Syracuse Builders Exchange has partnered with Syracuse Build’s Executive Director Christopher Montgomery to place those students who graduate from their pre-apprenticeship program. Graduating students may be placed directly into the workforce with a construction industry employer or may be placed into one of the many union apprenticeship and training programs to further develop their careers.

Career and Technical Education (“CTE”) programs have increased in high schools throughout upstate New York. As a member of the Syracuse City School District’s CTE advisory board, I witness the impact such programs have on impressionable, young students who see themselves entering their chosen career upon graduation from high school. Although the Syracuse City School District’s CTE program was the first of its kind in upstate New York, the model developed by the Syracuse City School District is now being reviewed and considered by other school districts.

While construction, welding and electrical are just a few of the career pathways offered by the CTE program, new offerings such as Construction Management will be delivered to students in September 2023 when the new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) school opens in downtown Syracuse. The Construction Management curriculum is being developed by a committee of executives of construction management companies from throughout central New York.

While no one solution will solve the labor shortage issues plaguing the construction industry, initiatives such as apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs, and CTE programs in high schools provide employers with optimism that the next generation of construction worker is actively being recruited. The question is, will there be enough workers to fill all the positions anticipated over the next few years? Most likely not.

Case Study: Caught with his Hands in the Till?

Annette Malpica, Vice President, Director of Claims & Legal Counsel, Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC

In recent years, employers have seen a rise in the number of claims for work-related occupational repetitive    stress    injuries     (“RSI”).     Occupational diseases, unlike accidents, which occur suddenly and unexpectedly, usually develop over an extended period. The increases in occupational RSI claims were most notable after the 2007 Workers’ Compensation Reform legislation set in motion increases in the weekly rate of compensation, from $400 in January 2007 to $1063 a week as of July 1, 2021. It is not uncommon for RSI claims to be filed by employees who claimed no lost time from employment, continue to work without any limitation, and require minimal medical treatment. The cost of RSI claims ballooned post reform. NYCIRB’s State of the System 2021 Report found that permanent partial disability (“PPD”) claims accounted for over 73.4% of losses, even though they represented only 18.6% of the claims filed in 2021.

The RSI case of JT is not unusual. JT, a laborer for a construction company, filed an occupational disease claim in 2019, after being terminated from employment. He alleged RSI to both elbows, hands, and bilateral carpal tunnel due to jackhammering and shoveling. According to his doctor, the injuries occurred within two months of the claimant’s employment. The claimant never received any treatment, surgery or lost any days from work during his employment since the diagnosis of occupational injuries occurred post-termination. He is seeking $145,000 in a schedule award. The Workers’ Compensation Board (“WCB”) must determine whether the claimant’s conditions meet the legal requirements for an occupational disease entitling him to a schedule loss of use award (“SLU”).

Repetitive Strain Injuries as Occupational Disease

Workers’ Compensation Law § 2(15) defines an “occupational disease” as “a disease resulting from the nature of employment and contracted therein.” Occupational diseases that meet this legal standard are compensable under the WCL. In Goldberg v. 954 Marcy Corp., 276 N.Y. 313 (1938), New York’s highest court defined an occupational disease as:

[c]onditions to which all employees of a class are subject, and which produce the disease as a natural incident of a particular occupation, and attach to that occupation a hazard which distinguish it from the usual run of occupations…

Occupational RSI are often diagnosed as: carpal tunnel, tendinitis, bursitis, or cubital tunnel syndromes. Symptoms range from pain or tenderness, stiffness, or joint restriction, tingling or numbness, cramping and swelling of the extremity.

Claimants who had established RSI claims may be entitled to permanent partial disability or, SLU awards. The skyrocketing cost of SLU awards was an area of contention that the 2017 Reform legislation attempted to address by requiring updated Impairment Guidelines.

The 2017 Reform Legislation and Skyrocketing Cost of SLU

The 2017 Reforms directed the WCB to create new SLU impairment guidelines (the prior guidelines were issued in 1996) to reflect “advances in modern medicine that enhance healing and result in better outcomes.” Unfortunately, the 2017 Guidelines represent a missed opportunity to modernize the system. The new guidelines produced SLU outcomes comparable to the 1996 Guidelines with some clarification regarding ranges of motion and other special considerations. The Guidelines, however, lacked objective measurements, were subject to manipulation and failed to adequately reflect medical advancement in treatments. Had such factors been considered, they would have often resulted in findings of minimal or no permanent loss to a claimant’s earning capacity.

As for JT, whether he was caught with his hands in the till or ultimately awarded a SLU based on his disability, one thing is for certain – the ever-skyrocketing costs of occupational RSI.

Annette Malpica R.N., Esq, is VP, Director of Claims & Legal Counsel at Lovell Safety Management Co., LLC. For more information on workers’ compensation, contact Lovell at 1-800-5-LOVELL or visit online www.Lovellsafety.com.

OneGroup & Syracuse Builders Exchange Growing Titanium Toolbox Program

Brett Findlay, Vice President, Business and Construction Risk, Onegroup

Recently, Syracuse Builders Exchange Executive Director Earl Hall announced that OneGroup and the Syracuse Builders Exchange were further developing their risk management program, the Titanium Toolbox. The Exchange Agency, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Syracuse Builders Exchange, transferred their health, dental, disability and life insurance benefits for clients to Syracuse-based OneGroup Risk Management and Insurance.

For over 40 years, the Syracuse Builders Exchange provided benefits insurance to its members through The Exchange Agency. The Exchange Agency ceased operation in January and all policies and services were transferred to OneGroup, a leading benefits, HR, insurance, and risk management firm.

The relationship between the Syracuse Builders Exchange and OneGroup has been developing since 2017 and was formalized in 2018. During that timeframe, through a number of employees’ dedicated efforts, OneGroup was invited to provide Syracuse Builders Exchange members with property, casualty, and other risk management insurance services.

At the time of Hall’s 2022 announcement, the relationship has only grown further. The program now offers those same business insurance services alongside a host of others, including but not limited to:

  • Property / Casualty (Business Insurance)
  • Human Resources Consulting & Support
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Contractual Risk Transfer guidance
  • Employee Health, Dental & Life Insurance
  • Risk Management
  • Disability Insurance
  • Wealth Management / Retirement
  • Benefits Consulting
  • Plus, a significant number of additional resources

This developing partnership was founded upon a mutual respect and understanding for client and member service and appreciation. “The Association is always seeking to provide the best possible services and value to our member employers,” said Hall. “I and the board felt that the time was right to partner with a company that could offer broader and more in-depth risk management related services to meet our members’ ever more complex needs.”

“We are pleased to have chosen a local company with significant resources to serve the needs of our 940 member employers,” continued Hall.

“OneGroup had proven themselves to be a valued partner with the bench strength and expertise our members require.”

This new partnership will enhance Syracuse Builders Exchange’s value to its members and will allow members additional access to far more valuable services. This also provides a tremendous opportunity for OneGroup to help many more companies in the construction industry, an area of specialty for our agency. OneGroup is thrilled that the Syracuse Builders Exchange placed their trust in us to provide the highest level of attention, service and value to its members.

For more information on the Titanium Toolbox Program, you may contact Brett Findlay at 315-280-6376 or BFindlay@OneGroup.com.

Are You Correctly Classifying Employees as Exempt From Overtime? If not, it Could Cost You.

Diana Plue, Esq., Sheats & Bailey, PLLC

Both the NY Minimum Wage Act and Fair Labor Standard Act, (“FLSA”), requires employers to

pay employees overtime (OT) at the rate of 1 1/2 times their regular rate of pay if they work over 40 hours in a week, unless said employee is exempt from overtime. When is an employee exempt from being paid OT? Only administrative, executive, professional and computer employees who pass a salary basis test and salary level test are exempt from OT. Here is how the administrative, executive, professional and computer employees are defined.

Executive: To qualify for the executive employee exception, the employee must perform the following duties:

  • The employee’s primary duty is the management of the enterprise.
  • Customarily and regularly directs the work of two or more employees.
  • The authority to hire or fire other
  • The employee’s recommendations as to the hiring, firing, advancement, promotion of other employees have particular weight.
  • Customarily and regularly exercises discretionary powers.
  • The employee is paid a weekly salary at the NYS minimum salary level identified below.

Administrative: Employees must perform the following duties:

  • The employee’s primary duty consists of the performance of office or non-manual field work directly related to management policies or general operations.
  • Customarily and regularly exercises discretion and independent judgment.
  • Regularly and directly assists an employer or another employee employed in a bona fide executive or administrative capacity.
  • The employee is paid a weekly salary at the NYS minimum salary level identified below.

Professional Employee: To qualify for this exemption, the employees must perform the following duties:

  • The employee’s  primary  duty  consists  of  the

performance of work that:

  • Requires knowledge of an advanced type in a field of science or learning customarily acquired by a prolonged course of specialized intellectual instruction and study, OR
  • Is original and creative in a recognized field of artistic endeavor and produces a result that depends primarily on the invention, imagination or talent of the employee.
  • The consistent exercise of discretion and
  • Is predominately intellectual and varied in character as opposed to routine work.
  • Is of such character that the output produced cannot be standardized.
  • No minimum salary level is required under NYS law; therefore, the Federal salary level of $684.00/wk.

Computer Employee: NY follows the FLSA requirements for the computer employee exemption. FLSA state a computer employee is exempt if paid a minimum salary of $684.00/wk. and has a primary duty that consists of:

  • Applying system analysis procedures to determine system specifications, OR
  • Designing, developing, creating, or testing computer systems or programs related to user or system design specifications and/or machine operating systems.
  • Generally, a help desk employee does not meet the qualifications for the computer employee exemption.

If your employees fit in one of the above exemptions, you must then determine if they pass each of the two tests below.

Salary Basis Test: The employee is paid a predetermined amount each week. The

amount of pay may not be reduced based on a variation in the quality of work or number of hours worked.

Salary Level Test: It requires employees to be paid a minimum statutory defined salary to be considered exempt from OT. FLSA requires a minimum weekly wage of $684.00/wk., whereas NYS requires a minimum weekly wage of

$1,125.00/wk. if located in NYC, Nassau, Suffolk  and  Westchester  Counties  and

$990.00/wk. for the rest of NYS.

Failure to pay OT is wage theft under NYS’ Wage Theft Act. Penalties for withholding OT pay can include double the amount that should have been paid in OT wages and up to triple the amount if found a willful violation, plus interest, attorney fees and up to a $20,000.00 fine. In addition, officers of the employer who knowingly allow nonpayment of OT due an employee will be guilty of a misdemeanor for the first offense and a felony for a second offense within six years.

Employers should review all employees identified as exempt to ensure employees have not been misclassified. Common exemption problems encountered by employers include a) labeling all salaried employees as exempt without regard to the actual work duties performed and salary paid; b) professional employees who exclusively perform unprofessional work, unrelated to their degree;

  1. c) docking salaried workers for missed time. Misclassifying employees as exempt can be a costly mistake.

For more additional information or assistance contact Diana Plue at Sheats & Bailey, PLLC, Tel: (315) 676-7314.

The information provided in this article is not intended to serve as specific legal advice for any particular situation. Competent legal and experienced counsel should be consulted.

Industry Standard USA, LLC; A SDVOSB, DBE Company Setting the Standard by Doing It Right the First Time

By Sarah Hall

Chris Dambach, Owner, Industry Standard USA, LLC.

As an infantry Marine in Iraq, Chris Dambach learned about the three B’s.

“They say on every mission, you’ve got to have the three B’s: the beans—accommodations, lodging, food—the bullets—tools and materials—and band-aids—PPE and safety equipment,” said Dambach, owner of Industry Standard USA, LLC. “You can apply that same thinking mentality with construction. If you’re working out of town, do you have hotel accommodations? Do you have all the tools? Do you have all the material on site the day before? Are you outfitted properly for the work you’re going to be doing? So, you’re always thinking ahead being proactive, and always anticipating what’s around the corner.”

Industry Standard USA provides facility support services—lawn mowing, snow removal, janitorial, window washing, tree removal, and the like—on government projects. For the last two years, the company has also been providing construction services, including excavation, backfilling, grading, demolition, interior demolition, exterior demolition.

Industry Standard USA, is a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, a certification it carries at both the state and federal level. The firm is also a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise-certified contractor with the United States Department of Transportation.

“New York State and the federal government say, if you are a service-disabled vet, you qualify for this certification,” Dambach said. “In every New York State contract, there’s a small requirement that says the prime contractor needs to subcontract or buy from a supplier X amount of percent from a service-disabled company. So, in New York, on all the contracts, there’s quite a bit amount of work out there for us to go ahead and supply as a subcontractor or supplier to these large prime contractors and then the federal government, they will go ahead and set entire contracts aside for service-disabled veterans. So, only we can bid on them.”

The firm recently made the Inc. 5000, a list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the United States that ranks companies by overall revenue growth over a three-year period. Industry Standard USA came in at No. 1728.

It’s a long way to come from its beginnings as a small lawn care endeavor, which itself grew from a casual chat among fellow grunts in the Iraqi desert.

“When I was overseas in Iraq, me and the guys were going around the circle, asking each other questions, saying, ‘Hey, what are you going to do [when you get back home]?’” he recalled. “Then it came my turn, [and] I said, ‘I have no idea. I don’t have any real trade experience.’”

What Dambach did know was that he wanted to work for himself.

“I didn’t want to work for anybody anymore,” he said. “I didn’t want to be told, when I can eat, go to sleep. I was done taking orders.”

His fellow Marines pointed out that he used to mow lawns in the summer and suggested he start a lawn care company. He jumped on the idea, and in 2010, he started Veteran Lawn Care. The business got its first government contract two years later. By 2017, Veteran Lawn Care had become Industry Standard USA.

“We started teaming up with larger companies that had more experience than us, but didn’t have the certification,” Dambach said. “We also could perform the work, but we couldn’t win it because we didn’t have the past performance. So, what comes first? The chicken or the egg? How can you win a bigger job if you can’t show the past experience? How do you show the past performance if you can’t win that bigger job? So, you have to team up with larger companies. And then we started winning larger contracts, multimillion-dollar contracts with the federal government. And now, a lot of those contracts, we can self-perform on our own. We don’t need to team up anymore because we have the past performance.”

A couple of years ago, Industry Standard USA expanded into construction. Just as they had done with grounds maintenance projects, the firm teamed up with larger firms in order to obtain bigger contracts. Now Dambach says his business has a great relationship with local giants, like Global Urban Enterprises LLC, also a service-disabled veteran-owned small business, and Heuber Breuer (HB). In particular, Industry Standard USA worked with both on a $24 million project at Western New York National Cemetery, the veterans’ cemetery between Rochester and Buffalo.

“We provided the landscaping and the irrigation services on that contract,” Dambach said. “It was pretty cool because Al [Urban, owner of Global Urban] assembled a team of I think six or seven service-disabled vets and Heuber-Breuer.”

Dambach feels particularly connected to this project.

“The cool thing is, I’m so proud of it, as my grandfather’s going to be buried there,” he said. “My father is going to be buried there and I’m going to be buried there. So essentially, I helped build my final resting place and my father’s and my grandfather’s.”

He is also grateful for the opportunity to work with mentors such as Global Urban and Heuber-Breuer.

“I cannot tell you enough about these guys,” he said. “Anytime I have a question or I need help or I don’t understand something and I need explaining to, they will not hesitate to get on the phone with me and say, ‘All right, Chris, we’re going to explain this to you and teach you.’ I could not ask for two better partners and they understand because they were here in my shoes once. I would like to be them when we grow up.”

Dambach hopes to fill a similar role in the future.

“I want to be able to, down the road, mentor a young company like we are in construction or in grounds maintenance,” he said. “I want to be able to go ahead and work with the younger company and say, ‘Hey, now, it’s my turn to go ahead and help you guys grow.’”

That’s not all Dambach hopes to see in Industry Standard USA’s future.

“I have four young sons ages 10, 6, 5, and 3. I’d like to see one of my boys get involved with the company,” he said. “It’s just such a great time to hang out with them, even though I’m yelling half the time. At the end of the day, I know they’re going to grow up so fast because I’m watching it happen in front of me. So, I’m hoping I can hold on to a little bit of it by bringing one of the kids into the business. So, on the weekends, we have a couple of four-wheelers here at the shop. I bring my sons in. We ride four-wheelers. I have them push the broom a little bit, get them familiar with the shop, let them know it’s a fun place.”

It is one of the perks of owning his own business, Dambach said, but it’s far from the only one.

“[I really enjoy] being able to give back. That’s a big thing,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why I started the company. I was done taking orders. I wanted to be my own boss. But also, I know if we grow this thing into the machine that it can be, we’re going to be able to really make changes locally and in our communities; donate back. We like to donate to Vera House, to the Boy Scouts, to the Building Men Program in the city of Syracuse—that’s young inner-city males that might be needing more of male influence. If I were just working for a company, I wouldn’t really be able to donate that much to some of these groups.”

The job isn’t without its challenges. Like many other companies, Dambach said COVID has impacted his business, most noticeably in terms of finding employees.

“That’s the biggest problem I think most companies across the country had, and they’re still having,” he said. “When you bid the contract, you didn’t anticipate COVID. You didn’t anticipate the country being shut down and let it open back up. Finding labor would be nearly impossible on top of that.”

Dambach said it is especially difficult when dealing with federal projects, when there’s no wiggle room in the budget.

“We were in a real tight spot over the course of this entire year [trying to] staff our contracts at 100 percent,” he said. “We spent $45,000 on Indeed running ads this year alone, just trying to fill positions, when our estimated budget for recruiting was $4,500. We’re just getting to the point now we’re able to start finding labor again and get all of our projects fully staffed.”

Fortunately, he said, he has a great team.

“I work with a really, really, really great team here in the office, and we have a great team on the field,” he said. “Everybody gets along, everybody likes to have fun but work hard.”

That team is dedicated to providing the best customer service possible.

“We’re extremely responsive, and one of our sayings here is quality over profits,” Dambach said. “We try to give the best quality we can. We’re easy to work with.”

But for Dambach, the biggest reward is being able to see the tangible results of his work.

“That’s one of the reasons I started mowing lawns,” he said. “I don’t know what projects you’ve done, maybe at your home if you build a raised bed garden, or build a front deck or a walkway. Isn’t it nice to be able to look at the project when you’re done and get the instant gratification to say, ‘Wow, I did that. Look how beautiful it is.’ It’s very satisfying.”

Julie Barown Continues a Legacy of Excellence at J. Andrew Lange, Inc.

by Becca Taurisano

Julie Barown had always excelled at math and science, but was thinking about a career in law until her high school physics teacher stopped to talk to her after class. Recognizing her natural talents, he suggested that she consider engineering instead. “It was the first time my eyes had really been opened to that field of study. Attending an all-girls high school in Brooklyn, it was just not something that anyone had suggested to me before. The thought of becoming an engineer sounded incredible and I knew immediately that’s what I wanted to do,” she says. That one conversation changed her life. After high school graduation, instead of studying political science, Barown received a scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and thrived in the rigorous academic engineering environment she found there.

After receiving a Bachelor of Science from Rensselaer with a concentration in Civil Engineering, Barown set out on a career path that included obtaining her New York professional engineering license and working as a professional municipal engineering consultant.  After nearly a decade and a half in that area, feeling her career had stalled and yearning to expand her horizons, she set out into the engineering sales world. This culminated in a realization of the goals Barown had set many years ago. This past October, Julie Barown was named President of J. Andrew Lange, Inc. in East Syracuse, a manufacturers’ representative, supplier and dealer for water and wastewater treatment equipment serving Upstate New York.

Barown came to J. Andrew Lange, Inc. in 2018. She was looking for a company that would allow her to make an impact across New York State by providing technical expertise, reliable products, and outstanding technical customer service in order to protect one of New York’s greatest natural resources – water. A chance encounter with long-time Lange employee and professional acquaintance, Mike Mele, lead her to Lange and it seemed like a natural next step in her career. Mele told her that Lange was looking for someone to come on board and knowing Barown from her days as a consultant, he was enthusiastic. When she interviewed with owner, Margery Lange Keskin, Barown realized there was an opportunity for ownership as well. “All the cards had finally fallen into place. Lange was exactly where I wanted to be,” says Barown, “and it was already a woman-owned business. I knew there was a lot of potential for me at Lange and where the company could go in the future.”

Lange was incorporated in 1968 by J. Andrew Lange, Keskin’s father. As a second-generation business owner, Keskin was looking for someone to continue the legacy her family built. With Keskin’s business acumen and Barown’s technical expertise, they naturally complemented each other’s skillsets. “I have always felt very well taken care of by Marge. I always felt very valued as an employee,” says Barown. “My experience working for a consultant and my experience working for a manufacturer get wrapped up into a nice package here with what I do for Lange. I am the bridge between the engineering and manufacturing worlds,” Barown says.

As a business partner for manufacturers, Lange is responsible for business development of the products they represent, as well as working with engineers to specify equipment. There is a lot of work done by Lange before a piece of equipment is ever sold. “Our relationship with engineers is key and the trust is so important. We pride ourselves on our technical expertise and being upfront and honest at all stages of the project,” Barown says. However, Lange’s work doesn’t stop there. Lange also works closely with contractors who are installing their equipment, so being responsive to contractors’ questions and helping them solve problems, is crucial. “There are a thousand different places where things can go off track during construction,” Barown says, “but we are there to make sure the process keeps moving smoothly, for the contractor, the engineer, and the owner.”

At the beginning of 2020, Mike Mele announced he would retire from Lange after more than 25 years. Then the COVID-19 pandemic happened. “Everything was very unsettled,” says Barown, “and I realized that I needed someone I could rely on.” In July 2020, Mike Deyulio joined the team at Lange. “When you make big changes, there is always risk involved and some level of discomfort. Once Mike came on board, it made it comfortable for me to take on the risk of ownership,” says Barown.

Mike Deyulio brings more than 20 years of knowledge of the construction industry, sales experience, and business expertise to the Lange team. Deyulio says he likes the way Lange is run, both by Barown and Keskin before her. “This is a family-owned business, but it operates like a big company. Julie is a very technical engineer and I have the sales and construction background. My past experience and her past experience complement each other. Our life experiences have taught us a lot,” says Deyulio.

Barown hopes to expand the services Lange currently offers their customers including construction administration and observation, professional services, and equipment services. “Engineers and contractors tell me they need Women Business Enterprise services beyond what they can currently find, so I would like to meet that demand,” Barown says. Deyulio looks forward to what the future holds. “We will allow our brand to grow bigger by bringing on additional competitive manufacturers and we are starting to see the marketplace demand other products. Some of the plans Julie has will put us a step ahead of the competition,” he says.

Stepping into the role of owner is a dream come true for Barown, and one she worked toward for more than a decade. “I am one of those people who gets something in her mind and doesn’t let go until it happens. I am very goal-oriented and driven in that way,” she says. In addition to owning J. Andrew Lange, Inc., Barown is involved in several leadership roles with state and local professional organizations. She is a board member of the Capital District Chapter of the New York State Society of Professional Engineers, Board Member of the Capital District Chapter of the New York Water Environmental Association (NYWEA), chairperson of the NYWEA Public Outreach Committee, and member of the NYWEA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. Barown and her husband have three children, three cats, three dogs, and enjoy renovating houses as investment properties.

According to Barown, we still have a long way to go to make a future in science and technology accessible to women. “It’s not so much that the opportunities aren’t there,” Barown explains, “it’s that the environment isn’t always as inviting for women as it could be. Throughout my career, I’ve had to deal with being the only woman in the room, and on occasion, the comments, both direct and indirect, that come along with that,” Barown says. “If I’d had a thinner skin, I might not be where I am today. I’m not one to give up.”

  1. Andrew Lange, Inc. holds a Women’s Business Enterprise National Council certification, a Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification, and a New York State Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) certification. To learn more about J. Andrew Lange, Inc., visit https://www.jalangeinc.com/.

CALLOUT

“Immediately after coming onboard in 2018, I recognized that Julie had what it takes to be a successful business owner: smart, likeable, great work ethic and impressive educational background. Like my father, J. Andrew Lange, Julie is also a Rensselaer engineering graduate and a Professional Engineer. We were very fortunate to have found such a quality individual in Julie. J. Andrew Lange, Inc. and its employees pride themselves in a commitment to quality and marketplace focus. I am very pleased that Julie will carry the torch for both my and my father’s legacy in J. Andrew Lange, Inc. well into the future as a woman owned business.” – Margery Lange Keskin, Daughter of J. Andrew Lange and Former Owner of J. Andrew Lange, Inc.

Right Price Companies/RPC Technology: Role models for their community in the heart of Syracuse

By Sarah Hall

Darin and Paris Price are looking to create a legacy.

The Syracuse couple, who owns Right Price Companies and RPC Technology, hope to hand their business down to their children someday.

“We want Right Price to be in existence well after we’re gone,” Darin said. “We want it to be a company that is a pillar in Upstate New York for years to come.”

The Prices launched Right Price Companies in 2004. The firm provides commercial furniture to the corporate, education, healthcare, and government sectors. RPC Technology, which launched about seven years ago, made its mark in the industry participating in New York State’s New York State Broadband for All program as a value-added supplier, as well as a logistics material coordinator. The program seeks to bring broadband internet to underserved or unserved areas, where nearly one million New Yorkers, mostly in rural areas, do not have an internet connection (based upon 25/3 bandwidth connection).

Darin maintains that Right Price Companies’ primary goal is to provide solutions and excellent service to its customers.

“Our desire to provide superior service for our customer is what prompted our pivot into the technology industry,” he said. “While working with a client to provide both furniture and a paneling system, the client asked if we could also handle his computer networking and set-up. At the time, our company had a relationship with RMS, a technology service and solutions company, and together, we were able to deliver a complete solution exceeding our customer’s expectation.”

“It went so well that I had an ‘aha moment,’” Darin said.  “Our customers need a total solution. That was the birth of RPC Technology.”

Right Price and RMS merged and began working in the industry, bidding on and winning projects. SUNY Oneonta was its first substantial contract with fiber optic cable.

‘This project allowed us to see technology as our next business frontier,” Darin said.

RPC Technology strategy began planning to participate in the NYS Broadband for All prior to the announcement of grant awards. The program launched in 2016 with three phases of grant awards to telecom and cable service operators and providers, as well as municipalities, throughout the state over the next three years.

“As one of the few certified minority suppliers of fiber optic cable in the area, RPC became a key supplier of fiberoptic cable to cable service provider in Upstate New York that participated in the broadband program, addressing a vital need in Upstate New York.” Darin said.

“When we think about the personal aspect of high-speed broadband, we have to understand that the program allowed for a higher level of connectivity to the rural areas of New York State, especially now, because computer access is more important than ever before,” Paris said. “It’s so desperately needed for our children to learn remotely, for hospitals, businesses, not to mention your home. Not only did we see the benefits for our business, but we recognized the desperate need for the opportunity of expansion of fiber optic cable throughout New York State, especially its rural territories that had some level of access.”

Ultimately, the Prices said they are looking to be a full-service wholesale electrical supply distributor as well as an outside plant construction company. This aspect includes fiber cable deployment, antennae/line installation, and maintenance in relation to cell towers.

“As alumni of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Business program, we have a very clear vision for our future growth,” Darin said.

The Prices also emphasized that RPC is one of the only minority-owned companies in the field. They are certified with New York State and New York City as a Woman/Minority Business Enterprise, as well as the New York Port Authority and the Mass Transit Authority. They are also registered with the National Supplier Development Council as a Minority Business Enterprise and the federal government as a Small Disadvantaged Business.

“We are a company that wants to work with everyone. We are a corporation first that just happens to be owned by a minority,” Darin said. “We’re not a minority first when we walk through the door. We build our reputation on the service and on our products.”

There are some, however, who balk at the MBE label.

“Some people have the stereotypes—the preconceived notions—that because you’re a minority business or a woman-owned business, that there’s going to be something different, they have to do; something different to deal with us,” Darin said. “We go through the many steps of certification to get into the door, to get a fair look-see at a project. Unfortunately, these same old stereotypes never seem to die.”

In reality, being an MBE just means that RPC is looking to make a relatively homogeneous field a little less so.

“RPC is an equal opportunity employer. We hire diverse candidates to go into an industry where there’s not a lot of diversity,” Darin said. “It is our responsibility to give our people a fair opportunity at these jobs.”

As a minority business, RPC is also focused on workforce development and hiring.

“We have a relationship with SUNY EOC, Jubilee Homes, and CNY Works,” Darin said.   

In particular, Darin and Paris’ goal is to bring in talented candidates from their neighborhood.

“We intentionally created our business in the heart of Syracuse,” Paris said. “One of our personal goals is to be role models for those in our community, the community that both Darin and I grew up in. It was very important for us to be able to let our community see a business prosper and to let them see themselves in it. They see business owners and people working that look like them.”

RPC is the culmination of Darin’s aspiration to start his own business, something he dreamed about way back when he was mowing lawns as a kid—and told Paris about it back when they started dating in the early 1980s.

“He always came to me with the idea that one day, he would be self-employed,” Paris said. “For a while, I didn’t understand the benefits of being the boss. But I definitely understand the benefits of it now. We are able to have a pride in ownership that, had he not been persistent about reaching his lifelong goal of being self-employed and owning our own business, we would not have the experience today.”

While there have been challenges, Darin said he would not change a thing.

“My worst day being self-employed doesn’t compare to my best day working for someone else,” he said. “[There’s a] sense of accomplishment and knowing that you started a business from the ground up and seeing how it has blossomed into something that is a legacy builder that you can then give to your children. Your children’s children can see the spirit of entrepreneurship within your family, which really encourages your children to do the same thing.”

Tax Provisions in the Build Back Better Act

Nicholas L. Shires, CPA, Dannible & McKee LLP

At the writing of this article, the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) was passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for deliberation. This bill, if passed by Senate, could drastically change the mindset of your tax planning in 2022 and beyond. It contains numerous provisions related to areas ranging from health care, climate change and immigration to education, social programs and, of course, taxes. While it is expected to undergo some changes before it is passed in the Senate, the legislation will likely undergo several more changes to get all of the Senate Democratics on board.

Funding for the sweeping package largely comes from tax increases on high-income individuals and businesses, but the law also includes tax breaks for eligible taxpayers. Here are some of the significant tax changes included in the bill:

Corporate Taxes

The bill imposes a 15% minimum corporate tax on corporations’ financial statement net income.  This reduces the benefit of numerous credits and deductions for high-income corporate taxpayers.  It also includes a 1% excise tax on companies when they buy back their own stock.

SALT Deduction

After negotiating numerous times, the BBBA plans a cap on the Federal deduction for state and local taxes, or SALT, at $80,000, up from the $10,000 imposed beginning in 2018.  The higher cap would be in place through 2030 and then revert to $10,000 in 2031.

Child Tax Credit

The bill would extend through 2022 the extra monthly payments per child that parents earning up to $150,000 are now getting. The legislation also makes the tax credit permanently refundable.

High Income Surtax

The BBBA would create a 5% surtax on individuals with a modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) that exceeds $10 million ($5 million for married taxpayers filing separately). It adds another 3% surtax on MAGI exceeding $25 million ($12.5 million for married taxpayers filing separately). The surtax would take effect for 2022.

Net investment income tax (NIIT)

The Act would expand the 3.8% NIIT to apply to the trade or business income of high-income individuals, regardless of whether they’re actively involved in the business. The income thresholds are over $500,000 for joint filers, over $400,000 for single filers and over $250,000 for married couples filing separately. The NIIT currently applies to business income only if the income is passive.

Renewable Energy Benefits

Some $300 billion is by far the largest component of the climate spending in the package, which would include expanding a number of tax credits for renewable power, electric vehicles, biofuels and energy efficiency.  The credits apply to businesses and individuals.

EV Tax Credit

Under the bill, a $7,500 consumer tax credit would be made refundable and expanded by up to $4,500 for electric passenger vehicles.  An additional $500 bonus would be added for vehicles that use batteries made in the U.S for a total of $12,500. The legislation also creates a new $4,000 tax credit for the purchase of used electric vehicles.

IRS Enforcement

The bill would give the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) an additional $80 billion to hire more auditors, improve customer service and modernize technology.  The Congressional Budget Office concluded IRS enforcement would raise $207.2 billion over a decade, or $127.2 billion after subtracting the $80 billion in additional funding for the agency.

At the point of writing this article, it’s impossible to say which of the proposed tax law changes will survive and be enacted into law. Additional tax provisions could be added, too. However, smart taxpayers will get up-to-speed on the Build Back Better Act’s tax proposal, so they’re prepared if/when they make it through the legislative process. If you have any questions regarding any of the current tax provisions and how they may impact you and your business, feel free to contact Nick Shires at nshires@dmcpas.com or 315-472-9127.

Nicholas L. Shires, CPA is a tax partner at Dannible & McKee, LLP.  Nick has over 16 years of experience providing tax and consulting services to a wide range of clients, including individuals and privately held companies.