Corrections or additions?
These articles by Bart Jackson and Michele Alperin were prepared
for the March 14, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Opening New Worlds: Aleena Shapiro
Looking for a change of routine, perhaps a little
Or personal entree into the world of international politics? If your
answer is "yes" and you have skills that would be valuable
to foreign businesses, you may want to consider international clients.
Aleena R. Shapiro did not make an explicit decision to seek
international clients. She stumbled onto them as a tax lawyer when
she was structuring international business deals for clients who
to minimize taxes paid to the United States government, avoid double
taxation, and meet the requirements of United States tax laws.
Shapiro is a partner in the New York law firm Shapiro and Wender LLP.
She and Judith Firth, managing director of WJM Associates, speak
on "Meeting Your Client’s Global Needs: Consulting Practices with
International Clients," on Monday, March 19, at 6 p.m. at the
Institute of Management Consultants at the Doral Forrestal. Cost:
$65. Call 609-896-4457.
Shapiro finds that doing international work at her own firm has its
perks. When she left a large law firm to start her own, she brought
along a client who managed luxury castle hotels in Ireland. She says,
"I had originally worked as a junior tax associate in a large
firm, and suddenly I got to be the one visiting these hotels."
Shapiro got a chance to experience the international art world when
a client in the United States was donating works by a family artist
to museums around the world. Once the deals were completed, Shapiro
was treated to museum openings of the artist’s work at exhibitions
Beyond the fun and travel, international work offers a chance to watch
political events unwind. When the Soviet Union collapsed, says
Russians arrived in America to do deals. At first they did not
capitalism, because — until 1990 — they had viewed all
and all business as bad. When they began to be entrepreneurs, they
had to be taught that some things are good to do and some — even
though they are entrepreneurial and make money — are not good.
This work, says Shapiro, meant "sociopolitical and economic
in the world situation — where you are right in middle of what
is happening in world events."
Shapiro offers suggestions to potential international consultants:
make sure it is worth your while. "Some countries have fewer
opportunities and are not developed enough to appreciate what American
businessmen can bring to them."
targeting . Because English is now the international business
the opportunities for cooperation are even greater.
in a target country can present obstacles to foreign businesses. In
China, for example, Shapiro finds that the government quashes
instincts. "If you are representing people in the United States
who are manufacturing in China," she says, "you must be aware
of the potential for clients getting caught up with the government
and losing out." The Chinese government will not allow a foreign
business to own a controlling interest in a Chinese company, which
affects the stability and longevity a foreign investor can expect
from a business there.
are sometimes interesting and sometimes frustrating," says
She tells of a client who for the last six months has been trying
to give away property to the Catholic Church in Hungary. Shapiro,
as intermediary, has found communications difficult. Every time either
side writes a letter, it must be translated. Recently the Hungarians
addressed a letter incorrectly, causing a two-month delay.
in touch with home electronically and taking notes while abroad. She
is in the habit of dictating memos as she goes, because she finds
it is easy to forget details after a long trip home.
After receiving both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history
from the University of Michigan, she taught high school for a couple
of years. After some time as a housewife with young children and lots
of volunteer work, she decided to take the LSATs on a lark. "As
soon as I started at NYU’s law school," she says, "I knew
it was the right thing for me — maybe because I was going to
later and knew nothing was perfect."
She was editor of the Law Review, graduated in 1981, worked for
Farr and two other large law firms, and obtained a master’s in tax
law from NYU. Shapiro was living in White Plains, commuting to New
York daily, going to law school one night a week. She describes this
period as "probably the most excruciating period of my life."
In 1989 she started her own firm. Her older daughter is her partner.
Her younger daughter and her husband are also lawyers.
Shapiro’s last piece of advice to international consultants is to
have a little fun. She relates that upon landing in Dublin one Sunday
afternoon, she rushed over to the James Joyce museum, then went to
a bookstore and bought every one of Joyce’s books, and still made
it on time to her 7 p.m. business meeting. In Germany, she played
hooky from a meeting and went to Dusseldorf for a shopping trip. She
says, "l like to find time on each business trip for a small
of personal experience and growth."
— Michele Alperin
You be the judge. Acme Engineering offers an entry level
position. Two applicants show up. First comes the chief engineer’s
old fishing buddy, Jake. He is a blonde, blue eyed, white male, under
40 (a group virtually beyond the needs of discrimination protection
in the eyes of New Jersey law.) The second candidate, Sally is a black
female whose education, experience and skills totally outshine her
male counterpart. The chief hires Jake. Sally files a hiring
suit. Who wins? Why?
These questions will be addressed when John Thurman speaks at
a meeting of the Worldwide Employee Benefit Network on "A GPS
for EEO" on Tuesday, March 20, at 8 a.m. at the offices of Smith
Stratton Wise Heher & Brennan at 600 College Road East. Cost: $30.
Following his small town Kentucky childhood, Thurman graduated from
Oberlin, then attended Harvard Divinity School before obtaining a
law degree from Vanderbilt. "I’m not sure the divinity master’s
makes me kinder and gentler," he says, "but perhaps it does
keep me a bit more honest." As partner at the Montgomery
law firm of Farrell & Thurman, he specializes in employment and labor
"The real problem lies in management recognizing a few trees of
employment disparity," says Thurman, "but then mistaking them
for the whole forest of employees falling under protected status."
According to New Jersey and federal law, employers can in no way
based on sex, ancestry, race, or disability. Also, genetic testing
Even if all these categories are considered, most managers fail to
carry the disparity potential beyond the basic hiring and firing
But the discrimination liabilities extend long before and after,
out into a briar patch of costly potential blunders.
Thurman recites a few of the more subtle, common practices that can
get you sued:
case of Duke Power Co., which demanded a high school diploma of all
employees. Upon protests, a thorough examination of the community
led to the discovery that this requirement made possible employment
with Duke completely — and illegally — racially lopsided.
The company had to drop the standard.
an employee sees his foreman dumping a truckload of the company’s
hazardous waste into Lake Carnegie, and reports it, he can claim
blower protection." An employer cannot legally fire a whistle
blower. Previously, it was necessary to report the dumping to an
source, perhaps the EPA. Now the same protection is extended to those
who report it to company management first. This allows the firm to
clean its dirty laundry without airing it.
and hires a person with a record of violence can find himself
named in a suit when fists start flying in the workplace. An employer
can refuse to hire a woman because of her violent history, but can
not necessarily reject her solely because of her felony record.
In addition, the fact that an employee lied will not automatically
free an employer from liability for discrimination. Thurman cites
a case of a youth who was hired by a bank, then fired for lying about
his age. "Even if he had lied about his age," Thurman says,
"the bank would still owe some damages for the unfair age
suit of Sally vs. Acme Engineering. Sally loses, based on established
precedent, because favoritism is not actionable in unfair hiring,
says Thurman. Jake had a prior claim of relationship/affection on
the hirer. Acme, under the law, holds the right to give its old
preferential treatment. This also gives managers the right to choose,
within limits, specific individuals for new jobs in, for example,
a corporate reshuffling. But watch out, this law only works if the
relationship existed well before the hiring.
her many heads during office restructurings and promotions. Managers
typically shuffle compensation, lateral moves, promotions, and office
sizes with more of an eye toward immediate need than equal
"It becomes the job of the human resources professional,"
says Thurman, "to act as the watchdog. He must review the entire
operation with an eye toward his people and challenge management to
`prove your employee concerns to me.’"
suits are now meeting some tough courts," Thurman says. Employees
seeking to unfairly rob deep pockets by launching a suit because,
"Hey, what’s the worst that can happen?" are finding out.
Judgments can include the employer’s legal fees, court costs, and
— Bart Jackson
The financial resources of large companies constantly
tempt the smaller players in the corporate world. But for the smaller
entrepreneur to establish a sales relationship with these corporations
is not easy, and the obstacle is mistrust. "The presumption on
the part of a large company," explains Katherine Kish,
that they are taking more of a risk working with small companies."
To increase trust and engender confidence, the small company must
make itself look more like a large company. Katherine Kish of Market
Entry, John Cassimatis of the Pacesetter Group, and James
Scott of Scarlett Systems are speaking on "Landing the big
one! Is this the best move for your company?" on Wednesday, March
21, 7:30 p.m. at the Princeton Chamber of Commerce Business Council
Breakfast. Steven Portrude of Harwill-Express Press is the
Cost: $21. Call 520-1776.
When seeking a large corporate client, small companies must prepare
carefully and be aware of potential problems:
about the organization you want to sell to," says Kish. The
is much faster today, when necessary information is quickly available
on the Web.
complete solutions. Says Kish: "If you are small, how can you
be mighty?" A small company can cover any weaknesses in its
or service by allying itself with strategic partners whose quality
of work and service complement its own. A strategic partner, for
may offer superior project management capabilities. With the help
of partners, a small company can appear bigger and stronger, and
a more sophisticated face to a large corporation.
small company has done similar work for similar companies. Share
or case studies, that document what the company accomplished for
company, for example, increasing sales by 14 percent by instituting
your benchmark program at the XYZ corporation.
or the only source within a geographic area of a specialized service
or product, a large company is more likely to choose it as a business
partner. An example would be a printer who, in addition to all the
usual printing services, specializes in hand-assembled product sample
kits. A nearby pharmaceutical that needs such kits for their sales
people to hand to doctors would be likely to hire this printer.
penetrate their elaborate communication systems. Be willing to invest
the time it takes to get through the system.
makes it clear to potential clients that you understand the work that
is required. It also avoids the problems and misunderstandings that
occur when one of the parties to an agreement is not totally clear
about what is to be done. Although smaller companies can afford more
casual working relationships, large companies have many more people
involved in decisions, in deliverables, and in fulfillment of work
and hence require clear contracts, proposals, and statements of work.
fact that it often takes longer to sell to a large organization,"
says Kish. A seller must be prepared to jump through many hoops and
go through many layers to get to a decision. She describes situations
where negotiating the contract takes so long that the work was nearly
complete before the contract was signed. "Big companies respond
on their own time tables," she says. "They often forget that
there is a small company out there that needs to make commitments
to supplies and to gear up."
Different layers of decision-makers must be part of any agreement,
and they usually cannot meet at the same time.
dealing with multiple layers of people in a large organization,"
says Kish, "make sure you are saying the right things to people
who can hear them." Talk to users about function; to managers
about the advantages of a service or product; and to decision-makers
about the benefits.
"It is easy for a large organization to absorb all the time a
small company has to give and more," warns Kish. If too much time
and energy are lost, a potentially successful venture can turn into
a money-losing proposition.
a large company," maintains Kish, "you have to be less of
a sales person and more of a business person." A small company
must make a special reach to understand a corporation’s business,
its concerns, and its timetable.
important for smaller entrepreneurs to be involved in good works with
local charities and non-profits. These organizations provide a neutral
ground where they can show capability and leadership. They can also
be a good place to meet people from large corporations and to build
relationships with them. "People buy from other people," says
Kish, "from people they trust."
from Antioch University. She has worked for NBC, Harcourt Brace
and Singer. In 1982 she created Market Entry, a strategic marketing
and business development firm that specializes in launching or
products, services, or companies (E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
Kish has also been active in fighting discrimination against women
in business, including leadership in a class action suit on behalf
of 2,000 women while she was at NBC. She has been active in NJAWBO
since 1987, where she helped develop the EXCEL entrepreneurial
program for women and minority business owners.
The biggest challenge for a small company seeking a large corporate
client is to reduce risk by increasing familiarity. "Risk is when
you are first working with people you don’t know or don’t look like
you or are from another geographic area," says Kish. "Every
time that there is an unfamiliarity, it is a little more difficult
for people to work together."
— Michele Alperin
The key to attracting and retaining employees lies in
the personality of the owner, says Stephen Lang. Given that
40 percent of his 60 employees at Trenton-based Mon Cheri Bridals
worked for him at other companies, he would appear to be a master
of the art.
Lang, Bill Hogan of the Hogan Leadership Group, and Robert
West of the Karr Barth Benefits Group speak on "Attracting
and Retaining Talented Employees in a Tight Labor Market" on
March 21, at 8 a.m. at the Greenacres Country Club, sponsored by the
Mercer Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $25. Call 393-4143.
Lang’s 10-year-old wholesale bridal and formal wear firm is located
on Whitehead Road (www.moncheribridals.com), and one of his models
is scheduled to be featured on the television show "Friends"
on Thursday, March 15. His recipe for success is multi-faceted,
both the way he interacts with his employees and the kind of corporate
culture he has established:
an employee is someone who works for you," says Lang. "My
definition is someone who works with you." He describes himself
as being like a coach for a professional sports franchise, getting
the most out of each individual to produce a winning team. Lang
it is an employer’s responsibility to guide employees to fulfilling
their potential. "Too many people expect employees to reach a
level of professionalism on their own," he says.
an attractive and effective business culture, eventually he must
responsibility to his employees. "I try to leverage myself through
the people around me," he says. "If I take a steering wheel
and put my hands in the 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. positions, I want my people
to push my hands off the wheel and take control."
fit with the business climate. Lang told the story of a recent
who had skills he needed, but was quite timid. At the second interview
he raised the issue of her timidity and told her that if she were
willing, he could work with her to overcome it; otherwise, he says,
"my managers would eat her up." She decided not to take the
their natural skills will make them successful. He points out that
his head merchandiser started off as a customer service
and the person who handles international sales began as an
here," we run so lean that there are always future opportunities,"
Lang says. "If you are good, you’ll get the nod." Hence Lang
encourages his managers to groom for succession.
on occasion to "feel the sensation of success." He tells them
that each person’s efforts are interrelated and ultimately affect
and hate their jobs," says Lang. For years, he disliked the people
he worked for and felt he was treated like a number. "I try to
treat people as people," he says. To him, a company is just a
name, and its essence is the people who work there. He encourages
his people to resolve differences of opinion. "I don’t tolerate
fighting, screaming, and yelling," he says. "This is your
second family, and you have to treat people accordingly."
best thing in the world for me and you would be to sit in sweats and
watch TV." But, he says, "coming to work should be the second
best thing to being retired and on your own."
well, and has always picked up at least 50 percent of the cost of
medical, dental, eyeglass, and prescription coverage. He also matches
employees’ 401K contributions up to six percent of their salaries,
and brings in consultants to coach his employees on how to invest
their money so that they will be able to retire at 65. "An
is an asset like anything else, and lots of employers forget
says Lang. "A happier employee is going to stay with you,"
in understanding family needs," says Lang, "and nobody is
fearful about talking about them." One woman with small children
now works full-time from home, responding to E-mail from the company’s
website. Another employee does not begin work until 9:30 a.m., because
she has to get her kids off to school first.
to be successful, and he believes it is the owner’s responsibility
to fashion the business’ persona. "It should emanate from the
top and cascade through the organization," he says.
from my people, because I demand it from myself," says Lang.
ask them to go the extra mile."
agree with his every decision, Lang expects them to be loyal, because
"his batting average is so high," and they should give him
license to be wrong 20 percent of the time.
handicapped person, who does a variety of odd jobs. The company has
adopted him and the three people who live with him at a group house
sponsored by the state. He says, "He is so important to us here
that at Christmas we have stopped doing a formal exchange of gifts.
Instead we hold a program for the people in his house." Employees
bring in gifts for the employee and his housemates. "I can’t tell
you what that did for morale," he says.
Lang graduated in 1977 from the State University of New York at Albany
with a bachelor’s in business administration and received an MBA from
Hofstra University in 1979. For the next four years he worked in
and product development, first for American Cyanamid and then for
Gulf & Western. He then worked for two bridal gown manufacturers,
Alfred Angelo in Pennsylvania and Bridal Originals in St. Louis. In
1991, he started his own company. He contacted an Asian supplier and
invited her to become his partner. She accepted, and Mon Cheri was
born. Its product line includes wedding gowns, both formal and
mother of bride, flower girl, first communion, cocktail, and prom
Lang hires with a long view. "When I hire you," he tells
employees, "I make the artificial assumption that you’re going
to retire here."
— Michele Alperin
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