STATEN ISLAND LEADERS IN BUSINESS, CULTURE, AND THE ARTS SHARE THEIR MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS LESSONS, ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY FLICKS, AND MOST TREASURED HOLIDAY TRADITIONS

BY ERIK SCHONING, ARCHANA AITHAL ROSE, AND MADELYN DAWSON PHOTOS BY AMANDA DOMENECH, ALEX BARRETO, AND TOM ZAPCIC

 

 

 

 

John Coscia
President, AJC Advisors / ajcadvisors.com
For John Coscia, an independent financial advisor and tax preparer since 1996, his fascination with numbers began at the dinner table, as a kid on his father’s lap, doing taxes. Coscia would one day grow up and inherit his father Angelo’s business as owner and president of AJC Advisors, but not before proving his mettle as a top tier performer at a previous firm, where he was first registered. Some of his early career influences, Coscia said, were, “Initially my dad and one of his lifelong friends, George Krause, who was an accountant. Between the two of them, I knew that financial planning and tax preparation is what I wanted to do as a career. The business evolved from doing taxes into a full edged financial rm.” With an unmatched work ethic and a keen knowledge of the financial markets, Coscia is registered in nine states with Series 7 and 63 registrations, while also holding insurance licenses in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Florida.

Hand & Stone SPREAD

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN BUSINESS?
I learned to always be honest and upfront. My dad always put personal relationships with clients first which garnered loyalty in return. With each generation our business relationships continue to grow, and I hope that is the norm for the future.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED HOLIDAY TRADITION?
Turning on the yule log and opening presents. First with my brothers and parents, and now I continue with my wife and two sons.

WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
It’s A Wonderful Life ironically bridges the gap between friends, family, and business.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Finch
Director of Catering, The Nicotra Group nicotrasballroom.com, eventabove.com
Jennifer Finch is used to putting a smile on people’s faces. As director of catering for The Nicotra Group, Nicotra’s Ballroom, and Above Staten Island venues, she has made a career of ensuring her clients’ special occasions go off without a hitch. Finch points to a top down approach that has given The Nicotra Group the ability to connect with clients and guests in meaningful ways: Lois and Richard Nicotra themselves send handwritten birthday cards to all 500 employees. At every step of her career, Finch has been able to offer that same support and personal touch to her clients, whether they are scheduling a wedding, a bar mitzvah, or a major milestone.

Finch has been with The Nicotra Group since 2011; that sort of long term service isn’t unusual at the company, where people tend to grow in their roles over time. Today, as director of catering, Finch is intimately involved with every step of the event process, from initial brain storming to planning to the final day of execution. When you are hosting massive events, you have to understand every facet of what’s going on, and Finch is able to leverage her experience to stay abreast of every aspect of someone’s special day.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN BUSINESS?
I would say the greatest lesson that I have learned in business is the importance of respecting and caring for the people you work with and for. There is nothing more vital to the success of your business than the team that you are surrounded by. I could not do this job without the people that work alongside me, and I am sure to never take that for granted. The culture of caring for your employees is deeply rooted in the business model that Lois and Richard Nicotra have created and instilled within their Nicotra Group management team for nearly 50 years.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED HOLIDAY TRADITION?
My most treasured holiday tradition would be making latkes while decorating the Christmas tree with my two beautiful daughters, Deanna and Karlie! My girls come from a home with mixed traditions and religions, so it was important to my husband and to find a way to ensure one tradition did not outweigh the importance of the other. Our solution is “tinsel and taters.” Something about rocking around the Christmas Tree with potato pancakes in hand just works for us!

WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
My absolute favorite holiday movie is Love Actually. As a wedding planner, I am a sucker for a great love story, and when you throw in some holiday cheer, I am sold! I love the way the movie showcases how each person’s life is somehow interconnected with the next, a great reminder that somehow, some way, we are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

Salvatore Leto
Owner, B&S Floor Coverings / bandsfloors.com
B&S Floor Coverings was established by Sal Leto, Sr. in 1950. “My brother and I started by selling flooring door to door,” noted Leto of his company’s humble beginnings. Eventually, the duo opened their first brick and mortar showroom on Glenwood Road in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Leto’s son, Sal Leto Jr., soon joined the family business, and the team relocated to a larger storefront down the road before finding its permanent home on Victory Boulecard in Staten Island. Leto and his son, Bennie, expanded the business again in 2009, and today B&S Floor Coverings offers thousands of design choices in carpeting, hardwood, and waterproof vinyl flooring in its brightly lit showroom, along with in home shopping and free estimates for both residential and commercial customers. “We’ve been in business since 1950, offering the best quality and prices, and many of our workers have been with us for over 35 years,” added Leto. “My guess is we must be doing something right.”

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN BUSINESS?
Courtesy, service with a smile, and never skimping on quality.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED HOLIDAY TRADITION?
Getting together with the multigenerational family, grandkids, and all for Christmas dinner.

WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Home Alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Diane O’Friel
Chief Operating Officer, JAG ONE Physical Therapy jagonept.com
Diane O’Friel never expected to find herself in the shoes she fills. She fell in love, though, with the relationships she made and impacts she could have working in management, specifically in a practice that centers itself on recovery and helping people make progress toward a stronger, healthier life. She was able to use the business and communications knowledge from her formal education in order to move into a position where she was most needed.

O’Friel said she’s drawn to the ways in which her work allows her to help people find their place in their careers. She sees herself in a position of linking people, inspiring them to collaborate and learn from each other, even when their ideas may seem divergent at first. She uses her authority not to impose her ideas, but rather to understand and synthesize her colleagues’ different perspectives in pursuit of catalyzing collective strength.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN BUSINESS?
You know that old saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”? I totally disagree with that. I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that you can teach an old dog new tricks, you just have to be open to it.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED HOLIDAY TRADITION?
I have a lot of nieces and nephews, they range from 18 35. I used to do a cookie night and have them all over when my kids were toddlers, and that has just gotten bigger and bigger. We bake cookies, and they all sleep over, and we watch Christmas movies.

WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
It’s A Wonderful Life…How could anyone argue?

 

 

 

 

 

Sean Harrell
President, Integration Charter Schools integrationcharterschools.org
For Sean Harrell, president of Integration Charter Schools, education is re imagination. He believes education is a living thing, one that can and should be adapted to center the student in the classroom and beyond. He never saw himself doing anything else. Before his time at ICS, Harrell worked as a teacher, assistant principal, principal, and district leader. He served as assistant principal at Victory Collegiate, as the previous school there was closing, and was tasked with this reimagining. When he joined, the graduation rate was hovering around 30%. He helped bring it up to 97%. Moving into his new position at ICS, he carried this philosophy with him, integrating technology, travel, and hands on learning into his classroom space. “New York City is our classroom,” Harrell said, and he is determined to explore all it has to offer as a place full of wonder and experience.

WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT LESSON YOU’VE LEARNED IN BUSINESS?
Be more curious than certain.

WHAT IS YOUR MOST TREASURED HOLIDAY TRADITION?
I have a huge, huge Friends giving. There are 40 50 people and we do it out in the Poconos. It’s our time to come together before we go out and branch out into our other family situations.

WHAT IS YOUR ALL TIME FAVORITE HOLIDAY MOVIE?
Home Alone the original one.