John Fikany

John Fikany, Founder and CEO, The Fikany Group

John Fikany is the founder and CEO of The Fikany Group, an independent consulting firm. The Fikany Group assists national and international clients in business/digital transformation, personal and business development.

Prior to starting his own company, Fikany served as vice president of strategy and corporate development for Rock Holdings/Quicken Loans. Along with strategy and business development, he was responsible for the strategic partner relations program, community and employer branding, university relations, and the intern program that attracts 1,800 interns nationwide.

Fikany serves on the board of directors for the Detroit Economic Club, Detroit Regional Chamber, Focus: HOPE, Boys & Girls Club of Southeastern Michigan, The Parade Company, Detroit Athletic Club Executive Roundtable, OpTech, Notables and Bullseye. He is a recipient of the Global Citizenship Award.

Attorney Sara Rubino Selected as a 2018 Up & Coming Lawyer Honoree by Michigan Lawyers Weekly

TROY, Mich., October 26, 2018 – Dickinson Wright PLLC is pleased to announce that Attorney Sara B. Rubino has been selected as a “2018 Up & Coming Lawyer” Honoree by Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Ms. Rubino is a Member in the firm’s Troy office. She specializes in probate, trust, estate and fiduciary litigation. Additionally, she maintains an active estate planning and elder law practice. Ms. Rubino routinely works with families, seniors and individuals with special needs. She enjoys counseling and advocating for vulnerable individuals and their families navigating the probate and public benefit systems.

Ms. Rubino is recognized as a leader in her field by Michigan Super Lawyers Rising Stars. She is a frequent speaker and author on probate related topics such as guardianships, conservatorships, estate administration and trust contests. She is a member of the Oakland County Bar Association, serving on the Membership Committee, New Lawyers Board and as Barrister for the Inns of Court. She is also a member of the Michigan State Bar Probate, Litigation and Elder Law and Disability Rights sections, as well as the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. Ms. Rubino received her B.A. from Central Michigan University and her J.D. from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

Each year, Michigan Lawyers Weekly selects 30 lawyers to honor as “Up & Coming Lawyers.” These individuals have spent less than a decade in practice, but display the ambition, drive, determination and accomplishments to set them apart among their peers. The “2018 Up & Coming Lawyers” will be honored at an annual luncheon and awards celebration on December 13, 2018 at the Detroit Marriott in Troy.

About Dickinson Wright PLLC
Dickinson Wright PLLC is a general practice business law firm with more than 475 attorneys among more than 40 practice areas and 16 industry groups. Headquartered in Detroit and founded in 1878, the firm has 19 offices, including six in Michigan (Detroit, Troy, Ann Arbor, Lansing, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw) and 12 other domestic offices in Austin and El Paso, Texas; Columbus, Ohio; Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; Lexington, Ky.; Nashville and Music Row, Tenn.; Las Vegas and Reno, Nev.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Silicon Valley, Calif.; and Washington, D.C. The firm’s Canadian office is located in Toronto.

Dickinson Wright offers our clients a distinctive combination of superb client service, exceptional quality, value for fees, industry expertise and business acumen. As one of the few law firms with ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certification, Dickinson Wright has built state-of-the-art, independently-verified risk management controls and security processes for our commercial transactions. Dickinson Wright lawyers are known for delivering commercially-oriented advice on sophisticated transactions and have a remarkable record of wins in high-stakes litigation. Dickinson Wright lawyers are regularly cited for their expertise and experience by Chambers, Best Lawyers, Super Lawyers, and other leading independent law firm evaluating organizations.

Candidate Spotlight: McCready, Cox’s Leadership on Education and Talent Needed to Continue State’s Comeback

The Detroit Regional Chamber’s Political Action Committee is endorsing state Rep. Mike McCready (R-Bloomfield Hills) in the race for Michigan Senate District 12 and state Rep. Laura Cox (R-Livonia) for Michigan Senate District 7.

Rep. Mike McCready

During his time in the Legislature, McCready fought for funding and investments in schools, increasing funding for schools in his district by an estimated $4.2 million. McCready has also promoted legislation aimed at increasing allowance within the state budget to expand skilled trades programs. McCready served on the House Commerce and Trade Committee, as well as the House committee to help Detroit through its bankruptcy.

Rep. Laura Cox

As chair of the Michigan House Appropriations Committee, Cox has provided a strong voice for Wayne County. Throughout her political career at the state and as a Wayne County commissioner, Cox strongly supported a competitive business environment in Michigan. Cox aims to keep taxes low while also removing excessive regulations that prohibit job growth. Cox is aligned with the Detroit Regional Chamber’s priority to improve education, supporting increased funding for every student as well as increased funding for career technical education and skilled trades.

View the complete list of Chamber PAC-endorsed candidates for the Nov. 6 election.

Walsh Leadership Awards Dinner Exceeds Fundraising Goal

TROY, Mich., October 19, 2018 —Fundraising that exceeded expectations, moving testimonials from Walsh scholarship recipients and the presentation of an inaugural award, the President’s Award for Outstanding Partner in Education, to the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation, highlighted Walsh’s 2018 Leadership Awards Dinner on October 11 at the Townsend Hotel.

Nearly 300 guests, including Senator Marty Knollenberg and Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson, attended the Leadership Awards Dinner, which was emceed by Brad Galli of WXYZ-TV. Sponsors included Presenting Sponsor Chemical Bank and Platinum Sponsor Plastipak.

Merrill Lynch kicked off scholarship fundraising with a matching gift challenge, which was met and then exceeded by another matching challenge from the DeRoy Testamentary Foundation. Chemical Financial Corporation President and CEO David Provost then spontaneously announced a gift from Chemical Financial to meet the stretch goal for the evening. In total, attendees raised more than $90,000 to fund two new full-ride scholarships and add to the Jeffery W. Barry Endowed Scholarship and the Leadership Awards Endowed Scholarship.

Other awards of the evening included Walsh Distinguished Lifetime Service honoree Richard Aginian, Walsh Trustee and Retired President & Publisher, Observer & Eccentric Newspapers; David Provost, President and CEO, Chemical Financial Corporation, for the Jeffery W. Barry Award for Educational Excellence & Community Service and Alan C. Young (MST, Walsh ’85), Founder, Managing Director & CEO, Alan C. Young & Associates, P.C., for the Walsh Distinguished Alumni Award.

A live auction included two original works created during the event by speed painter Jared Emerson. Raffle prizes included custom-designed jewelry from Astrein’s Jeweler and an overnight stay in the Presidential Suite at The Townsend Hotel. Since it began in 2000, Walsh’s Leadership Awards Dinner has raised more than $1.5 million in scholarship funds.


Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate and graduate business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of the region’s largest business schools and Michigan’s third largest graduate business school. Walsh has locations in Troy, Novi, Clinton Township, Farmington Hills and Port Huron, as well as online. Our nationally ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, finance, information technology, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (

OCC Receives Highest Marks for Audit Controls

The Fiscal Year 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report presented to the Oakland Community College Board of Trustees at its October board meeting found the college continued to stay on top of its bottom line. The independent auditing firm Plante Moran awarded OCC a clean audit with an “unmodified” opinion.

In essence, OCC maintained its strong internal controls, with no material weaknesses according to Dana Coomes, CPA and partner at Plante Moran, the college received the best opinion possible with excellent results. She congratulated the audit committee for their preparation, involvement, hard work and tough questions.

The OCC 2018 audit committee comprises three elected trustees and four community members. They are Trustees Susan Anderson, committee chair, Royal Oak; Shirley Bryant, Farmington Hills; and Pamala Davis, Clawson; and community members Michael Carroll of Farmington Hills, Helen Kieba-Tolksdorf of Warren, Peggy Scheske of Milford and Sara Voight of Bingham Farms.

The committee helps the Board of Trustees fulfill its oversight responsibilities for financial reporting, internal controls, audits and compliance with related regulations. This includes external review of the audited financial statements as well as risk management and internal controls.

OCC receives revenue from three major sources: local property taxes, state appropriations and tuition.
According to OCC Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Roberta Remias, while property taxes are slowly catching up to pre-recession levels, state appropriations have remained flat over the past 10 years and have not kept up with inflation or costs. Oakland Community College remains steadfast in offering quality programs while maintaining affordable tuition for the benefit of students and the community.

Since 2015, OCC has been recognized for its financial excellence through the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report program — one of only two community colleges in Michigan to employ CAFR — going beyond the minimum requirements of financial reporting and Generally Accepted Accounting Principles for public entities. In tandem with the annual award, Plante Moran also has recognized the college and prior board audit committees for their excellence in fiscal oversight.

About OCC
With five campuses in Oakland County, OCC is Michigan’s No. 1 transfer institution, offering nearly 100 degrees and certificates. The College empowers academic and developmental experiences, allowing students to reach their potential and enhance their communities. More than 1 million students have enrolled in the college since it opened in 1965. A seven-person Board of Trustees governs OCC. Board members are elected on a non-partisan, at-large basis, serve as volunteers and are not paid.Learn more at

Clayton & McKervey presents Brexit and Cross Border Opportunities at special lunch and learn event on Nov. 12 at Automation Alley

Southfield, Mich.—Oct. 22, 2018—Clayton & McKervey, an international certified public accounting and business advisory firm located in metro Detroit, announces a lunch and learn titled ‘Brexit and Cross Border Opportunities’ on November 12, 2018 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Automation Alley in Troy. The event is designed for business owners expanding globally, as well as economic developers looking for deeper insights on trade and related international topics.

For the event, Clayton & McKervey will be partnering with PrimeGlobal, one of the five
largest associations of independent accounting firms in the world, comprised of approximately 300 successful independent public accounting firms, including Clayton & McKervey, in more than 80 countries. Clayton & McKervey President Rob Dutkiewicz is member of the North America board of directors of PrimeGlobal. International accounting professionals Ulrich Britting, Owner of Best Audit, Germany, and Robert Lissauer, Director Taxation & International Advisory at Hall Chadwick, Australia, both members of Prime Global who are visiting the U.S., will discuss the changing environment for cross border trade, with special attention on their home countries.

Global business topics planned for discussion include:
• Brexit—not just a UK issue
• Global market conditions
• Free trade agreements
• China dynamic
• Impact of U.S. tax changes

There is no charge for the event, but pre-registration is required and can be completed through the Clayton & McKervey website. Automation Alley is located at 2675 Bellingham, Troy, MI 48083

About Clayton & McKervey
Clayton & McKervey is a full-service certified public accounting and business advisory firm helping closely held businesses compete in the global marketplace. The firm is headquartered in metro Detroit and services clients throughout the world. To learn more, visit

Walsh Launches Accelerated Degree Program

Walsh has launched FastTrack, an accelerated degree program that lets students earn an associate, bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years.

“As an upper division school, all of Walsh’s undergraduate students are transferring from other schools,” say Patti Swanson, Vice President and Chief Marketing and Enrollment Officer at Walsh. “Our FastTrack students are able to finish their associate degree and then take graduate-level courses while completing their undergraduate degree, allowing a seamless transition from their bachelor’s to master’s programs.”

Twenty-one percent of Walsh undergraduates go on to also earn their master’s degree at Walsh. Because Walsh is structured around four 11-week semesters, FastTrack students reach that goal sooner, and at a much lower cost. On average, Walsh students can save $35,000-60,000 on their undergraduate degrees, compared to traditional four-year public and private institutions.

For more information about Walsh’s FastTrack, visit


Walsh is an all-business, private, independent, not-for-profit, fully accredited college offering undergraduate and graduate business and technology degrees, as well as certificate programs. Founded in 1922, Walsh is one of the region’s largest business schools and Michigan’s third largest graduate business school. Walsh has locations in Troy, Novi, Clinton Township, Farmington Hills and Port Huron, as well as online. Our nationally ranked programs integrate theory and application to prepare graduates for successful careers. Walsh degree programs include accounting, finance, information technology, management, marketing, taxation and other fields. For more information, please visit

Walsh is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission ( and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs (

Workforce solution? Tuition help for workers that actually helps

October 21, 2018

Crain’s Detroit

By: Chad Livengood

With employers scrambling to find new workers with the right talents and skills to fill critical jobs, perhaps they’re already under the companies’ roofs.

Many companies offer tuition assistance or reimbursement programs for employees to go back to school and earn a certificate or degree or just to take certain courses to hone skills the employer needs.

But there’s a big barrier for employees to enroll in college courses: the upfront cost.

For example, a single three-credit-hour graduate class at Wayne State University costs $2,100. At Oakland University, taking junior-level courses part time (nine credit hours) to finish a bachelor’s degree costs nearly $4,500. Per semester.

Credit card giant Discover Financial Services Inc. found the upfront cost caused lower-level call center employees to drop their higher-education ambitions because they simply couldn’t afford to front the cost of tuition, books and fees — and then wait months for reimbursement.

“That’s an enormous cash-flow problem,” said Jon Kaplan, chief learning officer for Discover Financial Services.

At an employee town hall meeting in June, the Riverwoods, Ill.-based credit card company announced a change in its tuition reimbursement benefit to a tuition remission where the company pays three universities directly for their employees’ tuition, books, fees and any taxes if the benefits exceed the $5,250 federal limit for educational reimbursements.

“There was an audible gasp from the audience when we rolled it out,” Kaplan said Tuesday during a discussion at a Detroit Regional Chamber breakfast meeting at the Detroit Athletic Club.

Kaplan was making a case to business leaders in attendance that they should rethink their tuition reimbursement programs as one solution to addressing the talent gap.

“We think it’s going to be a very minimal expense to get 1,000 people every year enrolled in college,” Kaplan said.

There’s some evidence that tuition reimbursement programs do have a return on investment for employers. The Lumina Foundation studied Cigna Corp.’s tuition reimbursement program between 2012 and 2014 and found it had a 129 percent ROI for the global healthcare services company through fewer turnovers and staying with the company longer, cutting down on HR management costs.

Employees who used Cigna’s tuition benefit also saw their wages grow by 43 percent after they attained new skills and got promotions within the company, according to the Lumina study.

For switching to tuition remission model, there are some mechanics that each employer has to work out, Kaplan said.

Discover hired for-profit firm Guild Education to manage its tuition remission program and negotiate lower tuition charges with the three partnering universities — economies of scale that an individual employee couldn’t achieve on his or her own.

The credit card company requires each employee enrolled in its Discover College Commitment to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which can reduce the tuition bill, depending on what aid they qualify for.

Discover also is no longer policing its employees’ grades like it used to. Under its old tuition-reimbursement program, if an employee failed a college course they’d already been reimbursed for, they had to repay the company for the cost, Kaplan said.

“We actually found that our employees would quit,” Kaplan said. “They’d rather run than try to pay that back.” Under the new remission program, the company stops paying the tuition bill if an employee’s grades slip.

“We’ll pay for that D, we’ll pay for an F,” Kaplan said. “But you may not be able to get back into the program if you don’t increase your grades.”

And Discover Financial isn’t paying for degrees in poetry or Latin. The company has tailored its tuition remission benefit to seven specific degrees in fields that would benefit the company.

Discover company officials are trying to build loyalty in its existing lower-skilled workforce while getting them trained for jobs that require more skills.

It’s an interesting approach compared with the frantic hunt underway in most human resources departments right now for talent.

And for big businesses like Discover, it’s a new approach to tackling the talent crisis without waiting for some outside force — such as politicians — to fix the educational pipeline that more and more companies are finding to be broken.

“If you start investing in your frontline workers, it’s like putting chips on the table all over the place — you’re getting a lot of return for that,” Kaplan said. “It’s an easier way to build talent.”


View the original article here

Talent Chasers: Upping Michigan’s Talent Game

By Rene Wisely

When Consumers Energy sought to fill 50 gas distribution worker positions in 2015, the company was inundated with more than 1,000 applicants. But after a lengthy screening process, only 15 people were found to have the requisite skills. The Jackson-based gas and energy provider hired them but realized then the real-world implications of Michigan’s talent gap. 

 It cost the company time, money and the chance to grow its business quickly. 

 “We knew we had to come up with a non-traditional solution to fill the jobs with qualified people,” said Patti Poppe, president and CEO of Consumers Energy and CMS Energy. 

Consumers isn’t alone. Employers across Michigan are fighting the talent gap – the disconnect between the skills applicants have and the skills employers need. Michigan must fill more than 811,055 positions in the next six years or risk losing $49.1 billion in potential earnings by 2024, forecasters project. 

“We need people, we need workers, we need talent,” said Roger Curtis, vice president of public affairs for Consumers Energy and former director of the state’s Department of Talent and Economic Development. 

And Michigan needs businesses to help turn the numbers around, said Michigan State University economics professor Charles Ballard, author of three books spotlighting the economy. 

“Some are very forward thinking and are trying to make decisions for long-term profit and viability,” Ballard said. “Others, though, are only focused on profit in the short-term.” 


Thinking Outside the Box 

Consumers Energy, which services 6.7 million of the state’s almost 10 million residents, is on the forefront of creating a talent pipeline. Poppe, who firmly believes businesses learn from each other, has been crossing the state to share some of her company’s successful tactics used to attract and retain talent. 

To solve the gas distribution worker shortage, for instance, the company studied its existing team and noticed that many of its successful employees are military veterans. Consumers partnered with the Utility Workers Union of America, its training support consortium, Power for America, and the Department of Defense to create a three-month internship for veterans. 

“They got the skills and then they took the qualification test,” Poppe said. “We had a 98 percent pass rate and we hired them all, so we matched supply with demand, taking a different approach to the talent problem.” 

Consumers also has formed partnerships with Lansing Community College and Alpena Community College, which have utility line worker programs. Consumers helped create the curriculum to ensure that graduates have the skills line workers need to contribute from day one.  

Closing the Talent Gap 

To help others, Consumers partnered with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation in October 2017 to create the Michigan Talent Pipeline Management Academy, the first of its kind in the nation. The academy brought together community leaders to learn how to apply supply chain fundamentals to solve the talent shortage. About 200 companies have been schooled to date. 

“We taught them how to fish,” Poppe said. “Each of the trainees went back to their communities, gathered businesses and educators together and ran a workshop for that community. Suddenly, the schools have direct access to employers to learn about what skills they need.” 

The state is doing its part, too, said Poppe. She is encouraged by the Marshall Plan for Talent, which infuses $100 million in Michigan’s education system to grow the talent pipeline through career counseling, job shadowing, scholarships, etc. 

“It’s bringing the business and education community together in ways that we never have before,” Curtis said. “It’s going to take a while, no doubt, but we have to create that pipeline now.” 

Rene Wisely is a metro Detroit freelance writer. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Michigan faces a $49.1 billion loss in potential earnings by 2024 if it doesn’t fill more than 811,055 jobs in the next six years. 
  • Businesses can play a key role in talent attraction and retention via partnerships with universities and innovative apprenticeship programs. 
  • Campaigns like “Choose Michigan” are helping positively change the perception about the state’s lucrative careers among expats and outside talent, but it will take time. 

Take 5: What Comes First, Talent or Business?

By: Paul Vachon

In the wake of Detroit’s failed bid to host Amazon’s second world headquarters, how much of a factor was Detroit’s talent pool? Many business leaders believe if Amazon came to Detroit, talent would follow. However, Amazon cited a lack of existing talent in Detroit as a key factor in being left off the final list.

So, which is it? Does talent follow business or does business invest in locations with an existing talent pool?

National economic experts say its both while also noting the importance of investing local infrastructure to retain homegrown talent and positively impact their quality of life. Urban expert Richard Florida of the University of Toronto correlates the linkage between areas with mass transit lines, quality educational facilities, and public green spaces with strong economic growth.

As the region’s leaders work together to position Detroit as a contender for the next major investment, here is what some leaders in education, economic development, city government and business had to say:

David DeMuth, CEO, Doner Company

“Attracting talent can’t wait. If you’re running a business which relies on talent, you must compete on a national basis. You need to attract talent from some of the nation’s greatest cities, like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago — as well as emerging places like Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tenn. We can’t wait for the infrastructure to be upgraded. We must outline a compelling opportunity to a candidate using the assts we already have to make the argument. Talent waits for no one.”

Dan Ngoyi, Director, Talent Acquisition, Quicken Loans Family of Companies

“I don’t think it’s a zero-sum game. One priority does not have to precede the other. After Quicken Loans first moved downtown, and after Detroit’s municipal bankruptcy, some infrastructure enhancements occurred. As more companies arrived, the resulting talent surge drove additional improvements, such as the QLine. So, the two priorities can certainly feed off each other, and develop simultaneously.

Justin Robinson, Vice President, Business Attraction, Detroit Regional Chamber

“The first piece is to understand what infrastructure assets we have now as a differentiator. This will allow for employers to make a strong business case to potential employees. But then the region does need to pause and address the issue of “placemaking,” which is fundamental to our long-term success. Most people still choose job over place, but our research suggests they’re pretty close as prospective workers weigh their options.

M. Roy Wilson, President, Wayne State University

“We have to approach the challenge of talent attraction and retention from all angles. Having said that, I do believe that we are losing potential talent to other cities with more advanced infrastructure. People are drawn to places for different reasons, and Southeast Michigan is attractive in many ways. The availability of excellent higher education opportunities and health care, a city in the midst of an impressive rebound, and outstanding cultural and other entertainment offerings are among the many attractions. Yet, without better infrastructure, particularly roads and public transit, it will become increasingly difficult to compete with locations such as Chicago, Boston, Denver and Pittsburgh — all places that have made substantial infrastructure investments in the recent past.”

“Certainly, some talent follows companies but more often, companies will follow talent. Studies by renowned economists have proven this theory. The unemployment rate is under 4 percent, which is extremely low; IT and engineering positions are below 2 percent. Clearly the talent pool in the United States is in a crisis. Michigan has some of the finest universities in the country but is being challenged with retaining talent. We are making strides to change this paradigm via the Marshall Plan for Talent and initiative.”

Ronia Kruse
President and CEO, OpTech

Jeff Donofrio, Director, Workforce Development, City of Detroit

“When a major company is looking at locating in Detroit, the first thing that they ask us about is the talent pool. This is why we are focused on building and developing the talent of Detroiters. Our goal is to increase the talent pool with our existing residents to advance our competitiveness in attracting new business investment.”

Paul Vachon is a metro Detroit freelance writer.