Speaking Skills

Entrepreneurs’ Forum

Stressed? Be Honored

Groundhog Job Shadow Day

Volunteers Needed

Corrections or additions?

Author: Melinda Sherwood. Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January

5, 2000. All rights reserved.

Good Customers But Bad Payers: Steve Douglass

Faithful customers? Or repeat offenders? If at the end

of the day, your customers don’t pay, they may be bleeding your

business

slowly. Over-extending credit is a mistake that many small business

owners make, says Steve Douglass, district sales manager for

ABC Companies, a commercial collection agency located in Pequea,

Pennsylvania.

"If a customer thinks that they can get away without paying, they

will," he says. "Generally they’ve ordered more products from

the business that they already owe. If they need that product or

service,

and they aren’t being pressed for payment, they’ll keep coming

back."

Entrepreneurs permit the next sale and "it’s a vicious cycle,"

says Douglass, who speaks on "Coping with Customers Who Don’t

Pay," on Wednesday, January 19, at 7:45 a.m. at the Nassau Inn.

Call the Princeton Chamber: 609-520-1776. Cost: $21.

The danger in this: as debt ages, says Douglass, the chance of

collecting

the full amount goes down exponentially. According to the Commercial

Law League of America, a commercial collection agency, a business

owner is likely to collect only 72 cents on a debt of $1 after 90

days. After 6 months, the business owner will probably only see 50

cents of that original $1.

Douglass spent 20 years in receivable management with Chase Manhattan,

overseeing a $40 million portfolio, before moving to ABC Companies,

a 70-year-old commercial collections organization with 200 affiliates.

A native of Elmira, New York, Douglass received a BS in engineering

from Corning College, Class of 1970, and then attended the American

Institute of Banking.

Small business owners don’t always demonstrate the business acumen

necessary to create consistent credit policies and chase down debts.

"When a customer applies for credit, they’re naturally thinking

`I’ve got another customer,’" he says.

The numbers tell a different story: "If a business operates at

a net profit of 3 percent," says Douglass, "to offset an

actual

loss of $50 they have to make an additional sale of over $1,600.

Generally,

people don’t see that. They say, how can I generate more revenue and

therefore they go for the sale."

Even small businesses need credit and risk analysis, says Douglass:

Create a credit policy. "Sit down with a CPA and go

over the receivables and determine what your temperature is for

risk,"

he says, "and how much is an average credit line for your

business.

The customers that represent over 5 or 10 percent of your profits

— those you might be willing to take some loss on."

Explain the credit policy to consumers. "The

communication

has to go with the first invoice," he says. "If you’re trying

to play catch up, you’re losing time and money."

Strengthen follow-up.

Call in reinforcements. Douglass recommends small business

outsource to an agency like his own.

"Outsourcing is big because small businesses are realizing

that they can’t do it all themselves," he says. "Everyone

is trying to do more with less, even the small business."

Top Of Page
Speaking Skills

The pen is mightier than the sword — if you know

how to wield it. Karin Steinhaus of Educational Testing Service

can show people how language can create new, and often surprising,

business alliances. "The big payoff is when you enlist the aid

of somebody who would otherwise be a block to getting your job

done,"

says Steinhaus, who speaks to the Institute of Management Accountants

on "Effective Business Communication" on Wednesday, January

12, at 6 p.m. at Good Time Charlie’s. Call 609-520-1188. Cost: $24.

"Accountants have a reputation for precision, accuracy, and

attention

to detail," says Steinhaus. "I’ll help them invest these

skills

(along with many other assets) to add value to their personal

communications

portfolio. Everyone is guaranteed to profit."

These loaded words are no accident. Steinhaus, a longtime member of

Toastmasters, the public speaking social group, says that when you

learn what makes your audience tick, you discover "trigger"

words — words that people can relate to. "I’m operating on

a stereotype, but I want to use words that are likely to be familiar

to them and perk their attention," she says. "If I were

talking

to a group of gardeners, I would use phrases like `plant the seeds’

and `make it blossom.’ If I were dealing with auto mechanics, I would

use different words."

Steinhaus grew up in Georgia. Her father, originally a cellist with

the Chicago Symphony, taught at Jacksonville University in Florida.

Steinhaus holds a BA in French from Oglethorpe College, Class of 1969,

and a masters in applied linguistics from Georgetown University. She

taught English for several years in France and Austria before becoming

a schoolteacher. Now she helps develop ETS’ test of English as a

Foreign

Language.

For Steinhaus, communication is about creating common ground —

about diplomacy. "When people don’t feel they share a common

universe,

they may avoid each other, or even see each other as a threat,"

she says.

Even for casual meetings, know the people you are dealing with and

their communication style, says Steinhaus:

Learn as much as possible about the person or people to

whom you will speak. What interests them, what motivates them?

"You

can tap into things they’re already excited about to attract them

to what you have to say."

Chose wisely between spoken and written communication;

there are advantages and disadvantages to both. "Some people

respond

much more easily to spoken communication and others to written

communication,"

she says, "and it’s very good to figure out in what way that

person

is going to be receptive. We find ourselves in these situations in

an office — we submit an proposal, but the person in charge isn’t

going to want to read it because he or she is a speaker. There’s some

cues that people give you and you can guess whether a person is more

receptive to reading or speaking."

Know what outcome you want and determine ahead of time

how you will know you have achieved it.

Top Of Page
Entrepreneurs’ Forum

At the New Jersey Entrepreneurs Forum on Thursday,

January

13, at 6:30 p.m., John Freyhof of Venture Bank will address

"Venture Borrowing Techniques," and Richard A. Maloy

Jr.,

of Maloy Insurance at 228 Alexander Street, will discuss his new

business

venture. Maloy Insurance provides risk management and insurance

placement

services and specializes in the information technology and life

sciences

industries (E-mail: maloy@maloyins.com). The meeting will be held

at McAteer’s Restaurant, on Easton Avenue in Somerset. Cost: $45.

Call 908-789-3424.

Top Of Page
Stressed? Be Honored

Who’s the most stressed person in New Jersey? Maybe

it’s your boss. Or maybe it’s you. If so, explain why in an essay

of 50 words or less and send it to the just-built spa at the Doral

Forrestal hotel, which is conducting a contest to find out who really

is the most stressed out person in the state. The winner gets a

free-weekend

of unwinding at the new spa, which offers aromatherapy, Swedish

massage,

facials, hydrotherapy, mud baths, and sea salt scrubs. The package

includes a hotel room with champagne, ergonomic chairs, and a feather

bed, plus breakfast, lunch, and dinner for two.

There’s a catch, however: the "most stressed" person has to

make time in their busy schedule to attend the contest announcement

ceremony on Thursday, January 27. Five finalists will attend, and

the four runners-up also get a prize, a day of spa treatment.

Entries are due by noon on Friday, January 21, and will be judged

by a panel of Doral employees (applicants must be 21 years or older).

For a complete list of rules, visit www.forestal.com/spacontest. Calls

are not being accepted. Fax to Renee Rudolph, 609-520-0728,

or E-mail renee_rudolph@meristar.com

Top Of Page
Groundhog Job Shadow Day

On Wednesday, February 2, close to 300 students will

discover that there’s a link between education and success on the

job by "shadowing" professionals in area businesses. But

Greater

Trenton’s Promise, the organization sponsoring Groudhog Job Shadow

Day, needs more shadow companies — businesses that will open their

doors and appoint a company coordinator to provide students with a

brief orientation. A wide range of shadow experiences are sought:

clerical, manufacturing, sales, customer service, management, line

workers, trade, medical and technology professionals, to name a few.

To become a sponsor, call 609-984-7191.

Top Of Page
Volunteers Needed

The AARP’s Tax-Aide Program, the nation’s largest, free

volunteer-run tax counseling and preparation service, is seeking

volunteer

tax counselors in Mercer County. The program provides free tax help

at area libraries and senior centers for low and moderate income tax

payers with special attention to those 60 and over.

No experience is necessary. People from all backgrounds are specially

trained by the IRS and The New Jersey State Income Tax Department.

Volunteers must agree to help assist taxpayers for a minimum of four

hours per week, from February 1 through April 5. Training classes

begin on January 13. Call 609-655-4358.


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