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These stories by Barbara Fox were published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on August 12, 1998. All rights reserved.
Life in the Fast Lane
It's a changed workplace. Everybody knows someone who went through a company merger and escaped with a golden parachute but is not quite ready to retire. What do these 40-somethings and 50-somethings do? Some put themselves in the hands of the headhunters to get another year-round job. Others hang out their shingles as consultants and go through the start-up pangs of a small business.
There's a third option -- what might be called temp work for executives. According to the National Association of Temporary and Staffing Services, there were 2.5 million temporary workers last year, and seven percent of those were on the professional or managerial level.
Princeton Entrepreneurial Resources targeted that very segment early in the current job cycle. The company is its own example of today's unpredictable management patterns. The firm was founded by Peter Soderberg in 1987, just as the job market began to change, to provide "temporary" or transitional CEOs. Karin Bergwall Stratmeyer joined the firm in 1988 and became president. In the mid '90s she had preliminary talks with Kristen H. Callahan about Callahan joining the firm as a partner at some time in the future.
Then tragedy struck last January; Stratmeyer, at age 53, was killed in an auto accident on Vaughn Drive. Stratmeyer's husband asked Callahan to take over. Callahan moved the business from 600 Alexander Road to 13 Roszel Road, where it now has a small staff and 800 square feet.
Callahan grew up in Long Island, where her father worked for Exxon, and her family lived in Argentina for two years. She majored in economics and Spanish at Bucknell and has a Rutgers MBA. From 1977 to 1991 she was a marketing representative at IBM, working with such accounts as Princeton University and AT&T. She taught at Mercer County College, then managed sales and marketing for a market research firm, IMS America Health Care Division. From 1995 to 1998 she was vice president of information services at Peterson's, based at the Carnegie Center, and she came to PER last spring.
Why would a professional manager seek transitional or interim work? Chiefly for flexibility, says Callahan. Someone who made lots of money at one firm might feel burned out and be looking for a lifestyle change. Another person may be bored with his current job and hope to try out a new industry with the same skill set. Another might want to focus on a project but avoid getting entangled in company politics.
All can benefit from the current job market: The baby boom work force is diminishing, and the current shortage of workers can only get worse. "Temporary professionals and managers represent a $3 billion industry," says Callahan. "Temporary employment helps organizations reach their objectives in a cost-effective manner."
Richard Arons, managing director of Korn/Ferry International's Princeton office at 1 Palmer Square, agrees that using such "talent for hire" workers, sometimes called "gunslingers," represents a good business solution for a particular organizational situation, "for a company that needs to fill a gap in a particular competency for a short period of time." As a headhunter, he doesn't get into that but focuses instead on executive positions in healthcare, hospitality, industrial and consumer products, and advanced technology.
The need is there, says P.J. Dempsey of Morgan Mercedes Human Resources Group on Washington Road. "The baby boom work force is diminishing, and we don't have the population to replace the current workers. There will be contract work on every level, from the CEO to the receptionist."
Princeton Entrepreneurial Resources has many national and international clients, and its local client list includes Church & Dwight (which needed an interim director at Thanet Circle for regulatory and product safety), Hann & DePalmer (an interim director for telemarketing at Exit 8A), Orchid Biocomputer (interim director of business planning on College Road), Cricket Converters (now Sonoco, a transitional COO), and RWJ Pharmaceutical Research Institute (which needed two transitional leaders, one for global information and document management and another for regulatory affairs.)
PER offers two kinds of "temporary" staffing possibilities, interim and transitional. "Interim involves a specific project with a visible end," says Callahan.
An example: For an international manufacturer of diagnostic equipment, an interim vice president of international marketing and sales devised marketing strategies and trained sales teams to increase European sales by 40 percent. "Transitional is for testing a concept -- to come with something and give it a honeymoon period. If there is a match between the project, the person, and the company, the company might make the hire," says Callahan.
For instance, one of PER's "executive temps" went to an environmental remediation firm as transitional vice president of marketing and sales. He increased sales by 30 percent and was hired as CEO. Another worked for six months as transitional CEO for the North American division of a German pharmaceutical manufacturer. He is now senior vice president of the division. "When we hired him, we did so with confidence, having put him to the test before making a legal commitment," says the client.
"One candidate is now on his fifth assignment -- two with one firm and three with another," says Callahan.
To find the talent needed PER uses proprietary software and a very large (15,000 individuals) database, plus on-line and licensed databases. "PER is on the line for achieving specific measurable results, not for `placing' executives or recommending courses of action," says Callahan. "This level of commitment requires regular progress measurement and prompt course corrections."
If this sounds like management consultant lingo, it's supposed to. Callahan says PER's work borders on management consulting.
If PER sounds like temporary executive search or outplacement, it's not. After all, PER keeps its managers on its own payroll. Nevertheless, you could label its transitional jobs as "temp to perm," a term familiar to temporary agencies that specialize in such support staff as clerks and receptionists.
Callahan resists the "temp to perm" term because it could make her executives seem like a commodity. No matter how many companies get downsized, chief executive officers are not commodities.
-- Barbara Fox
For the first time in 70 years the Adlermans won't have an office in Princeton. Adlerman Click has moved from 15 Spring Street to a shopping center on Applegarth Road and is changing its name, phone, and fax. Powen Brown in North Jersey has taken the property and casualty insurance business, but the new six-person firm, known as the Adlerman Agency, retains the life insurance, real estate, estate planning, employee benefits and health insurance. Princeton Insurance UnderWriters Agency was also sold.
Founded by Mac Adlerman in 1927, the business now has a father-son Adlerman team, Mel and Sam, and they are looking forward to less paperwork and more client contact. Mel went to University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1953, and Sam, who is 39 years old, graduated from Lehigh. The firm's building, just off Witherspoon, is up for rent -- 5,000 square feet on two floors for $27.50 per foot.
"It gives me the opportunity to spend more time on estate planning and life insurance, which is how I entered the business, and it's a field I know and love very much," says Mel. "I will not have to spend as much time on the minutiae of running a business." Morris Click remains as a consultant to the firm.
"The fact is that the whole industry is going through massive change," says Sam Adlerman. He is president of the agency but is also occupied from a home office with developing his independent distributorship of Nikken, an alternative health care products company that offers magnetics and infrared technologies for wellness and stress reduction.
The Adlermans point out that Powen Brown is the ninth largest insurance agency in the United States, and in a year when a bank like CoreStates gets taken over by First Union, the day of the mid-sized insurance agency was over. "We honestly believed that it would be better for our clients as well as our employees to be associated with an agency of that size," says Mel Adlerman.
"There is certainly emotionalism, after building up something all my life, to sell it to someone else, but there is no question that in today's age of mega businesses, it is better for all parties that we amalgamated with a much larger agency," says Mel. "I am going to be blessed that I don't have to worry about parking."
The best part? "The warmth of knowing we helped a lot of people."
Top Of Page
Stuart Ferguson -- a former nuclear submariner -- was training operators for a nuclear power utility in Michigan on March 29, 1979, when the accident occurred at Three Mile Island. "What fascinated me was how the group lacked the interpersonal skills to solve the problem," he wondered then. "Rather than collaborating to solve the problem, they circled their wagons in defense of the problem. They reinforced one another's thinking."
His two-year-old human resources consulting firm, Celtic Resources LLC, has just affiliated with James P. McHale's 10-year old Strategic Source Inc., based in West Point, Pennsylvania, which does organizational analyses and improvement design, executive and employee assessment and development, and strategic business planning. Clients are in the pharmaceutical, financial services, and health care areas. The two firms are working on a contract to align quality, cost, and schedule objectives for a $100 million construction project in upstate New York.
The notorious nuclear power incident highlighted an ongoing concern of Ferguson's about getting people to think out of the box, and his own career path is a good example of this. He grew up in Iowa, where his father worked for Maytag, went to Northwood University in Midland, Michigan, and along the way obtained a master's degree in adult education program management from Georgia State and did doctoral work at American University. Following the Three Mile Island incident, he worked for a nuclear power consortium to help create standards aimed at assuring the public that nuclear power was commercially viable and safe.
Then he moved to NUS, a Maryland-based consulting firm, which helped utilities comply with those standards. On contract with the federal Department of Environmental Protection, he managed a team to investigate proposed Superfund sites. When he turned down a transfer because he did not want to leave Princeton (by this time he had become a Quaker and was married to a Princeton woman, now a teacher at Princeton Day School), he started his first business, then called Academy Management Services.
Through an environmental organization, Trout Unlimited, he met an officer of American Reinsurance, who hired him as a vice president, and he stayed seven years. "Because of my familiarity with Superfund management and mismanagement of hazardous materials, I was asked to figure out how American Re could work with clients to resolve environmental issues," says Ferguson.
Germany-based Munich Re bought American Re just when Ferguson was getting ready to turn 50. "I took four months to stare at the ceiling and decided I enjoyed helping people and organizations define what success means to them and creating the capabilities to achieve success," he says. "In a real crunch what's critical is to have the interpersonal skills to elicit the right solution which may challenge conventional wisdom."
Conventional thinkers would assume that anyone who is a Quaker would oppose nuclear power. Ferguson does not. "If people really understand the human and environmental issues, they would understand that nuclear power is safer in many regards than burning coal. No one laments the death of coal miners from mine collapses and black lung disease, and no one talks about the relationship of central Pennsylvania's stream ecology to power."
He blames bad PR for an unsophisticated American public that links nuclear power to nuclear weapons. Japan, in contrast, gets nearly half of its power from nuclear plants. "Shouldn't that tell us something?"
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com -- the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.