Wednesday, February 21
Leave Mutual Funds Out Of the Nest Egg
Fran Buckley, asset management specialist for A.G. Edwards & Sons Forrestal Village office, got started in the brokerage business by investing his own money. He had a college job at General Motors, where his dad was an executive, and his older sister worked in investments, so he decided to put those college earnings into stocks. “You don’t start off being good at it,” he says. “I bought things that made sense to me, and I always plotted how the stock was doing every day on graph paper.”
That early foray into stock investments while earning his bachelor of science in industrial engineering at Marquette University in 1988 was the beginning of his signature approach to stock purchase. “I was already developing a way to objectively look at stocks,” he says. Most people get too emotional about their money, leading to poor investment decisions, but Buckley’s engineering background has given him a “rational, logical, unemotional” perspective on the market that, he says, has “made me a success.”
Buckley speaks on a panel on “Tapping into Your Nest Egg: What to Do When It’s Time to Spend It” on Wednesday, February 21, at 5:30 p.m. at A.G. Edwards’ offices at 136-150 Main Street, Forrestal Village. For information, call 609-951-0900.
Buckley got his Series 7 license, qualifying him to trade corporate securities, in 1989 and went to work for Olde Discount Stock Brokers, which is now a part of H&R Block. He then ran a hedge fund for four years before joining AG Edwards in March, 2003. He was born in Warren, Ohio, to a family of nine children, and notes that his stay-at-home mom “worked harder” than his dad.
Before tapping into the family nest egg, that pot of retirement money must be built through a careful investment strategy. Buckley’s specialty is advising people on how to create portfolios that will allow them to maintain their lifestyles when they stop working. His strategies include:
Avoid mutual funds. Buckley notes that mutual funds have management fees. “When they say ‘no load,’” he says, “they have management expenses, but you don’t see them.” If a mutual fund has, say, a half-percent management fee, then as the stocks grow in value, the fee also grows.
Purchase blue chip stocks. This is what the mutual funds do. Almost every mutual fund, says Buckley, owns General Electric, but investors can easily purchase this stock and similar blue chips on their own. If you figure $100 per transaction to purchase 100 shares and then hold the stock for five to seven years, the purchase fee is negligible. “Typically in a portfolio you want to do 60 to 70 percent good, solid, dividend-paying blue chips,” he says, “stocks like AT&T, IBM, General Electric, or General Motors that have a long history of paying and raising dividends.”
Look for dividends. Dividends help the stockholder live through times when the market is not doing well. Getting dividends is like collecting rent in the real estate market. “You succeed in real estate because you collect rent on a property,” says Buckley. The cash flow allows the owner to keep a property for a longer period, until it has increased in value. Similarly, he continues, “if you are paid to hold a stock, you can live with the volatility of the stock market.” Dividends are also important sources of income for people who are retired or in transition to retirement.
Select aggressive growth stocks with particular characteristics. Usually a portfolio should be made up of about 30 percent aggressive growth stocks, although this probably should be higher for younger people. To identify the best growth stocks, Buckley screens the market for companies that have grown 20 percent or more for a three to five-year period and have very little debt.
He also wants the management to own a good portion of the stock, so that they have a personal stake in the company. Finally, he looks for some institutional ownership, because, he explains, “they get better information than you or me.” If there is a problem, an institutional investor will “find out about it more quickly and get out before you do.”
Use charts. “I’m also a technical guy,” says Buckley, “so I use charts and graphs to determine points where we get in. I’m looking for an increase in volume and the stock moving out of the range it’s been stuck in.” If a stock rises from the range it has traded at for a long time, on very heavy volume, he continues, “it means something new and exciting is happening.” Before looking at a chart, he has studied the stock’s fundamentals. But the chart helps him figure out the right time to get into the market for a particular stock.
Include commodity exposure as a hedging strategy. “Because commodities do well in a high-inflation time,” says Buckley, “they provide some protection in an inflationary environment.” His reasoning is that as the economies of countries with huge populations like China and India grow, commodity values should increase. As China consumes more resources, for example, their prices should rise, as has happened to the price of oil. And, of course, if there is a terrorist attack or other catastrophe, the price of gold goes way up. Buckley suggests that portfolios include about a 10-percent investment in commodities.
Whereas mutual funds are particularly vulnerable to difficult periods in the stock market because they are “in constant competition to be fully invested,” with his strategy, he says, “our protection is the discipline of selling at a 10 or 15-percent decrease.” And even if the cash is sitting in a money market and earning one percent, he adds, “that’s better than losing 50 percent as some people did between 2000 and 2002.”
— Michele Alperin
Thursday, February 22
MTAACC Celebrates Minority Successes
It is said that Sunday is the most segregated day in America, as people of different faiths go off in different directions. But business Monday may not be far behind. In Trenton alone are black, Hispanic, Chinese, Asian, Indian, and Korean chambers of commerce. All of which begs the question, is the goal of mainstreaming minority businesses going upstream?
To celebrate the community’s successes and discuss its obstacles, the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce is holding its annual awards reception and conference on Thursday, February 22, at 10 a.m. at the Trenton Marriott at Lafayette Yard. Cost: $135. Visit www.mtaacc.org.
The morning consists of two panels, “Paths to Success: Entrepreneurs’ Perspective” and “Black Chambers of Commerce Executives.” MTAACC president John Harmon hosts the event. Richard Speights, director, Minority and Small Business Division, Mississippi Development Authority, and Harry Alford, co-founder of the National Black Chamber of Commerce are providing keynote addresses.
Harmon is one of the first to call for unity among chambers of commerce, and businesses, yet he is equally ardent in championing the need for the separate MTAACC. A native of Trenton, he is the son of factory workers. For a short time Harmon’s father also owned a Trenton trucking business. He attended public schools in the city, graduating from Trenton High in 1978, followed by an associate’s degree at Mercer County Community College. In 1983 he earned a bachelor’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson. He worked for Chemical Bank for nine years, establishing that bank’s affordable housing loan program. He has been president of the MTAACC since l999.
African Americans comprise 12 percent of the nation’s population and put a total of $850 billion annually into the economy. If taken as a nation, that would rank African Americans in the world’s top 15 GNPs — above Australia and only slightly below Canada. “All we want is what we have always wanted — to participate in this economy in some non-humiliating way,” says Harmon.
Harmon and Alford both say achieving this goal entails a coordinated separatism among chambers. It is important for all of the chambers to act together, but it is also important to focus on each minority community’s businesses. Membership in MTAACC confers membership in the U.S. Federal Chamber of Commerce and in other area chambers. But differing networks of concerns are seen in each chamber’s agenda.
Beyond owners. Few chambers of commerce spend a lot of time avidly discussing how they can raise working people’s salaries, but this is a constant topic at MTAACC meetings. “It’s really a no brainer,” says Harmon. “By making the black community more competitive and better salaried, we bring buying power to black businesses.” MTAACC has also allied itself with city efforts to lure large employers back into town, reasoning that they will outsource contracts to chamber members.
Mississippi’s GO Zone. To help repair Katrina’s destruction along Mississippi’s coastal area the federal government has poured an estimated $5 billion into the state. Speights has worked to ensure that a portion of this money would flow to minority businesses. Having registered 2,500 small businesses in his division, Speights has worked to get these companies over $1.1 billion in contracts since July, 2004. “About $500 million of this was earmarked for Katrina clean up, the rest was standard procurement,” says Speights.
Encouraged by the area’s African American chamber, and by Speights himself, Mississippi designated the state’s coast the “Gulf Opportunity” or GO Zone. In this disaster area, minority businesses would, as the governor put it, “be encouraged to grow and reach full potential while providing technical assistance.”
For three small, African-American firms, this GO Zone proved to be a launching pad. When the federal General Services Administration sought 3,000 temporary shelters for Katrina victims, Speights hustled around, and found three then-small business owners. Together they delivered the initial load of 17-foot travel trailers to house disaster victims, and followed this delivery with many more. In the end they relieved enormous suffering, and each won over $100 million in contracts.
Target nurturing. Speights views the 2,500 businesses in his small and minority register with a paternal interest. “We are kind of like a fish tank,” he says. We want to incubate each of these companies, educate them into the governmental bidding network, and then set them free to go on their own.”
Once these companies, most of whom are minority owned, are satisfactorily established, Speights sees the African American chamber as the next logical helping hand. He is now working with the National Black Chamber and the Surety & Fidelity Association of America to develop a bonding technical assistance program for the minority construction companies working on the Katrina clean up.
Says Speights: “Of course great strides are continually being made through the U.S. Chamber, but organizations like the Black Chamber are, I believe, able to act more swiftly with more energy and focus.” — Bart Jackson
On the Waterfront
It’s not who you know, but who knows you — and likes and appreciates you — that counts. At some point, whether executive or entrepreneur, there comes a time where top talent and credentials are not enough. You’ve got to have acceptance from the business community. While as vital as capitalization or training, acceptance is generally gained less directly. And some groups have a lot easier time being ushered into the inner chambers.
Attorney Sheila Maddox has had a long career of succeeding in fields where African American women are less than common sights. Now, relying on her expertise and 25 years of business savvy, she is seeking acceptance in the rigidly insider industry of port commerce.
Maddox details her new firm’s emergence at the Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce’s annual awards reception and half-day conference on Thursday, February 22, at 10 a.m. at the Trenton Marriott. Cost: $135. Visit www.mtaacc.org. Maddox is part of the morning panel “Paths to Success: An Entrepreneur’s Perspective.”
She is joined by moderator Monique King-Viehland, director of small business development in Governor Corzine’s newly created Office of Economic Growth; William Watson, founder of IBS CompreCorp, an electric and telecommunications reseller; Maurice Stone, cofounder of Intrepid Holdings; and Phil Wiltkins, author of “Own Your Own Business, Own Your Own Life.”
“I have a fear of absolutely nothing — except flying,” says Maddox, the daughter of a jet pilot. Raised in a typically nomadic military home, Maddox and her family finally came to rest at McGuire Air Force Base. She attended Amherst College, earning a liberal arts degree in 1980, and then took her law degree from the University of California Berkeley with an emphasis in taxation.
Maddox joined the international law firm of Thelen Reid in San Francisco. Later she worked for Loeb & Loeb attorneys in Los Angeles, then KPMG, where she consulted in the film industry, and Citigroup. She came to New Jersey to work as a financial advisor for Merrill Lynch.
She is married to Winston Maddox, who teaches computer science at Mercer County Community College.
Two years ago Maddox got together with two partners and formed the Global Alliance Group, a venture capital and consulting company. Her friend Pedro McKnight, a chemical engineer and international VC consultant, served as CEO while retired Naval captain and attorney Randy Schmidt took the COO slot. Maddox served as general counsel. “It was a really fun culmination of what we all had been doing for others the past 20 years,” she says.
As an advisor for Merrill Lynch, Maddox had been setting up investments with an eye toward taxation for a host of clients. She had gained analytical expertise in making the right pick. “So much of being an entrepreneur is just running into the right people,” says Maddox. “I have been very fortunate to meet a lot of good people in the right situations over the years. Global has become a continuation of this.”
It is one thing to grow cashews of top quality and to get good contracts. It is quite another to take those nuts from the farm in India to the shelves in ShopRites all along the East Coast. So, not long after partnering with Global Alliance, Maddox connected with VILL, an India-based maritime logistics firm.
As far as it went, VILL did a fine job of getting its clients’ products off the farm to the dock, past all the export processes, into the right kind of warehouse, onto a feeder vessels, and finally onto an oceangoing container transport vessel. It was an incredible feat of logistics to achieve at competitive pricing. However, VILL offered no services once the ships docked in American waters. Here Maddox stepped forward to lend a hand.
Forming INDUSA, Maddox named McKnight as CFO and brought on Schmidt with his expertise in maritime logistics and law. “It has been a fascinating experience,” Maddox says, “I have learned more about maritime and land logistics, along with all of its amazing laws and codes, than I ever imagined I could.” Thus far, INDUSA is launched and running, but as with many start-ups, it is having its challenges.
The big hurdle Maddox and INDUSA now face is finding a port. They have been trying to establish a presence in either Port Elizabeth or Port Newark, or secondarily anywhere along the East Coast. But it isn’t easy to get a berth.
“No, I don’t think it’s being black or female,” she says. “I have never really experienced any prejudice of that type in my career. Dealing with ports is merely a matter of being inside or outside. The insiders have a vested interested in keeping themselves in.”
Maddox remains confident, however that she can find a port on the Gulf coast and that INDUSA will thrive.
From another angle. Husbands and wives do not always agree. Often spouses are witnesses to pains that the involved person tends to shrug off. Winston Maddox says that his wife protests too much about never encountering bias or a glass ceiling. “The glass ceiling is alive and well,” he says. Most people are not bigoted, but even a minority of prejudiced people can halt upward career progress and can thwart business plans. “The trouble is that comments at a cocktail party lead to decisions in the board room,” he says.
Whether one’s take is “inside versus outside,” a glass ceiling, or downright race and gender prejudice, it’s just bad business to embrace it. Companies do not expand by being exclusive. Rather, like Maddox herself, they thrive on reaching out, granting acceptance, and making connections that launch them onto ever new ventures.
— Bart Jackson
Strength In Regional Partnerships
For Thomas G. Morr, president and chief executive officer of Select Greater Philadelphia, the area ranging from Mercer County in New Jersey to Newcastle County in Delaware constitutes a single economic region.
A few years ago, says Morr, the CEO Council for Growth did a “Journey to Work” study to determine commuting patterns between area jurisdictions and used it to help define what he calls the Greater Philadelphia region. “If you go up in an airplane,” he claims, “you can see the natural boundaries of the metropolitan region around Philadelphia.” The region would appear as a more urban area in contrast to the suburban and rural areas separating this region from the northern New Jersey metropolitan area.
But acknowledging that this is a region is not enough. Morr says that it is critical “to make people aware that this region, in terms of global competitiveness, is the unit of competition.”
“By defining the region,” Morr says, “it makes a stronger story to tell to interest companies from elsewhere to come here.” And the same goes for businesses already in the region considering an expansion rather than a move elsewhere.
Morr is speaking at a joint program of the Greater Philadelphia, Mercer and Princeton Regional chambers of commerce on Thursday, February 22, at 8 a.m. at the Nassau Inn. Cost: $25. Call 609-924-1776.
The program focuses on the positive economic growth of the Philadelphia region’s higher education institutions as well as a business volunteer initiative by Select Greater Philadelphia. The moderator is Suzanne Svizeny from Wachovia, and the other speakers include Ernie Bell of Wakefern Food Corporation, Joe Montemarano of Princeton University, Thomas Wilfrid of Mercer County Community College, Lauren Denney of the University Medical Center at Princeton, and Dan Fitzpatrick of Bank of America.
“Ultimately companies pick what is in their best interest,” says Morr, who leads Select Greater Philadelphia, the regional economic development marketing organization created by the merger of Greater Philadelphia First and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The organization, which reports to a board called the CEO Council for Growth, works with directors of 11 county economic development organizations, including Charles Hill of the Mercer County Office of Economic Opportunity.
Morr sees his job as helping businesses to understand the opportunities available in the region. “We try to work with county economic development offices to help companies get the best information we can give about the region and each of its parts,” he says, “so they can choose what makes sense for their businesses.”
When thinking about whether to stay or relocate, says Morr, businesses may be looking at a number of issues: proximity to specific clients or suppliers; access to a road network and airports; the desire of the chief executive officer to live in a particular place; the tax structure; and educational resources.
In Mercer County, for example, educational institutions can be a big draw. The county has both a top research university and a strong community college. The training offered by community colleges has been particularly crucial. “In the early 90s,” Morr explains, “many companies stopped running regular training programs.” Often they look to community colleges to fill that gap.
Morr cites a study a year ago by the CEO Council: “Companies have lots of access to entry level workers, with 88 colleges and universities in the region, but it’s much tougher to find people with five to seven years of experience in particular niches.” As a result, companies are turning to the community college system to help train people to fill particular niches.
Select Greater Philadelphia works to raise the region’s profile and improve its image so that companies will expand or relocate here, thereby growing jobs and opportunities. Its efforts include county breakfast series, which culminate in a state of the region event. This effort originated with a meeting in Cherry Hill between the governors of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. At the county breakfasts, now in their second year, the organization is trying to help define this region and to explore its various aspects. The theme of this year’s programs relates to the importance of colleges and universities and their impact on the region as producers of a top-quality workforce, as business enterprises in and of themselves, and as a source of innovation and entrepreneurship for companies in this area.
Business ambassador program. Who better than regional business leaders to talk about the advantages of this region? Select Greater Philadelphia has created a business ambassador program and produced simple marketing tools to support it. One is a DVD where the chief executive officers of Campbell Soup, Vanguard, and Dupont talk about why their companies are here. Morr notes that Campbell is the latest New Jersey company to make the decision to stay where it is in Camden City and to expand by creating an office park around its campus.
Libraries, both physical and electronic. Select Greater Philadelphia’s research department has developed lots of information about the region. “Years ago,” says Morr, “a company or consultant would write and ask a series of questions, give us a month, and we’d send a book. Now it’s tomorrow afternoon, and if you can’t do that, you won’t be competitive.”
Morr turns out to be the right person to help persuade businesses that the Philadelphia region is where it’s at economically. After growing up in Wooster, Ohio, where his father was a dentist, and getting a bachelor’s degree in government and communications at Ohio University in Athens, Morr went to law school at American University in Washington, D.C.
His first law position, as a trial lawyer, is what he believes prepared him for the rest of his career. As a trial lawyer, he says, “you have to build a case, develop the facts, and organize them in a way that can convey your case persuasively.”
Morr defines persuasion as “marshalling the facts to make a case to encourage someone to do something,” and he believes that persuasion is the common theme running through all of his work experiences. He has run political campaigns, worked on Capitol Hill, run a nonprofit that attracted airlines to Dulles Airport, developed commercial real estate for the largest property owner at Tysons Corner, and headed Washington, D.C.’s, economic development program.
Like the Washington economic region, the Philadelphia economic region is not a single city, located within a single state. If it were, says Morr, then the city’s economic development office would handle marketing issues. But since this region covers so many jurisdictions, in three states, the business community decided two and a half years ago to raise money to fund Select Philadelphia First over four years, “to attract companies and grow the regional economy.” They raised $16 million, and funding from the private sector covers 90 percent of the organization’s expenses.
Morr used to run a similar organization working with 26 jurisdictions in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C., to market the Washington, D.C., region. “When they were looking for someone to organize this effort,” he says, “they thought someone who had worked in a tristate area would be beneficial.” — Michele Alperin
Home, Castle, & The Public Good
Just what can the government do with my land, and when can they take it away?
Such issues fired the American Revolution and have been battled in courtrooms ever since. Terms like “eminent domain” — the right of government to seize property for the public good — and “blight,” a somewhat nebulous designation that can mean that a block of a neighborhood is not up to snuff, and is therefore ripe for the taking by ambitious luxury condo developers, are now being re-examined.
In New Jersey two bills on how private property may be taken by government entities have brought major changes and heaps of controversy to the entire condemnation process. The first bill, A-3257, proposed by Assemblyman John Burzichelli passed last June 22, and spawned a beefed up version by Senator Ronald Rice, which now is in public hearings. Proponents of these bills cite greater transparency and certain landowner improvements. But critics, still stinging from the smart growth strictures of the Highlands and Pinelands preservation acts, are crying “government tyranny.”
To help examine the effects of the Burzichelli and the proposed Rice bills, the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education offers its “2007 Redevelopment Law Conference,” on Friday, February 22, at 9 a.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick. Cost: $219. Visit ww.njicle.com.
Attorney Anne Barbineau of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer in Woodbridge acts as moderator of this 15-person panel, which includes New Jersey public advocate Ronald Chen, several redevelopers, city planners, mayors, and attorneys. Attorney Robert Goldsmith of Woodbridge-based Goldbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis, explains how redevelopment and improvements were made creatively in Belmar without the use eminent domain.
Goldsmith has fought in New Jersey’s redevelopment wars for the last 30 years, and while his stance may be unpredictable, it is always strong. Goldsmith grew up in Perth Amboy. He graduated from New York University with a bachelors in history in l973 and then took his law degree at Rutgers University Law School.
Throughout his career, Goldsmith has proactively strategized municipal development, yet has been a fierce foe of sprawl and a defender of property rights. He helped guide the new Princeton parking facilities and the commercial layout around Witherspoon Street into fruition. He has worked on redevelopment plans for Westfield and many shore communities. “Not every town is forward looking,” he says. “In Morristown it is said that George Washington wintered there, and upon leaving, left orders that nothing be changed. You still have community leaders trying to uphold that order.”
In our founding fathers’ day, land ownership was so prized that Alexander Hamilton wanted the Declaration of Independence changed to “…life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” (Fortunately Jefferson’s “pursuit of happiness” won out.) But this was the bad old days of King George, who reserved the right to annex land from anyone without any compensation whatsoever. Since winning nationhood, Americans have generally ruled that landowners must receive just compensation when giving up their land for the public good.
But with an expected 1 million population increase in the Garden State within the coming decade, and the new State Plan pushing hard to manage it, what Senator Rice calls “the necessary evil of eminent domain” becomes ever more contentious. For Goldsmith, who champions development, there are less invasive alternatives available.
For whose good? In 1998 Pfizer sought residence in New London, Connecticut, and dazzled the town council with tales of new jobs and lower taxes. The town council remained so dazzled, in fact, that its members offered to clear land using eminent domain, and give it to Pfizer.
Traditionally American municipalities seized private property through eminent domain only for projects used by the public — ports, parks, schools, highways, and the like.
But New London was counting on a subtle tweak of a l954 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Berman v. Parker, which stated that public domain could be employed not just for projects of public use, but for a public purpose. The l954 ruling also added esthetics to public safety and welfare as a cause for condemnation. In a highly controversial case, Kelo v. City of New London, the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005 ruled that Pfizer’s presence was a beneficial public purpose, and a number of residents were ousted from their homes. Now a nation of property owners is beginning to fear the return of a King George-like attitude toward private property. Is my land only mine until some corporation orders a municipality to annex it?
New Jersey’s domain. In New Jersey such suspicions have been aroused among property owners by recent planning programs. “Vast areas in the Pinelands and Highlands have been virtually shut off to development,” says Goldsmith. “Actually, as a city boy, I think this is a good thing.” New Jersey’s office of Smart Growth and the State Plan both seek to stop sprawl and redevelop existing high population areas. This means more land under the gun.
The Burzichelli and Rice bills have struck a balance in which both developers and owners can take comfort — and find fault. For landowners, notice of proposed eminent domain use has been expanded from 45 to 60 days. There are also more public hearings mandated.
Probably the biggest change favoring the landowner comes in the challenge process. Under S-1975, when a landowner and municipality argue eminent domain in court, the burden of proof would shift to the municipality. “After all,” says public advocate Chen, “this is the taking of someone’s property and there is a Constitutional right at stake.”
The bad news for the homeowner is that the previously vague definition of “land in need of redevelopment” (we no longer say “blight”) has been sharply set and broadened. The municipalities may have to work harder to prove their case, but they will also have more ammunition.
Getting creative. Last September Belmar’s Seacoast Chevrolet underwent demolition as the first step in a $500 million, 10-year redevelopment project that will remake the Main Street area. Thirty-eight condos, 9,500 square feet of retail space, and covered parking will replace a section labeled “in need of redevelopment.” Working with Belmar mayor Ken Pringle, Goldsmith helped deliver other options to the effected residents.
To landowners facing displacement, Belmar offered positions as “presumptive redevelopers,” a term Goldsmith coined. Owners could form a cooperative, hire their own architect and planner and come up with some redevelopment solution that met with the town’s strategy. “The teamwork clicked like the old ‘69 Knicks,” says Goldsmith. “Many of the property owners actually contributed to a plan that helped them and improved the town’s concept.”
A second alternative was a shared venture with the master redeveloper. The Gale Construction Company of New Brunswick in several instances partnered with Belmar landowners, often working with them in the original area.
A third alternative that Goldsmith has employed frequently with success is a simple building swap. Recently he engineered a shift in the corporate headquarters of Sabrett, the hot dog company, from an East Rutherford redeveloping area to an Englewood building.
“Of course, there are some who will always wait out the condemnation and hope for a hefty buy-out,” says Goldsmith. “But it’s up to the town to make the other opportunities more attractive.”
Though Goldsmith has many issues with the Burzichelli and Rice bills, he still fights to improve the process. While due notice and compensation have been rightly addressed, he says that the whole problem of relocation is too vague. “We are talking about individuals’ property and our communities’ welfare,” he says. “If I could wave my wand, I bring the whole statue down to a more human, personal comfort zone.”
— Bart Jackson
Tuesday, February 27
A New Take On Business Leadership
Judith Glaser wants to change the definition of leadership. It is a passion she has pursued throughout most of her business career. Glaser, the CEO and founder of Benchmark Communications in New York City, is an executive coach and consultant.
She speaks on “Deciphering the Language of Leadership” to the Central Jersey Chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) on Tuesday, February 27, at 6 p.m. at the Breakers in Spring Lake. Cost: $40. For reservations call Sheryl Gambarella at 732-370-7047.
Glaser has always been interested in leadership, who leaders are, why they are leaders, and how they lead. Her interest flared into passion in 1986 when she was asked to write a business dictionary for Random House. “It was a handbook of business terms,” she says. “It had about 3,500 words in it and over time about 2,500 have become part of our regular vocabulary and can be found in a mainstream dictionary.” The dictionary gave Glaser new insight into words, and how their meanings and definitions affect they way we think and act.
The definition on leadership at the time, she says, was, “the essence of command and control.”
Glaser did not agree.
“It is a very old-fashioned way of looking at leadership,” she says. “Very military and embedded in that definition is also ‘followership.’ It moves in a hierarchy from leaders to followers. The leader knows more, he is the thinker, the doer.”
In the years since the dictionary was published, Glaser says the definition of leadership has changed radically. There is a new language emerging and women are helping to develop it in a robust way. The concept of leadership is changing from one of command and control to one of “development, of nurturing the potential inside of people.”
Moses on the mountain. In the old model of a leader, a person comes into an organization as the new leader. “They believe they have been chosen. They know what’s right. They are Moses coming down from the mountain, saying ‘Just follow me,’ says Glaser.
We’ve all seen this type of leader. When he or she first arrives, we are often excited to “be on the team” because now things will happen. “Everyone has something great they are marching toward,” says Glaser. “It doesn’t matter that the followers have no idea how to make this great thing happen.”
However, things may not be as rosy as the seem at first glance. “There are a lot of implications” to this style of leadership, says Glaser. While some of the employees may be inspired, others may be frightened.
The leader assumes that the “good people” will “get on the bus.” In other words, if someone doesn’t believe in the leader’s vision, he or she is a “bad person.” These people are often miserable under the new regime, afraid of being fired, and unwilling to contribute because they don’t believe they will be heard. “It creates a toxic environment,” she says.
This type of leadership “creates hubris and egocentricity,” says Glaser, because it assumes that only the leader knows the correct way to accomplish the task. “A typical statement from this type of leader is, ‘if you can’t do this I’ll find someone else who can,’” she says.
Talking to vs. talking at. This old style of leader “talks at” his employees. “There is no engagement in a conversation. There is no way to respond,” says Glaser. In her view a leader should not make pronouncements, but instead should listen to the people around him, building a relationship that allows for conversation. “If you are talking at someone, there is no engagement. You are not building the opportunity for a response.”
There is a different quality to the questions a good leader should be asking, she says. “A leader should listen differently and draw out what the other person is thinking, share, and connect with that person at the human level.”
A good leader, she says, is “one who inspires other people to be involved.” They should be having conversations not only with the people under them, but with their customers, the people above them in their organization, and their fellow managers and leaders.
The dictionary Glaser edited was the spark, but it took several more years to develop her ideas and put them into a book of her own. It took a personal crisis, breast cancer, to get her to finally write her first book.
She started writing the book, “because I had to do something,” she says. “Creating We: Change I-Thinking to We-Thinking & Build a Healthy Thriving Organization” was first self-published, then picked up by Platinum Press. Her second book, “The DNA of Leadership: Leverage Your Instincts to: Communicate, Differentiate, Innovate,” came out last year, and was also published by Platinum Books. She is currently working on her third book.
Glaser says she considers herself an “organizational anthropologist, working with clients at the intersection of culture, leadership, and brand.” She earned her bachelor’s degree from Temple University in interdisciplinary studies and holds an M.S. in human behavior and development from Drexel University.
“I’m an expert at seeing patterns,” she says. “I look at organizations and I sprinkle black dust on them and look for the fingerprints. I identify the patterns that exist that pull us into the old way of thinking.” Then she works to teach the organization’s leaders how to use “vital conversations to motivate, inspire, and provoke” the people around them.
This is more difficult than ordering people around, but is also far more effective.
— Karen Hodges Miller
New Treatments For Alzheimer’s
‘Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation,” observes Michael Hecht, professor and associate chair of the department of chemistry at Princeton University. The root of the word “innovation” suggests that it means something entirely new, novel, out of nothing. Hecht has developed his own twist: Innovation happens when people bring together two distinctive fields to the point of overlap: “It is that fertile field where the two come together that is novel,” he explains.
To stretch one’s mind to reach that overlap of two different fields Hecht has a few suggestions for his fellow scientists: pursue collaborations between fields; do graduate and postdoctoral training in different fields; and listen to students who are not prejudiced by preexisting models.
Innovation also requires a certain state of mind. “You have to be prepared to see the unexpected,” says Hecht. “You have to have an educated and trained mind, but have to be open-minded enough that when something bizarre comes up, you can see it.”
Hecht will be speaking about his Alzheimer’s research at an innovation forum at Princeton University that features “emerging research with commercial potential.” Sponsored by Princeton’s Center for Innovation in Engineering Education as part of EntrepreneushipWeek USA, the free event takes place on Tuesday, February 27, at 5:30 p.m. at the school of engineering’s Friend Center Convocation Room. To register or get more information, E-mail Stephanie Landers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other topics to be covered at the forum include a content distribution network called CoBlitz that can simultaneously handle large data files ranging from 10 kilobyte images to 10 gigabyte movies; quantum cascade lasers for medical, environmental, and security applications; a secure optical communications network for on-demand applications; and a topical anti-inflammatory agent.
Hecht’s own innovation, which is a new way to screen compounds that could result in treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, brings together pieces of protein from very different fields. One comes from human beings, the other from sea creatures. One’s identifying characteristic is that it aggregates, the other’s is that it is fluorescent.
It is generally accepted, says Hecht, that the aggregation of the peptide, or protein fragment, AB42 in the brain is the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. The supporting evidence is that all genetic mutations that cause early onset or familial Alzheimer’s do increase the amount of this aggregating peptide.
Alzheimer’s, continues Hecht, falls within the realm of diseases of protein misfolding, for example, mad cow disease or Creutzfeldt-Jakob. In the case of Alzheimer’s, a peptide, instead of folding into globular, soluble protein, folds into “aggregated gook.”
Even though we don’t know the mechanism by which the aggregation leads to the disease, says Hecht, “we’re pretty sure that the production and aggregation of this stuff is bad news and ultimately leads to Alzheimer’s.”
When looked at under an electron microscope, these aggregates are composed of fibers called amyloids. These fibers bring to mind two questions: What is it about this sequence of amino acids that causes it to form these amyloid structures that aggregate into the plaque that causes Alzheimer’s? Can we find compounds that block its aggregation?
To answer these questions, Hecht has developed an innovative process:
In some sense Hecht’s innovation brings together different strands in his earlier work. His graduate work used a genetic approach to protein structure that involves collections of random changes — in other words, a library. As a postdoctoral fellow, he did work in protein structure using rational, methodical design.
“My contribution to protein design was making rationally designed libraries,” says Hecht, and he explains what he means with an analogy to linguistics. “If you are trying to compose new words in English by random strokes on a keyboard, the chance of getting something wordlike is very small,” he says. The result is mostly gibberish, and the collection of constructed words is mostly useless. But if you impose knowledge-based rational design on the keystrokes, using rules like “no more than four consonants in a row” or “a ‘t’ followed by an ‘h’ is a good thing — then the chance of a hit is much higher.” The result is lots more usable words, or, in the case of his work, proteins.
But random libraries have their place, too. They enable “the spectacular power of parallel processing,” says Hecht. If, for example, a drug company is looking for a new drug for Alzheimer’s, then it can open its freezer, where a million compounds are stored, and put them all through a particular screen.
Hecht likes to think that he has done things a little differently throughout his life. Born and raised in New York City, he went to college at Cornell University as part of the College Scholars program. “It was designed for kids near the top of the class who wanted to construct their own program without the constraints of distribution or major requirements,” he says. Although he did not fulfill all of the requirements for a chemistry major, he still ended up summa cum laude in chemistry in 1977.
Between college and graduate school, he took two years off and “bummed around,” spending one year in Alaska, a half year in Israel, and a few months driving a cab in New York City. Then he moved on to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he graduated with a doctorate in biology in 1984.
Pondering his college feat of summa-ing without majoring, he concludes, “maybe that was a precedent for doing things outside of normal constraints.” Then he comments on the slight incongruity of his current position. “I’m the associate chair of the department of chemistry at Princeton, and I don’t even have a degree in chemistry!”
— Michele Alperin