God’s Bottom Line: David Miller

History for Investors: Sal Mannino

Business Workshop: Rotary

Lessons for Contractors

Corrections or additions?

Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 23, 2000. All rights

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In Middlesex, Optimistic Numbers: James Hughes

The cloud of economic pessimism that hung over Middlesex

County last year is finally lifting, according to a survey by the

New Jersey Business and Industry Association. "Last year we had

a large number of responses that said we were heading into a

recession,"

says Joe Gonzalez, president of the NJBIA, the organization

that lobbies the government on behalf of its 16,500 members. "I

think those were the effect of two things in 1998. The stock market

was doing bad in the third quarter and Asia was doing bad."

This year, by contrast, over half of respondents anticipate economic

expansion — in their own businesses and in the county at large.

"There’s a lot more optimism than there was a year ago," says

Gonzalez, who discusses the economic outlook for Middlesex County

on Friday, February 25, at 8 a.m. at the DeVry Institute. Joining

him are James Hughes, dean of the Bloustein School of Planning

and Public Policy (and co-author of "The Wealth Belt"), and

George Taber of Business News New Jersey. Call 732-821-1700.

Statistically speaking, Middlesex stands out as one of the state’s

most prosperous regions, with an unemployment rate eight-tenths below

the state’s average, says Gonzalez, who has a BS in political science

from Gettysburg, Class of 1958, and was the assistant to the president

of Rutgers for government relations before joining NJBIA in 1983.

"Middlesex is sitting in the middle of the Wealth Belt," he

says. "We have 31 percent of our people who think that they are

going to be hiring people in 2000, 61 percent think that they’ll make

no changes, and 8 percent think that they’ll be firing. That’s an

outstanding figure."

At the end of 1998, the perception was more gloom and doom.

Haagen-Dasz

and Keebler had closed their plants. However, the birth of new

businesses,

such as Regal Cinemas on Route 1 South and Amersham Pharmacia on

Centennial

Avenue in Piscataway, buffeted some of those layoffs, says Gonzalez.

"Manufacturing is still trouble — it’s down 300 jobs for the

year," he says, "but one area that is really doing well is

high-technology and bio-techs." He cites the recent rise in the

fortunes of Cytogen at the Princeton Forrestal Center, which is a

Middlesex County location despite the Princeton name.

Middlesex County is poised well in the post-manufacturing era —

Lucent and AT&T make a nice complement to the GM and Ford plants here

— but like the rest of the country, Middlesex is facing a shortage

of high-tech talent, says Gonzalez. "It’s a problem that is a

corollary to a continuous period of economic expansion," he says.

"It’s getting increasingly difficult to find first-class people

in some of these technical jobs. We must have a world-class product

coming out of our schools."

The county faces other problems — namely, rising health care

costs and declining quality of life. Living in the lap of prosperity

doesn’t always equate to happiness, says Gonzalez. "With this

growth you have all these people on the highways — quality of

life is something that we need to reflect on," he says.

"That’s

why the governor wants to get the transportation trust fund funded,

so we can increase mass transit, add lanes to our roads, and get

people

to and from work expeditiously. People are sitting in traffic when

they could be improving society."

Top Of Page
God’s Bottom Line: David Miller

God tests everyone — especially investment bankers.

David Miller, a former investment banker at Peter Wodtke and

Partners in London, recalls facing a tough moral dilemma when one

of the companies he invested in revealed some fraudulent business

practices. "Our partner said, `Hey everybody does this, and you

gain from this too,’" he recalls. "The hidden message was

be quiet and we all win."

Miller, a Presbyterian, decided instead to take the moral high road.

"We went back to the company and said it has to stop," he

says. "Some of us were motivated by our faith, others just by

the way we are. We asked the question `what do we stand for?’ and

we concluded that we aren’t the kind of people who do that." The

bank took a considerable financial loss, but then, adds Miller, "a

couple of our large investors, precisely because we acted with a sense

of integrity, chose to do more business with us."

Even in the cut-throat world of finance it’s possible to follow the

tenets of your faith, says Miller, who speaks on "Faith in the

Workplace: How to Minister to People in Business and the

Professions,"

on Monday, February 28, at 9:30 a.m. at the Princeton Theological

Seminary, 20 Library Place. Call 609-497-7990.

Miller, 43, recently returned to school at the Princeton Theological

Seminary and co-founded the Avodah Institute

(www.avodahinstitute.org),

an organization that is trying to bring faith and work closer

together,

with William Pollard, chairman and CEO of ServiceMaster Company

in Chicago.

Miller was raised a Methodist in Pennington — his father was an

engineer at RCA, and his mother taught pre-school — and earned

a BA in business administration and German at Bucknell University,

Class of 1979. He ran the securities services division at Hong Kong

and Shanghai Bank Holdings PLC (formerly known as Midland Bank PLC)

before becoming a partner with Peter Wodtke and Partners, based in

London.

Located at 34 Chambers Street, Avodah (a Hebrew word meaning both

worship and work) provides grants to people or organizations trying

to smooth out the tensions that exist between business and ethics,

a subject Miller feels has been overlooked in business schools and

congregations far too long. "In the business world, sometimes

you have to do something that cause people pain," says Miller,

"something you’d not like done to yourself, and most faiths teach

do unto others as you’d have them do to you. The most classic example

is firing or downsizing."

For Pollard, who ran a $7 billion company with 225,000 employees,

these were more than just philosophical questions. "Bill noticed

that the church did very little to honor his calling as an executive,

validating that as a legitimate way to do ministry — serving the

people," says Miller. "And the church didn’t equip him to

handle the tensions of the business world. What do you do if you’re

forced to chose between two wrongs for example? Everything in business

is not black and white."

Now, more than ever, says Miller, these are questions that need to

be addressed. "Ten years ago there might have been more caution

or reluctance to go into it but in these extraordinary competitive

times there has been huge tragedy for some, in the form of downsizing,

and huge reward and unimaginable affluence for others," he says.

"These people get to the top and they realize, so what, they’re

not happy, and there must be some meaning or purpose."

People may not discuss their belief system openly in the board room,

but many professionals are inwardly grappling with their own

spirituality

and how it relates — or doesn’t — to their professions, says

Miller. "I explain to people what I do, and no one laughs,"

he says. "Everyone says you’re kidding, tell me more about it,

and then people come out of the closet and they say `My Christianity

or Judaism is really important to me, but my priest or rabbi never

talks to me about these things, about my problems in the

workplace.’"

How do you chose between two wrongs, if you’re compelled to do right?

"Find a better way to implement a thing that’s inherently

lousy,"

says Miller. "How you chose to do something that is a bad choice,

can minimize something that’s bad."

Take layoffs, for example. "How you implement a downsizing makes

all the difference in the world in how people lives their lives,"

says Miller, who once in his career had to lay off 50 people. Rather

than let his personnel director do the dirty work, he decided to do

it himself. "I said I need to meet with each of these people and

look them in the eye and if they’re going to be angry let them be

angry," says Miller. "It took a huge amount of time and a

lot of emotional energy but I think it was a very healthy process

for them. They could think about their experience in a more positive

light as a result of being treated with dignity and respect instead

of just being given a pink slip and told to get their stuff. They

could leave without a sour taste in their mouth. Most people I know

can deal with problems but they need to be treated with respect."

Lessons like these can be found in the Old Testament and in the

experiences

of fellow believers in the business world. Miller encourages

interested

people to attend the "Faith in the Workplace" group that meets

the first and third Saturdays each month at Nassau Presbyterian at

8:30 a.m. Also, on May 25 and 26, Avodah is bringing in a professor

from Harvard Business School to address CEOs on morals in business.

Drawing on your faith in business can be a creative process, adds

Miller. "I find that faith is one of the best way to get out of

the box," he says. "It’s a good way to come up with the third

solution, which seems elusive or unavailable."

No job is too important or too difficult to be done without compassion

and ethical standards, says Miller. "You can try to make the world

a better place by getting involved in industries that are from time

to time problematic," he says, "or the alternative to that

approach is to say if you’re an ethical person you should only work

in caring professions. My read of the Bible is that people are called

to be in the thick of things. I’d rather have morally ethical people

being in those tough industries. I loved my old job and I viewed my

role in life to be salt and light in the business world."

Top Of Page
History for Investors: Sal Mannino

Analysts have likened the stampede of investors to

Internet

companies to the Gold Rush of last century — dotcoms, one

presumes,

are today’s gold. But a little history lesson might serve well: the

miners weren’t the ones getting filthy rich at the turn of the

century.

"The richest man in California was selling the pick-axes and

shovels,"

says Sal Mannino, a financial advisor at the Edward Jones branch

in New Hope. "He became rich from the goldrush, but not the

gold."

Following that example, Mannino is putting his money in the companies

behind the Internet, and he’s in for the long haul. "In the short

term, the market is a casino driven by fear and greed, but in the

long term the market is driven by earnings, growth, and dividends,

just like if we were talking about a private business," says

Mannino,

who teaches "How to Build Your Portfolio on $25 a Month,"

at the Learning Studio on Route 1 on Wednesday, February 23, at 7

p.m. Call 609-688-0800. Cost: $35.

Each day Mannino gives a stock report on WDVR at 12:25 and 5:25 p.m.

He’s been with Edward Jones, a full-service financial services firm

with over 5,000 offices in the U.S., Canada, and England, for the

past four years, but he learned most of what he knows about investing

from his father during his youth in Ringoes. "My father told me

that when you’re buying a stock, you’re buying a business, not a

lottery

ticket," he says. "Learning that took the fear out of it —

I try to buy great businesses at reasonable prices."

Mannino won’t describe his own portfolio at great length ("I never

want people to think I have a conflict of interest," he says)

but you can be sure it is comprised of a lot of blue chips. "I

believe in investing in the strongest companies," he says.

"Why

wouldn’t you? Would you lose sleep investing in General Electric,

which has gone through two world wars and a depression? I want to

buy the leaders in the respective industry."

It’s trendy to buy into Internet companies that have never made a

penny, but the best investors pay attention to a company’s overall

profitability, says Mannino. "On the Internet, price is king,

and that hurts profits," says Mannino. "In cyberspace,

everyone

is equally convenient. Because they’re only a click away, in the end

it’s whoever’s going to give the lowest price. If companies have to

compete on price alone, it’s going to be hard to make money."

That’s not to say the Internet isn’t a smart investment, says Mannino,

who turns to history for investment guidance. "If this was the

early 1900s," he says, "you could say Sal, the horse and buggy

is dead, the car is the next big thing, but there were several

different

auto manufacturers back then — which one would you have bought?

I say it would have been better to buy the tire manufacturer. Most

of the car companies went out of business — from 300 plus down

to the big three. I think the Internet is the biggest thing since

the PC, but that’s why I’m buying companies behind the Internet, not

necessarily Yahoo."

Mannino’s tips for the novice investor:

Buy and hold, don’t buy and forget. "People sell their

winners far too early and they hold on to losers forever," says

Mannino. "It’s not a loser if it goes down two points after you

bought it. It’s a loser if a product is not selling or something has

fundamentally changed about the business."

Don’t try to time the market. "No one has a crystal

ball," says Mannino. The three enemies to the investor, he says:

taxes, inflation, and procrastination. All the more reason for

systematic

investing. "You’re accomplishing something else here — you’re

going to be buying more shares when the prices are down, less shares

when the prices are up, and that’s going to help you have a lower

average cost per share," he says. "Dollar-cost averaging

stands

the test of time."

Pay yourself first. "If it’s in your pocket, you’ll

spend it," he says. "If you wait until all the bills are paid,

you won’t have anything. People need to put a little money away for

the future, just like a bill, and the best way to do that is

systematic

investing."

Who is the next Microsoft? It doesn’t matter, says Mannino.

"I think people spend far too long looking for the next

Microsoft,"

he says. "The interesting thing about Microsoft is that you

wouldn’t

have had to buy Microsoft as an IPO, you could have bought it four

or five years later and made a significant profit. I think that speaks

about the frenzy in the Internet stocks. It gets back to the buy and

hold investment. The people who have created wealth for themselves

didn’t make a lot of money for themselves as far as income — but

they saved and they saved in the right place."

Top Of Page
Business Workshop: Rotary

Entrepreneurship is the dominant trend of the `90s —

more and more people are setting up businesses at home and in

storefronts.

To help them get started, the Rotary Club of the Princeton Corridor

and an organization called "My Own Business" are offering

a free 10-session course on how to start and run a business. "This

is not a dry academic exercise, but a realistic and practical workshop

designed by people who have been there and done that," says

Phil

Holland, founder of "My Own Business."

The course begins on Monday, February 28, at 7 p.m. at the Princeton

Alliance Church at Schalks Crossing and Plainsboro roads in

Plainsboro,

and will be held Mondays and Wednesday evenings until March 28. Call

609-448-7333.

The first hour of each class will be devoted to instruction, the

second

to a lecture by a guest speaker. Topics will include deciding on a

business, writing a business plan, basic computer and communication

tools (not hands-on computer work), business organization (staff and

insurance requirements), location and leasing, accounting and cash

flow, how to borrow money for a start-up, whether to buy and existing

business or franchise, opening a business and controlling merchandise,

and expanding and handling problems as they arise.

Guest speakers include Herb Speigal, Mercer County College,

John Hirschman, the Delta Concept, Joachim Schafer,

Hannover

Fairs USA, Larry Hollander, Entrepreneurial Management Group,

Merle Hirschman, the Delta Concept, Sam Russell, Russell

& Co., Phil Cooper, Cooper Pest Control, and Heinz

Gartlgruber,

Hyatt Regency Princeton.

People of all professions are encouraged to come, says Holland.

"We’ve

had auto mechanics, chefs, manicurists, computer technicians —

all manner of individuals with a trade or skill who are now working

for someone else but would like to be their own boss," says

Holland.

Top Of Page
Lessons for Contractors

The Building Contractors Association of New Jersey is

sponsoring a 30-hour Construction Health and Safety Outreach Program,

taught by the association’s safety director, Jeff Monsell. The

workshop

covers the OSHA Act, fall protection, confined space entry, trenches

and excavation, personal protective equipment, hazard communication,

scaffolds, fire protection, crane safety, and other topics.

Participants are asked to analyze photographs containing specific

work hazards. A question and answer period follows. Participants also

get an updated Code of Federal Regulations Standards Book for the

Construction Industry, and a manual for working on a job site.

The program begins Thursday, February 24, and runs through March 16.

Call 732-225-2255.


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