Becoming an Old Boy in the Network: Rocky Romeo

Passing the Torch Without Being Burned: Steven Friedman

Corporate Angels

Help ‘Til Johnny Comes Home Again

NJEDA Loans Available

Apply Please

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Bart Jackson were

prepared for the March 19, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All

rights reserved.

For Jobseekers: Telemarketing 101 — Amanda Puppo

<d>Amanda Puppo’s answering machine message ends

with a cheery "Have a great day!" She ends live phone

conversations

with the same sentiment. She sounds confident and businesslike, but

also warm. It’s a winning combination. Now if only she could bottle

the tone and the easy assurance for the audience to whom she is

scheduled

to speak.

Puppo, founder of Cranbury-based MarketEntry, addresses a meeting

of Jobseekers, the support and networking group for job hunters, on

Tuesday, March 25, at 7:30 p.m. at Trinity Church on Mercer Street.

There is no charge. For information call 609-924-2277.

Her topic is "Telemarketing for Job Seekers." The very thought

of same is enough to send all but the hardiest straight to bed. Maybe

with a drink. Many consultants who give this sort of talk inspire

dark thoughts of "Yeah, if it’s so easy, why don’t you just pick

up a phone and try it?"

In this case, the speaker not only has tried telemarketing, which

she much prefers to call "telephone marketing," but also

depends

on it to provide her with food and shelter. Puppo’s business is built

on securing sales appointments for others. She is on the phone all

day, every business day, persuading people she doesn’t know to give

their time and attention to a sales pitch. Not only is she good at

it, but, amazingly, she appears to enjoy it.

This sets her apart, and she knows it. "Most people are not good

at selling themselves," she says. "If you’re an IT director,

you’re as far from sales as possible." Still, the task is

unavoidable.

Few employers are going door to door looking for a few good employees.

That being that case, Puppo advises, "you have to get over your

ego. You have to realize there’s going to be rejection. Don’t take

it personally."

Easy for her to say, one might think. The woman is outgoing without

being at all abrasive. She is upbeat. Calling her "bubbly"

would not stretch the truth. Yet, Puppo confides, "the funny thing

is, I was shy growing up." She changed, and says there is no

reason

why others can’t too. Here is her advice for job seekers who see the

cold call as the equivalent of a nice dip in a glacial lake patrolled

by polar bears.

Warm up. Don’t start with cold calls. Start with warm

calls. "Call your relatives and your friends," she gives as

a kick-off strategy. There are any number of stories about the nephew

whose girlfriend’s stepfather plays golf with the brother of the

director

of development at Major Pharma. Giving a nephew a ring generally is

a lot easier than cold calling Major Pharma.

Get out there. Even the heroine of My Big Fat Greek

Wedding,

a woman with countless cousins, could conceivably run out of relatives

to call. Job seekers, working at casting their nets as far as

possible,

will run out of relatives and friends too. The next best group is

made up of acquaintances. Call old acquaintances, and make new

acquaintances.

Don’t spend the whole day on Internet job boards. Get out and go to

a Chamber meeting, play golf, volunteer at the kids’ school fair.

Develop relationships, and placing calls will be much easier.

Stand out. When there are no more warm calls to make,

start on the cold calls. Before doing so, however, perfect a 30-second

introduction that sums up the reasons that you — and you alone

— are the answer to the decision maker’s dreams. "It’s all

about creating interest," says Puppo.

Ask for direction. "People love to give advice,"

says Puppo. Find the name of someone in the department in which you

would like to work. Call and ask if he could spare a few minutes to

tell you about the company. Then ask if he could suggest a good

contact

within the company, a decision maker in his department or in

personnel,

a person with whom you might be able to talk further about the

company.

Follow up on resume mailings. The person in charge of

screening applicants for the job you want is likely to be sitting

with a pile of 400 resumes — maybe even 4,000. Chances of rising

to the top of the pile are not good. Up your odds, Puppo says, by

placing a brief call. Be friendly. Be conversational. If you think

it is amazing what a perfect match you are for this job, don’t

hesitate

to say so, giving a quick reason why this is the case.

Create a job. Learn about small businesses in your area.

Chances are there are more than a few where the president is working

100 hours a week or where vital tasks, perhaps marketing or strategic

planning, are falling through the cracks. Contact the president and

let him know why you are just the person to cut his workload while

raising his bottom line.

"The president does all the work, and then you come along. He’ll

talk to you. Who wouldn’t?" declares Puppo. Creating a job for

yourself can work. Thoroughly researching the company gives you the

confidence to offer yourself as a godsend to the overworked owner.

Respect voicemail. "Be persistent," says Puppo,

"but not annoying. Don’t be voicemail crazy. Don’t leave 900

messages."

As someone who makes her living through telephone marketing, she

stresses

the importance of walking that line. Trust to fate that your resume

will work its way up the pile, and you risk being turned down for

a job that is perfect for you. Call too often to check on your resume

and the hiring agent may use it to blot up his coffee spills.

It’s all about proactive job seeking, says Puppo. But it’s 2

p.m., her lunch break is over, and she must get back to the phones.

Yes, she has been cold calling all morning, and she is going back

for another few hours. Just before she hangs up, she says "Have

a great day!"

Top Of Page
Becoming an Old Boy in the Network: Rocky Romeo

After 40 years of traditional Irish music, the

Chieftains

saw the need to reinvent their act. Perhaps a little touch of

Appalachian

folk, country, even the occasional blues song might help maintain

the wild success of the act. They decided to reach out to Nashville,

home of a host of varied folk artists and huge record companies. But

even for this popular, well leveraged group, how to network with whom

became a major problem.

The fine art of how to "Connect Right to Compound Your

Success"

is the topic on Tuesday, March 25, at 8 a.m. at the Panera

restaurant’s

Nassau Park location. Cost: $20. Call 609-989-5232. Sponsored by the

Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at the College of New Jersey,

the event is part of a CEO Toolbox series. It features Rocky

Romeo,

a business consultant who has worked with small businesses for nearly

two decades.

The SBDC is best known for mentoring start-ups and for providing a

host of programs for them, but its CEO Toolbox series has been

designed

specifically to provide refresher skills for existing firms at all

levels of growth on such topics as sales, marketing, and leadership.

Several area chambers, including the Mercer Chamber, are

co-sponsoring.

Raised in Edison, Romeo took his professional training at Westminster

Choir College, gaining a degree in music education. He taught high

school music for two years, got downsized, and went into sales for

Hale Piano & Organ in the Woodbridge Mall. He watched, learned, and

began to develop his theory of business. "Product knowledge is

bunk," he remarks. "The key is to solve a customer’s

problems."

By l984, Romeo was ready to launch out on his own as a sales

consultant.

Problem: No experience, and no referrals. The Romeo solution: Let

the work speak for itself. Romeo approached two nurses in Peddlers

Village, Pennsylvania. They had just opened a store, In Nature’s Way.

"They had the most marvelous merchandise," he recalls,

"set

out in the most unmerchandisable way." Totally uninterested in

his promises and put off by his lack of credentials, the two owners

suggested politely that Romeo move on. He responded with an offer

to work for one week, for no pay in exchange for a letter of reference

if they liked the result. After one week, sales boomed, he trousered

the letter, and launched Rocky Romeo LLC, a sales consulting firm.

"How long does it take to become a good surgeon?" Romeo asks

audiences. His point is that just because you’ve been wielding a steak

knife for years, you are not necessarily qualified to remove an

appendix.

"How long does it take to become a good networker?" is his

next question. Similarly, your ability to chat with business cohorts

does not automatically translate into skill in networking. Both

surgery

and networking are learned skills. There are steps to attaining

proficiency

in either. For networking, the steps include:

Putting yourself in the path. If you’re hunting aardvarks,

you’ve got to go to an ant hill. This obvious step demands a little

research. Where do ants — or publishers, or accountants, or

technology

managers — gather? Get their trade magazines. Find out when they

are holding trade shows, meetings, or seminars.

The trick here is to not only find where they are, but where they

will be most receptive to you. Scores of advertised book fairs invite

authors to flog their wares to various publishers. However, publishers

also attend library conventions, where they are the sellers, reaching

out to passers-by from their own booths. If you were an author,

looking

to find a publisher with her defenses down, a ticket to the library

convention might be just the thing.

If you are seeking small business owners, a meeting like this CEO

Toolbox series, might be a good place to look. Of what chamber of

commerce is your target a member? Churches, charities, and social

gatherings also work, particularly when you seek one individual, but

you have to be a bit careful here. Most folks stiffen at the intrusion

of business opportunists into their recreational time. In this

context,

aim merely to make a personal connection, with all business conducted

after a relationship has been well established.

Mingling. "I have had computer programmers who spend

all their lives in a basement producing brilliant products, and who

admit they just cannot go out and meet people," says Romeo.

For those who compare networking unfavorably with a trip to the

dentist,

Romeo offers you two choices: You can watch the process and learn

some techniques, or you can hire someone to do it for you. One

disadvantage

of employing a representative is that most Americans prefer to deal

with the top player. Generally, we want to brush aside the mouthpiece.

On the other hand, a practiced professional probably presents a much

more effective image than you do. Take your choice.

Meeting. "Well, Mr. Schmidlapp, it certainly has been

nice chatting with you about our mutual interest. Here’s my card.

You can call me anytime. We really should get together." Right

there, insists Romeo, lies the biggest blunder in networking. The

goal of the first meeting is future meetings. You are trying to

establish

a business relationship here. In the above scenario, our speaker

doesn’t

even walk away with a means of re-contacting Schmidlapp. And even

if he did, he would probably call later and find Schmidlapp engrossed

in other projects, barely remembering his name. "Always set up

a specific date for your next meeting or phone call," advises

Romeo.

Scripting: Pro and Con. Networking is a communication

skill. You are not born with it, nor are you going to learn it in

three days. "If you don’t practice and you wing it every time,

you’ll get only wing-it results," Romeo states. One practice

method

is to gather fellow employees and have them listen and help sharpen

a dialogue script. Such training can be done for even the most casual

conversations.

The trick here is that you must always be able to break out of your

prepared phrases and go with the flow. Romeo recalls, "I once

had a fellow who announced in the middle of our conversation, `Gee

Rocky, you sound as if you are reading from a script.’" He had

been caught. No one wants to feel themselves the victim of a canned

speech which is probably used on everybody else. But Romeo’s answer

shows the necessity of the quick shift: "You’re right Jim and

I do apologize. So what is it going to take for me to get to know

you better?" Instantly, Romeo has put the ball in the other court

and re-established an open conversation.

Holding versus folding. Frequently, people at business

meetings dangle polite, not-overly-sincere carrots in front of

casually-met

acquaintances. "Gee Rocky, that sounds interesting, we could

really

use a man like you at our plant." In response, you can labor hard

to insinuate yourself into this individual’s firm, or you can reply

with a non-committal "Oh, I bet you have sales trainers back at

your plant who are every bit as good as I am." At this point,

you are allowing him to either set the hook or let it go. If he

replies

earnestly that he truly would like to have you drop by — you’ve

got a potential deal. But if he just laughs and admires your

integrity,

let him swim away.

Presentations. All business is personal. Count on

conversation,

not canned tech props. Romeo advises against the use of PowerPoint.

When you bustle into a client’s office clutching pie charts and

electronics,

ready to preach and read from a slideshow, the odds are excellent

that you will frighten or numb-out your prey. This goes back to the

Romeo credo that teaching product knowledge is a back-burner

technique.

"Your goal here is to convince a man with a flat tire that you’ve

got a wheel that can get him back on the road," he offers as an

analogy. "Not that it’s a double-steel-belted Michelin designed

to last him a lifetime."

Maximizing relationships. Every person you meet knows

someone who knows someone else. So, everyone can, at least eventually,

lead you to that big player you seek. Romeo suggests keeping a

database

of all your contacts and keeping in continual touch. You might call

on each in turn for no other reason than pass along a tip or a piece

of industry gossip. Small newsletters can also be helpful. Offering

a little free labor is another potentially productive tack. Scores

of organizations are always trying to find free speakers. Talking

about your own business not only should be relatively easy, but it

will set you before potential clients. "After all," quips

Romeo, "I began working for free in Pennsylvania and it has

brought

me across the river into the land where the big boys play — and

pay."

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Passing the Torch Without Being Burned: Steven Friedman

Did ya hear? The old man’s selling the business,"

announces some water cooler clarion. "Yeah," responds the

rumor mill, "Doc gave him about six months. Can you imagine his

wife, that gym teacher, running this place?" Thus starts the

stampede.

Every employee madly launches updated resumes through cyberspace in

hopes of swiftly abandoning the sinking ship. By the time of transfer,

the old man’s lifelong enterprise sells for 20 cents on the dollar.

Business succession need not be this horrific. There are ways to

smooth

the transition. Stark & Stark presents "Financial Planning and

Life Transition Situations" on Wednesday, March 26, at 6:30 p.m.

at the Trenton Country Club. Free by reservation. Call 609-219-7413.

This broad-coverage workshop features three Stark & Stark attorneys:

Robert Durst, small business specialist; Steven Friedman,

estates and elder law; and Allen Silk, closely-held business

specialist. In addition, financial experts Christopher Hamilton

Brashier and Kim Kundra of Wachovia Securities are on hand

to discuss specific asset protection programs. This seminar is

designed

to help all owners who want their firms to continue profitably after

they leave the helm.

Each speaker urges all business owners to consider the importance

of preparation. "Despite your current omnipotence," notes

Friedman, "you have very little control over your firm from the

grave." Bronx-born Friedman graduated from Rider University with

a major in accounting, to which he added a law degree from Western

New England College. Since joining Stark & Stark in l989 he has helped

scores of families, with all degrees of readiness, to keep the firm

profitable when its owner passes.

Silk, his partner, puts the task succinctly, "you have to ask

yourself simply, `What will happen when I’m not here?’ and then work

out a plan." Silk, a native of Pittsburgh, and still a staunch

Steelers fan, earned an accounting degree from Penn State, and then

a law degree from Villanova, and a tax law master’s at New York

University.

In his 27 years with Stark & Stark, he has noted that, though the

considerations of succession are several, if handled methodically

and with forethought, owners can ensure a undisruptive transfer.

Grooming successors. Alexander the Great reclined on his

deathbed with all his generals clustered around awaiting the whispered

name of his successor. He died without appointing anyone, and his

empire disintegrated into warring factions. Had our conqueror listened

to Silk and Friedman, he would have selected and named a potential

heir years before his death, begun training him, and slowly made his

choice public in order to answer all the possible objections that

might arise.

Typically, the choice of successor comes down to an evaluation of

high potential members of your firm and your heirs. "No matter

whom you select," says Silk, "make sure you mean it. Test

this person with increased responsibility and let him grow into the

job."

Where an obvious successor, such as a younger partner, spouse, child,

or trusted senior executive, does not fit the bill, the owner may

want to select an advisory board. This unofficial board can aid the

owner while he is still running the firm, and then be empowered to

select the best CEO when he steps down.

Succession plans. A succession plan is the greatest weapon

against a mass employee exodus in the case of a void at the top. Your

employees are your firm’s most valuable and volatile asset. If they

feel that your absence will leave an emotional void, but not a fiscal

chasm, they are much more likely to stay and to increase the value

of the business.

A good succession plan should include a transition team, empowered

to vote in the new leadership. Shareholders’ agreements typically

can be easily worked out in advance, yet if postponed until the fact,

they can fill investors with trepidation and resistance. Life

insurance,

tax liabilities, estate and asset shifts should be addressed. Equally

important to designing the plan is sharing it. Everyone from the rank

and file to the largest stockholder must know that you have a defined

plan in place. Yet exactly how much of the specifics you release

depends

on the amount of friction you expect to engender.

Ownership transfer. It’s all very well to transfer the

crown of your firm to another head, as long as his hands are holding

a purse heavy enough to pay for it. In the case of death, Friedman

suggests, the prospective new owners can pre-plan by taking out life

insurance on the current owner, which will give them the needed liquid

funds for the buy out. Other such bootstrap purchases can be arranged

through buy-sell agreements. But Silk warns that agreements often

entail a long payment plan, which can squeeze the cash flow to both

to the heirs and the business.

If the firm is being sold to a an outside party, an insurance hedge

may become necessary. The loss of the owner automatically makes the

dollar value of the business dip. Debts accrue and liquid assets are

required. A very few businesses, perhaps a jewelry store or a

corporation

with several salable franchises, may have the quick-sale inventory

to meet the terms of the will and demands of the new sale — but

most businesses don’t.

Tax liability. Under certain conditions, a business may

pass to a surviving spouse with no tax penalty. But only to the

spouse.

Children, other heirs, or partners all get hit with a whopping tax

liability. Friedman suggests two ways to minimize this loss. First,

you can reduce your business’ tax bill by beginning to transfer pieces

of its value during the owner’s lifetime. Thus, at death, the

corporation

shows less book value and takes less tax.

The second tax planning method is to take out a simple life insurance

policy on the owner. The premiums become, in effect, an escrow account

available for the upcoming transfer tax bill. The benefit of an

insurance

plan, rather than a separate investment fund, is cost versus odds.

It is nearly impossible to estimate the company’s future value and

the future tax law at an unknown date. With an insurance policy, you

can count on a payment, based on premiums you can afford today.

Additionally,

full payment arrives immediately upon death of the owner — as

does the tax bill. Without such a tax plan in place, the new owners

may find themselves taking out an equity-based loan that restricts

cash flow just when the company is shifting through the trying

succession.

The family. In most cases the closely-held business

becomes

the dominant family asset upon death of the owner. In this age of

the blended family, surviving spouses and intertwined step-children

all come in for a chunk of this not-very-liquid asset. They key to

a smooth transition, Silk insists, is previous and ongoing

communication.

"Traditionally, most Americans perpetuate a code of silence about

business matters," he says, "and this invariably leads to

disaster." Long before the parents get older and in need of help,

it is wise to bring in the children and explain your personal and

business finances to them. Even if they are not going to take over

the business, they will play vital roles in the transfer. "And

for god’s sakes," laughs Silk, "find your safe deposit key

and show them where it is kept."

Avoid asset competition, warns Friedman. One partner seeks income

from certain profits; the other sees reinvestment and growth as the

goal. Putting these two in charge of the same fund, or making them

beneficiaries of the same trust, is a recipe for endless friction.

Too often Friedman has witnessed the classic blunder of a trust willed

to the wife of a second marriage, and, upon her death, reverting to

the children of the first wife. "Imagine how the children will

howl when the wife asks the trustees for cash to buy her new

Ferrari,"

he says.

Faced with the current economic slump and no clear hope on the

horizon,

business transfers nationwide are slowing down. The fever to quickly

launch a start-up and sell it off to the highest bidder has been iced.

No one’s investing, no one’s buying. Those who own a functioning

business,

if it is at all profitable, are hanging on. Odds are, their employees,

witnessing their 401Ks dwindle, and keeping an eye on government that

sees Social Security as a potential war chest, are planning to labor

on into their 70s. But every company, like its owner, has a life span.

The individual who founded it will someday, for whatever reason, pass

the torch to new hands. With a little foresight, it can pass smoothly

and shine profitably.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

<d>Panera of Nassau Park hosted volunteers from the

YMCA’s Crafters Marketplace, treating them to coffee and pastries.

Panera also helped Crafters’ Marketplace raise nearly $64,000 by

selling

its products at the event and donating all profits.

Proceeds from the event benefit the Bates Scholarship Fund, which

subsidizes course fees so that economically disadvantaged community

members can participate in YWCA programs.

The New Jersey Society of Certified Public Accountants

are offering free financial planning to the spouses of New Jersey

military personnel who have been assigned to active duty. The help

comes from the society’s New Jersey CPA Help Center, which is staffed

by volunteers prepared to offer assistance with budgeting, developing

a long-term savings strategy, tax filing, and other financial issues.

Top Of Page
Help ‘Til Johnny Comes Home Again

With the military on call, New Jersey’s small business

owners should plan ahead for the loss of one or more key employees

to military reserve activation. In an effort to lessen the economic

impact such an activation can cause, the U.S. Small Business

Administration

is continuing to offer affected businesses the opportunity to apply

for Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loans.

The loans are low-interest, long-term operating loans intended to

provide otherwise viable businesses with relief until essential

employees

return from active military status. They provide funds to small

businesses

to assist with meeting ordinary and necessary operating expenses and

debt payments that were being met prior to the loss of the key

employee.

The loans can be used for long-term debt refinancing or capital

expansion.

Reservists loans are offered at a maximum interest rate of 4 percent

for a term of up to 30 years. The SBA determines the actual term of

each loan, based on the borrowers’ ability to repay.

Loans are offered for up to $1.5 million, with each loan amount being

based on the actual economic injury to the business due to the loss

of an employee. Potential borrowers must have a good credit history,

no unsatisfied liens to the federal government, and an ability to

show that they can not survive economically without government

assistance.

For further information, call 800-659-2955.

Top Of Page
NJEDA Loans Available

The Community Loan Fund of New Jersey is getting an

infusion of capital from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority

(NJEDA) to finance commercial projects in underserved communities.

The EDA made a 10-year loan of $500,000 to the Community Loan Fund

through its Fund for Community Economic Development at an initial

interest rate of 3 percent. Established in 1987, the Community Loan

Fund is a nonprofit agency that provides technical assistance and

capital for investment in housing and commercial development to

revitalize

neighborhoods and build economic self-sufficiency for low-income

individuals.

The Trenton-based Community Loan Fund typically provides monies for

affordable housing, child care facilities, cultural centers, health

care clinics, and small businesses. It has made 345 loans totally

$54 million since 1987.

The Community Loan Fund lends money to organizations that are either

unable to obtain financing from conventional lending sources or are

otherwise unable to provide sufficient capital for a project that

is needed in the community. For more information about the fund or

other EDA programs, call 609-292-1800 or visit www.njeda.com

Top Of Page
Apply Please

<d>PSE&G is honoring the 100th anniversary of the

PSE&G Foundation by making two $100,000 Century of Caring grants and

funding and building a Habitat for Humanity house in Newark.

The two $100,000 grants will be awarded via a Request for Proposal

process to nonprofit organizations in the PSE&G service area. One

will be awarded in the area of children and families and one will

be awarded in the area of community and economic development. For

details visit www.pseg.com/caring.


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