Corrections or additions?
This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring and Bart Jackson was prepared for the April 9, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Self-Styled Sabbatical Boosts Career
With the economy souring,
herself" and spent a year learning all about sailing and thoroughbred
horse racing. Back at a desk now at the Healthcare Institute of New
Jersey, she looks on her self-styled sabbatical as a smart career
move — and so much more.
Gilroy speaks as part of a panel, "Sabbaticals: They’re not Just
for Educators," on Thursday, April 10, at 8:30 a.m. at Princeton
Softech’s offices at 111 Campus Drive. The event is sponsored by the
New Jersey Technology Council. Other speakers are
of New Hope-based Levy Associates, and
Lewis. Cost: $40. Call 856-787-9700.
As Gilroy speaks about her sabbatical, and about the career progression
that led up to the year off, it quickly becomes clear that she is
a person with a finely-calibrated life plan.
She got it from her mother.
"I was a first generation college graduate," she says. "My
mom was a young widow." Working all of her life in office support
jobs to raise her children, Gilroy’s mother drilled them on the value
of an education, especially for women. She told her daughter that
"`you can be a person who lets fate manage your life, or you can
Choosing the latter course, Gilroy, who grew up in South Plainfield,
spent two years at Middlesex County Community College, and won a scholarship
to Douglass, graduating in 1985 with a degree in journalism and mass
media. She then earned a master’s degree in public and corporate communication
from Seton Hall.
An internship in the public affairs department at Merck whetted her
appetite for community/public affairs work. She did do a brief stint
at a newspaper, but soon left "to go to the other side," working
in communications. "The working conditions are better, the pay
is better, and there is more opportunity for career mobility,"
She first went to work as a lobbyist for the Marcus Group in northern
New Jersey. "I got the lay of the land, learned about lobbying,"
she says. "It was a learning-the-ropes job." After three years,
she moved on to Nancy Becker Associates in Trenton, where she spent
18 months before going to work for one of the company’s clients, the
New Jersey Council of County Colleges. She describes that job as "a
wonderful outlet for my personal convictions."
"Community colleges are what America’s all about," she says.
"It takes the snobbery out of education, letting people learn
when they are ready. It’s a thing you find nowhere else but in America."
In addition to involving an issue of deep significance to her, the
job was "one of the best professional growth opportunities."
She spent eight years at the Council of County Colleges, culminating
in what she terms an important moral victory. "We hit a high note,"
she recounts, "when we corrected the state funding formula. Governor
Whitman gave us $48 million. It showed that the white hats do win."
After helping to secure an important victory for community colleges,
Gilroy decided to move on despite the fact that she still loved the
job. "I wanted to go out on a high note," she says. "I
was starting to think of my next career move."
Just then the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station at Rutgers
"came knocking." She decided to accept a job there as director
of community and public affairs, thinking the work would be similar
to that she had done. But it didn’t turn out to be a good fit. Her
entrepreneurial personality chaffed at the bureaucracy at the huge
institution of which the Ag Station is a part. She says she did give
the job a real chance, but after year, she knew it wasn’t for her.
Still, she did not want to start "pounding the pavement" to
look for another job.
"I was at a place in my career where I thought it was better to
take a break," she says. "It was time to take a big step back,
and decide what I wanted to do next. A break was a great way to objectively
look at my career path without the stress of a job. I could make a
better decision, and not be emotional about the situation."
In her opinion, the pressure of leaving a job that is not a good fit
and jumping right into another job can be a recipe for going from
the frying pan straight into the fire. She decided to take another
route to her next career move, and, along the way, to spend time trying
things she had always wanted to do. Here is how she did it, a method
she recommends to others.
network of women professionals with whom she maintained contact, Gilroy
learned of a woman who had done what she wanted to do. "She was
a year or two younger," she recounts. "She was on the fast
track in a high-powered Manhattan job, engaged, and living a wonderful
lifestyle. But she wasn’t enjoying her life." The woman told Gilroy
she had met with a career coach to uncover her true abilities and
interests. She then took time off to travel in Europe before finding
work at a non-profit.
"It was a story I could relate to," says Gilroy. "It’s
nice to have a nice resume with awards, but you need to honor other
parts of yourself." The early years of a career are all about
acquisition, she says. Promotions, titles, an increasingly upscale
wardrobe, the corner office, a bigger salary, these things become
all-consuming. Stepping away allows space for introspection and re-evaluation.
with pay. Some corporations and non-profits — but not many —
grant sabbaticals at full or partial pay, and some continue health
insurance during the time off. None of this applied to Gilroy. She
knew she had to finance her own sabbatical. To do so, she saved every
other paycheck for a year. It was tough staying on at a job she did
not particularly enjoy for 12 more months, but that was the only way
she could do it.
The lifestyle adjustment was not particularly difficult. "I’m
not a person who needs a new car, who needs to live in the biggest
house," she says. "I don’t need a million cable channels.
I don’t need to eat out every night." Her husband, Michael Skowronski,
is a self-employed inventor, so one thing she would need was health
insurance. She would have to pay for that too, which she did through
generous severance payment from the Yankees after being fired. He
happily declares that the next months will be "the summer of George."
But beyond deciding to learn to play rolf, a combination of frisbee
and golf, he makes no concrete plans, and ends up sinking deeper and
deeper into a routine of doing nothing more than watching television
with a substantial supply of snacks nearby.
Some version of this scenario is a real possibility without a plan,
says Gilroy, who avoided the trap. She chose two main activities.
First, she would become a sailor, learning not only how to sail a
ship, but also how to repair it, and how to navigate. Growing up near
the Jersey shore, this was something she had dreamed of doing, and
she thoroughly enjoyed becoming a competent skipper.
She says her stay at the Ag Station, while not perfect, was a learning
experience. One thing she came away with was a deep appreciation of
thoroughbred horses. For the second part of her sabbatical, she spent
her days at a stable, learning all about horses and about horse racing.
George" is something a person on sabbatical needs to avoid at
all costs, too much planning is not a good thing either. Scheduling
every minute forecloses the possibility of losing a precious opportunity.
So it was that Gilroy, about to wrap up her sabbatical after about
seven months, was approached by Raritan Valley Community College,
and asked to teach communications for a semester. She accepted on
the spot, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
decided to take a self-financed sabbatical, the economy was rocketing
to new heights, and gobbling up every worker it could get. By the
time she had saved up enough to take the leave, the economy was softening
perceptibly. But she did not let the situation dissuade her. "You
can always get a job," she says. Finding a year to explore new
interests, in her opinion, is not so easy. She was not going to let
a budding recession get in her way.
In any economy, she advises, the beginning of a sabbatical is definitely
not the time to worry about — or plot — a reentry into the
world of work. "You need to make a clean break," she says.
nearing an end, Gilroy did begin to think about her next career move.
She first decided that she did not want a career change, and then
made a list of all the things she had liked — and disliked —
about previous jobs. In the end, she decided that a job in a relatively
small non-profit, perhaps in the healthcare industry, would be a good
She told employers, right up front, that she was returning from a
sabbatical, refreshed and ready to go. She also detailed what she
had done with her time off. Intrigued, a good number of employers
called her in for interviews, and wanted to hear all about the sabbatical.
Rather than being a liability, the break had turned into a substantial
asset, inspiring wistful admiration in the desk-bound.
Gilroy received a number of job offers, and just about one year ago
signed on as director of communications for the Healthcare Institute
of New Jersey, which has just moved from New Brunswick to Hillside.
Led by Bob Franks, former head of the state Republican committee,
this organization represents 20 companies aiming to raise the visibility
of the research-based pharmaceutical and medical device industry (
to her workload conscientiously, but also sets boundaries, insisting
on leaving her work at work, and keeping up with outside interests
on her time off. "I don’t compete anymore," she says. "I’m
not obsessed with adding the title of vice president to my name."
During her sabbatical, Gilroy had a chance to spend a lot of time
with her mother, who, coincidentally, retired just as her daughter’s
leave was beginning. "We were two girls on the run," Gilroy
laughs. It was her mother’s lesson about the importance of taking
control of your destiny that led Gilroy up the career ladder. Now
that she is back at work, it is the same lesson guides her altered
view of work.
"It’s up to the individual to set limits," she says. "You
need to take breaks so that you don’t become overwhelmed." When
a one-year sabbatical is not possible, make it a week-long break,
or even a week-end away. If you find yourself dreaming about time
off, probably you should take some. Says Gilroy, "that’s a red
Louise Levy, whose consulting business, Levy and Associates,
works with start-ups and small businesses on "change cycle"
issues, also speaks on sabbaticals at the NJTC event. She recalls
that sabbaticals were hot back in the boom of the late-1990s, when
employers, particularly in the high-tech sector, used the lure of
paid time off to attract and keep employees in an ultra-tight labor
Now, she reports, some companies are using sabbaticals as a tool to
avoid severing ties with their workers. Instead of laying off employees
when things get slow, these employers are offering time off, sometimes
with partial pay, and sometimes with benefits only.
Levy points out that there are dangers with this scheme — for
both sides. Employees can not be sure where they will stand when a
sabbatical ends, and the employer, already signaling weakness, has
no guarantee that his worker will return.
What do Taco Bell, Marriott, and Colonial Williamsburg
have in common with one another — and with the Seaside Heights
boardwalk and the Nassau Inn? All need to hire, motivate, and retain
legions of non-exempt workers. A key to success in the tourism industry,
the subject is on the agenda at the 2003 Governor’s Conference on
Tourism, taking place on Thursday and Friday, April 10 and 11, at
the Trump Marina Hotel Casino in Atlantic City. Call 609-777-0885.
Williamsburg Foundation, addresses the always tricky question of "Employee
Retention and Motivation." Other sessions concern crisis management,
enticing corporations to sponsor events, advertising on a tight budget,
packaging a vacation destination, and legislative issues for the tourism
the first day, and
Loda is uniquely suited to speak on employee relations at organizations
with a large number of non-exempt workers (generally those who are
paid an hourly wage, qualify for overtime, and often are at the lower
end of the corporate ladder). "It’s my passion," she says.
A graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where she studied English and
French Literature, she first became interested in labor relations
during her first post-college job, when she worked in the U.S. House
of Representatives for a congressman from N.E. Iowa who was on the
House Labor and Education Committee.
"It was a great experience, a wonderful first job," she says.
In doing research on training issues, she saw the possibilities in
a career in human resources, and left her legislative job to work
for Marriott. A native of Bethesda, Maryland, she says Marriott was
"the hometown company in D.C." As a teen-agers, she had worked
part time at one of the chain’s Hot Shoppes.
Her next job took her to San Francisco, and the Gap. "It was so
much fun," she says. "We got to wear the product. I went to
work in blue jeans and T-shirts." While she enjoyed both jobs,
she saw that retail was different from the hospitality industry. "In
hospitality," she says, "so much of the culture comes from
the customer interface. It’s a very intimate business. You’re sleeping
and feeding them. Retail is more about the product."
From the Gap, Loda moved down the California coast to work for Taco
Bell, then a Pepsico company. Shortly after she arrived, Pepsico spun
off its restaurants, and she went with the newly-formed corporation.
"I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time,"
she says. "It was a $22 billion start-up." Communicating with
managers of myriad divisions in the new company was "a very large
endeavor, very exciting."
Staying in Southern California for one more job, Loda headed up human
resources at ARV Assisted Living, a 3,000-person company, before accepting
the job at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. Incredibly positive
and upbeat about all of her work experiences, Loda is especially thrilled
to be heading up human resources at the living history museum.
"If I ever had a dream job, this is it," she says. "I’m
going to be here for 20 years. I’m going to retire from this job.
Colonial Williamsburg is just such a special place. It’s a very mission-driven
organization." Her parents have just moved to Williamsburg, and her
husband, a physicist and trailing spouse, is at home in the area too.
While everyone is familiar with Colonial Williamsburg, the living
history museum, Loda explains that the foundation encompasses much
more. "We run five hotels, three golf courses, two clubhouses,
a catalog operation, retail outlets, a distribution center, and two
other museums," she says.
An article in the Wall Street Journal last week reported that Colonial
Williamsburg is substantially expanding its shopping area on the back
of the success of its retail operation, which pulls in nearly twice
the gross of the average shopping mall.
So Loda is responsible for retail clerks, golf pros, hotel housekeepers,
and waiters in addition to all of the costumed interpretive staff
visitors encounter going about daily life as it was lived during the
18th century. Also on her staff are silversmiths, blacksmiths, paddle
makers, and a host of other artisans practicing largely-lost crafts.
And then there are architects, curators, historians, librarians, and
conservators working away behind the scenes.
To add to the challenge, all of Loda’s employees, whether living in
the 18th century or the 21st, are doing so post 9/11, in a state of
orange alert, at a major tourist attraction in close proximity to
Washington, D.C. Here is a look at how she creates an environment
that soothes fears, and which is unfailingly welcoming to visitors,
and at the same time attractive enough to employees to ensure the
kind of job satisfaction that shines through on the hottest summer
day southern Virginia serves up.
for a nickel, or a dime, or a quarter," Loda says. "Wages
are not an issue. Period." As long as the wage is competitive,
it is not something that will send an employee out of the door. If
somebody is motivated enough to apply for a job, sit for an interview,
go through orientation, and then endure "new job hell," she
says, he is not going to jump ship because another employer is offering
a little better deal on wages.
Finding a job and making it through the period when all the people
and routines are unfamiliar takes "a huge emotional investment,"
Loda points out. Having made it that far, employees want to stay around.
a famous research study, Loda recounts. It took place some 25 years
ago, and nothing in the intervening years has contradicted it. In
the study, a large group of employees and a large group of managers
were asked to rank 10 items relative to job satisfaction. The items
the employees ranked one, two, and three, the managers ranked eight,
nine, and ten.
What the employees wanted was simple, says Loda. They wanted to know
exactly what they were to do; they wanted the tools to do the job;
and they wanted to be appreciated for doing it well. "The truth
doesn’t change over the years," the veteran HR professional has
found. Those three things are still what it takes to motivate and
retain good workers.
time with Marriott, Loda worked in the company’s corporate headquarters,
but toward the end of her stint, she was sent to turn around a hotel
experiencing rapid staff turnover. She and her team spent time talking
with the employees, and asking them what problems they were experiencing,
and what could make the problems better. They turned up things like
carts that wouldn’t go down the halls because their wheels were bent.
After listening to the employees, the staff promised to work on specific
problems, generally two at a time, and to get back to their staff
with solutions within three months.
Employee satisfaction soared, and turnover plunged. This approach,
in Loda’s opinion, is far better than the sweeping opinion surveys
many companies use. "They go through the hoo ha," she says,
"and then it goes into a drawer." Far better to talk to employees
one-on-one, or in small groups, ferret out a few problems, and then
promptly fix them.
Williamsburg, the key messages, says Loda, are "basic, but not
simplistic." Throughout the foundation, and all of its operations,
the core values are hospitality and courtesy — to guests and to
fellow employees — collaboration, and accountability or stewardship.
"We weave them into everything we do," says Loda, "and
they don’t change." Some organizations shift around, emphasizing
one set of values this year, and another next year. In Loda’s opinion,
it is far better to craft core values, and then to stick with them.
"It’s not `this year’s focus,’" says Loda.
when an employee chooses to ignore a core value? Loda doesn’t hesitate
even a second before saying, "We aggressively manage performance."
Translation: Transgress in a serious way, and you are out. Fast.
But, she continues, "there should be no surprises." There
are formal yearly evaluations, but supervisors are expected to provide
frequent feedback on performance. "It has to be ongoing,"
says Loda. "Every day."
has no duty to tell its workers how it is doing, and how world affairs
may affect it. A smart organization, however, will keep its workers
in the loop. "We’ve been talking non-stop about what is going
on in the world," says Loda. From the CEO down through the ranks
of supervision, there are frequent updates on how the war and fears
of terrorism affect the business and the security of Colonial Williamsburg.
"We don’t have an obligation," says Loda. "They don’t
need to know, but they want to know. We’re 90 miles south of Washington,
D.C. We hear the president recommending closing national monuments.
Our employees are concerned." Keeping employees informed in most
organizations is a bit easier than it is at Colonial Williamsburg,
where interpretive staff, living in a pre-dirty bomb world, are busy
tending sheep and making barrels on 300 acres. Their world, authentic
in every detail, is not furnished with computers, cell phones, or
— sans air conditioning and Instant Messaging — but the HR
strategy that encourages them to adopt their employer’s values should
work in the hotels along Route 1 and at the amusement parks at the
shore. As Loda enunciates the strategy, it sounds like plain old common
sense. She cheerfully admits as much, and adds: "Organizations
that have figured it out, "are organizations where people stay."
From the worst to among the nation’s best. With the
stroke of Governor DiFrancesco’s pen in 2001, the Garden State bootstrapped
itself from being one of the two most closed state governments (rivaling
Pennsylvania) to the most open. Taking effect only last July, the
Open Public Records Act states that all state, county, and municipal
documents are open to the public unless some previous statue specifically
forbids it. As the curtain of darkness and secrecy descends from the
federal level, New Jersey stands as one bright point of light. But
keeping this lamp lighted has taken incredible vigilance.
A panel discussion on Thursday, April 10, at 8:30 a.m. at the Somerset
Holiday Inn addresses the subject head-on: "Everything You Need
to Know about the Open Public Records Act." Cost: $309. Register
at 715-833-3959 or online at www.lorman.com Sponsored by Lorman Educational
Services, this seminar provides continuing legal education credits.
The discussion’s scope, however, will extend far beyond legal technicalities,
and should prove of value to government officials, sunshine watchdog
groups, anti-censorship librarians, and privacy activists.
The speakers list reads like a roster of individual rights advocates.
who sits on the ACLU’s national board and the New Jersey Privacy Study
serves as attorney for the New Jersey Press Association. Reporter
& Greiner represents Gannett Publishing, and attorney
was one of the initiators of the Open Public Records Act (OPRA).
Many of the panelists are also members of the New Jersey Foundation
for Open Government (NJFOG), an umbrella organization including the
League of Women Voters, the Society for Professional Journalists,
Common Cause, the ACLU, the New Jersey Public Research Organization,
and other organizations. The latest news and calendar of events involving
OPRA and similar issues can be found online at www.NJFOG.org. Barber
has listed her speaking engagements on www.graysonbarber.com
"The whole burden of proof has shifted," notes journalist
Tyrrell, who has worked for the Newark Star Ledger for 20 years. "Previously,
the individual had to prove to his government that he had the need
to know what it were doing and to see its documents. Now, state, county,
and local governments must turn over every paper requested unless
they can legally prove it is against public interest." He views
this as a giant step.
local school board’s proposal to cut art and physical education from
the curriculum. Your wife has always been suspicious of how the county
funds itself by just slipping its bill in with your property taxes.
Your young, long-haired son, who drives a red sports car, seriously
doubts that the state’s anti-profiling bill has the necessary teeth.
As concerned citizens, each of you has the right to access any transcripts,
budget documents, bills, voting records, even the records of reprimand
for that cop who keeps pulling you over.
Equally important, journalists have the right to receive, and report
on, government documents. If the lifestyle of a township administrator
seems suspiciously extravagant, an inquiring reporter can find out
his salary, or at least that position’s salary range. Additionally,
earnings of his spouse and household are available. Further, if the
local government has done comparative studies of pay scales for similar
positions around the state, these must be disclosed. If the township
has not done this research, chances are the local library can put
its fingers on the numbers.
to disclose a document faces a personal fine of $1,000 for the first
offense, $2,500 for the second, and $5,000 for the third. And recently
OPRA has gained additional teeth. Penalties for willful violation
may now include all of the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. This allows
the individual to legally pursue his information cost free.
New Jersey Press Association attorney Cafferty notes that OPRA makes
some definite judicial changes. Previously, individuals denied access
to government information had to go to the courts, where the judicial
system agreed to weigh each case, balancing private confidentially
against reasonable disclosure, and basing decisions on previous case
law. OPRA has changed precedent law to codified law. Everything, unless
specifically proved otherwise, must be open to the public. Additionally,
federal law can not supersede OPRA, and can not limit the state’s
ability to disclose the contents of its own documents.
up public meeting transcripts, but what about an individual’s DMV
files, tax information, and all the other personal information the
state has collected? The myth that you can phone up the Department
of Motor Vehicles and get all your neighbor’s personal records, is
exactly that. Back in l994, the federal government ended that personal
security breach with the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act. "Interestingly,"
says ACLU attorney Barber, "Virginia was the only state to contest
the bill because they were making so much money selling the lists
Sitting on the state’s newly formed Privacy Study Commission, Barber
seeks to limit both excessive governmental fact gathering and all
unnecessary personal disclosure. She is the first to champion OPRA
and the ability of libraries to provide uncensored information, but
she says this need not involve the sharing of personal data. "It
would be so simple to keep all that personal information unobtainable
in this computer age," she states. "On all those tax, and
license, and other information gathering forms, simply move all the
personal data into that gray area labeled `for administrative use
only,’ then program the computer to respect that."
Such a program exists in most New Jersey libraries. For years the
libraries have frustrated random searches by police and FBI agents
looking for a list of all the books a given patron has read. "In
the old days, we would have to personally fend off such unconstitutional
intrusions," says South Brunswick Library Director Lorraine Jackson
[also the wife of reporter Bart Jackson]. "Now we simply set our
computers to delete the loaning history of any book once it is returned.
It is now impossible for the self-styled censors to ferret out all
the readers of Fanny Hill."
Barber insists that similar, low-cost programs would protect all state
residents. "The ones who are really gong to hate our Privacy Study
Committee and lobby against it," she says, "are the data-mining
boys — the techies who deliberately go through the government’s
files and sell your data to the highest bidder."
put into effect over 400 proposed exceptions to public disclosure
shortly after OPRA became law. But the New Jersey Foundation for Open
Government prevented these restrictions. Nonetheless, says Tyrrell,
the attempt exposes a basic weakness in the law. "Legally, executive
order can disenfranchise this bill," he says. In effect, any official
could run to the governor, who might deny any disclosure to anyone.
Meeting Act was enacted. Known as the Sunshine Law, it stated that
every government board and commission meeting be open to the public.
Eighteen months ago, an addendum was issued. Now every public meeting
must set aside a minimum of 15 minutes for pubic comment. "This
gives the people a further voice in their own governings," states
It is cliche, but very true, that the free flow of information is
the life blood of democracy. OPRA works to keep the tap fully in the
— Bart Jackson
We are a lot E-smarter now. Few — and far behind
— are those business owners who merely dump the chore of website
building into the laps of young tech wizards and wait for sales to
Mastery of all that the Internet can do for a company, including some
lesser known tricks, is the subject of "How to Make an E-business
Plan," a seminar by
at 9 a.m. at the Mercer County Community College Conference Center
on the West Windsor campus. This seminar is part of a full-day conference
on Starting and Expanding a Small Business in the Age of the Internet
Cost. Cost: $189. Call 609-586-9446.
Miller, founder of Ewing-based Set Now Solutions, discusses the various
cyber elements that can be blended with other existing business media
"In the old days, businesses would walk into our shop and throw
money at us to get them up and webbing," recalls Miller. "The
web was a `me too — gotta have it’ thing." These days, however,
caution has set in. Clients come to Set Now Solutions seeking an investment.
They enter with definite goals and want to walk away knowing exactly
how much each procedure will net. Miller fully appreciates this approach.
A New Jersey native, Miller attended the College of New Jersey, earning
a B.A. in English. Hoping to set the world afire as a writer, she
started, as many writers do, creating technical copy for several firms.
While working to compose Bristol-Myers Squibb’s website, she learned
HTML, and first noticed how, as she puts it, "the web would level
the playing field for all size businesses." Marrying graphic production
artist Michael Miller, she pooled talents with him, and in l997 launched
Set Now Solutions, which helps firms, some with limited budgets, take
advantage of cyber opportunities.
Numerous elements can coalesce into any company’s E-business plan:
intra-office sites, newsletters, client-vendor matching links, target
advertising with follow up market surveys, and more. All of these
can give a company’s bottom line a boost — eventually. A big question
for many businesses is what do I need now versus what do I want to
have established three or five years down the road? Here is a guide
to choosing what Internet strategy to implement when.
initial step of pondering and prioritizing exactly what functions
you want performed. Do you seek foremost to expand a client roster,
or to retain old clients? How urgently, and in what order, do you
need market surveys, new product positioning, support systems, and
internal cost savings? The idea is to focus on needs, not tools. "Businesspeople
are always hot to build," Miller says. "We merely want them
to begin by fixing a blueprint, before running to the store and drooling
over table saws."
clients can easily find your site. If your site doesn’t show up in
the top three items under a search engine’s heading, fewer than 10
percent of those entering a search query will go to your site. If
you’re not on the top dozen, you’re hiding your expensive light in
a linen closet. Maximizing access entails a two-prong approach. Today,
28 percent of surveyed site seekers find firms by guess. They bypass
the search engine browser, and merely type in, for example, "Sarah
Miller" or "Set Now" and hope to click on that company’s
When choosing a web name, instead of being cute, go for the logical.
Remember, the person with whom you shook hands will probably only
remember your name or your firm’s name. Also, check to see if another
organization is using the web name you would like to trade under,
or mix-ups can occur. For example, if you type in "mercerchamber,"
you will be swiftly transported to a site in Wisconsin.
Secondly, you want to get your name in that top three on all search
engine listings. "This takes a thorough analysis of the search
engine," explains Miller, "and unlike the Yellow Pages, the
alphabet has nothing to do with it." A domain often gets placed
high on the list due to the frequency of the search word listed on
its home page. Zenith Plumbing may appear before Acme Plumbing because
the term "drain unclogging" appears 18 times on its opening
page. Solving this problem requires that Acme go back and survey potential
customers to find exactly what key words they use to reach its site.
Other placement factors include seniority. Five years is an eternity
in Internet time, and those who get online first usually appear high
up. Also, money talks. Some search engines accept payment for positioning.
the most first-time and repeat hits are those offering a wealth of
updated information. "Here’s reams of information, and, oh by
the way, we have a product which might help," has proved itself
the most attractive approach to site browsers. "An effective domain
can be set up for well under $15,000," insists Miller. "Figure
out how much profit a new client averages you, then figure your investment
In addition to proffering information on the website, links can be
established to online newsletters. This allows easier updating within
the confines of the newsletter, and a more simple method by which
clients can delve more deeply into specific subjects.
At the same time, the main website must be kept fresh, alive, and
changing. Certain things should stay fixed, such as the color schemes,
which should be the same as those of your product logo and print brochures.
But pictures, sidebars, and an array of short new items should keep
changing. Ideally you want to hear, "Yes, but have you seen their
tech support services because it is available around the clock. If
your rate of customer attrition has topped 10 percent, perhaps it
might pay to hire a technical service representative who could, via
instant messaging from anywhere, provide 24-hour service. Better than
the office phone service, which closes at 5 p.m., a laptop-toting
techie can be hired contractually, and can sit at home in his pajamas
keeping your customers satisfied. Yet again, it takes legwork from
your sales force to nose out exactly what customers need, so that
you can offer these solutions online.
initiated a "Save A Tree Campaign" whereby members receive
its newsletter online. This saves not only the cost of regularly mailing
the packets to members, but also allows for instant program registration.
The New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners has installed
a system that stores large packages of information online. Members
are informed of additions via E-mail or through a postcard. These
brief and intriguing heads-up notifications often create curiosity,
and entice association members or customers to log on to find out
more, and meanwhile, the organization has saved a bundle on printing
selling enhancement of body parts we never even owned. The rationale
for these indiscriminate E-mailings has been that — unlike broadcast
and print media — cyberspace is not amenable to targeted advertising.
To this Miller says "Bunk." Permission advertising on the
Internet has proved not only very cost effective, but also a positive
method of reaching untapped markets. One effective plan is to issue
invitations for clients and potential clients to sign up for your
online — or print — newsletter. If you aren’t ready for your
own newsletter, Miller recommends sponsoring the distribution of newsletters
belonging to organizations to which your customers belong.
Regional targeting can also save enormous amounts of response time.
If your firm only operates within the tri-state area, get your search
engine to block all responses from outside areas.
Not all of your E-business must go online at once. You can take a
giant plunge or cautiously wade in one step at a time. Whichever way,
profits exist for those who design, predict, and measure the return
on each stage of E-investment.
— Bart Jackson
Here’s how one person who works at the Carnegie Center
found her last two jobs — one at Environ, one at Simstar. She
took the U.S. 1 Business Directory, circled the companies with 70
companies or more, and made cold calls. "A lot of companies don’t
want to advertise their positions," she says, "but when they
saw my resume, they were interested."
The 2003-’04 edition of the U.S. 1 Business Directory is scheduled
to be distributed to each office location that receives this newspaper
on Wednesday, April 16. It will be available at bookstores for $14.95.
It includes more than 5,500 company listings, including contact names,
fax numbers, number of employees, E-mail and URL addresses, and revenues
The U.S. 1 listings are excellent for companies and nonprofits, but
if you are looking for a government position, you may want a more
specialized book. Here are some that we have perused:
Piscataway 08854-4327, 800-663-1563; fax, 800-665-4995,
It costs $295 plus $17 shipping and is available on CD-ROM. The 2002
edition has 702 pages and includes state government (legislative and
judicial), county and municipal government, local school districts
and colleges, and the various authorities. It also has biographies
of Congressional delegates and some limited information on federal
departments and agencies.
An appendix has historical data plus articles on how to do business
with the state and federal government, a list of chambers of commerce,
hospitals, and population statistics. The strength of this directory
are the long lists of names and phone numbers, though some of the
mayors’ names we checked were outdated.
Reference Guide: New Jersey by Eatontown-based Towndata.com Network
Inc. It presents names of key officials, real estate values, income
profiles, school system budgets, demographic break-outs, housing data,
library data, summaries of leading occupations and industries, average
work commute times, municipal population and expenditure trends and
breakdowns, and tons of other stuff for every municipality in the
state. The strength of this directory is that each municipality gets
its own page.
The 2003 edition of this guide is due in March. Call 800-242-5511
or 732-643-1212, or visit www.towndata.com
Legislature. It’s the short squat red book that has been used by officialdom
since 1872. Published by Skinder-Strauss it has everything from election
returns to the composition of every state board, plus all the phone
numbers you need. The compact book is almost 11,000 pages and will
be published in May. The late-in-the-year publication date means that
it has the current staff changes. Cost: $50 plus $5.50 for shipping
and $140 as a CD-ROM. Call 609-396-2669, extension 2, Box 2150 Trenton
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.