101 Dalmations on Trial

Corporate Angels

Corrections or additions?

These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the

April 18, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

NJAWBO Conference 2001

If you work 40 hours a week for somebody else, that’s

okay, but if you work 50 hours a week, maybe you should be working

for yourself." So says Margery S. Davidson, owner of two

businesses, and daughter, spouse, mother, and sister of entrepreneurs.

In addition to running her own accounting practice plus a consulting

enterprise known as Business Development Team Inc., both of Aberdeen,

Davidson is an enthusiastic member of NJAWBO, the New Jersey


of Women Business Owners. "When I went to my first meeting, I

saw a room full of women, all business owners, and I said `This is

where I have to be.’" As an accountant, Davidson says her


tend to be men. "I didn’t know women business owners, except


she says, "and there’s a difference. With clients, there are areas

you just don’t touch."

Davidson conducts business training seminars for NJAWBO and is the

organization’s incoming vice president of finance. She speaks on


Time for Your Business to Grow Up" and "Profit Focus"

at the organization’s conference, which runs from Wednesday, April

25, at 3 p.m. through Friday, April 27, at the Doral Forrestal. Cost:

$750, including room and meals. Call 732-560-9607.

A member of NJAWBO for five years, Davidson says the best part of

the experience for her comes as members sit around the table at


dinners. "Any question or concern, there’s always someone who

has just hired a first employee, or is looking for insurance."

Beyond informal advice, she finds the organization provides rich


for acquiring — and selling — services. "When I opened

Davidson’s Business Development, within hours I had a logo, printing,

a website, five different things. I just called these women."

She also recommends NJAWBO contacts to her clients. She likes the

idea that she is able to suggest a whole range of business services

to them from personal knowledge.

While she revels in drawing on the expertise and experience of fellow

women business owners, Davidson also has a rich background of business

savvy within her own family. When she was growing up in California,

her father owned an electrical contracting business. Her brother owns

an automatic transmission business in Nevada, and her sister, who

started out selling crafts from her home, now owns a California-based

bookkeeping business. Davidson’s husband, James Nelson, owned Aberdeen

Electric for many years, until he sold the company three years ago

to join her CPA firm, doing back office work and handling personal

income tax clients.

Davidson was working as a bookkeeper when it occurred to her that

she was well able to do everything the CPAs did. All she lacked was

"the piece of paper," so she went back to school to earn it.

"It was the most frightening thing I ever did in my entire


she says. Giving up the independence that goes with a paycheck was

hard, and so was walking onto campus and "looking around, trying

to find someone as old as I was."

Davidson was in her 30s then, and started her quest for a CPA at


Community College. She then transferred to Rutgers, which she found

even more intimidating. "Rutgers, that was mainly young kids,"

she says. "I heard them talking in the lunchroom: `My parents

say it’s either work or school.’ I wish I had had that ultimatum."

She persevered, starting a bookkeeping business while earning her

Rutgers accounting degree (Class of 1983). For the next two years,

she fulfilled the CPA requirement of working for a firm for two years.

During that time, she hired people to keep her business running,


at it herself on nights and weekends until she earned her CPA and

could return to it full time.

In working with clients, Davidson soon began to detect a common thread

among those who own businesses. "There so much they don’t


she says. "Simple things, like how to keep books, and what things

are tax deductible." She found herself spending a great deal of

time providing tutorials. "I started charging," she says.

"And they were willing to pay." And so another company was

born. Last year, Davidson formally broke her business development

practice away from her accounting practice. Davidson offers this


to new business owners:

Beware the partnership. "When businesses fail, most

of the time it doesn’t even have to do with financials," she says.

"Most times it doesn’t work out because people go into


Whether it’s a spouse, a friend, or a stranger, inviting someone to

share your business dream can be a disaster. The problem, she says,

is simple, and oh-so-human: "I want to take it one way, and you

want to take it another."

Asked how her business has avoided the pitfalls of partnership, she

reveals the second key: "There’s one boss, and that’s me."

Just one person can be in charge, she says. The job can rotate, with

each partner taking the helm for six months or a year, but for each

time period only one person should be making decisions for the


Learn to keep the books. Three to five years after a


opens, its owner is working 12-hour days. That, Davidson says, is

no time to learn accounting. By contrast, "new business owners

have more time than money," she says, and need to be spending

some of that time on learning bookkeeping basics. Having seen her

fair share of shoe boxes crammed with a melange of receipts, bills,

and canceled checks, Davidson observes that total ignorance of the

financial side of running a business is rampant. The shoe box


system costs all business owners big, she says, particularly at tax


Bookkeeping is especially important for businesses with seasonal dips.

By writing down all expenses in categories and keeping track of what

checks come in when "they can know a bad season is coming,"

Davidson says. Keeping track of financials will also allow busy


to see if their businesses are growing from year to year, and by how


Davidson suggests business owners do their own bookkeeping in the

beginning, and outsource it as they reach that busy three to five

year mark. Then, when cash flow grows to a point where there is enough

for support staff, it is time to bring accounting back in-house. Even

then, however, she urges business owners to retain control over


functions. The bookkeeper should not have access to all the company’s

funds, she says, but only to the amount that is required for the


operating expenses.

Take a paycheck. Some business owners put every cent back

into the business, thinking `I’ll take what’s left over.’ Bad idea

on a couple of counts, Davidson says. "What’s left over is


she says. "That is what you use when you want to buy a new


Business owners who do not write themselves a paycheck often end up

resenting their company, she says. "Pay yourself, even if it’s

only $25," she says. "It feels so good to get a paycheck."

For Davidson, surrounded as she is by business owners, the


of an entrepreneurial life is a no-brainer, but she knows it is not

for everyone. When her husband decided to join her business, he sold

his electrical contracting business to her son. "He had worked

for the company for 18 years. He wanted to take it over. We thought

it would be perfect." It wasn’t. Son and grandson of entrepreneurs

that he was, the young man lasted all of three months.

Turns out, Davidson says, he wanted a paycheck every week, and when

he finished work at 5, he wanted to be really finished. It’s not that

way for business owners, she says. There are always calls to return,

and invoices to write out, and employee problems to be resolved.


a business is the job you do after you finish your job," is how

she puts it.

Top Of Page
101 Dalmations on Trial

Under the law, should Cruella DeVil have to put up with

all that yapping from Roger and Anita’s 101 spotted hounds? That is

the question 30 to 40 youngsters will decide when they put the


owners on the stand during a Take Our Daughters to Work Day program

at the law offices of Drinker Biddle & Shanley at 105 College Road


Junior jurists preparing cases for both the dog lovers and their


antagonist will not just be daughters, though. "We thought it

was a good opportunity not just for girls, but for boys too,"

says Neil Day, the associate who volunteered to run the program.

Take Our Daughters to Work Day, celebrated at many area offices, takes

place at Drinker Biddle & Shanley on Thursday, April 26, at 9:30 a.m.

for children who are at least five years old. The event is held mainly

for employees’ children, but Day says some clients have secured


for their children to attend.

Day’s son, Cullen, at 10 months old, will not be taking part in the

mock lawsuit, but "his mom may bring him by in the afternoon."

That is when the trial takes place. Last year, Day says, most of the

firm’s attorneys stopped by to take in the action. But being an


is about more than arguing in front of a jury, and Day is including

less glamorous aspects of the career in the all-day program.

"I absolutely was not prepared for the reality of practicing


says Day, who received his J.D. from Wake Forest in 1996. "I loved

law school; I could do law school all over again." Practice is

something different, for the most part lacking intense discussions

of intricate points of law. Says Day: "You have no idea the


of your early legal career will be pushing paper."

"I try to present more than Perry Mason," says Day. To get

a rounded feel for the life of a lawyer, the children will work on

factual investigation, do a research project in the library, depose

witnesses, and prepare opening and closing statements before they

have a chance to hurl questions at Cruella. But they will indeed have

time to grill her. "These are young kids," Day says. "You

have to keep it entertaining."

Top Of Page
Corporate Angels

EPIX, a professional employer organization (PEO), is


to promote the "Blue Ribbon" campaign for Prevent Child


Jersey. EPIX will enclose blue ribbons in its 10,000 payroll


EPIX provides payroll administration, benefits, risk management and

human resources consulting. It serves more than 800 companies and

14,5000 companies in New Jersey. Steve Rosenthal, co-CEO of EPIX,

was honored as PCA-NJ’s person of the year last year. The custom of

wearing blue ribbons was started in Virginia 12 years ago by a


who lost her grandson to child abuse. PCA-NJ hopes to distribute


blue ribbons during its annual campaign.

Re/Max Tri Country held an April flower sale at Golden

Crest Corporate Center to benefit the Children’s Miracle Network.

Other fundraising for this national charity has photos with Santa

and contributions to the Miracle Home Program. A golf tournament is

Monday, May 21, at the Olde York Country Club in Chesterfield.

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