Mutuals on a Bike

The Gurus Speak

Coping with the IT Shortage

Software for CROs

Free Legal Advice

Women’s Networks

Female Friendly?

Corrections or additions?

These stories by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on May 6, 1998. All rights reserved

Survival Guide

Top Of Page
Mutuals on a Bike

When she’s not out roaring around on her Honda,

Brenda Buttner

is out there getting perspective in the world of mutual

funds. "So often our portfolios tend to be a collection of top

performers of the past year really with no rhyme or reason to

them,"

says Buttner. "You have to know what purpose they serve in your

portfolio."

Buttner, a former television host, an Oxford Rhodes Scholar, and a

former editor of a motorcycle magazine, now writes for The Street,

the fee-based online financial newsletter found at

http://www.thestreet.com.

She is one of the speakers at the "Countdown to 2000: Financial

Strategies for Your Future II" conference sponsored by Money 2000

and the Rutgers Cooperative Extension on Saturday, May 9, 9 a.m. at

Frelinghuysen Arboretum, 53 East Hanover Street in Morris Township.

Call 973-579-0985 for more information.

Whenever Buttner gives a speech, someone in the audience asks her

to reveal the best mutual fund. If you listen closely enough, you

might hear Buttner sigh before she gives her reply. "You really

need to rephrase the question," she says. "What’s more

relevant

is, what are the best funds for me at this point in my life?"

One trick Buttner uses to gauge a fund’s worthiness is if the fund

manager invests his own money in it. "That’s something you’re

not going to find in a prospectus," says Buttner. "That’s

something you have to call and ask for. I find it very useful to call

the 800 number and ask the fund representative. You can often get

pretty honest answers that way. Usually if you’re not being told about

it that should tell you something."

Performance-wise, most investors tend to have short frames of

reference

when researching mutual funds, Buttner reports. "I recommend

looking

at long-term performance when you can," she says. "Look beyond

the beyond the fund du jour to find the real performers. Look

for three-year records. Look for down periods within those three-year

records to get some idea of how volatile the fund may be. Look at

these numbers in context. A double-digit return last year doesn’t

mean anything unless you compare it to a benchmark."

When considering costs, she reports, it may be necessary to get

stronger

glasses to read the prospectus. "You can really go cross-eyed

trying to pay attention to what you’re paying, but costs really are

key to future returns," says Buttner. "So I urge investors

to pay attention to the expense ratio of a fund."

Determining risk is important too, if not slightly apocryphal.

"There

is no shortage of tools out there," says Buttner. "Some of

them are sophisticated, others are crude, none of them are perfect,

but depending on your time horizon and your stomach’s ability to take

highs and lows I think it’s worthwhile to see how a fund does

volatility-wise.

The point is not to avoid risks but really to understand the risks

you are taking."

Buttner, 36, has made several career moves that would classify as

high-risk. She has a degree in social studies from Harvard University

(Class of 1983). After her two years of Rhodes Scholar studies at

Oxford, she immediately entered the television world. "I went

to Reno, Nevada, and worked for $4 an hour at an NBC affiliate,"

she says. Then followed stints in Washington, D.C., for Gannett

Television

and CNBC, where she eventually stayed on as a host for the Money Club.

This show was canceled last October. Thereafter, Buttner got an offer

from the Street and decided to drop out of television.

In between television jobs Buttner became the editor of Cycle World

magazine, a title that earned her the distinction of becoming the

first female editor of a motorcycle magazine. "I don’t usually

put that on my resume," she says. "It was a very physically

challenging and exerting job. I was hauling motorcycles around in

a big van. It was really fun to ride a different cycle each day."

The proud owner of a Honda VRF ("a little faster and more nimble

than a Harley," she reports), Buttner still rides a lot and uses

a lot of motorcycle metaphors in her column. Also, she and her

husband,

banker Larry Klane,

biked cross-country in 1993, and are more

likely to talk about gaskets and throttles than about finance.

Buttner detests sports metaphors, which she feels are emblematic of

the days when old boy networks dominated the field of investing.

"I

think the field can be very intimidating to women and we tend to be

more risk-averse, so we tend not to invest," she says. "But

in the end I think there are a lot of things that are gender-specific

that make us better investors. We’re more willing to do research to

find the funds that are right for us, and not use the hot funds. And

our ego doesn’t get involved. And once you get past the jargon and

the stupid sports metaphors, women really can be better investors

and be good at it and insure the goals that we want through it."

But wouldn’t motorcycling classify as a sport? Not really, Buttner

insists. "I’m talking about getting on a bike and physically

challenging

yourself. It’s not so us-versus-them." Never mind those times

she taunted Jim Rogers

(the other financial guru/biking

aficionado

who used to appear on her CNBC show) about the fact that he rides

a wimpy BMW.

— Peter J. Mladineo

Top Of Page
The Gurus Speak

So you want to be a noted financial columnist? First,

read the above article and note all the neat things Brenda Buttner

has done with her life. Second, read this article and note all the

neat things Warren Boroson,

the 63-year-old financial columnist

for the Daily Record of Morristown, has done in his life. Then write

your own script and be sure to include arduous hours of sitting in

a front of word processor wondering why you are doing this.

Soul-searching aside, Boroson and Buttner are the keynotes at the

conference sponsored by Money 2000 and the Rutgers Cooperative

Extension

on Saturday, May 9. The other speakers are Barbara O’Neill,

a consumer sciences educator with the Rutgers Cooperative Extension,

and certified financial planners Patricia Brennan,

Diane

MacPhee,

and Diahann Lassus. Call 973-579-0985.

Boroson has written 20 books, had a radio show on mutual funds,

published

a mutual funds newsletter, taught at Rutgers University, Ramapo

College,

and the New School, and been on the staffs of both Money magazine

and Sylvia Porter’s Money Guide. His bestselling book, "Keys to

Investing in Mutual Funds" ($4.95, Barrons Educational Publishing)

"sold a hell of a lot of copies" and is currently in its third

edition.

Boroson grew up in Hudson County, got his degree from Columbia College

(Class of 1957). For the Daily Record, a job Boroson loves because

it gives him the opportunity to work with vigorous young people, he

churns out three columns a week and spends a lot of time interviewing

investment gurus.

Here are three ways these gurus say you can get rich playing the stock

market:

Buy "everything." He’s talking about index funds

— those funds that act as a representation of everything on the

market. "If you do that you’re going to do very well most of the

time, because you’re going to have a very diversified portfolio,"

he says. "You’re not paying the manager very much, and you’re

diversified by industry. Another benefit is there won’t be any drastic

change in the way the fund is managed. Another benefit is that when

you buy an index, you would be buying stocks that no one else wants

to buy because they’re dogs. And some of the dogs, like Oxford

Healthcare,

have done tremendously." This advice comes from John C.

Bogle ,

who started Vanguard Funds.

Buy underpriced stocks. Decades ago, it was called

"buying

straw hats in winter." The goal: Look for signs that a company

with a low-priced stock can turn around. A well-known investor who

does this is Michael F. Price, who runs Mutual Series Funds

in Short Hills. "Whenever a company is in trouble Michael Price

is waiting in the wings," Boroson says. The Mutual Series Fund

was started by Max Heine, who made his name by buying railroad

bonds. "He had the guts to look at bankrupt railroads. That, in

essence, is what Michael Price does."

Buy healthy stocks. While they’re not cheap, they’re good

long-term buys if you know when to get out. "You have to be the

first person off of the merry go round," says Boroson. Experts

in high-performance stocks like Ron Baron,

who runs the Baron

Funds, and Warren Buffet, usually sniff out stocks for items

that will fare well in the big picture. Currently Baron is buying

stock in agricultural firms and in Spanish-speaking radio stations.

Buffet raised a lot of eyebrows when he admitted he bought Gillette

stock because it would allow him to make money in his sleep —

as America’s beards grew. "He makes more money snoring than

working,"

says Boroson. If only the same thing was true about writing columns.

— Peter J. Mladineo

Top Of Page
Coping with the IT Shortage

Geeks never had it so good. In times like these, one

thing scarcer than an underpaid information technology professional

is a company with all of its IT positions full. The fact is, IT

budgets

are hitting all-time highs and, if you’re a programmer who knows the

hot languages like Oracle, Java, Visual Basic, Windows NT, or C++,

chances are — if you’re good, that is — you’ll be able to

shop your talent around and join the ranks of the ridiculously

overpaid.

Their salaries as not quite as glaringly overinflated as those of

sports stars, but David L. Sears reports, the same

"git-while-the-gittin’s-good"

attitude permeates the industry.

"There are people who literally bounce around going from offer

to offer," says Sears. "From their perspective it’s a rational

economic thing to do. You’re hot now but your skills are going to

get old pretty quick so you better make the money while you can."

But Sears, whose Morris Plains-based consulting firm, D.L. Sears &

Associates, works with IT companies on issues of recruiting,

compensation,

and leadership. Sears and Stephen Berlin, an attorney with

Giordano,

Halleran & Ciesla, will speak at the New Jersey Technology Council

on Friday, May 8. The moderator is Ron Woodmansee of Fuller

Woodmansee & Co. Call 609-452-1010. "The key issues are the

shortage

of IT-skilled professionals and how are people developing strategies

to both attract these people and retain them," says Sears.

This winter, reports proliferated in the media that 10 percent of

the IT jobs in the country weren’t filled. This information was rooted

in a survey done by the Information Technology Association of America,

which hypothesized that at any given time in the United States there

were 350,000 vacant jobs — roughly 10 percent of the country’s

estimated IT workforce. "That’s been the scare number that’s been

thrown around and what Congress has been asked to react to when they

talk about raising the quotas for entry visas," says Sears.

"The

quota (65,000) gets filled long before the end of the year."

Obviously, the ITAA, an association for technology employers, has

its own interests in mind by promulgating the 10 percent statistic.

Its members would benefit greatly if Congress made it easier for them

to hire more technology workers from overseas — thereby easing

the perceived labor shortage.

But while some companies pay premiums for what Sears calls

"technology

athletes," there are also other companies with "computers

that take up entire rooms" and legacy-trained people to go with

them. Many of these older workers could be retrained to do higher

end work.

The shortage can also be a potential hindrance for small businesses.

"The small technology employers are trying to compete in this

marketplace and trying to do the best they can and pay competitively

so their talent doesn’t walk out the door," says Sears. "Are

technology companies figuring out ways to tweak their practices so

that they come off as attractive and retention-worthy employers?"

The rapidly rising salaries of IT people poses the biggest dilemma

for small companies, many of which can’t compete with large firms

for the talent. But, almost as a form of poetic justice, many large

companies are now growing so frustrated with staffing shortages that

they are outsourcing an increasing amount of work, thereby creating

new niches for smaller, more specialized IT firms.

Here are some tactics that larger companies are employing to keep

their IT people:

Give them huge sign-on bonuses. Yes, $20,000 to sign-on

is nothing to sneeze at (some actually do), but that isn’t the end

of it. Some companies have found it necessary to give their prized

geeks "stay bonuses."

Make it easier to give employees bigger raises. For every

job within a large company, there are salary ranges and grades within

those ranges. Using a technique called "broadbanding,"

employers

give hiring managers and supervisors more leeway to flatten out those

grade structures and line their IT heroes’ pockets faster.

Budget more money for "merit increases." Sears

notices a trend where companies are now allocating nine to ten percent

of their annual budgets for this type of raise, which typically has

nothing to do with merit. "People call them merit increases but

they end being an everybody-gets-his-increase-type of thing,"

says Sears.

Give employees more stock options. There’s nothing more

exciting than giving your franchise programmer a bigger stake in the

company’s stock — especially if it’s stock from IT company (in

some cases, putting the employee on a bus to Atlantic City would be

more advantageous).

For small companies, there is another way around this Dilemma

of the Golden Shackles: good management. "In my experience

companies

that do the best with this problem don’t just throw money at it —

they try to get people’s involvement in projects," says Sears.

In other words, you can give your employees quantum pay increases,

but if your management staff resembles that portrayed in Dilbert,

you’re throwing money away. Instead, try keeping them interested in

the work they are doing. Feed them. Treat them like humans as opposed

to Web servers.

"Lousy management and bureaucracy — that’s the kind of stuff

you want to avoid," says Sears. "Management hasn’t gotten

a lot of attention. There are obviously good managers in the IT

environment

but there are a lot of good people who have never had any training

or good exposure to managers who do it well."

Sears, 50, has an undergraduate degree from the University of

Pennsylvania

(Class of 1969) and a graduate degree in industrial relations from

Cornell (Class of ’81). Prior to starting his company three years

ago, he spent eight years in charge of professional and managerial

staffing for Dow Jones & Co. on Route 1 and worked in employee

relations

and human resources for the New York Times.

Both of these jobs dealt with information systems, and, says Sears,

both of those companies also have problems keeping their IT staffs

intact. "They both operate in and around the New York market and

they end up competing with Wall Street for technology people,"

he says. "Wall Street pays handsomely when Wall Street’s doing

well." Well, better git while the gittin’s good.

— Peter J. Mladineo

Top Of Page
Software for CROs

Here’s an opportunity for the umpteen million clinical

research professionals in the Princeton area to get out and rub

elbows:

The Association of Clinical Research Professionals meets on Thursday,

May 14, 6 p.m. at Convatec at Headquarters Park Drive off Route 518.

Call 609-252-4410 for information.

The speaker is Ellen Loonan, a clinical projects senior manager

at DZS Computer Solutions, a 14-year-old Bound Brook-based consulting

firm that specializes in helping drug companies, contract research

organizations, and medical device manufacturers with the data

management

and statistical analysis portions of their drug studies. "We take

drugs, collect the data, put it in the databases, and do quality

control,"

says Loonan. "We go from that to developing a whole statistical

plan, creating programs and generating reports, tables, and listings,

which will enable the drug company to get the new drug approval."

People in the world of data management speak in terms of adverse

experiences,

concomitant medications, data queries, data tracking, and data flow.

DZS’s work is heavily software-intensive, and, Loonan reports, last

year the company created a sister company, DZS Software Solutions,

to market the software it has been honing over the years to do the

work. It’s called ClinPlus, an SAS-based, platform-independent package

that comes with eight modules to help with various steps of the

clinical

review process. These include data management, new drug applications,

queries, drug coding, and tracking.

SAS, an acronym for statistical analysis systems, is a programming

language and dataset structure designed by the SAS Institute of Cary,

North Carolina. Specifically designed for statisticians, SAS is

primarily

used by contract research organizations, insurance companies,

pharmaceutical

firms, and marketing firms.

ClinPlus competes with products by Oracle and a few other firms,

although

Oracle’s tools are not SAS-based. Because ClinPlus is SAS-based, says

Loonan, the data is always accessible to users. "We don’t have

to transfer the data from one database structure to another,"

she says. "Our software allows to do queries on it. Our software

allows us to do the coding on it."

David Horowitz, the vice president of sales and marketing,

explains

that Oracle-based systems require an on-site database administrator

and the creation of a second SAS dataset. "What’s the point of

having two databases?" he says. "Oracle claims that you need

a relational database, but you don’t need a relational database to

do data management. In data management a relational database is

irrelevant."

Nevertheless, Oracle is still Oracle and is always a formidable

competitor

when it comes to databases. "They’ve been out there a lot longer

than us," says Horowitz.

Transitioning a company to software development is never easy for

anyone. It’s one thing to have a good idea, it’s another thing to

be able to sell it. But in the case of ClinPlus, its high price and

ability to expedite a drug study makes the prospect a whole lot

easier,

maintains Doron Z. Steger, the founder and namesake of the firm.

"It’s not a mass quantity-type of product," he says. "You

sell five or six a year and you’re doing great. It’s a very a limited

market, very specialized, and very important — it means a month

sooner to getting their drug approved."

So far, ClinPlus has a dozen customers and costs between $30,000 to

$200,000 for the full eight-module package. "We did have some

advantages going to a product that someone going fresh wouldn’t

have,"

says Steger. "One of them is a ready-made client base. The second

thing is since what we do is develop software in-house, the products

that we sold were to a large extent already developed. A large cost

of the development has been paid through working for our clients.

We didn’t have to go out at square one and pay 100 percent of the

cost doing development. We were able to start off at 70 percent and

fill in the gap. We had the product, we had the connections, then

it was just a matter of putting the thing together."

Top Of Page
Free Legal Advice

A free legal clinic will be held on Wednesday, May 13,

5:30 to 7 p.m., at the Clay Street Learning Center, on the corner

of Clay and Witherspoon Streets in Princeton. Anyone can have a free

15-minute consultation with an attorney to talk about any of the

following

problems: family law, real estate, municipal court, motor vehicle

violations, landlord/tenant problems, small claims court, personal

injury, wills and estates, workplace problems, how to choose an

attorney,

and bankruptcy.

Clients are seen on a first come, first served basis. The clinic —

the only free legal clinic of its kind in the county — is

sponsored

by the public education committee of the Mercer County Bar

Association,

Lawyers C.A.R.E., and is held regularly at different locations. The

purpose of the free event is to educate the public about their legal

rights and then point them in the right direction for resources. Call

609-585-6200.

Top Of Page
Women’s Networks

Networking opportunities are plentiful at YWCA TWIN

dinners, and this year’s is no exception. Want to get to know people

at Educational Testing Service? At state government? At some of the

pharmaceutical companies? Buy an $85 ticket the annual fundraiser

on Thursday, May 14, at 6 p.m. at the Hyatt. Call Diana Leatham

at 609-987-0222.

Eight women are being honored: Nancy H. Becker

of the eponymous

public affairs firm in Trenton; Janet Bowker,

vice president

of strategic operations of ETS; Mollie Brodsky,

executive

director

of Crawford House; Brenda Hopper,

state director of New Jersey

Small Business Development Center Network; Janet Lasley,

president

of Lasley Construction Inc.; Karen Linder,

research fellow/team

leader, Bracco Research USA Inc.; Donna Pressma,

president and

CEO, Children’s Home Society/NJ; and Michele Ryan, executive

director/nursing, Medical Center at Princeton.

Top Of Page
Female Friendly?

Will your company be on the honor roll? The Executive

Women of New Jersey have prepared a status report on how women are

advancing their careers on business, law and government, education,

sports, and science and technology. Where are the women CEOs? they

asked. How successful have New Jersey companies been in promoting

women to senior positions and providing programs to increase career

opportunities for their female executives?

The honor roll will be unveiled at the "Salute to the Policy

Makers"

dinner on Thursday, May 14, at 5:30 p.m. at the East Brunswick Hilton.

Sally Ride, former NASA astronaut and physics professor at the

University of California at San Diego, will give the keynote. For

$500 tickets call 732-530-4098.

At the dinner 37 women will be honored, and a panel will discuss the

glass ceiling question, posed as "Is it only a matter of time

or must women overcome significant cultural and social challenges

to become CEOs of major corporations?"

Panel members include Nancy Blethen

, president of Executive

Women of New Jersey, Marguerite Schaffer Esq.

, chair of the

dinner, and Sandra Paul

, treasurer of the organization. The

EWNJ is a monthly forum for senior executive members for sharing

information

and business experiences. The money raised from this biennial dinner

will go toward graduate scholarships.


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