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FORTY UNDER 40 (part seven)

By , - Last modified: March 2, 2011 at 10:34 AM


David Richter
Hill International

When he was growing up, David Richter had no intention of working in the family business. He wanted to be an architect. At the time his father, Irv, was busy building Hill International into a company that handled construction management and construction claims disputes around the globe.

After he found he had no talent for drafting, David switched course. He studied civil engineering and business and then went on to get a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania and started working for the law firm Weil Gotschal & Manges in New York City."I didn''t want to work in the family business. I wanted to go out and succeed on my own," he says. But he also realized that along the way he had acquired "the perfect background to work at Hill," because the company mixes engineering, law and business."David joined Hill in 1995 as general counsel and oversaw several acquisitions as well as the successful spinoff of a software company his father had owned that evolved into Tickets.com. It went public in 1999 and is now the second largest ticketing company in the U.S.

Last year, David, now 35, became president of the project-management group at Hill, supervising 250 employees who work on construction jobs. Two of the local projects Hill saw through to completion last year were the Battleship New Jersey museum in Camden and the baseball stadium for the Lakewood Blue Claws.

Hill moved into a new headquarters in Marlton last year and reported revenues of about $70 million. David says he, his father and his brother own the company now but plan to take it public in 2003, if it continues to grow according to plans.

David said he and Irv, who remains CEO at Hill, "get along great." David says his father has a very strong personality, which makes running operations sometimes a challenge. "But I couldn''t have a better coach," he adds. l

Joanne Scillia
Loving Care Pediatric Homecare

Joanne Scillia, 35, director of managed care and marketing for Loving Care Pediatric Homecare in Fort Lee, always wanted to pursue a position in healthcare. The East Orange native began that career in Florida, receiving her degree in nursing in 1992 from Florida International University. By graduation, she had already worked as an extern on the medical and surgical floor of a nearby hospital.

After receiving her degree, Scillia served for a year as a telemetry care nurse for North Broward Medical Center in Pompano Beach. An associate referred her to a home healthcare position with Home Advantage in Miami Beach. "For the first two months I was a staff nurse with a case load," she recalls. Then I was quickly offered a post as nurse manager in the office." In 1995, Scillia moved back to the Garden State, and managed workers compensation and disability insurance claims for corporations through Work & Well in Berkeley Heights. "This kind of job appealed to me," she says, "the oversight end." Her skills caught the eye of headhunters, and she moved to Bayada Nursing in Moorestown, where she was offered the job of director of pediatric homecare. Scillia joined the Loving Care Agency in 1999 as director of marketing and business development. "They really didn''t have a pediatrics side when I came," she says. "I set this up and wrote the business plan."

Scillia also developed a training program for the LPNs (licensed practical nurses) and RNs (registered nurses), including fieldwork with qualified staff and classroom time. The program remains a rarity in the industry.

Today, Loving Care serves much of northern New Jersey and has some 400 nurses on staff. Scillia is also spearheading a Cherry Hill office that opened in October. "We have become one of the largest pediatric homecare companies in New Jersey," she says, "and the fastest-growing here." l

Gregory Scozzari
V. J. Scozzari & Sons

Looking back on his numerous construction projects ranging from historical renovations and office projects to sports complexes, Gregory Scozzari values most the client relationships he has forgedand kept. "It isn''t uncommon at the end of a project for a contractor and an owner not to be on good terms," says Scozzari, 39, president of the design and construction firm V. J. Scozzari & Sons in Lawrenceville, where he also makes his home.

A second generation businessman, Scozzari was a year away from his 1985 graduation from what was then called Rider College when he helped relaunch his father Vincent''s Scozzari Construction. Since then, the firm has grown to generate revenues of $23 million last year, a level Gregory expects to maintain in 2002. It has about 50 employees on its payroll. "Many of our roughly 30 clients bring repeat business," he says, attributing that to the personal attention he and younger brother and vice president Vincent Scozzari, Jr. give each client. "We give them an owner''s attention," he says, which explains his and his brother''s 60-70 hour weekly work regimens.

Among their recent projects is the $6-million, 32,000-sq.-ft. headquarters building constructed last year for Roma Federal Savings Bank in Washington. Another is a $7-million housing project for the handicapped for the non-profit Project Freedom in Lawrence. Currently, the firm is busy with projects for the YMCA in Metuchen and Hamilton.

Greg Scozzari finds openings in his tough schedule to "sneak out for an hour" occasionally to his Lawrenceville residence to spend time with children Jaclyn, 8; Gregory, 6 and Joseph, 4, and wife Michelle, who manages both a family and some real estate investments. Last week, Greg took his first vacation in two years and went skiing in New Hampshire. Business, however, doesn''t escape attention even in his after hours: he enjoys playing golf, but admits it''s "primarily business related, where I can take clients outside the conference room." l

David Singer
Singer Nelson Charlmers

David Singer, CEO of the Teaneck-based insurance agency Singer Nelson Charlmers, discovered his love for the entrepreneurial life only after taking a more conventional route to a career. He began his career in computer consulting after graduating from the State University of New York-Albany in 1984.After a year in accounting firm Arthur Andersen''s Manhattan computer-consulting group, Singer was ready to move on. He soon held a similar position at the accounting firm of Oppenheim, Appel, Dixon in New York City.

By this point, Singer, 39, admits he knew he wanted to be much more than a small cog in a very big business wheel. When his father, the insurance industry veteran Al Singer, approached him about opening an agency, he jumped at the opportunity. In 1987, the two started Singer Insurance Group after the elder Singer sold a successful insurance business.

Soon, the son was outstripping the father as the younger Singer capitalized on his own entrepreneurial skills. "I liked being the chief cook and bottle washer," he says. "I learned a tremendous amount about insurance, and also about everything from finding commercial real estate to hiring people." In 1994, when the name of his father''s prior business (Nelson Charlmers) became available, father and son changed the name of their firm to a combination of the old and the new: Singer Nelson Charlmers.

The firm now boasts 35 staffers and pulled in $4.5 million in revenues in 2001. It services middle-market companies with a variety of coverages that include employee benefits and personal insurance for company owners.

Despite the threat of generational conflict whenever family and business mix, Singer says he and his father seldom have spats. "One of the things that helped us to be successful together was that my dad worked to groom me as his successor," he says. "There was no father and son struggle here." l

Suzanne Sowinski
Sowinski Sullivan Architects
Good things come in threes for Suzanne Sowinski, president of Sowinski Sullivan Architects in Andover. Twelve years ago, she had triplets. In 1996, at age 33, Sowinski started her own architectural firm. Last year, she tripled her staff size and is setting up a satellite office in nearby Sparta.

"There are 13 of us and we need to hire more," says Sowinski.

That growth is partially fueled by successful government- contract bids. Last August, Sowinski''s firm became the first woman-owned concern to secure a contract in the state''s massive $8.6 billion school construction program.

That happened when Sowinski received a $150,000 contract from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority to design a $1.4-million health and safety project at Newark''s Vailsburg Middle School. Sowinski has also received a $144,000 contract for similar renovations to the Ben Franklin School in Elizabeth.

"Like many businesses, she has struggled with operational and financial hurdles," says Felix McIntyre, the firm''s accountant in Sparta. "But she has proven her ability to effectively bridge the gaps and exceed expectations. I think Suzanne runs all areas of her professional services business very successfully."

Sussex County would agree with McIntyre. It presented Sowinski with a planning award last year for transforming a former lumber yard into a state-of-the-art office facility in Andover for Capital Health Service, an adult day care center.

Sowinski''s husband, Richard, is the "Sullivan" in the firm. He got tired of commuting to Manhattan and now works for his wife, who is the sole owner and principal-in-charge of all projects. l

Simone Spence
Child Support Solutions

Simone Spence, 34, has made a career out of an unlikely and imposing subject-child support. Spence heads up Child Support Solutions, a growing Montclair consulting practice that teaches women how to collect the child support owed them. Spence''s investigative skills have led attorneys and government agencies to seek out her expertise, and readers to turn to a book she wrote three years ago.

Spence found her vocation by happenstance. After receiving a B.A. in communications and journalism in 1992 from the New York Institute of Technology, she worked as a reporter and a music- show host for a Brookhaven, New York cable channel. The breakup of her own marriage and the child support problems she faced put her on a new career path.

Looking to be closer to her family, Spence moved to New Jersey in 1993 and took on a sales position at Don Aux Associates, a Hasbrouck Heights management-consulting firm. That year, she also conceived and wrote a column on single parenting and child support for The North Jersey Herald and News. Says Spence: "It wasn''t an issue that just affected me. There were vast numbers of people having the same problem."

By 1994, Spence was a sought-after lecturer on the subject and was busy researching a book on child support. When no publisher would buy it, Spence self-published "1-800-DeadBeat" in 1999. Publishers took notice then; Spence sold 10,000 copies in just four months. The reprinted version, "Deadbeats: What Responsible Parents Need to Know about Child Support," was published by Sourcebooks the following year.

Today, Spence''s Child Support Solutions advises thousands of clients and provides pro bono services for some 500 persons through the nonprofit Spence Foundation. Among her clients are corporations and employee-assistance programs. "My research shows a link between job performance and child support problems," she says.

Spence has remarried and is the mother of two children. "While I never envisioned this, the work is fulfilling," she says of her child support-advice career. "I couldn''t think of anything else I would rather do." l

Regina Spratt

Regina Spratt, 37, took an engineering background and forged a successful insurance brokerage career from it. As surprising as it might sound, says Spratt, a senior vice president for Marsh''s New Jersey operations, it takes an engineer to understand the inner workings of manufacturing, retail and pharmaceutical businesses and what it takes to avoid having losses.

"In manufacturing, for instance, you look at the production line to make it more efficient and to reduce employee injury," Spratt says. "You might work on product liability issues to avoid customer problems."

Marsh''s New Jersey operation generates about $42 million in revenues from about 241 clients. The key to Spratt''s success has been a combination of old-fashioned hard work and experience.

Born in Kingston, New York, Spratt received her B.S. degree in industrial engineering in 1986 from Lafayette College. For the next two years, she worked in loss prevention for Liberty Mutual. Then, from 1988 to 1992, she did safety management work for Westinghouse Elevator. Despite a grueling schedule, Spratt attended night school and received her M.S. in environmental engineering from the New Jersey Institute of Technology-Newark in 1991. A year later, she was serving as safety coordinator for the Hertz rental car system in Park Ridge.

When the opportunity came to work for the insurance brokerage firm Johnson and Higgins in 1996, Spratt jumped at the chance. When Johnson & Higgins became part of the Marsh family of businesses in 1997, Spratt swiftly moved up the ladder and last year was named a senior vice president.

In her off hours, Spratt manages to get in a few holes of golf, a sport she has enjoyed since she was young. She has even managed to build some business relationships while teeing off. "I know it sounds corny, but you have to recognize it is a people business," she says of her job. l

Emanuel Stern
Hartz Mountain Industries

Emanuel Stern may not win first place in a popularity contest for real estate moguls, but his record as a developer bespeaks the effectiveness of his blunt, no-nonsense style. Between battling politicians and bureaucrats over what he sees as inequitable deals, the 38-year-old Stern also runs the state''s biggest real estate development firm, Hartz Mountain Industries of Secaucus, as its president and chief operating officer. Hartz, which dominates the Hudson River waterfront market, counts 185 buildings with 35 million sq. ft. in its portfolio and also owns more than 200 developable acres.

Stern didn''t move straight into the real estate operations that his father, Leonard Stern, started in 1966 in a move away from the family pet-food business that was sold last year. After his 1985 graduation in political science and history from Tufts University in Massachusetts, he worked in publishing and for the New York City Department of Parks before joining Hartz as a vice president in 1992.

Stern says his most important managerial quality is his ability to listen to and understand the needs of his clients and to use creative thought to find solutions. "The key to getting your share of the deal is figuring out how to solve the other person''s problem," he says. For example, in the mid-1980s Stern found a way to direct the money New York City spent on welfare hotels to create "a nice, stable environment with a variety of on-site social services" for indigent families. That was while Stern worked at Homes for the Homeless, a nonprofit organization that he helped found in New York. The cause is still dear to Stern, a Manhattan resident who for the past 10 years has been active in the city''s Legal Action Center for the Homeless. l

Marius Swart

Marius Swart, 36, founder of CyberShift, a Parsippany workplace time management software firm, has an ambitious plan for his future: "I want to learn two more languages, and in four years I plan to live in the south of France for one year and write a book." Swart, a native of South Africa, already speaks three languagesEnglish, German and Afrikaansplays six musical instruments, has driven racing cars and served in the South African military. "I have quite a few scars from the battle wounds from my military service during South Africa''s war with Angola," he says.Swart graduated in 1987 from the University of Port Elizabeth in South Africa with a degree in computer science and entered mandatory military service for two years. He became a manager of information technology for a printing company and joined Goodyear''s South African branch in 1990 as a senior system analyst. A year later, Swart left Goodyear and started some serious corporate wandering. First, he was a regional sales manager of GOM, a time-management firm. He left that company in 1995 to join BMI, a seller of time clock and access control hardware in Toronto, Canada. BMI was sold in 1996 to a partnership of two workplace management companies, Japan''s Amano and British firm Blick, and became ABI. Swart moved with ABI to the U.S. in 1997 and the company became CyberShift.

CEO Swart last year raised financing from LLR Equity Partners and the Edison Venture Fund to buy out CyberShift''s parent companies. CyberShift won the IT Software Company of the Year award last year from the New Jersey Technology Council. The company includes 3M, Goodyear, Michelin and Pfizer among its clients.

Swart has now stepped down as CEO to serve as CyberShift''s chief technology officer. "We''ve grown to a size where I can be the founder and technical person, while the the hands-on manager of the company is someone else," he says. Despite the slow down in technology, CyberShift has maintained an open corporate culture. "We have some musicians working here, and sometimes we have sing-alongs," says Swart. He is married and lives in Basking Ridge with Wanda, his wife of nine years. l

Sylvia Veitia
AAA Travel Services

Sylvia Veitia, 35, acknowledges many passions. She''s passionate about being a wife, a mother and the vice president of e-business for the Hamilton-based AAA Mid-Atlantic region, as well as president since 1999 of the New Jersey Travel Industry Association.

"My true passion in my work is interacting with people," the Puerto Rico-born Veitia says. "I enjoy most of all my role as a mother of two beautiful boys, Harry, 2, and Nathan, 4," says Veitia, who''s married to copyright attorney Scott Baker. Music is a passion she shares with her husbandeverything from flamenco to classical symphonies. Another passion: "I''m an Internet nerd."

That''s a good thing, since Veitia has headed up AAA Mid-Atlantic''s e-business operations for the past year. The online site enables AAA members and customers to access a full range of the organization''s services over the Web.

Veitia''s other passions tend to revolve around travel-related activities. She served on former Congressman Bob Frank''s task force on aggressive driving and, since 1995, has been co-chair of the steering committee for an annual state conference on travel and tourism.

Veitia, who holds a B.A. and an M.A. from Rider University in Lawrenceville, joined AAA in 1990 as a public relations assistant involved in lobbying and public policy work. She became PR director in 1993 and was named corporate communications vice president for the AAA Central-West Jersey area in 1997 before it grew to encompass the entire Mid-Atlantic region. Veitia''s professional goal is to enhance AAA''s Internet offerings and provide more value for online customers. Another goal is to develop staffers'' careers and "get them to be even better people." l

Thomas Vorbach
JetPharma USA

Tom Vorbach is leading a Swiss company''s push to help U.S. pharmaceutical giants run a cleaner shop.

Vorbach, 39, took over last year as managing director of the U.S. operations of Jetpharma, a maker of precision milling machines that can grind powders down to submicronal size.

Grinding fine appeals to drug companies because it can increase the effectiveness of their compounds. The machinescalled spiral jet millscan cost $300,000 or more and have additional advantages. Vorbach says their smooth interior surfaces makes them easy to clean, a feature of major importance to pharmaceutical manufacturers, which operates under stringent Food & Drug Administration regulations. Those rules require drug makers to prove their milling machines are completely cleaned after each batch is made, to avoid any cross-contamination between compounds. Along with the U.S, where Pharmacia has been a loyal customer, Jetpharma sells its mills in 15 countries in Europe and Asia.

Before joining Jetpharma, Vorbach spent ten years in various operating jobs at the Tosco refinery in Linden. Then, in 1999, he made a move to advance his career by enrolling in NJIT''s Management of Technology MBA program. "I wanted to marry the skills of technology and the ability to work with people," he says.

Vorbach studied psychology in college and he says that is the training he probably uses most in day-to-day business dealings. At Jetpharma, which has its office in South Plainfield, Vorbach currently has one technician on staff and expects to hire two more. "I feel my mission is to improve the service and help our customers achieve the FDA results they need," he says.

When he is not working, Vorbach is an opera fan who also loves spending time in what he calls "my particular paradise" by walking the boardwalk in Spring Lake and Sea Girt or spending time with his wife, Noel, a registered nurse who works at Jersey Shore Medical Center, and their two children. l

Joseph Zarkowski
Wiss & Company

Joseph Zarkowski, 39, a partner with Wiss & Company in Livingston, went to college on the eight year plan. It wasn''t because he had problems with his grades. By day, he dug ditches as a construction worker for PSE&G, the Newark utility. He took night classes at William Paterson University and earned his B.A. in accounting by 1990.

"I always wanted to be a businessman as opposed to being a construction worker," says Zarkowski.

He really, really wanted to be a businessman. When he joined Wiss 12 years ago, Zarkowski took more than half a pay cut to become an accountant. "I had a secure union job," says Zarkowski. "I don''t want to downgrade what I did at PSE&G because it did a lot for me."

Taking the risk of leaving a secure job for a new profession paid off. By July 1, 1999, he became a partner in the firm, which has 60 CPAs. A collector of fine Bordeaux wines, he celebrated the accomplishment with an 1982 Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

Last year, Zarkowski received another promotion worthy of toasting. He was appointed chair of the firm''s Accounting and Auditing Committee. He also leads the firm''s SEC practice and is the partner in charge of Independence, Ethics and Objectivity, two positions that have grown in importance since the Enron bankruptcy. "Crunching numbers isn''t what makes me come to work every day," says Zarkowski. "It''s helping clients achieve their goals and making them as profitable as possible."

Zarkowski says his own career filled with risk taking helps him understand his entrepreneurial clients. The rewards are more than financial, he insists. "Being able to consult with clients and help their business overcome hardships and being a trusted adviser for them is more rewarding than any amount of dollars," says Zarkowski. "To see them succeed is what makes it great coming to work every day." l

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