Mercer Chamber’s New CEO: Frank-White

Greater Mercer Meetings

Overcoming the Perils of Family Businesses: Thomas Kaplan

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Barbara Fox and U. Michael Schumacher were

prepared for the September 5, 2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper.

All rights reserved.

Cathy Frank-White and Thomas Kaplan

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Mercer Chamber’s New CEO: Frank-White

Power luncheons are intimidating, says Cathy


president and CEO of the Greater Mercer County Chamber of Commerce.

"Nobody knows who anybody is unless they have been going for


That’s why she likes networking breakfasts. "From 8 to 9, before

the businesses open, they get a chance to stand up in a group of 50

people and tell about their business and talk to other people. It

is a cozier, more intimate way of networking."

This chamber holds monthly breakfast meetings that move around among

the member businesses, and for the next two months they will be in

Princeton — on Wednesday, September 13, at the Nassau Club, and

on Wednesday, October 11, at Mediterra. (Cost: $12. Call


In addition to the various chamber meetings, Frank-White has two


speaking engagements. On Wednesday, September 13, at 5:30 p.m. at

Mastori’s, she speaks to the Association of Government Accountants.

Cost: $28. Call Carol Dionne, 609-984-7673. On Thursday, September

14, at 6 p.m. at Merlino’s, she addresses the Greater Mercer County

Women’s Political Caucus on "Women in Business and Politics."

Cost: $35. Call 609-586-2431.

Frank-White is in her fifth career. "Every skill I’ve picked up

so far has contributed to what I’m doing in this job," she says.

Her mother died when she was three, and she was raised by a foster

family. But she believes her mother has been present in her life.

"I have been told that — what I have in the way of natural

personality and caring for people — comes from her. I feel she

is with me all the time."

After working her way through Montclair State she started out as a

teacher in high school and middle school and earned a master’s from

the College of New Jersey. "I have had no one to answer to but

myself — I didn’t do anything because I had to please anybody

else, and I love everything I do," she says. Switching careers,

she went into the political administration as administrator of


of Branchburg. Then she was executive director of the New Jersey


Association and manager of government relations for Wakefern Food

Corporation and Shop Rite.

Frank-White came to the chamber last spring full of energy and made

it a point to personally visit each and every business that called

her office to spend time explaining what the chamber can do for them.

"I’ve been encouraged by the new members we have brought in,"

she says, "many because of the personal attention. I don’t want

to just go out and make calls and get members and then not have them

get anything out of it."

Take advantage of what the organization offers, she urges:

Donate a door prize. "Most businesses need exposure,

some type of networking system, something other than advertising in

a newspaper. So when we do drawings, I don’t just draw a number and

say so and so won such and such. I make it a point of reading a


card, who won, what they do, who gave that gift, and where they are


Read the chamber publication. Each new member gets one

"write-up" and one free advertisement. "And believe me,

people read that magazine to the point of telling me there is a word

misspelled in my column." As a former English teacher, she likes

the deadline challenge of doing research and coming up with new ideas

each month.

Spread the word about the tourist potential of your


She plans to visit the mayor or administration of each town,


all the hidden gems that people don’t know about, to highlight each

of the communities in Mercer County." Not only is this grist for

her magazine column (her specialty is community profiles), but it

provides good answers for the many information requests her office


Network both in your industry and within your geographical

location. Mercer’s chambers have member businesses who are located

in Princeton and surrounding townships.

Until now, though, the Princeton members of Mercer’s chamber have

not felt quite equal to the other areas. That’s because the Mercer

chamber makes it a point to schedule twice yearly networking meetings,

breakfasts or card exchanges, for each of its geographical divisions

— except Princeton.

"Our members in Princeton are the ones who wanted to have things

like the other towns," says Frank-White. "Teri McIntire


of advertising and marketing of Palmer Square), is on our board, and

said we ought to form the Princeton division." The Princeton


first networking session will be a tailgate party at the Princeton

University Stadium for the Brown game on Saturday, October 14, at

noon. Cost: $10 including game ticket. Call 609-393-4143.

This division is not an attempt to move in on the Princeton chamber’s

turf, Frank-White says, merely a response to requests from member

businesses who are located in Princeton. "We met with Katherine

Kish, the Princeton chamber president, to say we are not looking

to compete in any way with Princeton area chamber activities,"

she says. "Businesses located in Princeton can choose to join

the Princeton chamber, the county chamber, or either of the high tech

networking associations — or all of them," says Frank-White.

The opportunity to promote Mercer County can come at unexpected times.

"I was working late one night when a PR company on Madison Avenue

called about a client coming to Washington Township. She was looking

for information on tax rates and schools. I sent her five different

booklets, and each one had exactly what she was looking for. `I’ll

make a deal,’ I told her. `I want you to tell them that the first

thing they have to do is join the Mercer chamber.’"

— Barbara Fox

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Greater Mercer Meetings

Tuesday, September 12

11:30 a.m.: "A Celebration of Art," Brooke Barrie,

director/curator, Grounds for Sculpture, $30. Grounds for Sculpture,

18 Fairgrounds Road, 609-393-4143 .

Wednesday, September 13

8 a.m.: Breakfast club, sponsored by Brinkerhoff


Services, $12. Nassau Club, 609-393-4143 .

Tuesday, September 19

8:15 a.m.: "Strategic Alliances & Joint Ventures,"

Michael Hierl of the Pacesetter Group, Veronica Fielding of Princeton

Partners Interactive Group, and Douglas J. Zeitt of Fox Rothschild,

O’Brien & Frankel, $20, Greenacres Country Club, 609-393-4143 .

Monday, October 2

5:30 p.m.: Reception and press conference for Ewing


Fest, $20. Ewing Division. Paul Loser Hall, College of New Jersey,

609-393-4143 .

Wednesday, October 4

11:30 a.m.: "Exploring new opportunities for economic

development," Douglas H. Palmer, mayor, City of Trenton. $30.

Trenton War Memorial, 609-393-4143 .

Wednesday, October 11

8 a.m.: Breakfast club, $12. Mediterra, 609-393-4143 .

Friday, October 13

6 p.m.: Ice Capades 60th anniversary show, $45, cash bar.

By reservation. Sovereign Bank Arena, 609-393-4143 .

Saturday, October 14

11:30 a.m.: Football vs. Brown, and tailgate party,


Division, $10. Princeton Stadium, 609-393-4143 .

Thursday, September 14

Top Of Page
Overcoming the Perils of Family Businesses: Thomas Kaplan

For the past 17 years Bob Fishkin has worked along

side his eldest son in the Perth Amboy camera shop, Fishkin Brothers,

established over 60 years ago by his father and uncle. The business

relationship of father and son today is that of partners. And Fishkin

says this arrangement works well because they have mutual respect

for one another. "We consult each other about everything,"

he says, "from advertising to price structure." This puts

the Fishkins in an elite group of family businesses that have managed

to overcome the usual pitfalls. More frequently, attempts at passing

the reins of a business from one generation to another result in its


To combat this statistic, family businesses must learn how to deal

with these issues, rather than allow them to fester. Entrepreneurs

can find ways to reduce the frustrations that accompany family


in the workplace at a half-day breakfast seminar on Thursday,


14, at 8:30 a.m. at Fairleigh Dickinson’s campus in Madison. Thomas

E. Kaplan presents "Five Family Business Crises and How to

Avoid Them" as the fifth of an eight-part Family Business Forum

series at the university’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial


Families join for an annual fee but guests may attend a single seminar

by calling 973-443-8880, or go to

A mechanical engineer from Ohio Northern University, Class of 1987,

Kaplan has an MBA from Baldwin-Wallace College, and a Ph.D. from


Commonwealth University. He was the first research fellow in the


Enterprise Center at Kennesaw State University, the first doctoral

level position of its kind in the United States.

At Fairleigh Dickinson, Kaplan is an assistant professor of


studies, and much of his consulting work deals with family business

transitions, especially among siblings, and helping business owners

develop effective boards. "In all of our forum sessions, we strive

to provide practical information and processes that families can put

into practice," says Kaplan.

The type of dialogue and on-going communication that Bob and Paul

Fishkin have established is essential, Kaplan believes, for overcoming

family business crises. "Increasingly," he says, "families

wait until problems reach crisis stage to begin dealing with


The five crises typical to family businesses:

No one follows through through with their commitments.

No one in the next generation is interested in the family


The entitlement mentality takes over the family.

No one in the next generation is good enough to lead the


Every time family members talk to each other, it turns

into a disaster.

Kaplan provides two examples. On the commitment issue: "Many

families with whom I work, say that they value accountability.


that’s not enough," contends Dr. Kaplan. "They need to


work to make accountability a part of their family and business


Many conflicts have their roots in disparities of commitment and


On not talking to each other: "Families that communicate


make it look easy," says Kaplan. "The truth is, however, that

effective communication takes considerable effort — and this


must be consistent. Otherwise, when family members do get together,

there is great potential for everyone to unleash their frustrations

on everyone else."

Even within family businesses, there are distinct situations. First

generation businesses established by spouses or siblings involve


dynamics than those of second or third generations that consist of

more players, who are motivated by various drives, not always in


"Issues of trust, fairness, leadership, and accountability are

often much different in a sibling team-led business," says Kaplan.

When asked how a large sibling-run company such as Fortunoff’s


store succeeds at doing it, he said "By constantly working at

it and not taking anything for granted."

For husband and wife team Sandy and Bernie Newman, partners

for 26 years at Raritan Container Company in New Brunswick, the key

is trust. "We like each other," says Sandy Newman, "and

trust each other’s decisions." If her husband makes a business

decision, she admits, "I really trust that decision, even if it’s

not one I would have made."

Kaplan is optimistic that with the proper skillset and determination,

family businesses can successfully pass from one generation to the

next. "Every generational transition," he says, "is


and there is not one best way to thrive over time." For many the

transition is too difficult. Yet, Kaplan maintains, "I believe

too much time is spent talking about family business failure across

generations, and we often fail to appreciate how few `old’ businesses

there are in the United States."

Sandy Newman has seen how family businesses can work: "By working

together, we have the same interests, and we are pulling in the same


— U. Michael Schumacher

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