Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace

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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 24, 2000. All rights reserved.

Business Resource: SBA Loan Source

Sometimes the best advice a Small Business Association

loan officer has for a would-be entrepreneur is: Don’t quit your day


"Part of the SBA’s mission is educating folks," says Linda

Deckman. "What we can do is prevent someone from throwing money

at something that isn’t going to work. We help people figure out how

to do a business plan. Sometimes it will push people to the right


Deckman has opened a branch of Zions Small Business Finance to make

small business loans through SBA and USDA programs. These loans can

be for flexible financing for machinery, equipment, land, and building

purchase, and also to refinance existing business debt, finance a

start-up operation, or expand a business.

Zions’ small business finance division, headquartered in St. Louis,

Missouri, is a division of Zions First National Bank, itself a subsidiary

of a $20 billion asset bank holding company that operates in seven

Western states. It trades on Nasdaq. Deckman operates out of 295 Princeton-Hightstown

Road (609-443-1400).

Deckman grew up in Wynnefield, where her father was a statistician

for the Pennsylvania Bureau of Employment Security, and her mother

also worked for state government. She has a bachelor’s degree from

LaSalle, Class of 1980, a master’s in Spanish from Temple, and an

MBA from LaSalle. She was hired by Mellon Bank to do middle market

commercial loans just at the time Mellon bought out Girard Bank. Moving

to the Princeton area, she did loan review for National Westminster,

and then worked at Chase Manhattan in personal financial services

— originating, underwriting, approving, and closing jumbo mortgages,

and also cross selling personal banking and private banking.

She left a job originating residential mortgages at Norwest to get

back into the commercial arena. "I loved the management of this

company and the preferred lender status," she says.

Deckman has set up her office in the home and will be going up against

the major SBA lenders in New Jersey such as Fleet and Valley National.

But she is convinced that meeting her clients on their ground is better

than having a bank connection and she believes this arrangement will

actually help her to carve out a niche. She hopes to get referrals

from small to medium-size banks because she does not represent competition

to them. "SBA loans are very labor intensive and very paper intensive,

and the regulations change all the time," she says. "If someone

concentrates just on SBA they will get the loan through quicker and


A local bank officer may not want to submit to the aggravation of

working with an SBA client — but may not want to lose the depository

relationship with that client. "Not having a branch in New Jersey,

I am not in competition for deposits or larger loans," says Deckman.

"Once my clients’ loans graduate from SBA status to regular banking

loans, I can give them back to the regular local banks."

The mistake entrepreneurs make most frequently is not providing complete

information on the loan application. "You give them a list but

you don’t always get the information," she says. "Maybe they

don’t think it’s really needed. That really slows down the process."

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Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace

That prevailing attitude among small business owners

that alcoholism and drug use are problems better left to family is

one that Nancy Stek of the National Council on Alcoholism &

Drug Dependence of Middlesex County is determined to change. "We

still have attitudes that alcoholics can’t be helped until they hit

bottom, but when we have that kind of a stand-off attitude, some of

those people are going to die," says Stek, who speaks on "Substance

Abuse in the Workplace," on Thursday, June 1, at 7:30 a.m. at

the Edison Clarion. The event is sponsored by the Middlesex Chamber;

call 732-821-1700.

New estimates suggest that nearly half of Americans are already impacted

by a family member with a substance abuse problem, not to mention

friends, co-workers, and colleagues who may suffer from substance

abuse as well. "At any given workplace, you’re looking at half

of employees being affected," says Stek, who has a BA in psychology

from the University of California at Sonoma, Class of 1976. "It’s

a problem that affects so many people — it’s a problem that affected

me and I didn’t even know it. There was alcoholism in my family and

when I was growing up alcoholism wasn’t talked about. An alcoholic

was somebody who was part of somebody else’s family. It took me a

while to put two and two together and say that’s what’s wrong in my


Denial is also a common feature in businesses, and co-workers and

employers often hesitate to get involved for three reasons, says Stek.

One, they’re uncertain how to diagnose the behavior. "It is difficult

to identify or diagnose, but there are patterns of behavior that would

need to be addressed by a supervisor anyway: frequent or prolonged

absence, accidents on and off the job, erratic work patterns, reduced

productivity, overreaction to either real or imagined criticism."

Hyperactivity, exhaustion, dilated pupils, slurred speech are more

overt signs, but those can indicate other medical problems so it’s

not necessary to diagnose alcoholism or drug addiction in the first

place. "All you need to look for is work performance issues that

would otherwise cause concern," says Stek.

Another reason people back off in helping people with a substance

abuse problem is that they’re afraid of getting a hostile reaction,

says Stek, but in some cases, it’s just the plain stigma associated

with a drug or alcohol problem. "Others view drug abuse as simply

a legal issue and not a health issue, and that drug users don’t deserve

health treatment — they should be thrown in jail," says Stek.

"That the substances they use are not legal is secondary to the

real problem."

Alcoholism and drug addiction is treatable, Stek says, and businesses

now have access to programs that can help employees who suffer from

addictions. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence

of Middlesex, a private non-profit in the county for 20 years, is

part of a statewide network of agencies that provides information,

referrals, and training to organizations and businesses on the issue

of substance abuse. The number for the National Council on Alcoholism

& Drug Dependent for Mercer County is 609-396-5874.

Larger corporations have already found that it’s good business practice

to offer help to their employees, says Stek. "Most employers want

their employees to be healthy," says Stek. "It creates a safer

work environment — fewer accidents, less absenteeism, and better

results. A lot of the larger corporations found it was beneficial

to address this and have been doing so for a number of years,"

she says. "The change has to be in small employers. We’ve worked

with people who are looking at the problem and want to address it.

If nothing else, at least businesses are asking for help rather than

just firing an employee."

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