By REMODELING Magazine Staff. If the United States is a nation of immigrants, a mosaic of diverse ethnic, regional, and lingual origins, then Elite Remodeling is truly an American company.
Among president and company founder Alex Shektman's seven-person staff are Ã©migrÃ©s from El Salvador, Russia, and Shektman's native Ukraine; only the company's receptionist was born in the United States.
â??There are three different languages spoken at the company, but no one speaks more than two,â?? Shektman says. Conducting weekly staff meetings in English, he says, is an exercise in patience.
Shektman doesn't mind taking a little extra time to translate. Rather, he says, his own experience inspires him to make a concerted effort to support new immigrants. As a company owner, he has sponsored five employees for permanent residency. â??I understand their problems. I know of many problems that Americans wouldn't know about or feel are important.â??
Shektman says that, having worn the sales hat for years, achieving fluency in English provided him his own greatest challenge. He credits listening to talk radio mainstays Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura with helping him master the idioms and idiosyncrasies of the spoken language.
â??The language barrier was the biggest obstacle,â?? Shektman says. â??But I overcame it. I had no choice.â??
Such determination, Shektman says, is vital to every immigrant struggling to gain a foothold here. â??Some people will be stopped by nothing. They start at a low-wage job and work until they get where they want to be.â??
â??It's very human,â?? Shektman says. â??Some people are fighters, some are not. Some people complain, â??They don't treat us well here,' and some have gone back. But I can't imagine doing that.â??