Thursday, March 29

What’s in a Company Name? Perhaps the Key to Success

What do people think about when they hear your company name? Do they recognize your business if they see your logo on a sign or postcard? Not every business can be Nike and have the worldwide recognition of a single “swoosh,” but every business can — and should — develop brand recognition in its own segment of the market, says Melinda Salzer of Advanced Information Services in Marlboro.

Salzer and fellow marketing expert Linda Coppolina of Little Hat Marketing in Howell, ask “Who Are You? What’s Your Corporate ID?” at a seminar sponsored by the Central Jersey Chapter of NAWBO (National Association of Women Business Owners) on Thursday, March 29, at 8:30 a.m. at the offices of Innovative Computer Services in Freehold. Cost: $35. For more information contact Sheryl Gambarella at 732-370-7047.

Salzer has a bachelor’s degree in radio and television production and worked in advertising for several years before she and her husband, Tom, decided to start their own business, a marketing and software company. “At the time I was getting an MBA from St. John’s, starting a family and starting a business. I’m not sure how I did it.”

Her first step in finding her own clients was a simple one. “I went door to door to all the businesses in the community, cold calling,” she recounts. “I got my first client the first day.” Her clients now come from a variety of different businesses and industries. “Each client has different needs. That why it is exciting. I’m also doing something different, so I don’t go stale.”

There are several key aspects to developing a corporate identify, says Salzer. “Your company name, your positioning statement or tagline, your logo, your colors — having consistency in all of these affects the image you and your company project.”

When looking at your company’s materials it is important to ask yourself what image you want to present. Do your supporting materials enhance that image? Does your company have a public image?

Company name. The name you choose for your company is the first impression your clients and customers will receive about who you are and what you do. There are many different styles of company names, says Salzer, from factual, to serious, to whimsical.

“A good name evokes a feeling about the company,” she says. A literal name, such as ‘Goodyear Tires,’ tells customers exactly what business the company is in. A whimsical name like Yahoo! or Google often needs more explanation. However, these types of names can work for a business.

Ten years ago the word Google, a math term, was only vaguely familiar to the average person. Now the company has developed its brand identity to the point that Google has its own entry in the dictionary, “to search for information through a search engine.”

If Salzer had to do it over again, she would name the company she and her husband started 18 years ago something different. At the time Advanced Information Services was “strictly a software company, so the name made sense,” she says. Since then Salzer has branched out and added marketing to the company’s services. “I was doing marketing for our company, and I decided if I can do this for us, I can do it for other people,” she says, explaining how the two different services grew into one business.

Tagline. If you do choose a less descriptive name it is important to have a tagline or positioning statement that makes it clear what you do. “Good marketing people can help you to develop something that lets people know who you are,” says Salzer. Many of the dot-com companies that appeared on the scene in the last 10 years are examples.

“When we had the huge dot-com growth spurt a few years ago you would listen to the ads and still have no idea what the company did,” she says. The ones that survived have developed their images, often through a simple tagline. Even though it is having some problems at the moment, Vonage (see page 44) is one good example. A few years ago no one had heard of the company. The name Vonage had no meaning and the public didn’t know what the company did. The company’s tagline — “A better way to phone for less” — is one of the ways in which they’ve gotten their message across.

The most important attribute of a tagline is that it is memorable. “What Can Brown Do for You?” doesn’t describe its company’s services, but it has become so familiar that it is easily recognized as the UPS tagline.

Logo and colors. A logo is a quick image that easily identifies the company. It should also express something about that company. “Are you looking for high end clients or low end? No matter what, your logo design needs to make sense,” Salzer says. A simple easily identifiable logo works best. The simple IBM logo, for example, is easily recognizable throughout the world.

The colors you choose for your logo also evoke a response from your customers. “Colors stimulate the senses and they should reflect a quality or feeling that you want customers to have about your business,” she says. For example, red evokes feelings of excitement, but can also mean danger. Blue is very soothing, while green, the color of money, brings a feeling of prosperity and wealth.

Some people choose trendy colors in their logos. Bright turquoise, lime green, and peach are a few of the color trends in recent years, but Salzer doesn’t recommend that companies use them in a logo.

Trendy colors go out of fashion quickly. If the company changes its colors to follow the new trend, its logo may become unrecognizable to its customers. “If you do choose a trendy color, then want to change it, do it gradually,” she suggests. “Deepen or lighten the colors over time.”

One of the oldest and most recognizable brands is Coca Cola. It’s logo is still similar to original that was introduced 100 years ago. But look carefully, says Salzer. Coca Cola’s look has changed often over the decades, but the changes have always been gradual. “People like the comfort of consistency,” she says. “If the package is suddenly different it puts people off.”

While a great logo, tagline, and company name can do a lot to project the right image, the bottom line for any company is the service they give their customers. “It doesn’t matter how much money you put into your logo, you have to deliver on your promise of service,” she says.

Without great service, your corporate identity will be zero.

— Karen Hodges Miller

Quit Moaning And Create Your Future

Ann Limberg, president of the Bank of America New Jersey, has some advice for women looking to nurture the entrepreneurial spirit within themselves. “You really have to plant your own garden,” she says. “You can’t wait around for somebody to bring you flowers.”

Limberg, the 2007 Female Entrepreneurial Lecturer at the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson, gives a free lecture on “The Importance of an Entrepreneurial Mindset in a Large Corporation” on Friday, March 30, at 6 p.m. at FDU’s Florham campus in Madison. Registration is required. Call 973-443-8842 or visit www.fdu.edu/rothman or http://inside.fdu.edu.

This lecture is part of the Female Entrepreneurs’ Alliance, which was founded to educate and support women business owners. It will be held in conjunction with the awards ceremony for the New Jersey Business Idea Competition, a program designed to nurture an entrepreneurial mindset among high school students.

Limberg says that the growing influx of successful women in the corporate and business world has been a welcome change.

“I think women have brought a fresh perspective into the workplace that wasn’t there before,” she says. “Many more large corporations have begun to focus on diversity, and that has been particularly important to the workplace. Diversity has become a necessity and I think the more the diverse the workforce the better the impact we can have for clients.”

But while the culture has certainly changed for the better from the old “I Love Lucy” days of the 1950s, many experts have noted a certain backslide for working women during the past 10 years. Limberg, however, asserts that there is more opportunity than ever for women in the business and corporate world.

“Looking in the Wall Street Journal you see will an article about Women of Influence,” she says. “Women are having an impact. It’s not about titles but about influence. There are more and more women in these roles. I think it really has been a function of time. There have been a lot of new career paths created over the last 50 years and women have progressed rapidly and dramatically. It will only continue.”

A popular subject in newspapers and on TV talk shows has been what is often called a “glass ceiling” — an unseen pattern of limiting promotion — that prevents many qualified women from rising to the top levels of corporate management. While acknowledging that many women may face such difficulties, Limberg says determined women can continue to rise to the top.

“It’s valuable to keep in mind that glass is glass and is up to women to decide what we do with it,” she says. “In our company we have a leadership that values diversity. But patience is a virtue and for a talented and committed associate who continues to lead people, works hard, and builds networks I think the sky is the limit.”

Limberg, who began her career as a part-time bank teller, is a senior executive for one of the world’s largest financial institutions. As president of Bank of America New Jersey she provides statewide leadership for business, civic, and philanthropic activities. A graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she came to Fleet, predecessor of the Bank of America, from senior positions at Natwest and Citibank.

Limberg stresses that it is possible for women to determine their own success factor even in the most trying situations. “For anyone to be successful in a large corporate environment while maintaining their creativity, innovation, and sense of self, there are a few rules you need to have,” she says. “For women it is important to make sure they are clear about what their priorities are while also being clear about company values. It is important to find ways to create a win-win situation with company values and the direction you need to take with your own line of business.”

Of course, unexpected changes in the corporate world now have become almost routine and Limberg recommends that women hoping to succeed develop an ability to be flexible and very adaptable. “Keep your eye on the big picture,” says Limberg. “Keep being open to finding ways to create win-win opportunities with each transition in the business. Of course having a sense of humor helps too. The key is finding ways to appreciate all the things that come with change as opposed to being resistant to it.”

As in most endeavors, it is good for women in the business world to have “both an internal and external network going for you,” says Limberg. “This includes people who will be quite tactical in helping you accomplish your goals through other people, but who also will be there as a sounding board for you when you are a bit unclear about the next direction to take.”

To climb the ladder of success “you really have to look at the resources around you,” Limberg says. “What distinguishes you is personal leadership, what you can do to make a difference. What is unique to our time is that we’re strong enough to set our own rules and terms.” Limberg offers these tips on reaching the top:

Personalize the experience. People pleasing is more than just doing the right thing at the right time. Ask yourself what makes something better, different, and special. “It is possible to work with clients in such a way that it becomes personal to them,” says Limberg. “They feel that it is a very personal experience rather than another financial institution offering a product.”

Remain open to learning. Commitment to learning — formal and technical as well as developing self-awareness — is essential. “When you think you are where you should be, see that as a red flag,” says Limberg.

Be true to you. Limberg says that it is important for working women to be clear about their values and to stick by them. “It’s not always easy,” she says. “But the choices you can make follow you. Integrity and credibility are critical. Anything that you engage in should be consistent with these values.”

Quit moaning and get to work. “Create your own future,” says Limberg. “Don’t waste time moaning about why something hasn’t happened for you. Be positive about what you can control. Don’t focus on yourself, but rather on the world, because that is how good things can happen.”

— Jack Florek

Tuesday, April 3

How Small Businesses Can Make Big Mistakes

‘So many companies are financially drowning, and they don’t even know they are wet,” says MassMutual financial advisor Gwen Faulkner. Some of this she blames on a vast body of common business knowledge that is just plain wrong. But the larger part, Faulkner claims, comes from owners swimming so hard for shore with new markets and larger revenue that they never notice the financial shackles that are dragging them down.

To help spot potential missteps and offer solutions, Faulkner offers a free seminar, “Business Killers,” on Tuesday, April 3 at 10 a.m. at the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners Women’s Business Center in Hamilton. Visit www.njawbo/wbc. Sponsored by NJAWBO, Faulkner’s talk covers a vast array of financial, legal, and tax situations and is aimed particularly at mid-size and larger companies, and at family-owned firms.

Faulkner grew up in a typically nomadic military household. Following her father’s assignments all across the country, she finally came to rest at McGuire Air Force Base. She attended Pennsylvania’s West Chester University, graduating in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting.

She then joined Vanguard, helping individuals and companies to select investment instruments. “I’m still a big fan of precisely deployed mutual funds,” says Faulkner. “They are so flexible and offer so many options.” For the last four years Faulkner has acted as a financial advisor for the Cherry Hill office of MassMutual, advising the owners of companies of all sizes.

Unfortunately there is no basic handbook of business vision — a text that helps entrepreneurs to make the right choices today for 20 years down the road. Some mistakes are inevitable.

It’s all I. Probably the most biggest mistake Faulker encounters is the owner who makes himself the entire business. Often you can spot it in the name: John Geek’s Software, as opposed to Geek & Associates Software. But whether in name or fact, having the entire company depend on one individual’s expertise and labor makes the business an unsalable entity without that person.

For a start-up, the one-person-only reputation hampers product sales. Beyond the local community, customers don’t care about John’s Geek’s software — or even Bill Gates’ software. People in India buy what’s made by Microsoft because is a name that has meaning for them.

“Further, by not naming a successor, and training him along the way, you are robbing your heirs,” says Faulkner. A company without its one-person lynch pin has as much value in the marketplace as an automobile without wheels. Additionally, such lack of planning sets up a infighting among senior executives and heirs when the owner passes or just decides to leave the business.

Where credit is due. The owner who has done all his saving and borrowing at one bank for 30 years believes that he has a relationship. He may even believe that being so trusted a customer has won him a rubber stamp of approval on his next loan.

“Don’t count on it,” says Faulkner. “Banks aren’t stupid or soft hearted. They only make loans that get paid back. If you’ve lost your key person or product, they won’t loan out of pity or tradition.”

Of course, keep up a good personal relationship with the individuals at your bank, she suggests. But in addition, keep upgrading your line of credit every time it is offered, even if you don’t need it. That way when the storm hits, you are prepared.

Tax myopia. The owner who launches his startup and never takes any salary seems noble, but he’s actually mortgaging his own future. By not taking a salary, he is putting nothing into Social Security and thus is foolishly opting out of one of the best insurance plans in the country.

No matter how marvelous the business’s growth, every person in the firm needs a hedge. While 401(k)s have become extremely popular among small businesses, Faulkner warns that this is not their primary intent. Aimed at large employers, the 401(k) is complex and costly to establish.

The SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees) may work better for the small employer, that is a firm with fewer than 100 employees. An employee may set aside up to $6,000 annually in a SIMPLE individual retirement account and the employer agrees to match up to three percent of that employee’s salary.

Evaluate often. “The people you do not want to evaluate your company are your tax accountant and your financial advisor,” says Faulkner. Tax accountants are busy and are typically trained only in the fiscal assets area of evaluating, and perform evaluations only as a favor to special clients. Financial advisors, meanwhile, often have a natural bias that comes from the potential of selling insurance.

The best estimations come from a professional evaluating firm listed by the American Evaluation Association (www.eval.org.) Businesses should be evaluated a minimum of every other year, Faulkner insists. Such evaluation provides natural planning for estate settlements, arranging buy-sell agreements among partners, and mergers.

For the owner planning to put his business on the market, a good evaluator acts like a real estate agent, explaining how the business can be dressed up to make it more enticing for sale.

It is only natural that pulling in revenue should take precedence over handling it in most business people’s minds. Earning money is hard, demanding, and provides great satisfaction. But without a combination of good advice and sensible implementation all of those earnings can add up to very little. — Bart Jackson

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