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Team Member Spotlight: Meet Jayma Towles


In this Team Member Spotlight, I sat down with Jayma Towles, Claims Product Delivery Manager, to talk about her role at Seibels, the insurance industry, and the advice she would give to someone trying to break into the industry. 

Q: Describe your position at Seibels and role on the implementation team.

A: I am responsible for managing system implementations for our BPO and TPA claims customers, and providing every day production support. I started on the Guidewire project in February of 2016. Since that time, we’ve brought up two TPA companies, two BPO clients, and have three more in the pipeline. 

Q: How long have you been in the insurance technology industry, and how have you seen it change?

A: I’ve been doing insurance system implementations since 1980. I’ve implemented systems throughout the US, Mexico, Canada, Ireland, Spain, and Australia. All have had their challenges. I’ve done policy, billing, and claims. My first love is claims.

In terms of changes, I think the biggest things we see are more of the insured direct interaction (policyholders filing own claims). There have been other major technical advances, including the fact that we can be anywhere and working in a system. Before you used to have to come into the office all the time. There’s now ease of being able to be instantly connected.

Q: What are the most challenging and rewarding parts of working on implementations?

A: The most rewarding piece is the fact that you get to work with every person or unit in the company, from accounting, billing and policy to even facilities. They all become part of the team when you’re in an implementation because every aspect of the company is touched.

You get to meet a lot of people and see the big picture of what you’re trying to create for your company. It’s very motivating when you’re doing that. The great thing is that everybody in this company is so incredibly nice and great to work with. Everybody has always been very helpful and willing to go the extra mile on our team. The other thing that’s been good is the great management support. They’ve reflected it to the team.

For challenges: time, delivery, and money, and the balance between the three. That’s the toughest challenge you have with an implementation. Trying to get those three in balance.

Jayma then shared one of her favorite quotes, which speaks to the rewards and challenges one faces when undergoing implementation:

“To improve is to change. To perfect is to change often.” -House of Cards

Q: How do you think our new systems will impact our client’s businesses?

A: Well, I’m already getting feedback from the claims group that they like the system. Customers have said it’s more intuitive and gives them more flexibility. We’ve already been getting good feedback and they’re liking what they’re seeing. We’re constantly putting in improvements. We have the ability to do this because of the technology at Guidewire. We’ve been able to do a continuous delivery on a weekly basis with fixes. We can spin up a lot faster.

Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in joining this field?

Implementations are exciting. They’re thrilling because you’re building something. It’s an exciting ride. You’re up against time, deliveries, and development. There’s a lot of aspects that make it pretty intense. You have these cycles that you go through in the implementation. You’re building up in this crescendo to a live date.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about working at Seibels?

A: The people. Everybody is so friendly! Everybody seems happy! The management. I like where they’re headed. They got it planned out. You can see a true direction you’re trying to head with the company. I’ve got a true direction I need to be headed in, and they’re having the patience to let us do it right.  I am fortunate that I have a strong team that knows how to do implementations and has a solid claims background. They already know what an implementation cycle is, how to anticipate what's next, and are always proactively ready for a next step.

When I first started, I found that Seibels was very entrepreneurial. I really like that aspect of it. It’s interesting to me that this company is 145+ years old, yet they have recognized they have to change and still have an entrepreneurial aspect in the business. That makes it very exciting. I feel like my team feels that, too. We’ve been working some incredibly long hours, but because we know we’re building something for the companies, it has real meaning to us. It’s not just about the money. We’re building something that’s going to be sustainable for companies.

Q: Now, some fun questions! What’s your favorite thing to do in Columbia?

A: Antique shopping on State Street.

Q: What’s your favorite lunch spot?

A: My desk! Usually get my quiet time during lunch.

Q: What’s your favorite app?

A: NPR.

Q: What was your first job and the biggest lesson you learned from it?

A: My very first job out of college was a cost estimator for a construction company. This is where I learned how to do projects! There’s a methodology and sequential pattern in which things have to get done. It mirrors with implementations. You have to do both and then determine the costs associated with it. I think a lot of the practicality of what I learned in having to do project management as a cost estimator has really spilled over into what I do today.

Then I was employed by PMS right when they got started. I stayed with them for years. I actually worked in this building on the third floor. That was in the 1980’s. Feels like I came home. It’s good.

Q: Where is your favorite place that you lived?

A: Spain and Ireland. I spent four years in Spain and Ireland is just beautiful. Spain, it was the people. Overall, very interesting history.

Q: Can you share a fun fact about yourself?

A: My maiden name is Overby, and Pleas Overby in claims is my cousin! We both took turns living in Columbia, SC and Richmond, VA, but never at the same time. Then one day, I saw Pleas at Seibels when I was working here, and we met for the first time EVER! After all these years!

Another fun fact is I have a son who is studying networking at Midlands Tech.

-As told to by: Stacey Cohl


Historical Renovations Part III: Who's That Lady

We're over halfway through the renovations project at Seibels and are on target for completion in April 2018. The renovations for the 1977 portion of the building are essentially complete. All efforts are now being directed to the 1949 portion of the building. 

One of the tasks we're taking on with the renovations is the refurbishment of our 1949 exterior windows. As you may recall, the 1949 portion of the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and is listed as a City of Columbia landmark. You can read more about that in our previous post here. Because of this accolade, we will not be replacing the windows, but refurbishing them. 

As there are over 170 windows throughout the Seibels building, this is a tedious process that takes time and precision! The process will involve removing the glass, stripping the window frames down to the bare metal, adding rust inhibitors, and painting. We will then replace the glass with new double pane glass. 

In addition to refurbishing the windows, our next major task will be to modernize the elevators. On the 1949 side, we will retain the historical features, including the elevator buttons. We will replace the floor and call buttons with Westinghouse 1949 replicas. The woodwork in the executive area will be restored to its original splendor. 

Here's a quick look at some of the progress happening on the first floor in the 1949 portion of the building. Stay tuned for before and afters!

Catastrophe Conference Round-Up

The insurance industry is constantly evolving. Emerging technologies, weather-related catastrophes, and regulatory changes are just a few disruptors directly impacting the insurance space.

As a BPO and TPA solutions provider, it is imperative that Seibels stays ahead of these changes so we can better serve our clients in their operations. How do we honor this commitment in a world that moves at a lightning-fast pace? By remaining educated, well-informed, and prepared.

Every spring, we partner with clients to co-host annual catastrophe conferences. We invite our network of internal adjusters and examiners to partake in a day of educational sessions and interactive Q&As.

This year, our Vice President of Catastrophe Operations, Clarence Lee, provided a 2016 catastrophe season debrief. Clarence showcased our quick responsivity before, during, and after Hurricane Matthew, and disclosed the number of claims we processed, the number of calls we received, and our claims closure rate. You can learn more about that here.  Since hurricane season is officially upon us (June 1), Clarence revealed how we can use our experience from 2016 to sharpen our processes for 2017.

In addition to the hurricane season recap, Seibels also delivered client updates on claims operations, provided presentations from industry experts such as a roofing consultant, and discussed industry hot topics, including: FL code updates/damage assessments, the use of new technology, such as drones, and a waning talent pool.

“At the end of the day, the goal of the conference is to educate, network, and talk about the successes and future opportunities in the industry as we prepare for storm season,” said Clarence Lee. “When you continually pursue ongoing education and are adequately prepared, you will have the bench strength to manage the potential volume that may come your way.”

Seibels Employee Spotlight With Catherine Bencheikh



Catherine Bencheikh, Lead Business Analyst of Internal Operations at Seibels, received her MBA from Strayer University this past May. After earning her degree with a 4.0 G.P.A., Catherine received a call from a representative at Strayer with some very exciting news. Catherine was not only named "Outstanding Graduate" for her class, but was also asked to deliver the commencement speech in front of 4,000 people! We recently sat down with Catherine to learn more about her role at Seibels and the accolades she received while continuing her education.


Describe your role at Seibels in the IT department and your experience in the insurance technology industry.
I am a Lead Business Analyst on the Internal Operations team. I have spent 10 years in the health insurance field; however, this is my first time in the P&C field. I am learning a lot and enjoy the journey. 

Have you always wanted to be in IT?
I wanted to be a nurse; however, the wait at Midlands Technical College to get into the program was two years. I was in my early 20's and could not wait that long due to having a child. I worked at a technology company and was very interested in software development. I started going to school for that instead and received a BS in Computer Information Systems. Zoom ahead 20 years and I finally have an MBA.

What was your first job and the biggest lesson you learned from it?
I started work at 15 years of age at a daycare in Chapin, SC. I worked there throughout high school and greatly enjoyed having a class of five year olds. It taught me a lot about human behavior, patience and that if you want to get through to people then you have to come from a place of love, compassion, and understanding. 

You recently received your M.B.A and were awarded “Outstanding Student” at Strayer University. Congratulations! How important do you think education is and how will it impact your career and life?
Acquiring knowledge is a priority in life for me. I never want to stop learning and evolving. As Nelson Mandela stated, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world" and I believe that. Education allows the change to start within ourselves so that we can then use that knowledge to help better the world.

What was it like delivering the commencement speech at graduation earlier this month in front of nearly 4,000 people? What public speaking advice would you give to someone based on your experience?

When Strayer first asked me to speak at the Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, NC, I was terrified. I have never spoken to over 20 people at a time, much less 4,000. What I discovered is that it is easier to speak to many versus a small group, which seems counter-intuitive. The advice I would give is to request assistance from people who have experience in public speaking. Bobby Cone told me that Niki Medlin was well versed in public speaking and she gave me great pointers (thank you, Niki!). It is also important to have someone that you respect to review your speech, and do what you feel comfortable with in regards to practicing for it. When you're up on that stage, just breathe and let go. You can do it. {You can check out Catherine's graduation video here}. 

What drives your ambition and what does success mean to you?
My need to always do my best along with having a "Type A" personality drives my ambition. Even while in elementary school during charity drives, I always sold the most magazines or chocolate bars. It is programmed in my DNA. To me, success is achieving your goals, whether personal or professional. Success also means that it is necessary at times to get out of your comfort zone. As the saying goes, life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

It is inevitable that with technology comes constant change. What are the biggest changes you have seen in the industry since you have been in it?
The Internet has had a colossal impact on the world. It has driven change technologically, sociologically, economically, educationally and culturally, to name a few. These are very exciting times to be in and I can't wait to see what the "next big thing" will be.
 
What advice would you give to young people starting off their career?
If at all possible, do what you love because you are going to spend a lifetime doing it. Do what interests and excites you because you will be more motivated during your career. Also, try your best and remember to keep clear goals in mind so that you always have something to reach for.

Communication and how we go about it has changed so much over the past few years. The majority of people are accessible 24/7 now via their mobile device. How important do you think communication is for a team and what methods do you use to ensure communication is achieved the most effectively?
A team cannot work together without communication. Everyone has specific ways that they communicate best such as via email, in person or maybe by text. It is important to know your team's preferred way to communicate with at an individual level. With the proliferation of email, it is very easy to get caught in the rut of responding to emails versus having face-to-face communication. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to "stop the madness" of sending emails and get people in a room to talk about issues. So, various types of communication occur based on the circumstance.

With continuing your education and working full-time, your calendar was obviously very busy! How did you most efficiently manage your time and tasks throughout the day?
If it wasn't for the calendar on my phone, I would have never been able to keep everything straight in an efficient way. Without the calendar, I would have carried around a very big notebook everywhere I went. Thank you, technology!

What is your favorite thing to do in Columbia, SC?
My most favorite thing to do is seeing the SC border sign as I cross into another state. I love to travel.

What is your favorite place you’ve ever been?
That is difficult to answer. I lived in both Scotland and England and absolutely loved it. I’ve been to various countries; however, Morocco and Scotland are my most favorite places to be.

What is your favorite hobby?
Reading and traveling are my favorite pastimes. To me, they are synonymous because it's one and the same...reading allows you to travel in your mind.
 
What is your favorite app?
There are too many to count. I love Nook, TED, Netflix, Etsy, Pinterest, Netflix, and CellTrap along with many others.

Share one thing that people might not know about you.
The only sports I enjoy watching are snooker and sheep herding. I discovered them while living in Scotland. 

Historical Renovations Part II: Who's That Lady

In case you missed the news, Seibels is partnering with M.B. Kahn Construction Company to complete renovations of its historic headquarters located at 1501 Lady Street. The project is currently in full swing and is scheduled for completion in 2018. As you may recall, the 1949 portion of the building has been added to the National Register of Historic Places and is now listed as a City of Columbia landmark. 

As we are right in the midst of renovations, here’s a quick project update:

  • The renovation of the sub-basement is now complete. Employees are using the sub-basement as a transition room while they wait for their assigned floors to be renovated. Once renovations are complete, the sub-basement will serve as Seibels Catastrophe Claims Center.
  • The demolition of the basement and first floor in the 1977 wing is now complete.
  • Design plans for the back lobby, including furniture and signage selection, are being reviewed.
  • Potential scope changes have been generated to repair the 1949 windows, replace the 1977 ground floor windows, and clean/seal the building exterior.
These are just a few of the main renovation highlights happening at Seibels. As mentioned in a previous post, the 1949 wing of the Seibels building will retain its historical character and features with the renovation. As an example, “Fallout Shelter” signs will undergo restoration and be returned to their original place over the stairwells leading to the basement floor.

A fun historical fact: During the period of the “Cold War” (1945 – 1990), this sign identified an area that would serve as a fallout shelter – a place of refuge and safety - in the event of a nuclear war.

During a large portion of this period of time, Columbia civil defense authorities would test sirens that were located throughout the city every Saturday at noon. While these were just test sirens, a real air-raid siren signaled in the event of a nuclear attack. If you were in a large, well-constructed building like Seibels, you would follow the Fallout Shelter signage to safety.  

A shelter would typically contain canned foods, water, medical and other supplies. More recent nuclear events that occurred at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station (1979-Pennsylvania), Chernobyl (1986-Russia) and Fukushima (2011 Japan) proved that fallout shelters located near a nuclear event probably only would have delayed the inevitable outcome.

By preserving historical artifacts such as these civil defense signs, Seibels is able to honor its history and share it with others. This is just one example of how history is still alive at Seibels. Check back in for more updates on the renovations at Seibels. 

10 CAT Tips for Hurricane Season Preparations

As hurricane season is officially upon us (June 1st-November 30th), Clarence Lee, our Vice President of Catastrophe Operations & Property Claims, shares 10 tips to help insureds stay prepared.  

1. Check your food and water supply - Bottled water and dry packaged non-perishable foods are the best in case your power goes out, and your food spoils. You do not want to be stuck in a storm, in the dark, with nothing to eat or drink.

2. Make as much ice as possible - If in the event that the power goes out for an extended period of time, make sure that you have
 made as much ice as possible in order to keep your food cool and frozen. If the power does go out place all perishable foods in the freezer to make them last longer. Having a large cooler handy could also be helpful.

3. Check your flashlights - Make sure they all work, and if they don't, go stock up on batteries. Also, gather any candles, matches, and lighters. A BATTERY POWERED RADIO could end up saving your life in the event of a flash flood.

4. Make sure that your cellphone is charged - Whenever there is a threat of a power outage always make sure that your phone is charged in case you need to place an emergency phone call. Have a car charger handy as well. TIP - Even if the power goes out, land lines will still sometimes work. Phone lines run on their own electricity, as long as they are not cordless phones. You can check this beforehand by unplugging the electricity to you phone and testing it out.

5. Purchase a power inverter or generator - Generators are expensive. Power inverters are much cheaper at 20 - 25 dollars, and most of them plug into the lighter socket of a car. That way, if your car is running, you can run a cord from the inverter to your fridge or even a lamp. Also, inverters are available in many places. 

6. Reinforce your entryways - High gusts of wind and floating debris can easily break windows, leaving you with a face full of glass and soaking wet. Make sure you reinforce doors, windows, garage doors, skylights, and fireplace flues. At least close the curtains or blinds, but if you can, reinforce the windows with plywood. It’s cheap and easy to cut. And totally worth it.

7. Have cash on hand - Debit cards are absolutely useless when there isn't any power. ATMs don't work, and you won't be able to buy anything at the store. Make a trip to the ATM before the storm. Make purchases beforehand as well, since most businesses will be closed.

8. Have your stuff ready to go - If for whatever reason you need to leave in a hurry, make sure you're prepared. Place all your important things in or around one bag. Wallet, cash, cell phone and charger, car keys, important documents and phone numbers, MEDICATIONS, first aid kit, etc. Keep these sealed in a leak proof bag or at least a ziplock. Make sure you know where you're headed, take you pets with you, and always make sure your car is gassed up and ready to go if need be.

9. Unplug and move electronics - With hurricanes and heavy rains comes lighting and flooding. Power surges can occur which can damage electronics such as computers (and cause data loss) and TVs. Make sure these are unplugged, and if possible, moved to the highest point in your house in case of flooding. You can also move other items that can get damaged in water, important papers, pictures, or furniture. You can never be too prepared.

10. Prepare your family - Make sure each family member is aware of how dangerous a hurricane can be. If in the event your family needs to evacuate, you don't want anyone left behind or uninformed. Keep cell phones on and stay home with your family.


Additional Tips for Before, During, and After the Storm

Before The Storm
  • Be ready to put your plan and preparation into action.
  • Pay attention to local weather reports on radio, television, or the internet. 
  • Have house boarded up, or have storm shutters in place. 
  • Have plenty of food and water. 
  • Make sure all your tools, supplies, and first aid kit available for use. 
  • Have a secure room available. 
Preseason Preparations
  • Enter the season prepared. 
  • Know all evacuation routes if you live close to the coast. 
  • Make sure your home meets building codes for withstanding hurricanes, and they have storm shutters. 
  • Have proper tools, supplies, and a first aid kit. 
  • Have plenty of batteries and flashlights.
  • Always have plenty of non-perishable foods on hand. 
When A Watch or Warning is Issued
  • Leave low lying areas. 
  • Protect windows with plywood boards, or storm shutters. 
  • Secure outside objects. 
  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel and water. 
  • Have several days supply of food and water for each family member. 
  • If called to evacuate, do so immediately. 
During the Storm
  • Stay in a secure room. 
  • Stay away from windows. 
  • Do not use the phone or candles. 
  • Monitor Weather and Civil Service Bulletins on either regular or NOAA radio. 
  • Have supplies on hand. 
  • Remain indoors when the eye moves over your area because the storm will resume shortly. 
After The Storm
  • Make sure that all is definitely clear outside, and the storm has completely passed before going out. 
  • Report downed power lines, and stay away from them. 
  • Use stored water and food. 
  • Be patient. Things will take a while before they get back to normal. 



This blog post was written by Seibels Vice President of CAT Operations & Property Claims, Clarence Lee. To learn more about Seibels catastrophe services and claims solutions, contact us at inquiries@seibels.com or call 877.734.2357.



Historical Renovations: Who's That Lady?

We are excited to announce the upcoming renovations of the Seibels headquarters located at 1501 Lady Street. Due to the building’s history, the 1949 portion of the building is being added to the National Register of Historic Places and will be listed as a City of Columbia landmark. What an honor! 

From 1949 until 1965, the building served as the headquarters for Carolina Life Insurance Company until purchased by Seibels in 1965. Seibels is the oldest original corporation still in operation in Columbia as reflected in its “PO Box 1” address. Since its founding in 1869, Seibels has played an important role in the Columbia community. The vertical filing system was an invention by Edwin G. Seibels that changed the administrative world significantly and was displayed at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. PMSC (Policy Management Systems Corporation), a major influence on the introduction and development of property and casualty insurance policy administration software and systems worldwide, emerged from the Seibels headquarters in the 1970's.

In addition to the historical innovation and impact that has come out of The Seibels Building, there are noteworthy architectural elements worth exploring. The Seibels Building was designed by Lafaye, Fair, & Lafaye and is Columbia’s only example of the Federal Modern style, which was popular amongst commercial and corporate buildings in the 1950s-60s. The addition to the building was completed by MB Kahn Construction Company in 1977. Since there have only been two occupants the building's authentic style has been preserved. This is especially noted by visitors when they enter The Seibels Building through the front lobby and are greeted by the warm, dark wood paneling, grand columns, and original elevators.

Renovations are expected to take at least two years. With the renovation, Seibels will continue to honor the building’s rich history and design while also incorporating modern elements. As the project begins and we look forward to the final results, here's a neat look at our building back in the 1950's. The first photograph is an original image courtesy of Richard Library. The second image is the original photograph superimposed over a new photograph of the Seibels building. Take a look to see how the building compares! Keep checking back in with us as we document the renovations each quarter.

Original Image Courtesy of Richland Library


Edited by Richard Carson

Columbia, SC Driving Insurance Technology Hub

Insurance Networking News recently published an article about the 8 Regions That Are Driving Insurance Technology Innovation. Cities that made the list include Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Des Moines, Hartford, Toronto, Silicon Valley, and our very own Columbia, South Carolina.  This may come as a bit of a surprise to some, but to locals and insurance technology professionals in the region, this recognition has been a long time coming.

Seibels has a rich history in Columbia and the insurance industry. The first commercially available policy administration system for carriers came out of Seibels in the 1970s. Fast forward to today, and there are numerous insurance technology and services providers in the industry. On a local level, take a look at the 15+ member companies in Columbia’s Insurance Technology and Services Cluster, iTs|SC, which is “dedicated to promoting the Greater Columbia area’s wealth of opportunities within the insurance technology sector.” All of these companies are nestled in our Famously Hot capital city and contribute to the growing economy in SC. 


Graphic from www.its-sc.com

Our very own Maria Price, a Service Delivery Manager at Seibels, is the current chair of iTs|SC. You may have seen her photo in Insurance Networking News List of 15 People to Watch in Insurance Technology. Maria has been in the insurance technology industry in Columbia for over twenty years and is responsible for nurturing high-level client relationships at Seibels. Her dedication to Seibels and leadership at iTs|SC are definitely reason to keep a close look at the insurance tech community in Columbia!  

In case you need even more reason to believe that Columbia is a city worth watching on the insurance technology front, take a look at Delta’s October issue of Sky Magazine. The magazine features a profile on the city of Columbia including our bustling insurance tech sector, which Seibels is proud to be a part of. Interested in learning more about the Seibels team and our role in the insurance technology industry? Contact us today.


Seibels Remains Fully Operational After Record-Breaking Rainfall & Flooding in SC

Seibels is pleased to announce that it remains fully operational amidst the catastrophic record-breaking rainfall and flooding that has occurred throughout Columbia and the state during South Carolina’s declared State of Emergency.

Seibels offers business process outsourcing (BPO) services to numerous property and casualty insurers throughout the southeast and mid-west. Services include policy administration, claims administration, technology, and accounting and reporting services, all of which directly impact an insurer’s daily business operations.  Despite the rainfall and flooding in the Columbia and surrounding areas that forced most businesses to close including the Seibels headquarters, Seibels customer service, underwriting and claims business units are able to remain fully operational due to the disaster recovery plan that the company has in place. Thanks to cloud-based technology, Seibels employees can operate as needed at home or at an off-site location.

“The flooding that we have seen in the state of South Carolina is tremendous,” said Adrian Brown, Chief Risk Officer of Seibels. “Although we had to temporarily close the office for one day due to the water/power outages and hazardous road conditions that affected numerous businesses in Columbia, Seibels was able to remain fully functioning, and that is something to be proud of. We value our customer’s businesses and that means maintaining operations at all times, especially during weather-related catastrophes.  It is clear more than ever that disaster recovery is vital to a company’s business continuity plan, especially in our line of business.  Our hearts go out to all of the people affected by this tragedy, and we pray that the state of South Carolina will come together to support one another in the wake of this devastating disaster.”

Seibels' headquarters on Lady Street in Columbia re-opened its doors with regular business hours on Tuesday, October 6th.  For images of the catastrophic flooding in SC, take a look at the slideshow provided below by WIS-TV.

Welcome to our New Site!


As our latest effort to streamline our services and simplify your customer experience, our new website offers a more direct way to do business. Whether you are seeking a wider understanding of our offered solutions or would like to learn more about a particular service, our website has the info you need.

 


From BPO to Claims and Technology Solutions, we have the answers to your questions and everything you need to meet your needs. Take a look at the Newsroom to stay up to date on everything happening here at Seibels. We will also be updating our blog with events and articles regularly, check back often.




In our Resources Hub, you can find all sorts of helpful brochures, videos, and demonstrations. You can even get a feel for who we are by reviewing the About Us section that includes a description of why you should choose to work with us in the future. Best of all, it is now easier than ever to get in touch with us and get the personal attention your business needs.