Get to Know a StratExian: Tony Brink

tony-brink-candid-photoName: Tony Brink

History at StratEx:
I started in November of 2015 as a sales rep, and I’ve since taken on the first Account Management role on the sales team. I really enjoy going the extra mile for our clients in this role. From a sales capacity, my job is to find multi-unit operators in need of an all-in-one solution to better manage their people. My biggest focus is to find bottlenecks in the employee life-cycle of restaurant groups that are exhausting resources. My ultimate goal is to remove these constraints through an automated approach and through an exceptional level of service through our great people at StratEx.

How have you helped a client solve a problem?
A new client coming on, who operates in 9 states, had never used a full-suite software solution before and was self-admittedly unfamiliar with the capabilities of technology today. After deciding to move forward with StratEx, it was time to make automation a reality and get their system going. Because it was a big change for their team, each module roll-out sounded overwhelming to them. I popped my head into their office to say hello and demonstrated how easy one of these modules was to use (happened to be Expense Reporting). After we calculated how much time they were spending on expense reports and how much time they stood to save, they couldn’t have been more excited to roll-out the module.

Are you an ice cream, cookie, or cake person?
I eat ice cream eight nights a week.

Backpacking or luxury hotel?

What is one thing you will never do again?
Take out student loans.

Which Sales topic/tactic is your Patronus?
Reliability. If a client or prospect contacts me at 10pm on a weekday or any time on the weekend, I respond. I’ve walked employees through basic eStratEx processes on Sunday afternoons and emailed with clients on Saturday nights. A client only relies on the system as much as the people behind it, and I’m always available to them.

Advice to New StratExians:
Ask questions! We are not here to be like every other company in the industry so there is always something new to learn. Ask questions, people are always willing to help.

Jim Vedda Award Winners 2017

On February 23rd, 2017, StratEx’s annual Jim Vedda Award was awarded to not one, but two deserving individuals: Alyssa Garza and Andrea Ljevar.

These StratExians exhibit the traits we value most at StratEx — they are smart, hard-working, and dedicated to not only our clients’ success, but to making StratEx the best organization it can be for their fellow StratExians.

In short, Alyssa and Andrea embody our company values:

Integrity:  Do the right thing, the right way, at the right time.
Respect:  StratEx is a family. We respect each other. We work and succeed together.
Innovation:  Continue to develop and apply better solutions to meet new business needs for our clients and our teams.

Congratulations to them both — well deserved!!


veddaplaque“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

George Bernard Shaw

Get to Know a StratExian: Carissa Coppola

carissa2Name: Carissa Coppola

History at StratEx:
I started with StratEx in September of 2015 as a temporary accounting and operations specialist and with much excitement, was brought on as a permanent accounting and operations specialist in March of 2016! I assist the Service Teams with implementing, registering and maintaining payroll taxes in our system for our clients. I also handle a portion of the accounts receivable procedures for our company.

How have you helped a client solve an HR or Benefit problem?
From an operations and payroll tax standpoint, our software combined with our team allows our restaurant clients to essentially kick their feet up and let us handle preparing and constructing employees’ paychecks and associated payroll taxes, including the difficult task of preparing tipped employees’ wages, paychecks and W-2s. But, the biggest item our team has to be proud of is the timely, efficient and accurate preparation of W-2’s for all our restaurant clients’ employees. Our team is always up-to-date on all state payroll tax laws, changes and regulations and is constantly implementing those into our system. This gives our restaurant clients the time to focus on other top responsibilities in their restaurants.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a chef and open my own restaurant called Carissa’s Kitchen.

If you could master one skill you don’t have now, what would it be?
Singing. I’ve always wanted to be able to belt out a classic song during Karaoke and not hurt people’s ears!

Which Accounting topic is your Patronus?
Hands down: payroll POAs (Power of Attorney forms). I will always have a special place in my heart for these forms.

Favorite thing about working at StratEx:
My favorite part about working at StratEx is genuinely laughing during the work day. No matter how stressful the day may be, anyone on the Operations Team or in the office always says something to lighten the mood and make me laugh out loud.

Advice to new StratExians:
My advice to any new StratExians is to be confident! You have to trust yourself and your instincts when it comes to starting new roles, tasks and projects. Always remember you know and understand more than you may think.

Which celebrity would you like to be for a day?
Beyoncé, of course!


StratEx Serves: United Way

“We rise by lifting others” – Robert Ingersoll

Whew. We made it. The “most wonderful time of the year” is behind us. Also known as: “The busiest and most stressful time of the year.” It’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness. Gifts to buy, ship and wrap. Special food that needs to be bought, prepared and baked. Parties and get-togethers with friends and family. B.U.S.Y.

Then, there’s our work at StratEx. HR. Payroll. Benefits. This time of year defines “busy” for this kind of work. In fact, there can be a feeling of initiation for first-timers and a lasting camaraderie of “surviving” Year-End at StratEx. We simply wouldn’t be successful without every StratExian pitching in and working hard to get everything ready for our clients’ new years.

It’d be understandable if we just kept our heads down, focused on the work, and pushed through.

And yet… we choose to take the time to look up and out. We choose to break through the busyness and focus in a way that puts things into perspective.

StratEx Serves: United Way

In honor of the holiday season, our StratEx Serves program was lead by one of our Shared Resource Specialists, Kira Gavigan, to team up with the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago for their annual holiday gift drive. Through the United Way, we were given the opportunity to participate in their Adopt-a-Family program to help a family in need this holiday season.

We were honored to gather winter coats, hats, gloves and scarves for the two adults and three children in our adopted family. We also included gift cards for the adults, clothes, books, and crayons for the children, and a doll for our family’s 6 year-old girl.


Once all of the items were gathered, Kira, Alyssa Garza (Benefits Administrator) and Madeline McDonnell (HR Account Manager), dropped them off at United Way. In mid-December, our adopted family was one of 400 families that United Way was able to provide with gifts.

Kira Gavigan and Madeline McDonnell dropping off gifts for our adopted family.

According to the United Way:

“Our Adopt-a-Family program supports families in need in Brighton Park, Cicero and Robbins/Blue Island. This year, 2,016 individuals received gifts ranging from clothing, to kitchen wear to bicycles. We distributed the gifts to families in each neighborhood during festive holiday parties.”

Kira shared this about the experience:

“Adopt-a-family has been a cause that’s near and dear to my heart since I was child helping pick out gifts for others in my hometown. I can’t imagine anything as sad a little boy or girl waking up on Christmas with no presents, through no fault of their own.

I was really touched by the generosity of so many people at StratEx. It made me proud to work for a company with so many people who genuinely care about making a positive impact in the world around us, and taking action to follow through. There’s a line from Robert Ingersoll that has been repeated over and over in my house growing up, “We rise by lifting others.” I am excited to work at a company that clearly exemplifies this.”

Me too, Kira.

Cheers to a prosperous New Year from StratEx!

Dear StratExians… a letter from Adam

My fellow StratExians,

As I slowly come out of the fog of the surprise election results, I awake with a new vigor that a vote without action is not good enough.

skyline-office-viewWhen I sit in my office, looking out at beautiful views of the city we call home, Chicago, I am left with a strong conviction that being a citizen of this amazing city has certain civic responsibilities. As I read that the murder rate has gone from a sad number to an unconscionable one, I realize that reading about it, watching it on TV and talking about it while we shake our heads in disbelief is NOT ENOUGH. This is not a West Side or South Side problem, this is a Chicago problem.

We are left with a few hard choices: pack up our bags and move away from the violence around us, complain about it and hope somebody will do something, or get involved, speak up and give back.

When we started StratEx Serves, it was under the guise of action through volunteerism. One of the many things I love about StratEx is our sense of community and our desire to make a difference, not only in the product and service we deliver to our clients, but by giving back in our community.

I honestly don’t know what to do; however, I know that we all need to get involved and do something.

One thought that has remained persistent for me is that with hope and belief that one’s life has value, a person is probably less likely to be involved in gangs or gun related activities. When opportunities are afforded to each person that allows them to have a slice of the American dream, that is one way to break the cycle.

I believe there is a strong parallel between the hopelessness that a suicide bomber feels in the Middle East that allows them to come to the decision to strap explosives on their body, and the despair and lack of opportunity that some of our inner-city youth feel that takes them to the point where they engage in gun-related vendettas.

When that hopelessness and despair become overwhelming, one might feel their life has no value — so they engage in reckless activity. Perhaps, my fellow StratExians, one answer is providing more opportunities to those who don’t see any. Perhaps this means getting more involved in after-school programs, mentoring teenagers, becoming involved in a Big Brother/Big Sister program while at the same time insisting that our city and nation make it harder to have access to assault rifles and other weapons of destruction.

I am open to your ideas. And I will lead by example. I will stand up and be heard. We can and must do our part to make our city safe for all of us. Otherwise, the alternative is to talk and complain or pack up and move. I don’t know about you, but I don’t quit and I don’t give up. Those are words that are not in my vocabulary and lessons I do not want to teach my children…

Humbly submitted,

Get to Know a StratExian: Alyssa Garza

Name: Alyssa Garza

alyssa1History at StratEx:
I started in June of 2014 as a Benefit Administrator and have continued to grow within this position. I help clients administer and maintain all benefit offerings for their employees, throughout the entire employee lifecycle — from new hire to COBRA.

How have you helped a client solve an HR or Benefit problem?
Our restaurant clients often have the same challenges: they have multiple benefit tiers (employees that are eligible vs. not eligible), multiple plan offerings (which can be location-based), and multiple locations with multiple location managers — all of which can make things a little chaotic at times.

However, we help them track it all. We are the one-stop shop for all locations and all employees when it comes to benefits — we take the headache away from them. Restaurants don’t necessarily have the time for this stuff, nor do they have people who truly understand the benefit/COBRA administration. I think that is why we are so helpful to them.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a veterinarian. I love animals!

What’s on your bucket list this year?
I don’t know about this year, but definitely want to make my way to Thailand! Have always loved elephants and would love to go to an elephant sanctuary out there.

Which Benefit topic is your Patronus?
It’s hard to just pick one when you deal with all of the different benefits on a daily basis, but COBRA administration has always kinda been my baby!

Are you an ice cream, or cookie/cake person?
Ice Cream — favorite is chocolate chip cookie dough.

If you had a warning label, what would yours say?
“Doesn’t always have a filter when speaking…” or, “Major OCD.” (Joe can speak to how much he loves my OCD!)

Favorite thing about working at StratEx:
The people, hands down!

Advice to new StratExians:
If you ever get overwhelmed — which I know none of us ever do — eat some candy and ask Emily Quinn to tell you a funny story 🙂


Get to Know a StratExian: Katie Samuelson

Name: Katie Samuelson

ks1History at StratEx:
I started at StratEx in March of 2015 as a Service Specialist and have since been promoted to a Project Specialist. In this role, I help clients implement our HR software, eStratEx, and I train them on the system modules they will use. I like that I continue to be on my client’s Service Team even after implementation, helping resolve any questions or issues that may arise! I have also recently taken on the title of StratEx’s Social Media Ambassador.

How have you helped a client solve an HR or Payroll problem?
I think our software specifically helps our clients’ payroll and HR needs because its a one-stop shop for all things HR/payroll related. eStratEx gives our clients the ability to manage everything in one place – payroll, recruitment, timekeeping, etc. I’ve seen a lot of our clients that have transitioned from a paper process to our paperless process, which is always a cool transition to see. On the StratEx Service Team, we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback in the sense that our software gives our clients that ability to manage everything in one place without feeling overwhelmed. As a team, we help with that transition to ensure the client feels educated and confident in their ability to utilize eStratEx in the best way possible. 

What’s on your bucket list this year?
The year is almost over, which is crazy! But, I definitely want to relearn Spanish, go bungee jumping and head to Asia in 2017!

If you could travel, would you travel to the past or the future?
Past for sure! There have been so many cool eras and decades. I’d love to go back to the 20’s, 60’s and witness some of the major events that have occurred.

Which HR/Payroll topic is your Patronus?
I’d probably say learning and development because I absolutely love training!

Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?
Kate Hudson – she’s so bubbly and easy going.

Backpacking or Luxury Hotel?
I think a mix of both is the way to do it. It’s fun to be outdoorsy, but also feel like you can relax in a nice hotel for a few nights.

Favorite thing about working at StratEx:
The people! I love that I have the opportunity to work with smart, encouraging and fun (funny – cough Eric) people each day!

Advice to new StratExians:
I think my biggest piece of advice would be to assert yourself as someone who is ready to hit the ground running. But, I’d also say it’s okay to not know the answers to everything. You won’t have all the answers in one day, and we are working in the software/tech industry so there will always be new advancements in technology. It’s good to turn to others for help and guidance. If you have the expectation to just kind of constantly be learning and asking questions, you’ll be in a good spot. That, and having a positive attitude really does make a huge difference!


StratEx Serves: Gilda’s Club

Gene Wilder died yesterday. When I saw his name trending on Twitter, I cringed as clicked on it, hoping that wasn’t the news.

WilderRadnerOf course, he was the original (and best) Willy Wonka, but one thing many may not remember or know is that he was once married to the effervescent Gilda Radner. Gilda was one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, well-known for her characters ‘Rosanne Rosannadanna’ and ‘Emily Litella’ among others. She won an Emmy award for her work on SNL, and to this day, remains one of the most beloved cast members of all-time.

Gilda was diagnosed in 1986 with ovarian cancer. She once said that cancer gave her “membership to an elite club I’d rather not belong to”. She died in 1989 at the age of 42, with Gene by her side.

In her honor, Gene co-founded the nonprofit “Gilda’s Club” in 1991, which provides free support for those affected by cancer– both those with cancer, and those that love and care for someone with cancer. Support groups, counseling, education and a sense of community are provided, “so that no one has to face cancer alone”.

StratEx Serves

When a new employee starts at StratEx, I create a quick introduction of them and email it out company-wide. It’s one of my favorite parts of my job. To tease out the details for the intro, I ask them some questions and reference their resume. One thing that is present on nearly every resume I receive: volunteer work. Almost every single StratExian has a heart for volunteering.

StratEx ServesWe knew this was an area where our company should follow the lead of our employees. We are proud to announce our new initiative: StratEx Serves.

Gilda’s Club of Chicago was an easy choice for the focus of our first StratEx Serves event.

This nonprofit is especially important to two StratExians, so they knew that one service that Gilda’s Club offers is art therapy. For two weeks in July and August, we held a drive for arts and crafts supplies to be donated directly to Gilda’s Club of Chicago. We didn’t know what to expect, so we set an initial goal of 50 items.

Happy to report: Goal exceeded!

GlidasClubAGCWe estimate we gathered more than 175 arts and crafts items. These were dropped of at Gilda’s Club of Chicago by Madeline McDonnell, one of our HR Account Managers and Gretchen Van Vlymen, our VP of Account Management.

We look forward to following the lead of our fellow StratExians again and again to serve our community through StratEx Serves.

Rest in peace, Mr. Wilder, and thank you for your work.