By Sue Minichiello
AffinEco Managing Partners Michael Diamond and Paul Senecal have long recognized that the partnerships they form with other companies play a huge role in their own company’s success.
“We understand that aligning with others at the top of their game helps us operate at the top of our game,” Diamond said. “That’s why we continually evaluate and seek out the best partners and consultants to meet our accounting, insurance, legal and other needs.”
This article highlights a few such individuals and their companies:
- Chris Peck, CEO of CBP
- Mark Fries, CPCU, Senior Vice President of People’s United Insurance Agency
- Glenn Duhl, Esq., Shareholder and Lead Trial Counsel at Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck, P.C.
- Bill Conron, CPA and Partner at Citrin Cooperman
Chris Peck, CEO of CBP
For its employee group insurance needs and benefits—medical, dental, life and disability—AffinEco works with CBP, a privately owned mid-sized consulting firm headquartered in Stamford, CT. CBP provides creative solutions for group benefits, risk management, executive benefits and other human resources needs. AffinEco and CBP partnered up about a year ago.
“Michael and I first met at a Vistage Connecticut meeting where I spoke a couple of years ago,” said CBP Chief Executive Officer Chris Peck. “As he and Paul looked ahead to Obamacare compliance, they realized they needed a benefits consultant who could offer more substantial support and guidance as well as help them to control costs. And so, they reached out to me.”
Peck and his team at CBP were fully prepared to advise AffinEco on compliance with the Affordable Care Act. They had a stellar reputation for all matters related to group insurance and benefits, such as representing businesses in the insurance marketplace, controlling costs by shopping for the best carriers and structuring plan designs to be the best for both the employer and the employees.
CBP was recently named among Hearst’s Connecticut Top Workplaces in the Small Business category, ranking second out of nearly 650 competing companies. The ranking is based solely upon employee surveys conducted by Workplace Dynamics, a leading organizational health and employee engagement research firm.
“I believe a great client experience starts with a great employee experience. So, it’s terrific to have this confirmation of how satisfied our employees are, how much they enjoy their work and value CBP as an employer, because that translates directly into better services for our clients” Peck said.
Peck is no stranger to personal accolades either. The Southern Connecticut Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) just named him CEO Leader of the Year in its 2014 Fairfield County Human Resources People of the Year Awards. He also received a 2012 Fairfield County “40 Under 40” award for his extraordinary leadership qualities and outstanding accomplishments.
Peck is quick to shrug off these personal honors, preferring to focus on CBP’s achievements and reputation as a whole and to bring attention to the best of the firm’s clients.
“It’s always nice to work with other companies like AffinEco that share our philosophy of creating a healthy and positive environment for employees,” Peck said. “Michael and Paul are truly committed to establishing themselves as an employer of choice, which will only bring them more success. And I’m excited that CBP will be there to support them along the way.”
Mark Fries, CPCU, Senior Vice President of People’s United Insurance Agency
For commercial property and casualty insurance and risk management, AffinEco partnered with People’s United Insurance Agency (PUIA) five years ago. PUIA is a full-service insurance agency headquartered in Hartford, CT and spanning New England and parts of New York. The agency has been serving the personal and business insurance needs of consumers and business owners for over 100 years. It also offers group insurance and employee benefit plans as well as risk management services. PUIA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of People’s United Bank. The agency is highly regarded and has earned a variety of accolades, including a Liberty Mutual President’s Award, Hanover President’s Award and Chubb Cornerstone Award.
In its work with AffinEco, PUIA provides counsel and guidance on insurance, asset protection and workplace safety, including risk management techniques for liability, worker’s comp and automobile exposures. AffinEco’s insurance risk is very challenging. Consider its large fleet and employees at more than 200 locations in three different states doing physical labor and tasks with inherent hazards and often doing so after-hours and alone.
“The bottom line is that insurance companies want clients they can make money with. They want companies that are best-in-class in terms of investment in employee safety, cooperative management and more,” said PUIA Senior Vice President Mark Fries. “It’s evident when you see AffinEco’s operations that they strive to be best-in-class across the board. They seek out high-profile clients, have industry-leading human resources capabilities and know their business inside and out. And they recognize that there are aspects of their business that require help from outside resources, like us.”
Fries recognizes that AffinEco makes employee safety a top priority, along with the safety of the tenants at its hundreds of work sites. He works personally with the company’s safety committee, which holds regular meetings and has routine reporting structures in place. When it comes to worker’s comp claims and accident investigations, PUIA is in frequent contact to ensure that all of the key players are fully informed, both at AffinEco and at the insurance carrier.
“With AffinEco’s leadership and our staff, it’s very much a team approach to insurance and risk management. We all do our best to maintain communication and make sure we circle back to analyze operations, minimize risk and avoid surprises,” Fries said.
PUIA’s risk management department helps AffinEco address OSHA, safety and driver training as well as advising the company on risk transfer agreements, which stipulate performance and indemnification in contracts between AffinEco and its customers. PUIA works to ensure that AffinEco is not opening itself up to exposures it shouldn’t.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to partner with such a reputable company as AffinEco. Michael and Paul set a high standard for themselves and are always receptive to learning and improving. They put key people in leadership positions who continually excel,” said Fries. “We feel we have a lot in common. People’s United is well respected in the insurance industry and has a highly professional and capable staff. Like AffinEco, we value and empower our employees and we adhere to a philosophy of giving back to the communities in which we work.”
Fries gives back to the community in many ways, including serving on the Boards of the University of Bridgeport, St. Vincent’s Medical Center Foundation, Bridgeport Regional Business Council and Newtown Scholarship Association as well as more than a decade of work with the Eastern Fairfield County United Way. He is a recipient of the Paul Harris Fellowship Award, the Volunteer Leadership Award by the Bridgeport Volunteer Association and the University of Bridgeport Distinguished Alumni Award for Community Service.
Glenn Duhl, Esq., Shareholder & Lead Trial Counsel at Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck, P.C.
Labor and employment law is a challenging and ever-changing field that requires continual employer attention. Not knowing or understanding the law does not excuse non-compliance. That’s why, for about 20 years now, AffinEco has relied on Glenn Duhl, Esq., Shareholder and Lead Trial Counsel at the Hartford-based firm of Siegel, O’Connor, O’Donnell & Beck, P.C., who leads the firm’s litigation department.
Both Duhl and the firm have earned high accolades over the years. Just this year, Duhl was selected for inclusion in the 21st Edition of Best Lawyers in America. He has earned Martindale-Hubbell’s highest rating for ethical standards and legal ability (i.e., AVPreeminent) and has been selected by his peers as a Connecticut Super Lawyer and a New England Super Lawyer. In this year’s Connecticut Law Tribune Litigation Department of the Year Awards, the firm received top honors in the Labor and Employment Law category. It is listed in the Martindale-Hubbell Register of Preeminent Lawyers and has been named one of the top law firms in Connecticut by Hartford Magazine.
Duhl advises AffinEco on all labor and employment legal matters. He feels he serves AffinEco and all of his clients best by providing advance guidance on legislation, workplace standards to uphold and pitfalls to avoid. He shares preventive measures with Diamond and Senecal who, in turn, train their managers well so they can develop teams that run like well-oiled machines.
Duhl helps AffinEco to communicate expectations to employees through proper and consistent training on company rules and policies. In fact, he helped the company develop its employee handbook. Diamond and Senecal wanted to ensure that they stated guidelines, expectations and consequences for violations in a tactful and respectful manner that would boost a sense of teamwork, camaraderie and employee morale. Duhl says that AffinEco did a great job of this and excels at investing in staff training and communications.
“The management spends a lot of time keeping the company healthy—a large part of that being strong employee relations—and I think that’s self-evident,” said Duhl. “AffinEco is known for efficiency and fairness in the competitive marketplace. The leadership team takes a genuine interest in its employees and listens to their views.”
Even with the best employee training and communications, labor disputes do occur. When an AffinEco employee has a dispute or grievance, Duhl not only counsels on the specific case, but also suggests means for improvement for conflict avoidance in the future. He initially provides guidance and ultimately can represent the company in arbitration or court action. He’s quick to say that AffinEco has had very few court actions over the years, and adds that this isn’t a mere accident.
“AffinEco has effective preventive measures in place, and with sound preventive measures, you have a healthy company that minimizes the risk of ‘illness’.”
Bill Conron, CPA and Partner at Citrin Cooperman
For its wide-ranging accounting needs, AffinEco depends on Bill Conron, CPA and Partner at Citrin Cooperman’s Connecticut office. Citrin Cooperman is a nationally recognized full-service accounting, tax and consulting firm with offices throughout the Northeast. Since 1979, the firm has helped companies and high net worth individuals find smart solutions to achieve their short- and long-term goals. A major add-on value the firm offers is its expertise in organic growth and growth through acquisition, which is exactly what AffinEco was looking for about a year ago.
That unique value represents just one of many exceptional aspects of Citrin Cooperman. The firm’s outstanding character is evidenced by numerous accolades, including a current ranking of 25th overall on Inside Public Accounting’s Top 100 Firms, designation as one of the Best Accounting Firms to Work For by Accounting Today and a 2014 Best Places to Work in CT designation by The Hartford Business Journal. Conron himself was recently named one of Fairfield County’s “40 Under 40” by the Fairfield County Business Journal.
Conron says Citrin Cooperman began its partnership with AffinEco by getting at the root of what the company was trying to accomplish, and then helping create a roadmap to get there. As a company grows, new issues arise all the time. So, Conron and his colleagues meet and speak regularly with Diamond, Senecal and other members of AffinEco’s management team to ensure they’re up to date on everything that’s happening, including potential deals. They know that things run far more smoothly when they’re in the loop early on in the process.
Citrin Cooperman has a substantial background in acquisitions—assisting in onboarding new companies and adding talent—as well as developing internal talent. Conron advises AffinEco on how to structure potential acquisitions advantageously and helps the company focus on internal areas where it can boost revenue and minimize expenses.
“We are working with AffinEco to help them understand the most tax-efficient ways to accomplish their goals,” said Conron. “Our firm is also well-connected, so we’re able to promote AffinEco and our other clients in positive ways, providing valuable introductions and networking opportunities.”
In fact, Conron first met Diamond and Senecal at a networking event. And he’s gotten to know them much better over the course of the past year, including what he’s observed personally and what he’s heard from others in the business community.
“Michael and Paul have a great reputation. They’re extremely focused on customer service. They’re always looking at how they’re doing and how they could do better. That’s what really helps them continue to grow,” Conron said. “Plus, they do all the right things for their employees, putting them in a position to succeed. And that’s what we aim to do for the company, help position it to succeed.”
According to Conron, another key to the AffinEco partnership is Citrin Cooperman’s Business Development Manager Dean MeMott. Conron says not many other firms their size have someone like DeMott who is focused solely on overseeing the relationship, keeping it strong and improving it wherever possible.
“We’re on the same side of the table and consider ourselves part of the AffinEco team. We work as their true partner,” said Conron. “And because we do more than just tax returns, we offer more in terms of how we support our partnerships. We were thrilled when they told us that our first year working with them was seamless. It was a great start to what we expect will become a longstanding, mutually beneficial relationship.”
“It’s such a pleasure to work with so many outstanding service partners,” Senecal said. “Their input and guidance is invaluable and helps us continue to grow and improve in ways that benefit our operations, employees and customers.”