Round Peg for Round Hole: Jon Nichols

Small Business Week: October 2 to 7

Business Law: Robert Kenny

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Tony Faber, Jeff Mastroberti, and Catherine

Moscarello were prepared for the September 27, 2000 edition of U.S. 1

Newspaper.

All rights reserved.

Building a Strategy For E-Commerce

The Internet offers explosive opportunities to small

businesses, but only if they are willing to commit the necessary time,

money and resources to the undertaking. "I can’t tell you how

many small businesses I speak to who plan to have their web site

designed

by a cousin, neighbor or someone else on the cheap," says

E-commerce

expert Bernadette Tiernan. "Businesses often rush just to

get a site up. But a business owner must be fully in charge of

integrating

E-business strategies into its overall plan of success."

Tiernan will speak on "Managing E-commerce — can you

successfully

market and distribute your product, service or new idea on the

Internet?"

on Monday, October 2, at 10:30 a.m. on the James Kerney Campus of

Mercer County College, at North and Academy streets in Trenton.

Admission

is free, part of Trenton Small Business Week, and is sponsored by

the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC). For more

information go to www.smallbizweek.com or contact Nat Bender at

800-432-1565.

Tiernan’s seminar will feature a self-assessment questionnaire, which

will focus on how much time, money, and other resources a business

is willing to commit. She notes that businesses often overlook such

steps as hiring a professional writer (if necessary) or generating

professional quality photographs or illustrations. Furthermore, the

process can’t just be delegated, or done once, and then ignored.

"I

tell people that they should devote as much time an energy to it as

if they were starting a new division of their company."

Tiernan is a graduate of Merrimack College and has a masters degree

in industrial psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. She

worked as a human factors engineer for AT&T until 1986, when she

started

her own business, Tiernan Associates. Today her company does

consulting

for small businesses and E-commerce companies. Tiernan has written

a book on the subject, E-tailing, sold through Dearborn Publishing,

and is also the lead E-commerce consultant for the NJSBDC and its

"Managing E-commerce" program, which offers no-cost consulting

to small businesses.

While a successful web site requires a company’s full resources,

Tiernan

notes that there are simple, inexpensive ways of testing the waters.

For instance, an easy way of discovering the demand for a product

at a given price is to offer it for auction on eBay, which has a

Business

Exchange section just for business-to-business sales.

Another way to sell products without going to the trouble of designing

and promoting one’s own site is to associate with an online mall or

larger company such as Yahoo Shopping. In such a case, the business

pays a monthly fee and gets to sell its products using a

straightforward

Yahoo template. In some cases, eBay or an online mall is the only

web presence a company really needs.

For companies that already have web sites and are looking to improve

their results, she warns against these most common pitfalls:

Too much text. Consumers don’t want to be instantly

assaulted

by a massive amount of information. What may work in a booklet or

brochure may be too much text for a website.

The site loads too slowly. A consumer will leave if a

site doesn’t download right away. Don’t include too many bells and

whistles, such as photos, complicated graphics and streaming video.

The site should download almost instantly on a 56K modem.

Failure to get the word out. The site should be registered

with all the search engines, and the web site should be prominently

featured in all company advertising and promotion efforts. Everything

that contains the name of the company — brochures, business cards,

etc. — should carry the web site address as well.

Insufficient customer service. It should be very easy

for customers to contact the company with questions, and responses

to E-mails must be prompt. A good FAQ (frequently asked questions)

section is not enough; a company can never anticipate all the things

a customer may ask.

Not understanding what will sell. Sales should be tracked

over time, and the company’s hottest and best-selling items should

be prominently featured. In fact, a company need not sell every single

item over its web site that it sells in its brick and mortar stores.

It may be more efficient just to sell the company’s hottest products.

Not paying enough attention. A business can’t put up a

site and think that it’s done. In addition to tracking sales and

having

the proper product mix over time, the site should constantly be looked

at and re-evaluated for possible improvements.

This last item is perhaps the most important, since beyond the

specific characteristics of a web site, the greatest pitfall Tiernan

observes is that of complacency. A business owner must view E-commerce

as an ongoing division of the business, as opposed to a project that

is completed once and then never revised. The design and product

offerings

of a site can never allowed to become stale. "You can never stand

still," cautions Tiernan. "You must always be ready to

adapt."

— Tony Faber

Top Of Page
Round Peg for Round Hole: Jon Nichols

For an organization to be effective, it must understand

and develop its talent, says Jon Nichol, human resources director

at Rhodia Corporation. "We’ve been aggressively trying to

understand

our talent base for the last couple of years," says Nichol.

"We’ve

been doing a lot of analysis and categorizing of people."

Nichols will give a workshop on developing organizational

effectiveness

for the Human Resource Management Association (HRMA) on Monday,

October

2, at 8:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club in Princeton. Under the general

topic, "The Future of Human Resources: Challenges &

Solutions,"

the meeting also include workshops on "Recruiting & Retention"

by Robert Humes Sr. of American Re-insurance; "Leadership,

Development & Coaching," presented by Diane Allen of the

Hibbert Group; and "HR and the Internet" led by Darryl

Hume of Cendant Corporation. The HRMA is a chapter of the national

Society of Human Resources Management. Cost: $15. Call Thyra Houck

at 609-737-0426.

A native of Iowa, Nichols went to Iowa State and spent 13 years with

Monsanto, the mega chemical company that was acquired by Rhodia (then

known as Rhone Poulenc) in 1986. He has been director of human

resources

since 1995 (E-mail: Jon.Nichols@US.Rhodia.com). Based in Paris,

Rhodia Corporation is a $6 billion chemical manufacturing company

with its United States headquarters on Prospect Plains Road in

Cranbury

(609-860-4808). It has more than 3,300 employees and 32 manufacturing

sites throughout the United States, including one on Jersey Avenue

in New Brunswick.

Nichol’s interactive presentation will share how Rhodia upgrades its

organization and elicit feedback on how others have achieved similar

goals. "It’s quite challenging in this type of environment to

be attracting good quality people," he says. "One way to do

that is to ensure that you hire the best to work alongside some of

the best."

"If we can share some of the things that we’ve done to raise our

performance standards, that may be helpful to another organization

that’s trying to see how they can make a cultural transformation in

their business." In addition to helping his colleagues, he is

looking forward to hearing their ideas. "We think conceptually

we have a good process and some good tools but there are probably

other `best practice’ ideas out there that we could learn from."

What to do with a misplaced employee? "First, categorize people

as being profitable, well placed, or not well placed."

Well placed individuals are good contributors and provide value to

the organization. "This is clearly where the majority of the

organization

is."

Those not well placed either don’t have the skills to do the job or

they have the skills but are in a job that does not allow these skills

to emerge. "In that case, we will look to redirect those

individuals

into jobs where they could be stronger contributors. `Not well placed’

does not necessarily mean that an individual is not a satisfactory

performer," he says.

To make a change, the employee must take the initiative:

Monitor the internal posting system that allows employees

to see if there is another job available that might suit them better.

Network internally. "We encourage employees to talk

to their managers as well as the HR manager, go out and network with

other managers and departments that you might be interested in. Do

the same kind of networking internally that you would do outside of

the company to get a job," says Nichol.

Get counseling. Every month, says Nichol, he counsels

employees but he can’t see everyone. "The company is going to

shepherd just a very small percentage of the population through their

career because we’re really focusing on key jobs and highly critical

jobs."

"We really subscribe to the idea that you, the employee,

manage your own career. The company can provide some tools, processes,

and job opportunities, but you have to be the one to take the

initiative."

— Jeff Mastroberti

Top Of Page
Small Business Week: October 2 to 7

Small businesses in New Jersey have powerful influence,

if you look at the latest statistics — from 1998. They show that

of the 221,500 businesses in New Jersey, approximately 98 percent

were small businesses employing fewer than 500 people. Small business

accounted for a net total of 12,900 new employees between 1995 and

1996, nearly 53 percent of private non-farm employment growth in the

state.

Entrepreneurial economic power has indeed been recognized, and all

levels of government are trying to help the small business person.

For the Seventh Annual Trenton Small Business Week, Monday to Friday,

October 2 to 6, various trade groups and government organizations

have scheduled nearly two dozen events at various locations. They

offer business to business networking, hands-on learning seminars,

and one-on-one consulting.

For instance, business owners can sign up for one-hour consulting

sessions at the Trenton Business & Technology Center at 36 South Broad

Street. Sessions continue all week, but reservations must be made

by Friday, September 29. Go to www.smallbizweek.com or call

609-396-7246.

Top Of Page
Business Law: Robert Kenny

In the practice of law, "the answers are easy,"

says Robert Kenny, attorney and CPA. "It’s the questions

that are hard." Finding out what questions to ask could save the

small business owner a world of headaches and quite possibly some

money.

Kenny will present some insight on asking the right questions as part

of the Trenton Small Business Week on Tuesday, October 3, at 5:30

p.m. at the Trenton Business & Technology Center, 36 South Register

at www.smallbizweek.com or call 609-396-7246.

Kenny is considering renaming a class he gave recently for Mercer

County Community College’s Small Business Development Center.

"It’s

called `How to Form Your Own Corporation’ but right off the bat that

jumps to a conclusion. It doesn’t ask the right question. Maybe the

best thing to do is not to form a corporation at all. Instead, someone

might be better off considering an LLC, limited liability

corporation."

Based upon his professional experience in tax audit defense, business

formation and estate and tax planning, Kenny wants to help business

owners spot the issues that may become problems. A 1968 graduate of

Manhattan College, Kenny received his J.D. from Northeastern

University

School of Law in 1973. He is an adjunct associate professor at Rider

University, teaches for MCCC’s Small Business Development Center and

also taught at Seton Hall University School of Law. He is a member

of the bar in four states, the federal tax court, and federal district

courts for New Jersey and the northern district of Illinois. His

office

is at the Carnegie Center (E-mail: taxdefender@attymail.com).

Coming up with the right questions to ask involves these caveats:

Don’t do your own brain surgery. Trying to form and run

a business without competent legal advice is asking for trouble.

"Find

a professional who is cognizant of your particular business issues,

almost like searching for a specialist in the medical field."

Prevention is better than a cure. "You wouldn’t draft

your own insurance policy on the chance that you might leave something

out," Kenny says. "Just knowing what options are available

can often help the business owner become proactive in problem

solving."

Recognize the differences between big business and small

business. Fortunately, the more modern trend is to "carve

out"

exceptions for small business in tax laws, labor relations law, and

various statutes. However, "there are still many bureaucratic

burdens for small business that apply to a Mom-and-Pop candy store

as well as to the Fortune 500 company."

The key," says Kenny, "is to realize that you are not an

expert but you can know how to tap into alternative entities."

— Catherine Moscarello


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