Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Bart Jackson were
prepared for the March 12, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All
Are You Ready To Be an Entrepreneur? Penni Nafus
When her children were young, Penni Nafus and
her husband looked at their finances and decided there was no way
they could save enough to send them to college. Both were working.
She ran a secretarial business out of her home and he was a
engineer working at the Essex Hunt Club in Peapack. The solution,
they decided, was a business they could run together.
"Just about that time," Nafus recounts, "he was driving
a machine, and the engine blew up." The machine was a Zamboni,
the ice rink fixture that kids love to watch as it smooths out ice
between skating sessions. He called the company’s California
looking for parts, got to talking, and was offered a distributorship.
The couple had found its business. Nafus’ husband remained on the
job while she opened up a distributorship "in an unheated
Moving from parts to service to sales, the company grew and prospered.
"Our exit strategy," says Nafus, "was to sell the company
when our last child graduated from college." On Jim Nafus Jr.’s
graduation day, they signed the papers, although her husband remains
on as a consultant.
Nafus, no longer an entrepreneur, not strictly speaking, is director
of the Women’s Business Center of the New Jersey Association of Women
Business Owners (NJAWBO). Among her tasks, more numerous since state
budget cuts took effect, is leading "Are You an Entrepreneur"
workshops. One of the workshops takes place on Thursday, March 13,
at 6 p.m. at the Merrill Lynch Conference Center. There is no charge.
The workshop lays out the basics of business ownership, including
planning, budgeting, marketing, financing, business structure, and
insurance. "It’s definitely an overview of the things you have
to think about," says Nafus. In addition to tangibles like the
need for adequate liability insurance, the workshop asks participants
to think about the softer requirements for business success. There
is a personality test, because starting up a business is not for every
"Entrepreneurs are mavericks," says Nafus. In her opinion,
a person who fits in perfectly "over there at Merrill Lynch"
could be very unhappy out on her own.
Out on their own, however, is where more and more women are finding
"We’ve seen a change, an evolution," says Nafus. "Two
years back a lot of downsized women were coming out with a package
and experience. Their attitude was `I’m going to start a business.
I’m not going to be downsized any more!’" Now, however, the women
she is seeing are embarking on business ownership without benefit
of a severance package. Many don’t have deep experience in business,
either. "It’s not middle management now," she observes.
getting to the workers. Companies are closing up. Everybody’s
The Women’s Business Center is fielding requests for information and
for help from "panicky" women. "Their unemployment is
running out," says Nafus. While the new female business owners,
circa 2001, might have been using cash, contacts, and experience to
launch a substantial business, many women Nafus sees are now starting
service businesses on a shoestring.
This is one heck of a time to be breaking into a depressed and
economy, but Nafus says the entrepreneurial drive will out. There
are successes — even highly improbable successes. Nafus speaks
proudly, for instance, of Jeannette Williams. A single mother
of three children, Williams had no assets, no access to credit, and
no backers. A mother at 15, Williams earned an associates degree and
landed a job in the insurance industry. But she wanted more. She took
NJAWBO courses, including Start Right, the follow-up to Are You an
Entrepreneur, and started a part-time business. She bought a mobile
food cart and, along with her children, sold snacks at weekend fairs.
Williams then signed on at the culinary arts program at Elijah’s
a New Brunswick food kitchen. Through contacts she met there, she
opened an office building food kiosk. Looking for more income, she
decided to open a restaurant. "She talked it up to everyone,"
recounts Nafus. It was a hard sell. Funding a restaurant always is.
But Williams found a location opposite the court house, cobbled
financing from a number of sources, and recently opened the Food
restaurant in New Brunswick.
"She networked like crazy," says Nafus. Williams also had
a little help from New Jersey’s Division on Women. It was only a small
grant — $4,000, but it enabled her to open the kiosk that gave
her a start. It would appear that the state got its money’s worth
from its investment in Williams, who hires welfare-to-work clients
to work in her restaurant. But, says Nafus, the seed grants are now
gone, victims of recent state budget cuts. Her Women’s Business Center
still gets federal funds, but badly misses the state money.
The cuts mean fewer instructors for center’s courses. Last year, it
gave 1,362 seminars throughout the state. This year there will be
fewer. Taking up some of the slack, Nafus is about to run her 51st
Are You an Entrepreneur? seminar.
For her, the answer is yes. "It’s in your bones," she says.
Although she draws a paycheck now, Nafus has an entrepreneurial job.
"Nobody could set my schedule," she says. She is all over
the state, creating and leading programs. She has to answer to a
but has great latitude in her work. She says she learned about running
a business from her mother, a hairdresser, and passed on the
gene to her son.
"He’s a teacher," says Nafus, "but he runs an Internet
business on the side." Her son started RefCloset
when he was 16. The E-tailing site sells equipment to hockey referees.
"My daughter is the black sheep," she jokes. "She doesn’t
own a business. She’s finishing up her Ph.D. in anthropology."
Which goes to show, some people thrive on the life of a business
while others aspire to lifelong employment — or at least to a
job. Undecided about which road to take? Nafus offers this advice:
business owners, but not just now. It is important to realize that
being the boss does not come with a time clock. It comes with a
commitment. Anyone unable to devote nearly every working hour to a
new company may have a hard time growing it.
business owners who, seven or eight months after opening, are making
sales, but are going under. "They say `business is good. I’m
money,’" she says. They a lease. They hired employees. But they’re
out of money.
Save until you have enough capital to go the distance, she says,
out that payment may only come many months after a sale. "If
working with the government, it’s 120 days," she points out.
suppliers demand payment after 30 days.
in the early days as a business owner. The biggest, she believes,
was "trying to do everything myself." She finally realized
that it did not make sense for her to do bookkeeping when she could
hire someone for $10 or $12 to do it for her. Eventually she hired
five employees. But did they do as good a job as she had been doing?
"Better!" she exclaims. "I did a 360 degree turnaround.
I realized there were a few other smart people out there.
"I didn’t settle for good enough," she says. "I was more
demanding of the people who were working for me than I was of myself.
I expected them to do the job better than I did." She realized
that she was hiring experts, while she had been trying to be expert
at a number of tasks.
getting clients to pay on time; none of it is easy. Yet, says Nafus,
there is nothing like cashing those checks when they start to roll
in. It’s one of the things that makes so many people take a chance
on opening a business. Says Nafus, "it’s like making vice
at Merrill Lynch."
How does one half of the world defend itself against
the other half? For the employee, the womanly art of self-defense
includes a hefty blanket of well-intentioned law, which has nailed
loose tongues and eyes firmly to the desk, and made corporate defense
attorneys weigh in interaction between the sexes. Sexual harassment
laws and internal policies governing on-the-job behavior have come
of age. But relations between fellow employees scarcely make up the
total of all business interactions.
When the business person steps beyond the protected confines of her
own firm, she faces a fairly lawless land. "Self-Defense
for Women," sponsored by NJAWBO, provides a look at how to
Taking place on Thursday, March 13, at 6 p.m. at Merrill Lynch’s
Conference Center, the event features Angela Deitch, owner of
Angela Deitch Consulting in Ewing, and Corrine Lagermasini of
Philadelphia-based Women’s Anti-Violence Education (WAVE). Cost: $35.
"I think the most important thing women need to know," says
Deitch, "is that they can not wait this out. The fact of gender
harassment will not go away in their lifetime." While society’s
awareness is rising, so too are the number of gender harassment cases
that reach arbitration by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(EEOC). Last year, 35 percent of the EEOC’s 84,000 discrimination
cases involved gender harassment against women. This is a 6 percent
rise within the last decade.
Since l995, Angela Deitch Consulting (www.angeladeitchconsulting.com)
has labored to quell the gender conflict both directly and indirectly
by helping firms with harassment policies and with "soft
such as management conflict.
Born in Long Branch, Deitch attended the Sorbonne in Paris and
College prior to earning a master’s degree in education masters from
Rutgers University. Her client roster includes Princeton University,
Johnson & Johnson, American Cyanamid, and the State of New Jersey.
The business owner negotiating with suppliers or the sales rep out
in the field will seldom find herself under EEOC protection. An
individual has an implied agreement with her employer that the EEOC
upholds. In return for specified remuneration, the employee agrees
to produce a stipulated amount of work in a pleasant, or at least
tolerably productive, atmosphere. You can’t lock an accountant in
a dark closet and legally demand he meet his quota and you can’t
a programmer to produce if half her work hours are spent fending off
ardent seduction attempts. On the other hand, the EEOC deems that
the inter-business negotiator always has a choice. If you don’t like
the folks from another firm, you don’t have to deal with them.
This leaves the independent business person where she has always been
— out on her own, depending on her own wits. Deitch says the prime
defense for any harassment or abuse, short of a physical attack, is
to treat harassment like any other business challenge. After all,
brushing aside the hoopla, that’s what it is. She suggests that women
to be aware, prepare, and then calculate their options.
to deal with you because you are female are obvious discriminations.
Yet good business antenna will observe more subtle discrimination.
How does your male client arrange the seating? Does your supplier
use a different tone of voice with you than he does with male
Does he talk down to you? Is he excessively complimentary?
Certainly not all of the above behavior is harassment, or even
based on your gender. But the perceptive negotiator who can discern
such patterns and analyze the motivations behind them can gain a
in some form will happen. So be forearmed. Probably the best weapon
in gently putting aside discriminatory remarks or harassing moves
is to pre-script your response. One of Deitch’s favorites has worked
wonders. If the client calls you sweetie, try responding "You
know, James, I really enjoy working with you, but it does rankle me
a bit when you call me that, so I’d consider it a favor if you
do it anymore." No fuss. Just one businessperson asking a simple
courtesy of another. Truly, James would have to be a lout to ignore
such a simple request.
A little in-company role-playing, notes Deitch, provides the best
method to develop such scripts. Have one of the gentlemen in your
firm sit down, pat your hand and make a few borderline comments while
several of your co-workers watch. (While this can be fun, it should
probably not be done at Happy Hour.) Then develop several scripted
responses and let your witnesses judge the effect before selecting
one. This will also help you to become desensitized and to greet such
remarks with more confidence than fluster.
Realize, too, that some offensive-sounding remarks may be meant as
genuine compliments. Deitch asks women to remember also that all
comments arise from the same motivation. "Ask yourself," she
advises, "is this man acting as part of an older generation when
norms were different? Such understanding can counter problems."
least effective reaction following a harassing remark is stunned
which heightens embarrassment on all sides. Deitch states that the
well-prepared business woman can shift to several more productive
options depending on the situation.
Direct confrontation can be the answer, but it may be wise not to
overdo it. Police are trained to respond to an assault with only the
minimum amount of force necessary to counter the attack. This minimum
response rule applies to business as well. Foot-stomping outrage in
response to a casual comment could inflict more harm on you than on
your insensitive client.
The incredibly talented Mae West made millions for Hollywood studios,
yet her raging at one producer "Ya damn Dutchman, why don’t you
go stick your finger in a dike," and other such confrontational
comments, kept her teetering on the edge of dismissal, despite her
popularity. Before you let a remark fly, be sure you are doing it
to parry a problem, not to gain personal satisfaction.
its place too. Says Deitch: "Not every comment requires a
A blandly dismissive remark works well too. Try a somewhat bored gaze
and a "Yes..well," and then move on to another subject.
"Whatever option you select," advises Deitch, "it must
be chosen with political savvy. Literally, what is the financial
of insisting that you be treated in a professional way?"
America’s workforce is now nearly evenly divided. Half male, half
female. The fantasy that one gender can run it all is not only wrong,
but dangerous. As always, we need each other. For business to prosper,
both Mars and Venus will have to learn a courtesy and respect that
goes beyond the fear of legal penalty. "We need a pleasant and
productive workplace," says Deitch. "The two are inseparable."
— Bart Jackson
"Life is more stressful. There’s more
of it." This assessment of the working life as experienced early
in the new century comes from Linda Hausdorff, a woman who has
been working in the mental health field for three decades.
Hausdorff speaks on "Reducing Workplace Stress" on Thursday,
March 13, at 8 a.m. at a meeting of the Employers Association of New
Jersey at the Hartman Lounge, Fairleigh Dickinson University. Cost:
$75. Call 973-239-8600.
A graduate of Beverly Hills High School and Yeshiva University (Class
of 1970), Hausdorff, whose training is in social work, is with
Behavioral Works, which operates three mental health centers. "We
do training and assessments, and organization diagnosis," she
says. In other words, the group works at identifying stressors in
the workplace and at helping employees adapt. Through the
of EQ — emotional quotient — testing, the organization can
even identify individuals whose personalities make them a good match
for the stress inherent in a particular job.
"You don’t have emotional smarts, you’re going to fail at your
job," she states. While employers have long been interested in
assessing intelligence, many are now coming to recognize that
strengths can be just as important. The ability to handle
with grace, to accept criticism, to establish boundaries, to juggle
loyalty to direct reports and responsibility to upper management,
all of these attributes — and so many more — are crucial to
the smooth functioning of a team.
Today, though, even individuals with ideal emotional balance are
it hard to keep stress from bogging them down. A big reason, says
Hausdorff, is downsizing coupled with the weak economy that is causing
much of it. More needs to be done to please shareholders, yet there
are fewer people left to do it all.
Add family pressures, terror warnings, and a winter that won’t quit,
and the result can be the kind of overload that would stress those
with EQs in the stratosphere. "There’s a constant onslaught,"
What to do? She says there’s nothing like gaining control. Take the
reins by telling whoever is currently making demands that you will
be happy to oblige — just not right now. Offer to call back in
five minutes, for example. This provides an opportunity to walk around
and think of a response. "Give yourself breathing room," she
suggests. Things are bound to get better. In the meantime, says
"there ought to be anti-depressants in the water."
Lost in LaMancha, a new documentary, tells the story
of an attempt to film the story of Don Quixote in an unusually arid
part of Spain. Intended as a look at film maker Terry Gilliam at work,
it quickly becomes a chronicle of disasters. Monsoon rain, hail, dust
storms, the roar of F-16s flying maneuvers overhead, flash floods,
and the star’s undiagnosed illness conspire to sink the $32 million
project only 10 days into filming. In reviewing Lost in La Mancha,
film writer Roger Ebert reminisces about the many factors that can
derail a movie. He recalls, for example, waiting in the Ukraine with
20,000 extras, all dressed as members of Napoleon’s Old Guard, as
the lens needed to film them made its torturous way through customs.
Corporate multimedia projects rarely include such drama, but their
success depends on the harmonious blending of just as many somewhat
unpredictable factors. Maybe more. For while a marketing, training,
or E-learning project involves myriad creative elements, it also calls
for substantial technical expertise in constantly evolving formats.
In other words, any number of things can go wrong, causing everything
from cost overruns to boos in the boardroom.
Tracy Budge, director of project management at Newton Gravity
Shift in Pennington, has been "wrangling" multimedia projects
for over five years. She says that corralling the elements of a
online sales presentation or orientation film works best when all
hands are in synch. She speaks on "Managing Web and Multimedia
Projects" at a meeting of the Princeton Media Communications
on Wednesday, March 19, at 6:30 p.m. at the Sarnoff Corporation. Other
speakers are Mark Feffer of Tramp Steamer Media and Wendy
Collins of Films for the Humanities and Sciences. Cost: $15. Call
After graduating from Rowan University (Class of 1995), Budge went
to work for Paramount in New York City as a researcher and then for
Saban Entertainment, where she arranged for domestic distribution
rights for the Power Rangers and for other superheroes. After two
years in the big city, she was ready for new challenges in the ‘burbs.
While she was in college she had worked for RAC Productions, a company
that became Gravity Shift and then merged with Newton Interactive
to become Newton Gravity Shift. Looking for information about the
lay of the multimedia landscape in central New Jersey, she contacted
owners Pete Sandford and Bob Christensen. She thought she would sit
down with them an informal chat, but soon realized that the meeting
"was really an interview."
Starting out in video and film production for corporate clients, the
company was evolving into an integrated communications and technology
company and, though it did not yet have a project manager, its owners
saw the need for one. "I was a good fit," says Budge. It is
her job to ride herd on projects from proposal through post mortem
to ensure that the client’s vision is being translated into a
multimedia production on time and within budget.
An example of a corporate multimedia is a just-completed sales
project. The client, a pharmaceutical company, needed a training
for its sales force, and it needed it quickly. The company was
a new application for an existing product. "The first folks needed
to be trained as soon as possible," Budge recounts. To accomplish
this task, Newton broke up the instruction, delivering the first few
lessons as a browser-based CD ROM program and the last few as an
program. The entire project was then wrapped up into one comprehensive
CD for use by subsequent groups of salespeople.
Like most E-learning projects, this one was flexible, allowing users
to go through lessons on the Internet or on CD ROM, a popular option
for airport-bound salespeople. It was also typical in the cooperation
and communication it required. Budge explains how the process works.
to get the word out on a new product or to teach his employees how
to cope in an emergency. A multimedia developer comes up with a
to meet this need.
"Involve the team right from the start, beginning with the
says Budge. The creative and technical people on staff provide
insight and can help refine the developer’s approach to a particular
is being developed, both sides need to ask lots of questions. "Any
stonewalling should be seen as a red flag," says Budge. It is
the developer’s job to ask as many questions as it takes to clarify
a client’s vision, budget, and timeline, and it is the developer’s
job to listen carefully to every client question.
Questions begin at the start of a project, and should continue through
right to the end. No query should be stifled for fear that it will
appear too basic. "Don’t be afraid of how a question will come
across," says Budge. It is the unasked question that can sink
person for each project, and so does the client. There will be a lot
of back and forth, and it needs to go through one person who has a
deep knowledge of progress — and concerns — to date.
Often, the client’s contact person is not the project’s sponsor. For
example, Budge explains, a healthcare division of a pharmaceutical
might have obtained internal funding for courseware. The point person,
however, may be from the company’s information management department.
While details of the courseware’s development will go through him,
it is vital that the healthcare division is keep abreast of important
milestones and is satisfied that the project is progressing according
to its vision.
trade-offs. Perhaps new footage of a school’s campus for a recruitment
CD could be sacrificed to save money. Or maybe the footage is vital,
but the voiceover by the actor with the famously rich baritone could
be replaced by a voiceover reading from an assistant dean with a
Number of web pages, complexity of script, slickness of interface,
it all costs money. But few things, Budge stresses, cost more than
change. A client who goes to a trade show when his project is almost
finished, falls in love with a new technology, and insists on its
inclusion, is going to blow his budget. Changes can be made, says
Budge, but not without cost.
"I like to use a supermarket metaphor," she says. Shelves
present nearly unlimited choice. Shoppers choose what they need —
and want — progress to the check-out. Those who stick with their
lists face no surprises at the cash register, but those who toss in
unplanned purchases on the way to the front of the store have no such
next," says Budge. She says she prefers "feedforward"
to feedback. She likes to be constantly looking around the corner.
While Gilliam, La Mancha’s director, might not have been able to
uncharacteristic, rapidly changing weather conditions, research might
have turned up the fighter jet maneuvers and the star’s health
says Budge. She includes prototypes in her project schedules, and
says it is important of end-users to work with them. She has seen
cases where a question from a person trying to work through a program
has led to important refinements. A prototype, representing
less work than a full project, can reveal weaknesses at a stage where
they are easily — and inexpensively — remedied.
"Focus groups are getting a lot of buy-in from clients," says
Budge. "They choose two or three people to be a part of the
at critical stages."
the look and feel of a program, but, she says, "you never
Terry Gilliam learned this lesson in a desert in Spain. Multimedia
developers, and their clients, don’t want to confront it after months
of work on a project.
Too much data — not enough truth. Too much talk
— not enough said. Since the fall of Babel, people have strained
to communicate. Most of the time most of us come close, but just don’t
quite get our ideas understood. Perhaps this is not because the rest
of the world are unlistening idiots, but rather because our ideas
tumble out too quickly after being cobbled together on the fly.
Psychologist Mel Silberman, founder of Active Training, with
offices at 303 Sayre Drive, speaks on "Boosting Interpersonal
Intelligence in Your Organization" on Wednesday, March 19, at
8 a.m. at the Princeton Hyatt. Cost: $40. Call 609-883-6327. The
is sponsored by the American Society for Training and Development
"A good meeting ideally should run like a well-oiled machine,"
says Silberman, "not like the rumbling of seven separate egos
in one noisy tin can." For over three decades, he has been helping
businesses to oil the cogs and get a smooth flow of ideas onto the
belt and into the final decision. Born in Orange, New Jersey,
earned his undergraduate degree from Brandeis and Ph.D. from the
After running a private practice for many years, he founded the
consulting firm of Active Training in Philadelphia, and in l990, moved
the firm to Princeton. He has written several books with co-author
Freda Hansburg. They include People-Smart, Active Training,
and 101 Ways to Make Your Meeting Active. In addition, Silberman has
for 35 years maintained academic ties with Temple University as a
professor in its program for Adult and Organizational Development.
Silberman points out several very common sense concepts of conversing
that most of us seldom use. He also brings to light the many blunders
so often hidden from a speaker, but so obvious to his audience.
meeting who rides the same horse all through the discussion. Silberman
claims it’s all right to ride one horse, just make sure you change
saddles. "If you are encountering reluctance," he suggests,
"shift gears and explore your listeners’ objections." Finding
and analyzing your team members’ concerns should help hone your own
idea. This is, after all, why teams are gathered. Additionally,
and addressing these individual objections will give your own ideas
weight. The listeners will likely think, "well, he’s perceiving
me and my ideas; I will at least consider to his."
Senator Hubert Humphrey was frequently criticized for talking and
talking until he had something to say. Silberman refers to this common
blunder as "talking to think" rather than thinking before
you talk. While talking out loud can prove a very effective way of
solving a problem, it is also guaranteed to drive your co-workers
underground and banish your solution from their numbed thoughts.
Basically, diatribes delivered in meetings fail. No matter how lyrical
your lofty verbiage, people need to be brought into your speech if
you expect them to listen to it. Frequently this may involve nothing
more that brief and frequent checks with your audience, such as `How
does that sound to you so far?’ Then, of course, the hard part —
you have to listen to their responses to that question, and
them in the next segment of your speech. "We need to use `we
in our meetings," notes Silberman, "and to present ideas
conversation. Unless teams dialogue, they die."
audience members onstage during one of his talks. How many, he asks,
are the possible number of relationships among these five people?
Answer: 120. Every individual holds a unique relationship with each
other person in this group. Galileo was right. The universe does not
revolve around you. Silberman describes a team as a thicket of
Unfortunately, most people enter a group with an I-versus-them
and see the meeting as a battlefield where their ideas must triumph.
Silberman does not ask you to abandon your much-belabored brainchild,
merely that you give up advertised credit for it. It is indeed
but cutting your idea loose and letting it join the flow of the team’s
options will not only get the job done more rapidly, but with a better
feeling. Tangentially, for those members of the group who are
pushed to the background, you can spark encouragement by recognizing
their contribution and initially referring to it as "Sally’s
applies just as well to person-to-person situations. When you need
to instruct a co-worker, for example, Silberman suggests that you
stop and plan your words in advance. Brain overload from a
presentation is a common blunder. "Be brain-friendly in your
says Silberman. Initially, present an overview, and then break it
down into bullet-point details, each digestible as a single concept.
Tell your listener at the start that this is how you will fill him
in on this new item. Try something like "Let me give you the big
picture and then break it down into details."
With individuals, as with a group, you must pause, and patiently wait
for questions or additional ideas. Again, the goal is a conversation,
not a lecture. Value his time, value his thoughts.
— Bart Jackson
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