A conversation with: Steve Sanchez, President, The JDK Group

You were just elected to a two-year term as president of the International Caterers Association (ICA). What are you hoping to accomplish during your term? 

It actually is just such an honor to be able to be president of an organization, especially with my time at the JDK Group and overall my youth, you could say, considering past presidents have had a lot of time in their positions; many are owners or 30-year veterans of a company. Overall, my goal is to provide a fresh, new perspective to the organization, really working with our board and our membership to enhance education opportunities, increase our workshops (and) our webinars, really focus on our online resources. We can enhance and share that knowledge so we can help support, educate and advance caterers from around the world.  

One big focus of mine is really relative to the past few years. I really would love to use the organization as a platform to educate about the impact the hospitality industry makes on our communities. If there’s one thing we’ve realized during the pandemic, it’s that so many people have left the hospitality industry due to the long hours, the labor intensity of the job, the low pay, even the high demands of client turnaround. As an organization, we should push the value, the difference that catering events make in the lives of others. We forget how important relationships, community and events are to people and how it makes a difference, and educating that that value is worth a price. By sharing that passion we can empower more of the youth to come back to the hospitality industry and also empower young students who want to take the hospitality track in their careers, and just give grace to an industry that has a major economic and social impact on our society. 

Why is it important for companies like the JDK Group to be involved in related inter/national organizations? 

Organizations like the ICA empower us to see the possibilities of what we can be and what can be produced. Although we’re based here in Camp Hill, Pa., it doesn’t mean we can’t provide our community with new and creative things in food and design, that maybe they would traditionally experience in major cities. It provides that inspiration, and also the educational resources to our team, to be able to expand our local event community and share those resources with our clients as well. Being able to teach and learn is huge, and to also give back; not only are we learning from our peers, we’re taking (what) we’re doing here and also sharing that. I think there’s pride; to be able to represent central Pennsylvania in an international organization, it means a lot to me and our company. 

Catering and event management involves more than just food prep, so what are the keys to bringing all the moving parts together successfully? 

It truly takes a village. At the end of the day, we see our clients’ vision and we build relationships with our clients, because we really want to help envision what they’re looking for. But when you look at all the moving parts from that first phone call all the way to that final goodbye, that follow-up email, it’s all about the people. The talent and creativity we have is what really brings our events together. Each member of our team is involved in so many aspects, from the food menu development through the preparation, to the logistics, planning, layouts, the linens, the lighting, all the way to how we’re loading a truck and going to the middle of a field, unloading and setting it up. It truly has to do with the team that’s involved, and we are blessed to have wonderful people here at the JDK Group. 

What would be your dream event to coordinate?  

I hope I’m not thinking too big, but if I put this out here, maybe it’ll happen. Our team might think I’m crazy, but I would love to produce a multi-day corporate or private event with our team in another city, state or country — even traveling would be incredibly awesome. Being able to showcase the talent of our team here from central Pennsylvania, it’s pretty cool to see what we do in our own backyard, but to take that to another location and show other individuals our capabilities would be cool. It’s something we’ve dreamed about for years. Last year we executed a multi-day wedding in Allentown and had so much fun with the logistics and planning. 

About Steve Sanchez 

Steve Sanchez, 37, is president of the JDK Group, a Camp Hill-based catering and events management company. He was also elected president of the International Caterers Association for the 2022-24 term. He started with the JDK Group in 2008 as a junior event specialist and later served as sales and marketing director and chief sales and marketing officer. 

Sanchez earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing and communications from Elizabethtown College. He lives in Mechanicsburg. 

Jennifer Botchie-Deinlein 

A Conversation With: Karen Simons, owner and accountant, Karen L. Simons CPA, LLC Accounting Services

How did the shift to remote work affect your clients, and in turn, your business? 

One of the ways small businesses can compete with larger businesses is to keep up with technology. My CPA practice has always used a portal, where clients and I can exchange documents securely without worrying about phishing, scams, or identity theft, which can happen when people exchange documents with social security numbers or confidential, financial data through email. CPAs have a recordkeeping requirement for certain original documents and client deliverables; my office has always been “paperless,” in that I scan everything to PDF and use two archival systems as well as my current computer drive to ensure compliance while keeping client data and information secure. There were very few things I needed to do differently during COVID. About one-third of my on-going clients never come into the office; we always work remotely. They might be located out of state or they might be technologically well-connected nearby. Other clients have a different story, though. About two-thirds of my clients have not had the need or desire to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in cybersecurity or other technology-based systems. So, when the quarantine happened, many people were scrambling to be able to work remotely. In October of 2020, we received COVID grants from Cumberland County to make our home offices “COVID-Safer,” which we used exactly for that purpose. This allowed us to convert what was once our laundry and gardening room to our new client area.  

Why did you pursue a law degree, and what is the value added to your business? 

I had always wanted to go to law school, but I couldn’t afford it when I graduated from Penn State in 1992. I decided to move to California, establish residency, and then attend law school at the in-state rates. I chose to live in San Francisco because there were four law schools within an easy commute. I had not realized it would take working one full-time and two part-time jobs just to pay my rent to continue living there.  

I had worked at KPMG in San Francisco and when I moved back to the area, I worked at KPMG’s Harrisburg office, in their consulting division. Consulting is a really nice accounting job and I really enjoyed it, but I wanted to get back into tax. I went to Reznick, Fedder, & Silverman, now Cohn Reznick, in Baltimore, where they have a very strong partnership taxation practice. I enjoyed my time there, met some fantastic colleagues, learned a lot, but meanwhile my favorite aunt had gotten some bad news regarding a cancer diagnosis. I decided to go out on my own, professionally, and spend as much time with my aunt as possible. Literally one month after leaving my job, my aunt passed away. Joy and life, loss and sorrow, these are the lessons you keep close to your heart. But, crisis and opportunity are sometimes the same thing. I was able to get some tax clients and I supplemented the tax season work by hiring myself out to larger companies to do audits or whatever they wanted outside of tax season. However, at one point, I was having trouble developing new tax clients so I thought I should get back into public accounting, but I didn’t have anything new to offer, so I decided to actually go to law school and have that as my new thing. I applied to Dickinson School of Law, which is exactly one mile from my home, and, after acceptance, was able to cobble together payments based on grants, loans and a home equity loan. Dreams aren’t cheap, but they are often worth it. 

Going to law school was illuminating in ways I would not have expected. Because I took so many business and tax classes in addition to having had a 20-year financial career before law school, these classes have added dimensions to my CPA practice. When people tell me their stories, I see not just the current tax year issues, but the issues that might be appearing as time moves forward. Issue-spotting is a key component of law school, in addition to the voluminous reading and writing. I believe law school has helped me in boundary-setting and in both planning and contingency planning for future problems, all of which are key to the future success of my CPA practice. 

What is the most challenging part of your work? 

The most challenging part of my work is completing client deliverables, while keeping up on administrative tasks, while training staff, and meeting deadlines set by outside third parties, typically the IRS, Pa. Department of Revenue or local taxing authorities. This past tax season has been the most difficult, but it has also presented the biggest opportunities. I know now I need to have several private offices, rather than one big, open area; we are moving to fix this problem. I need to hire an office manager, there’s no way I can continue doing everything. Too many projects take too long to complete and then nobody’s happy. 

KPMG gave me a really good model for how to operate a CPA firm, from client acceptance to cybersecurity to efficient workpaper production to client deliverable formats, but they had an apparently unlimited budget and thousands of personnel on-staff to help one another. I try to adhere to their model, but since it’s mostly just me, my results aren’t where my goal is, at least not yet. Once our move is complete Friday, I’ll be lining up tax information and other on-site and remote classes, getting educational videos together, and hiring/training staff for next tax season. 

About Karen Simons 

Karen Simons, 58, founded her own accounting practice – which moves into a new office this week – in 2004. She has been in the public accounting field since 1995.  

Simons earned a bachlor’s degree in accounting from Penn State and a juris doctorate from the Dickinson School of Law. 

She and her wife, Gail Hills, live in Carlisle “in a fabulous 1890s farmhouse we are slowly, lovingly restoring,” and are guardians to two rescue cats, George and Jake. 




A Conversation With: Clayton Bubeck, president and CEO of RETTEW 

How have your many leadership roles at RETTEW prepared you to add CEO to your title? This has been in the works for some time, correct? 

In every leadership role I’ve held at RETTEW , I’ve learned something new – about the company and the industry, about our clients and our employees, and even about myself. But the biggest thing I’ve learned is the ability to empathize with people, regardless of what role you’re in. I’ve represented RETTEW at municipal meetings, run project teams, and led new divisions – all experiences that allowed me to realize that personal interactions in our business are just as important as technical expertise. Having worked for and with people at all levels of my career, I feel prepared to lead the company in new and exciting directions. 

How would you describe yourself as a leader? 

I’ve taken a lot of leadership courses in my career, so I am familiar with the most common styles of leadership. I think I’m a good mix of a few, but the one that describes me the best is Coach. I thrive in a team environment, collaborating with others and motivating them to be their best. This is so important when leading a 100% ESOP company as you want all your employee-owners to feel valued and understand they have a stake in the company’s future. 

Where is RETTEW today as a company? As you take on this new role, where can you see the company expand? 

I am taking on the role of CEO at an extremely dynamic time in our company’s history. As a team, we recently embarked on a new strategic plan, which involves rethinking our focus markets, modifying our corporate structure, and emboldening our company culture in the wake of the COVID pandemic. We are already seeing dramatic and positive shifts in all of these important areas. As these changes take root and begin to grow, I firmly believe RETTEW is poised for further success for another 50-plus years. 

What sort of education is required of a leader that manages as many services in as many markets as RETTEW? 

You can have all the degrees in the world, but at the end of the day, I believe the aptitude to lead comes from experience and empathy for others. As a leader evolves, their knowledge and intuition improve. During any given day, I may be called upon to discuss a merger or acquisition, then lead a financial accounting discussion, and later focus on developing strategic planning metrics to measure the outcomes of those plans, and so on. It is a lot to juggle, but I am fortunate to be surrounded by an impressive team at RETTEW. I am consistently amazed and proud of what I learn from the solutions our employee-owners design and engineer. 

What about the industry today excites you? 

As someone who is always looking for opportunities, I am excited about the infinite opportunities in front of us as the AEC industry evolves. Sustainability is becoming one of the most recognized trends in the industry for good reason. This focus on making the most of every resource is leading to innovative projects and opportunities we never imagined 10 or 20 years ago. 

The evolution of technology is also making way for an exciting future. Projects are becoming safer and more efficient around every corner. For instance, RETTEW created a robotic surveying device combining multiple technologies to help our surveyors navigate and gather information in dangerous areas. 

Finally, I’m excited to see the influx of new generations entering the industry. For the longest time, there was a shortage of college graduates entering STEM fields, but we are starting to see this change. New, diverse faces are bringing fresh ideas to our industry and I’m eager to see how things evolve. 

About Clayton Bubeck 

Bubeck joined RETTEW in 2000 as an environmental engineer and has held many leadership positions, eventually advancing to president in 2019 and taking on the additional role of CEO in 2022.  

He is a Professional Engineer licensed in 28 states and has a diverse background in environmental engineering, oil and gas, and renewable energy services.   

Bubeck’s team-oriented leadership style and proven track record of business development has helped evolve RETTEW from a mid-Atlantic firm to one now developing and delivering services throughout the United States.  

His expertise drives the company’s aggressive growth strategies in its focus markets.  

Bubeck is always at the forefront of relevant market trends and is a leader in strategic discussions with both in-house staff and key clients and partners.  He is a graduate of the American Council of Engineering Companies’ Senior Executive Institute and received a certificate from the Wharton School of Executive Education. 

A Conversation With: Brian Rinker, market president for Highmark’s Eastern Pennsylvania Region

Brian Rinker is the market president for the Eastern Pennsylvania Region for Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, based in Camp Hill & Wilkes-Barre.

He is responsible for coordination and support of Highmark’s business objectives and advocacy with key stakeholders.

LVB: Covid-19 has brought about changes in health care insurance. What are some of the big changes?

Rinker: One of the biggest changes we saw during the pandemic was the increase in usage and adoption of telemedicine.

At the beginning of the pandemic last year, Highmark expanded coverage for telehealth services to all members and waived cost-sharing (deductibles, coinsurance and copayments) on all covered telehealth services from contracted vendors and providers.

However, as restrictions are being lifted and more and more members are able to schedule in-person medical appointments, the cost-sharing waiver for in-network telehealth visits will expire as planned on June 30.

Throughout the pandemic, our members have really taken to telemedicine and the option to receive care virtually.

In fact, utilization of telehealth services by Highmark members during the pandemic increased by more than 3,400 percent and more than 3.4 million telehealth services were accessed by the end of 2020 alone.

LVB:  What are some of the other trends in health care insurance?

Rinker: One trend we are seeing now is insurers working to help get not just their members, but everyone, vaccinated.

At Highmark, we are working with many partners to ensure that vulnerable populations are being vaccinating and learning that they should not be hesitant about getting the vaccine.

Highmark has joined with other Blue Plans for the Rally for Recovery Commitment to protect employees, encourage COVID-19 vaccinations and educate staff and local communities on ways to mitigate the spread of the virus. The pledge was launched in March 2021 by the federal government and business leaders.

We also joined the Vaccine Community Connects pilot program with AHIP, BCBSA and the White House to vaccinate 2 million seniors, with a focus on people living in the most at-risk vulnerable and underserved areas, including African American and Hispanic communities.

And we are a main sponsor with Latino Connection on several ongoing vaccination events serving minority and vulnerable populations across Pennsylvania.

And we have also partnered with Rite Aid to deliver 3,000 COVID vaccines to vulnerable populations (mostly seniors) in western and central PA at our Highmark Direct stores.

LVB:· How do you help employers navigate the changing health insurance landscape?

Rinker: Most employers utilize brokers who know health care and who can use their expertise to help the employer navigate the complexities of the health care landscape.

As an insurer, we can help customers by helping their employees better understand their bills, their benefits, and the cost of their care. Our transparency tools provide members with the information they need to make smart decisions about their health care and health care spending. This makes cost and quality not only transparent but meaningful; helping customers and their employees make educated choices when deciding on medical care.

These tools include:

  • A care cost estimator tool that allows members to shop and compare costs on common surgeries, diagnostic procedures, and office visits. The tool calculates what portion members will have to pay for medical care or procedures based on their plan and benefits.
  • A “Find a Doctor” tool that allows members to search for a local provider. Members can view a physician’s medical training, board certifications, professional recognitions, and practice details and compare up to three physicians side by side.
  • A Doctor Match tool also allows members to search for a doctor that meets their personal preferences, such as a doctor who likes to spend more time with patients or a doctor sensitive to cultural differences.

LVB:  What are some developments in health care insurance that you see on the horizon?

Rinker: What we are focused on at Highmark is creating real value for our customers and members. This means working for customers and members to manage costs, manage quality of care as well as quality of health, and to create a remarkable member experience.

As an example, for the last several years we have been moving toward value-based reimbursement, which pays providers more when our members are healthier and have better outcomes.

And we are seeing results through our True Performance program. Our claims data for years 2017, 2018 and 2019 (2020 is not yet available) has shown that the program has helped to avoid a total of $1.09 billion in health care costs from Emergency Department (ED) visits and hospital admissions.

We are also implementing high-performance networks and products with like-minded providers that offer our customers and members the highest value.

Together, these initiatives are helping to lower our customers’ total cost of care.