Corrections or additions?
These articles by Bart Jackson and Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the March 10, 2004 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
The ice is out; the creeks are running. ‘Tis the season for us whitewater paddlers to gather at the riverside in small clusters and catch up. We talk about gear as if our lives depended on it. They do after all. Paddles, helmets, life vests are reviewed. An appreciative nod or derisive snort is enough to send out ripples through the boating community, winning or losing thousands of dollars for companies that will never know. Referrals mean survival, in every business.
Yet for most firms, winning such endorsements remains an uncharted mystery. Sales coach Sandy Schussel attempts to steer entrepreneurs and salespeople toward calm water in his talk, “The Power of Referral Marketing,” on Thursday, March 11, at 6 p.m. at the Harrison Conference Center at Merrill Lynch. Cost: $38. For more information call 609-924-7975 or visit www.NJAWBO.com. Sponsored by the Mercer Chapter of the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, this dinner meeting and forum is designed for small and mid-size company owners, as well as sales professionals at all levels.
A north Jersey native, Schussel has spent his entire adult life in fields that are totally referral dependent. After earning a political science degree from the University of Pennsylvania in l972, he tried his hand at acting on Broadway. From there he shifted to a career he now thinks of as equally surreal — law. Graduating from New England Law School, Schussel clerked, then opened up his own practice in Caldwell, with a second office in Belle Mead.
Today, Schussel runs Princeton-based consulting firm Brass Ring Coaching (www.brassringcoaching.com). He is the author of “The High Diving Board: How to overcome Your Fears and Live Your Dreams,” a book in which he outlines the non-conventional stream he navigated in landing a satisfying career.
Consider the typical referral seeker, he urges. The job is finishing up, his crew has not yet cleaned up the job site. He shuffles hesitantly over to the customer, presents him with the final bill, and then shoves another paper at him, mumbling “Ah, I hate to ask this of you, but if you could sign this endorsement, I could use you as a reference — and you could, you know, tell other people about how you liked the work.”
Make sure that you appear uncomfortable and humble while making this request. Squeeze your hat continually in your hand. Emphasize how you would like to take pictures and traipse strangers through the customer’s home, making his private domicile your show piece. Then appeal to his sympathy by announcing that it would really help you and you truly need the work. Count on pity as a great motivator. But, if you do, warns Schussel, don’t count on winning any business.
“So many business people just totally misunderstand the whole concept of referring business,” he says of this approach. “It is a process by which everybody wins — owner, old customer, and new customer.” Also, he insists, referrals must be an inherent part of your marketing effort.
Understand referral benefits. “Get off your knees,” insists Schussel, “and stop seeing a referral as a favor received. It’s not about only you.”
When you afford a customer the “opportunity” (Schussel’s term) to recommend the quality your product to someone else, you help him in three ways. First, most people simply like to help and chat about their experiences. Second, they get to be a hero to their friends for linking them up with this valuable firm; and third, they are able to appear to be in the know.
Help your customer become an expert with valuable information to share. “If you want to know anything about dress suits (or custom kitchens, or travel agents, or graphics designers), ask John. He’ll put you in touch with a real pro.” The trick here is to allow your customer to pass on the good news in his own way, without making him a street corner preacher.
Establish a referral system. Every transaction should have a pre-set point where the referral network is launched. How much better our shuffling, mumbling business owner would have done if he had made a date with the customer to return and check up on his product, to make sure that all was well with the job. Then, presenting him a bottle of brandy as a gift, he could sit down and discuss any problems or improvements the customer would like to see in the job. While he’s being impressed with his service, (and that he has somehow learned his favorite type of brandy) the reference request could be casually mentioned.
In Schussel’s experience, 20 percent of clients will always offer a good reference, 20 percent never will, and the remaining 60 percent sit on the fence, waiting to be asked properly. Your technique may include asking to take pictures of your product in use in your client’s shop, but the request should always be accompanied by the promise of special consideration. Tell this customer how happy you would be to give any of his friends special service, and perhaps even a small discount when they mention your name. As the new client comes aboard, follow up with a small, unexpected gift to the client who referred him.
Be worthy of a referral. Your work will earn you a reputation. Like it or not. Schussel emphasizes that “it is important to not just satisfy a customer, but to make him enthusiastic about you.” His favorite story is of a shoe salesman who, after showing a customer virtually every style in the store, learns that the client wants a style that is not in stock, but that the store down the street does carry. The sales person runs down to the other store, buys the shoes, brings them back, and sells them to the customer at the sale price.
He rings up the sale and subtly lets the customer know what he has done. The customer is shocked. “Why did you ever do that?” he asks. The sales clerk replies, “Just my job, sir. I’m here to make sure you never buy your shoes at any other store.” Guess how many times the customer told that story? Yet such an organized system of making yourself referable does not happen overnight, warns Schussel. It takes concerted effort.
Develop a referral network. For most businesses, half of all sales come from old customers and the people they refer; 30 percent come from clients who chose largely at random; and the remaining 20 percent come as a result of other marketing techniques. Up the odds of pulling undecided customers into your boat by networking yourself into a good referral position.
Simple things like joining local and state chambers of commerce can establish your name. This is scarcely a small business only tool, insists Schussel. The salesman from a big pharmaceutical company will find himself benefiting just as much from connections made with professional associations, and even with local churches and town government. You never know.
Delve into your niche. Business cycles continuously through the specialist-versus-generalist argument. Currently, the generalists seem to hold sway, claiming that companies should not be so narrowly focused that they lose sales. People want a one-stop supplier, they say. Schussel disagrees, pointing out that the owner who deepens his niche offerings becomes the much-sought-after specialist whose name becomes connected with his product.
This year, as the kayakers gather by the river, one racer tells of a paddle that snapped yesterday and how the manufacturer sent out a replacement blade by courier so that he could make the next day’s competition. A few heads nod, impressed. The paddle maker has extended his showroom without even knowing it, winning customers on that cold river bank.
— Bart Jackson
Princeton is a name that works well for residential real estate, but how can Central Jersey better leverage the Princeton charisma in attracting and keeping high tech businesses?
Richard C. Woodbridge, a patent attorney with the Synnestvedt Lechner & Woodbridge LLP and former mayor of Princeton Township, has been leading a grass roots charge to get the Princeton-Rutgers corridor recognized as a high tech center. For a couple of years now he has been convening ad hoc groups that involved the New Jersey Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, Prosperity New Jersey, the Princeton Chamber, the New Jersey Technology Council, and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.
The sticking point, it seemed, was what name to use in this branding effort. The name “Princeton” seems to be necessary for international recognition, but using Princeton as the focus only offends the other institutions and other geographical areas of New Jersey.
Congressman Rush Holt may have come up with the answer when he convened an economic summit last December under the rubric Einstein’s Alley. Einstein is a name that everyone associates with Princeton but it is less geographically limiting. And the name is revered internationally.
Both Holt and Woodbridge speak at the Sunrise Club on Friday, March 12, at 7:30 a.m. at the Westin in Forrestal Village. Hollyrock/Miller Marketing Communications and the Westin Princeton sponsor the club, and the admission cost is a $15 donation to Elijah’s Promise. Call 609-919-9292, ext. 210, for required reservations.
The Sunrise Club offers a forum, according to its organizers, “for all of the major players along the Princeton corridor to come together to discuss common issues and solutions. Our guest speakers include nationally prominent business leaders, elected officials, and entrepreneurs, and new members are always welcomed.”
Woodbridge will recap previous efforts to promote the Route 1 corridor and his research on where the high tech businesses are located. Holt will review the history of the Route 1 corridor, discuss the results of the economic summit, and talk about what the state and federal government should be doing for the future of “Einstein’s Alley.”
“I hope in the near future New Jersey will be known as the research state, and when people from around the world talk about Silicon Valley, Route 128, and Research Triangle, they will also talk about Einstein’s Alley, a place where innovative, research-based industry gives people the quality of life and economy that will be the envy of the country,” said Holt in his keynote speech at the Einstein Alley Economic Summit.
As organized by the Washington-based Public Forum Institute, the summit featured keynote addresses and workshops, and in general sessions nearly 300 delegates voted their opinions on how to foster economic growth in the region. They used handheld voting machines with instant results thrown up on wall monitors for discussion.
One fifth of the Einstein’s Summit delegates were from large businesses with more than 500 employees worldwide, and 29 percent of them were from smaller businesses. The rest were from education, government, or chambers of commerce.
Economic globalization will be the most important trend driving the economy in the next decade, voted the delegates (38 percent), followed by technology innovation (25 percent), the aging of the Baby Boom generation (20 percent), global developments such as terrorism (12 percent), and tax policies (4 percent).
Fifty percent of the delegates voted that a skilled workforce is the first priority to attract new businesses to the region. Efficient transportation was the second most important factor (17 percent). Lack of coordination or cooperation was voted as the most significant roadblock to economic development in the region (28 percent).
When it came to putting priorities on the suggestions that came from the workshops, delegates were asked to vote two ways — on the impact of the idea and the feasibility — the likelihood that it could be accomplished. Most of the time these scores were similar. For instance, communicating and publicizing successful start-ups had a 7.5 score on impact and a 7.9 score on feasibility. But to “lower insurance costs” had a 7.1 score on impact and only a 4.4 score on feasibility. The likelihood of getting New Jersey’s pension funds to invest in New Jersey venture capital attracted one of the lowest feasibility votes, 4.3.
The biggest factor that the delegates said would help to promote entrepreneurship would be to have a mentoring program (34 percent). Second, at 21 percent, was to enhance the skills and capacity of support organizations.
Other suggestions from the workshops:
Advocate continuous learning.
Foster regional and cross-sector collaboration and partnerships.
Encourage joint university, start-up ventures.
Hold quarterly mentoring, networking events.
Create a web page for New Jersey businesses that features information about government funding and support.
Maximize the role of public transportation for economic development corridors.
Ease home-business restrictions.
Holt emphasized that the fate of the region is in the hands of its people. “Brighter futures and stronger economies are built by those who have the will to imagine, the determination to act, and the desire to influence their own destiny. There is work to be done by every person who cares about the future of this region.”
— Barbara Fox
It may come as a shock to anyone navigating the clogged highways of the Garden State, but New Jersey is one of the most densely forested states in the union.
“New Jersey is 47 percent forested,” says Tom Niederer, president of the New Jersey Forestry Association. “It is third highest in the United States.” Niederer estimates that about half of that forested land is privately owned. Some 1,000 owners of forest land belong to the Forestry Association, and they hold an all-day meeting on Saturday, March 13 at the Conference Center at Mercer. The main speaker at the event is Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace founder who calls himself “the sensible environmentalist,” but who has been called an “eco-Judas” — and worse.
One of the positions Moore advocates — actively managing forest land — is one of great importance to New Jersey’s forest owners.
Niederer, who serves the Forestry Association as a volunteer, says that the average privately owned New Jersey forest is 70 acres, and forest land is found all over the state, except in some of the most densely populated northeastern counties. Many of the largest forests are in the northwestern part of New Jersey and in the Pinelands. But there are substantial forests in central New Jersey too.
Niederer, a real estate broker with Gloria Nilson, and his family own 229 acres of forest land in Hopewell. Half of it has been in the family for 30 years, and the other half for 50 years.
Among the most pressing issues concerning the Forestry Association is what is to become of the forests. Niederer is convinced that the land will be better taken care of, and therefore will be of greater value to everyone in the state, under private stewardship. Barriers to keeping forest land private include proposals to cut tax breaks for forest owners.
Individuals who own forests can be taxed at a lower rate than would otherwise be the case if they obtain a state certificate indicating that they have submitted a plan to maintain the water and the habitat in a satisfactory manner, and that they are continuing to do so. In addition, foresters have to show that they are obtaining $500, plus 50 cents an acre, in revenue from their land. Most forest owners do so by selling firewood or fence posts or by cutting and selling timber, says Niederer.
There are proposals in the state legislature to raise the amount of revenue forest owners must make from their trees. Niederer and his organization are opposed to such legislation. It would be particularly burdensome for those who own relatively small forests, of 10 to 30 acres, he says. What’s more, he is convinced that it would cause the cutting of more trees, “in some cases prematurely.”
Niederer says the most important forest product is one for which forest owners don’t receive a penny. The product is water. Millions of gallons of water that fall in forests go to city taps. In the best maintained forests, t he water first percolates down to underground streams, generally becoming more and more pure along the way.
Under the current system of assessing forest land for development rights, however, forest owners have disincentives for maintaining their land in a state that produces the cleanest water, Niederer says.
Most forest owners want their land to remain forest, he says. The mechanism through which this most often occurs is that a government entity — a town, county, or state — buys development rights and allows the owner and his family to remain on the land in exchange for an agreement that forbids them from selling it. A current problem, perhaps the most pressing issue for the forest owners, involves how the development rights are valued.
The town or county acquiring the rights arrives at a figure by calculating how much development could take place on the land if it were to be purchased by a home builder or a commercial builder. That sounds fair enough, but Niederer says that it is not. What’s more, it encourages practices that can seriously degrade the land.
As an example, he points out that the way to make sure that water running through the forest is clean is to provide a wide buffer on either side of streams. Doing so, however, creates land on which a developer could not build. Therefore, fewer units could be placed on the land, and the land’s value, as toted up for development rights, drops. “A 200-foot corridor can add up to a lot of acres taken out of a potential appraisal,” says Niederer.
A similar situation can occur if native plants are allowed to flourish in a forest and they attract a multitude of birds, animals, and beneficial insects. If endangered species are among the critters flocking to the forest, sections of it may be off limits to development, and valuation for purposes of development rights could drop.
Being a good steward, says Niederer, has negative economic consequences. His group would love to change that.
Moore, the keynote speaker at the New Jersey foresters meeting, favors active forest management of the sort that Niederer says the group thinks is the best course — for them, and for the state as a whole. His views on forest management, as well as on salmon farming and on genetically engineered food, both of which he advocates, have put him at the center of exceptionally heated debates.
Moore, who maintains an extensive website, including full text position papers, at www.GreenSpirit.com, holds a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of British Columbia. The son of a logger, he grew up on Vancouver Island, and joined Greenpeace in 1971, protesting against U.S. nuclear testing in the Aleutian Islands. He worked on Greenpeace campaigns against whaling and sealing and served as president of Greenpeace Canada for nine years and as director of Greenpeace International for seven years.
He then turned to salmon farming, a practice reviled by some environmental groups and now under attack by some health organizations. Issues range from the amount of cancer-causing PCBs and dioxins in the fish to alleged harm to whales, seals, and other creatures that interfere with the salmon crops.
Moving from fish to forest, Moore provides consulting services to logging companies, and, according to the Forest Action Network, a Canadian group (www.fanweb.org), is paid by the British Columbia Forest Alliance, which, the group alleges, is funded primarily by the logging industry.
The Forest Action Network has a “Top Ten Lies Told by Patrick Moore” list on its website. It attacks him for presenting himself as an environmentalist with an independent scientific perspective, and even sells Patrick Moore is a Big Fat Liar t-shirts.
Moore stated his case, arguing for a balance between environmental concerns and human needs, in a talk he gave in 2000. It reflects the views he espouses on his website. Here is an excerpt:
“The forest industry stands accused of some very serious crimes against the environment. It is charged with the extinction of tens of thousands of species, the deforestation of vast areas of the Earth, and the total and irreversible destruction of the ecosystem. If I were one of the urban majority, and I thought the forest industry was causing the irreversible destruction of the environment I wouldn’t care how many jobs it created or how many communities depended on it, I would be against it.
“I have spent the last 15 years trying to understand the relationship between forestry and the environment, to separate fact from fiction, myth from reality. Since 1991 I have chaired the Sustainable Forestry Committee of the Forest Alliance of British Columbia. This has provided an ideal opportunity to explore all aspects of the subject.
“I was born and raised in the tiny fishing and logging village of Winter Harbour on the northwest tip of Vancouver Island, in the rainforest by the Pacific. I become a born-again ecologist, and in the late 1960s, was soon transformed into a radical environmental activist altogether.
“In 1978 1 was arrested off Newfoundland for sitting on a baby seal without permission of the Canadian Minister of Fisheries. I was trying to shield it from the hunter’s club. I was convicted; under the draconianly named Seal Protection Regulations that made it illegal to protect seals. In 1984 baby seal skins were banned from European markets, effectively ending the slaughter.
“By the mid-1980s Greenpeace had grown from that church basement to an organization with an income of over $ 100 million per year, offices in 21 countries, and over 100 campaigns around the world, now tackling toxic waste, acid rain, uranium mining, and drift net fishing as well as the original issues.
“For me it was time to make a change. I had been against at least three or four things every day of my life for 15 years; I decided I’d like to be in favor of something for a change. I made the transition from the politics of confrontation to the politics of building consensus. After all, when a majority of people decide they agree with you it is probably time to stop hitting them over the head with a stick and sit down and talk to them about finding solutions to our environmental problems.
“The term sustainable development was adopted to describe the challenge of taking the new environmental values we had popularized, and incorporating them into the traditional social and economic values that have always governed public policy and our daily behavior. We cannot simply switch to basing all our actions on purely environmental values. Every day 6 billion people wake up with real needs for food, energy, and materials.
“The challenge for sustainability is to provide for those needs in ways that reduce negative impact on the environment. But any changes made must also be socially acceptable and technically and economically feasible. It is not always easy to balance environmental, social, and economic priorities. Compromise and co-operation with the involvement of government, industry, academia, and the environmental movement is required to achieve sustainability. It is this effort to find consensus among competing interests that has occupied my time for the past 15 years.”
Going on a job interview requires an interview outfit — maybe more than one for jobs that require multiple meetings. The expense for assembling an appropriate outfit is considerable, and can prove to be a barrier between an unemployed woman and a good job.
Help to outfit a job seeker during Send 1 Suit Week, which begins on Sunday, March 14 and runs through Saturday, March 20. DressBarn is sponsoring event in conjunction with Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps low-income women with the transition between unemployment and self-sufficiency.
New — or nearly new — women’s business suits can be dropped off at any DressBarn store. The suits need to be in great condition, clean, and ready to wear.
Donations of coordinates, scarves, bags, and shoes are also gratefully accepted. For more information visit www.dressbarn.com or www.dressforsuccess.org.
Politics is in the air — and all over the airways — as election year campaigning gets started in earnest. It is also closer to home, working from at least 9 to 5 in a cubicle near you.
While the very word “politician” has taken on such negative overtones that many a candidate strives to present himself as an outsider, the term “office politics” rarely finds itself in the same sentence with words like “uplifting” or “positive.” But while nasty connotations of all sorts adhere to the concept of office politics, the practice of climbing to the top by means other than producing exemplary work is a fact of office life.
“Don’t try to avoid office politics,” says Kathryn C. Mayer. “Go with it.” The principal in New York City-based KC Mayer Consulting, she gives a seminar, “Drained by Organizational Politics? Learn How to Increase Your Impact as a Leader and Reduce Politics in Your Organization,” on Tuesday, March 16, at 8 a.m. at a meeting of the Mid-NJ ASTD at the Princeton Courtyard by Marriott. Cost: $40. Call 609-419-5802.
A graduate of St. Lawrence University (Class of 1982) who holds an M.S. in counseling psychology from SUNY Albany, Mayer has studied at the Workplace Leaning Institute at Columbia University. As an executive coach, leadership, training, and change management professional, she draws upon her experiences as a competitive tennis player, as well as a substantial resume of work for major corporations.
Mayer began her career as a ranked junior tennis player and played competitive tennis for 25 years. She was top ranked in the state of Maryland, the Northeast, and has won numerous tournaments as an adult. She taught tennis for more than 10 years and created “Mayer’s Mind Over Magic” seminar, which taught competitive junior tennis players mental toughness techniques.
She has led training efforts at both Goldman Sachs and at Citigroup’s investment banking group, where she was hired to improve competitiveness with other top investment banks through the creation of a learning organization that develops high performance leaders.
Prior to joining Citigroup, she worked for Deloitte and Touche, directing the start-up of a consultative learning organization with a $7 million budget serving over 3,500 clients in the Tri-State area. She identified creative cost effective ways to leverage technology, increase the promotion rate of women and minorities, and create and implement a comprehensive technical and consultative curriculum.
During Goldman Sachs’ expansion in late-80s and early 90s, Mayer worked to ensure that all levels of employees in the company’s offices in New York City and in Europe were up to speed and able to succeed in their new roles as managers and sales people.
Anyone who wants to succeed in any capacity within a company needs to engage in some office politics. “It’s inevitable,” says Mayer, talking on a cell phone from Montana on her way to the ski slopes during an early-March vacation. “Companies are based on people systems trying to be rational,” she explains. All the handbooks, procedures, and fairness-in-promotion committees in the world will not keep them from being influenced by human interactions.
There are those who live for under-handed political games, who are not happy unless they are plotting to power past some colleagues, discredit others, and snatch glory from anyone with a good idea. The vast majority of workers, however, just want to, well, work. They want to create superior ad campaigns, write bug-proof software, or move one step closer to curing cancer. Many disdain the very notion of office politics. Many more think they can avoid it by keeping their heads down and concentrating on their tasks.
This is probably not a realistic strategy. Everything from assignments on the team creating the most exciting ad campaigns to funding for research projects is often dependent on office politics in one form or another.
Benefiting from the game does not require stooping to dirty tricks. Office politics, Mayer explains, is merely the art of building relationships.
Enter the web of trust. “The most effective way to do business is with people you trust,” she says. Trust doesn’t occur without a relationship. Realize that building relationships with co-workers is an essential part of your job description.
Build ever-wider networks. The wider your network at work, the less you will be affected by the negative aspects of office politics. Your superiors, colleagues, and direct reports will really know you, and will be unlikely to give credence to unfavorable comments about you.
Increase informal contacts with co-workers. When the bell rings, the clock reads 5 p.m., or the project is finally finished, there is a tendency to jog to the parking lot with no other thought than leaving the work day behind.
Resist the urge, at least once in a while. There is nothing like informal interactions to build office relationships, says Mayer. Try to make time for after-work socializing, or for lunches, or even coffee-breaks with co-workers.
“Everyone has an agenda,” Mayer points out. The best way to understand that agenda is to get to know co-workers in a relaxed atmosphere, where they are likely, she says, “to let their guard down.”
Do a little cubicle hopping. Mayer, who is working on a book, “Don’t Take It Personally,” that addresses the concerns of women in the workplace, is quick to acknowledge that many workers simply do not have the time for Saturday golf or after-work drinks with folks from the office.
No matter. It is possible to weave networking chats into a work day — and essential to do so. Drop by the cubicles of new workers, she suggests. Ask how they are doing. Find out if there is anything you can do to smooth their transition into your company. Keep up with other colleagues, as well. Ask about their recent vacations, their new homes, their experiences at an industry meeting.
She suggests that 5 percent of the workday, on average, should be devoted to cultivating relationships.
Presidential campaigns come and go, but office politics are an enduring constant. As long as offices are staffed by humans, rather than by robots, office politics will be with us. And as Mayer explains the game, it doesn’t sound all that bad.
In August, 2001, she hadn’t a dime. She hadn’t a clue. But, in her own words, Susy Chen knew colors and energy and textiles. She had studied under renowned designer Diane Von Furstenburg and had earned a fine arts degree from Lehman College in New York. Like so many entrepreneurs, she knew her product intimately, yet had no idea how to turn it into a business. So at her husband’s suggestion, she went to her local public library in South Brunswick.
Today, Susy S. Chen Designs Inc.’s richly textured designer handbags, pillows, and luggage are for sale in Macy’s, Gumps, Ethan Allen, and nearly 100 other stores throughout 25 states. Her print and online catalogs (www.susychen.com) sell thousands more. Chen’s rapidly expanding business is based in her Dayton home, with a primary Manhattan showroom at the New York Gift Mart, Gallery 300. She still gets her business information for free at the South Brunswick Public Library, which links her through to an amazing range of business resources.
Local libraries are just one of the many info marts explored during the seminar, “Locating Really Useful Business Information for Free,” on Wednesday, March 17, at 7:30 a.m. at the Nassau Club in Princeton. Cost: $25. Call 609-520-1776 or visit www.PrincetonChamber.org. Sponsored by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, this breakfast meeting features librarian Dorothy Warner, co-coordinator of Rider University’s library instruction program, and Ron Cook, Rider University’s director of entrepreneurial studies.
Warner is hard pressed to pinpoint the place in which she grew up. “Oh, I can’t even name one place,” she laughs. “I just grew up all over the country.” Her undergraduate years found her at the University of Arizona, where she earned an art therapy degree. She then worked her way east to New York’s Pratt Institute, gaining her masters of library science degree. Since then Warner has worked at a number of area libraries, including the Bucks County Community College library. Finally, at Rider, Warner feels she has found a home. “But you never know, maybe I’ll take up art therapy when I retire,” she says.
In actuality, most of the “free” information comes from a variety of sources paid for with your tax dollars, but most are too expensive to be easily affordable for an individual company. “Like any good collective,” says Warner, “these institutions are providing businesses at all levels with materials far beyond their price range.” It merely remains for the tax paying information seeker to learn where and how to take advantage.
Where you gonna go? Beginning at your office, you can do an amazing amount of research legwork without lifting yourself from your swivel chair. Do you want to know what local or regional companies might sell your product? Do you need to find the address of a government trade office? Call any librarian with any question, and he will look up an answer with professional speed. For longer questions, the librarian will call back or even fax back the answer. Some of these libraries also allow you to link into their subscription databases from home and office computers at no cost.
For more exhaustive searches, you should visit the local library and have a librarian walk you through print and online resources. Beyond the local scene, there are several designated business sites in the state. The Newark Public Library has the largest collection of business resources. They are available at www.npl.org or at 873-737-7784. Equally helpful is the New Jersey State Reference Center, operating out of Camden County Public Library. Contact the center at wwwnjref.camden.lib.nj.us; 800-443-0315.
Additionally, questions of all sizes are answered by the New Jersey State Library in Trenton, where the Cyberdesk provides access to countless research guides and the opportunity to talk online to a reference librarian. For those requiring even more depth, a short walk from Manhattan’s Penn Station takes you to 188 Madison Avenue at the corner of 34th Street, where you can find the truly vast resources of the Science, Industry, and Business Library (212-592-7000; www.sibl.com), the business arm of the New York Public Library.
How do you launch your business? Wading through startup paperwork has nearly crushed many an enthusiastic entrepreneur. No service so ably guides the new entrepreneur along this Byzantine path as the Small Business Administration. Go online to wwwSBA.gov where you will find an exhaustive site full of standalone information as well as connections to the local offices where classes and individual mentoring are available, often at no cost.
Financing remains a hurdle for firms at all stages. Warner advises that would-be borrowers first arm themselves with the standard commercial rates listed daily in the Wall Street Journal, then check the Sunday New York Times loan section (print or online) for an updated list of lenders. The Newark business library can provide a list of venture capital companies and a directory of professional loaning associations that may lead you to private loans.
Where can you find markets? Discerning the depth of your market niche, and the current sales-acceptance parameters are vital pieces of business information that would be prohibitively costly to obtain on your own. The New Jersey State Data Center provides www.State.NJ.US./labor/LRA to help you shape a picture of how many people are working and spending money on which products and services in any given geographic areas. They also provide a host of human resource statistics.
Similar information on a national and regional basis is available at www.census.gov. Two valuable subtexts for business are the Economic Census and Demographics Database and the Statistical Abstract. For some of the spin-off files of these databases you must make a trip to your local library. Especially valuable tools in this category include the Market Share Reporter (www.Activemedia-guide.com), Gale Publishers’ classic “Companies and their Brands,” and “Brands and Their Companies.” You may have to call around to find which local library subscribes to the resource you need.
How can you identify your competitors? It’s difficult to know what companies could be your suppliers or vendors, and even more difficult to know what companies are going after the same customers that you are. While the news may not be out on the street, it is in databases. “Reference USA” is an expansive database that gives you lists of possible vendors by sales volume, suppliers by location, and competitors by proximity to your product.
“Hoover’s Online” offers vast corporate listings with substantial financial information. “Standard and Poors Net Advantage” gives both production and financial profiles for over 185,000 companies. “Mergent Online” is another valuable resource. Like so many resources, these have moved totally onto the Internet. Each one is accessible by just typing its name into Google. Yet to get full information, you must subscribe — that is, you must find a library that subscribes. (Remember, you have already paid for this subscription through your taxes. Take advantage.)
In order to test the speed and thoroughness of free library searches, I phoned a local library and a regional library and asked for a list of various business resources, both online and in print. Within two hours, I got a callback from the local library with an offer to fax a nine page listing. Shortly thereafter, the Newark Public Library business department offered to make an appointment to discuss my needs.
After this deluge of aid, I was afraid to call anyone else.
— Bart Jackson
Children’s Futures, a Trenton-based organization funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and working with the New Jersey Press Association, and the Journalism Resources Institute at Rutgers University has launched an innovative health/journalism program.
The effort is designed to provide all Trenton infants and young children with maximum health care in the crucial, early childhood development years, while at the same time providing Trenton high school students with training in journalism.
A team of Trenton Central High School students and other youth from the community participated in a day-long workshop entitled “Many Community Voices: Tellin the Story of Childhood Development, Health, and Survival Through Young People.”
The participating teenagers will develop ideas and pilot projects on how the issues related to young people, their families, friends, and schoolmates can be better reported through both the professional and student news media. The Trenton students have access to their own press, photography, cable television, and radio outlets.
Long range, the young people will be asked to work with their teachers and with news media representatives on news and information child development projects.
Roma Bank has installed automated external defibrillators at all of its branches, an initiative made possible with the assistance of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital at Hamilton, which provided training for select Roma Bank personnel.
Each year, an estimated 430,000 Americans die of heart disease in an emergency room or before reaching a hospital. According to research reported by the American Heart Association, the new availability of AEDs in public places can double the odds that cardiac arrest victims will survive
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