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State as a Business: Your Dollars at Work
These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on February 18, 1998. All rights reserved.
From Smith Barney to Bill Clinton, the issue of
character in the workplace seems to be hanging on the tip of the
of the national consciousness. Can character in the workplace be
Steven Menzel thinks so, and he is trying to make a sideline
business out of applying a little integrity to the daily grind. "I
think there are tremendous answers to many problems in the business
community right here," he says.
Menzel, a 36-year-old former drill sergeant and father of three, is
the proprietor of Clean Right, a successful Ewing-based janitorial
firm. His recent start-up, Master Qualities, specializes in teaching
managers and employees the virtues of character (609-538-0556). The
basis of his program, called Character First, is the idea that "as
you emphasize character, skills and achievement will improve,"
This idea of training for character is derived from his experience
schooling his children at home. "My philosophy for schooling our
children is that if they have above-board character qualities and
are able to read and write well and do math they will be able to take
on any kind of job that can come their way."
The Character First concept is the brainchild of the Character
Institute in Oklahoma City (200 miles west of Little Rock, Arkansas).
This training promises to deliver "morale, productivity,
trust, cooperation, and improvement of the communication
At each session, one of 49 different "character qualities"
are stressed. They include truthfulness, humility, punctuality,
gratefulness, tolerance, thriftiness, loyalty, and cautiousness. Less
obvious qualities such as meekness, deference, obedience, and love
also get emphasized.
Although he says that this program is non-religious, Menzel exhibits
the fervor and urgency of a missionary. "Truthfulness begins by
being honest with ourselves," he says. "It’s an innate part
of our nature to desire a good reputation. It’s one of the reasons
we’re able to look people in the eye."
What do other trainers think of his program? "I would add one
word to his list: `manipulation,’" says a corporate trainer who
wished to remain anonymous. "I personally know that if people
tried to step in and start teaching me what my values should be I
would be offended. Most people would be resentful. I have tremendous
character and you know what? Nobody taught it to me."
It’s fine to character-train children, but trying to teach adults
good character is akin to teaching old dogs new tricks, suggests
Hawver, president of the Hawver Group, the organizational
firm based at 2 Research Way. "Training adults on character I
would think would be tough," says Hawver. "But what you can
do is get them to realize the limitations and some of the behaviors
associated with negative characters. Most of the evidence suggests
that character is developed well before the adult years. It can be
sensitized and it can be refined, but I don’t know if you can
change those things we call `character.’ They’re pretty deeply
Hawver quotes Woodrow Wilson: "If you will think about what you
ought to do for other people your character will take care of itself.
Character is a by-product, and any man who devotes himself to its
cultivation in his own case will become a selfish prig."
But for Menzel, training for character is rooted in original sin —
proof that it should be "taught rather than caught," he
"I know that every heart is deceitfully wicked," he adds.
"When you have a child, you will find out that they are born
They don’t need to be taught to lie."
But he isn’t spiteful towards his detractors. In fact, he welcomes
them. "All good things meet great opposition," he says. "I
am thrilled that this is meeting great opposition — now I know
I’m on the right path."
Menzel emphatically asserts that character does not have to be
by parents. "That is part of my faith, as a Christian," he
says. "Really the lessons I’m learning in the training of my
As I train my children I see the deficiencies in my own character
that causes me to step back. I have to be sensitive."
And despite all of the questions about its viability, Menzel’s side
project is off to a promising start. He recently got a commitment
from Atlantic Business Products, at 572 Whitehead Road, to start a
character training program there. "I clean their building,"
he says. "Now they’re going to have the man who cleans their
come in and teach them character." Maybe Menzel should consider
bringing his mops to Washington.
— Peter J. Mladineo
<B>Meredith Gould has written a book that is
about running an office in the home but is really about running your
life. She draws on all her own life experiences (copy editor, yoga
teacher, editor, and ad agency maven) and all her past-life contacts
for a nifty 156-page paperback "Tips for Your Home Office,"
(Storey Publishing, 1998, $14.95). Gould signs her book Sunday,
22, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Bookmarks in Montgomery Center, Route
An alumna of Queens College with a Ph.D. in sociology from New York
University, she taught at Rutgers for 10 years, was manager of the
business humanities project at the state department of higher
was vice president of account services at a Princeton-based public
relations firm, and taught yoga. In 1989 she opened her own office
in the home for market communications, freelance writing, and
She is married to Richard S. Ruch, former dean of Rider School of
Business Administration, now dean of academic affairs at DeVry
in North Brunswick.
U.S. 1 readers who remember Gould’s acerbic treatise on vegetarian
dining alternatives will recognize the breezy style that brightens
an otherwise boring list of nuts-and-bolts tips: "Remember to
get a phone with a mute button so you can tell your dog to shut up
without clients hearing you go ballistic."
Gould also shares self-help wisdom that is useful to anyone in any
size office: "Beware of taking on someone else’s definition of
a time waster. It may be precisely the activity that keeps you
and sane." Her caustic descriptions of P.I.T.A. (pain in the ass)
clients will resonate with anyone who has ever had a client in a
large or small.
Figure out how you learn, she suggests, in order to organize your
to write out a "To Do" list, using writing instruments and
that have tactile appeal. Desktop files or shallow desk trays will
probably work well for you. Print out e-mail and file the hard copy."
writing out a weekly master list of everything you need to do. Include
a special section in which you list your top three goals. At the end
of each week, highlight what still needs to be done, or simply copy
it onto the next week’s master list. Keeping desktop files or desk
trays within sight will be important for you."
information, instructions, or tasks in your sight line and flight
path. Use colors and stickers to code what needs to be done and when.
Month-at-a-glance calendars will work well for you, as will electronic
systems with lots of icons. Electronic filing systems for documents
and correspondence should help."
an electronic system that allows you to add sound effects to whatever
is on the screen."
loud and immediately start cultivating visual and kinesthetic
yourself before you see the copy machine salesman, whether to buy
an answering machine or use monthly voice mail, and why narrow tower
bookcases work better than regular kind.
Of billable time, she writes: "It’s perfectly okay to charge
for the proportion of administrative time that you spend on their
account. The rest of the time you spend futzing around with your
you’ll have to eat. Still, you can account for it when pricing your
Remember to include in your rates, says Gould, percentage increases
for rush jobs, client changes (after a certain point), running hither
and thither (especially if thither is far away), and late payments.
"Tailor the style of your price quote to the work culture of your
customer. Corporations won’t wince at per diem rates and may, in fact,
dismiss you as bush league if you trot out an hourly rate. Small
however, generally plotz when they hear the words `per diem,’
to pay by the hour even if the hours total up to — you guessed
it — your day rate."
All the tips are nicely indexed, and the book has line drawings and
boxes (quotes from other home office users and under-the-breath
from Gould) on nearly every page.
Gaps are few, but I found no major lecture of the importance of
and onsite computer back-ups. I will bet Meredith Gould has never
lost her hard drive.
— Barbara Fox
In an Information Age, what is the value of information?
Michael Lesk isn’t sure. "Part of the trouble is there is
now so much information that much of it goes ignored by default,"
Another part of the trouble, warns Lesk, is that very few purveyors
of information have found a way to do it profitably online. And, the
few cyberprofits that do exist are not anywhere near the size of those
achieved in other business arenas. "The Wall Street Journal
Edition claims to be most successful website selling subscriptions
for information," says Lesk. "They claim to have 150,000
That is obviously very small compared with the print run" more
than 2 million.
Lesk, who recently left Bellcore to be director for information and
intelligent systems at the National Science Foundation in Arlington,
Virginia, gives a keynote address at Rutgers University’s forum on
research in information science on Thursday, February 20, at 1 p.m.
at the SCILS building, 4 Huntington Street in New Brunswick. Call
Lesk started working with computers immediately upon getting a Ph.D
in chemistry and physics from Harvard University in 1969. "The
first computer I worked on was bigger than the office I am now
he says. "It cost $3 million. I was paid $1.25 an hour."
From 1969 until 1983, Lesk worked at Bell Labs in Murray Hill as a
computer science researcher, and joined Bellcore in Morristown when
it was formed in 1984. Just last month he went on leave from Bellcore,
where he is manager of the computer science research group, to join
the NSF. "This is a very important opportunity to organize what
should be the funding of research in the U.S.," he says. "How
do you try to emphasize to the country the value of all the research
that’s being done?"
Lesk now concerns himself with the challenges of finding the right
economic models for information sources. "We’re all looking for
what is the model for a successful publisher on the Web," he says.
"Two years ago everybody said advertising, but advertising doesn’t
seem to be it right now. There is no economic model. What are we
to do, give away services on the Web?"
But Web publishers’ problems aren’t anywhere near in scope to those
of a library, he reports. The usefulness of libraries is quickly being
eclipsed by the ‘Net because college students are coming to rely on
the Web almost exclusively as an information dispenser. "There
is this an attitude now, `I don’t do libraries, give me a URL,’ says
Lesk. "This is surprisingly common among undergraduates."
College students may be adept at finding online information in bulk,
but, Lesk laments, they are also wont to accept inferior information
sources for the respective cost savings. "A lot of undergraduates
out there using the Web would rather have junky information free than
good information for money," he says. "What happens is
will have to teach students how to evaluate things they see on the
Web. Libraries don’t take every book published. You’ve got to look
at what it is. You’ve got to make a judgment. That’s a skill."
The jury is still out on whether the information dispensed on the
Web is actually worth money, and if so, how much. "Most of the
information that was traditionally sold for money is not what’s found
on the Web," says Lesk. "The problem we have is we don’t have
a useful pricing measure. But some studies indicate there is really
value out there."
The dilemma facing libraries and other potential information vendors
at the moment is finding justification for charging for services that
most people assume should be free. "I don’t know the answer but
every library says we see the demand for online catalogs and CD-ROMs.
We need some economic system of charging some people something that
would balance the accounts. So I would really like the Wall Street
Journal to strike it rich on the Web. However I haven’t yet seen
— Peter J. Mladineo
Open any Help Wanteds section and you’ll see anywhere
from one to two gazillion job openings for information technology
professionals screaming for your attention. Hundreds of ads tell about
astonishingly well-paid jobs for geeks the world over — from
geeks to database geeks to networking geeks.
The problem is those slots aren’t being filled. "There are not
a lot of people who are technical who know how to sell themselves
properly," says Mike Andrus, president of Andrus Associates,
a Langhorne-based IT human resources firm. "Everybody is looking
for high tech staffing specialists."
Andrus gives a presentation on selling yourself to the IT world on
Wednesday, February 25, at Borders Books in Langhorne. Call
"Techies" in Andrus’ parlance usually don’t have an inkling
how to sell themselves. "The techies couldn’t get the jobs at
one time because they hibernated and they were working on their
and not their people skills," he says. "The top people in
the field have a different skill set which differentiates themselves,
which is they’re salable. I don’t think the technical professional
can rely on someone else these days. They have to change the way they
market themselves, which is professionally, like a doctor or a lawyer
Andrus Associates, started in 1994, trains, certifies, and counsels
IT professionals about their careers. It has recently moved to 6,000
square feet at Oxford Plaza in Langhorne, and has a staff of 70.
Two of the things "techies" have had trouble with in the past,
are communication and appearance, Andrus reports. "You should
appear professional," he says. For him, "professional"
doesn’t have too complex a connotation: he defines it as "looking
The best way to improve your communication with potential employers
is to make your resume stand out. To do this, Andrus recommends
a summary. Use lots of adjectives about your vision of your career,
list your work ethics, and your career goals there. "They are
differentiators," he says. "When I see a beautiful resume
with a lot of differentiators, I say, `Get this guy in here.’"
Also important to geek job seekers is knowing the hot skills du
jour. Currently, Microsoft NT has pretty much replaced Novell as
the operating system of choice, says Andrus. "And Oracle is real
big. Certifications are where it’s at now."
Recently subsumed by the Mercer County Chamber, the
Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber will be honoring black
executives of corporate America on Thursday, February 19, 5 to 8 p.m.
at Maxine’s at 120 South Warren Street. Call 609-393-5933. This list
of honorees includes Larry Daniels of the Hyatt Regency, Ed
Hill of Janssen Pharmaceutica, Dorinda Jenkins-Glover of
Summit Bank, Preston Pinkette III, of PNC Bank, Shirley M.
Ward of PSE&G, and Steve Young of Merrill Lynch.
Seizing on a desire to bring all of the county’s chambers under one
roof, the Mercer Chamber has made the MTAAC one of its divisions.
Other divisions include the Lawrence, Hamilton, West Windsor, Ewing,
and Trenton chambers. County officials are also trying to snatch up
the Korean American Business Association, the Latino Chamber, and
Mercer County Business Association (formerly the Mercer County Black
The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area will
hold a road issues forum on Thursday, February 26, at 7:30 p.m. in
the Woodrow Wilson School on the university campus. Jack
associate executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning
Commission, will discuss "Best Kept Secrets of Regional
"It seems that not a week goes by in this area without a
issue in the news," says Peggy Kilmer, the league’s
director. "The Millstone Bypass, truck traffic, and S92 are the
major topics, but the league wants the public to learn who the key
players are and how to navigate through the transportation maze."
Established in 1965, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
(DVRPC) provides comprehensive, coordinated planning for the orderly
growth and development of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania bi-state region.
As an interstate, intercounty, and intercity agency, DVRPC advises
on regional policy and capital funding issues concerning
economic development, environmental concerns, and land use. DVRPC
aims to foster cooperation among member governments and agencies,
private sector organizations, and the public. It works closely with
state departments of transportation, community affairs, and
protection; the federal government; and regional transportation
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, multi-issue, political
organization. Membership is open to all citizens of voting age, male
and female. The Princeton Area League has members from Princeton,
Montgomery, West Windsor, Plainsboro, and South Brunswick. For
call 609-252-1864 or 609-683-8075.
<B>Summit Bank staffers are volunteer tutors and
mentors for 20 sixth graders from Trenton’s Hedgepeth Williams Middle
School as part of a Kids Intervention with Kids in Schools program
run by the Children’s Home Society. The bank buses the children to
the Carnegie Center for weekly Monday tutoring sessions, and bank
staffers have raised funds for special trips to the Liberty Science
Center and other field trips.
Tutors working on homework assignments and academic areas and discuss
vocations in banking and finance. "Students are helped to plan
for their future and to develop sophisticated skills to prepare for
high-tech, high-skill employment," says Steve Matthews of
Summit Bank. For information on how to establish a tutoring program
at your work site call Mike Whartenby at 609-987-3558.
department of the Trenton Public Library, died, he left $36,000
to the library. "He amassed a sizeable fortune," says
E. Coumbe , library director, "and we think it may have been
through his judicious use of the library’s business information. The
older members of the staff remember him as a quite frequent browser
through investment information." Others who have profited from
use of a public library, Coumbe suggests, would do well to share their
wealth in a similar fashion. "Any kind of wealth shared with a
public library shares with all citizens."
Corrections or additions?
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