Thursday, April 19
Now the Environment Can Help Strengthen The Bottom Line
The war is over between the environment and business. Though the federal government may have been slow to respond to green concerns and global warming, many states — and businesses of all sizes — are moving ahead with environmentally-friendly initiatives. Gold
man Sachs has set up an environmental policy center at Yale to train its brokers. Even major oil companies have passed climate resolutions this year. Green, in fact, has become a major business trend.
While some of this truce has come from increased public pressure, the real driving force has been the bottom line. The very cost conscious executives who once railed against environmental standards as a stumbling block to profit and progress now cheer as the savings become evident.
To show the sources of this fiscal enlightenment and the extent of buy-in by the government, businesses, and educational institutions, Raritan Valley Community College is hosting “Environmental Leadership, Educational Institutions, & the Community,” on Thursday, April 19, at 8:15 a.m. at the college’s conference center in North Branch. Cost: $50. Call 908-526-1200, ext. 8238.
Sponsored by the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce, the college, and the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability (NJHEPS), the event features seminars on the new role of business in the environment, transportation, building, energy, and dietary policies and practices.
John Cusack, executive director of NJHEPS, and founder of Giffard Park Associates, an environmental strategy consulting firm, explains how environmental consciousness is leading to profitability in building and other arenas.
“Half my life is spent explaining business to environmentalists, while the other half is spent explaining the environment to business people,” says Cusack.
A native New Yorker, he attended Manhattan College, earning a bachelor’s in civil engineering in l973, followed by a master’s in environmental engineering. He then took his MBA from New York University’s Stern School, with a specialty in environmental finance.
Typical of Cusack’s many business-environmental projects is his work with the German-American firm Sanitec, which microwaves hospital waste rather than burning it. This environmental improvement cut costs from 40 cents a pound down to 2 cents a pound.
In 1998 Cusack co-founded Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, an investment company dedicated to aligning prospective profitability with environmental practices. Using the same strategy, three years later Cusack joined lightgreen.com, a firm that measured the top environmental performers in each of the 80 business categories and developed management accounts using the two best from each field. “We’ve beaten the S & P by over 4 percent every year,” he says proudly.
In addition to leading Gifford Park Associates, Cusack heads up the New Jersey Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability. He also teaches environmental finance at Iona College, hoping to make New Jersey students more environmentally minded. “These are tomorrow’s business and political leaders,” says Cusack. “Today they’re impassioned about the environment. Hopefully when it’s their turn, environmental considerations will be matter of fact.”
Taking the LEED. The 45 colleges involved in the NJHEPS coalition have gotten students to establish their own campuses as models of green building conversion. Employing the U.S. Green Building Council’s “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” voluntary standards, they are cost-effectively transforming their colleges and communities.
In autumn, 2005, Montclair State University built a 285,000 square-foot student center in compliance with LEED standards. The seven-story structure has waterless urinals, energy-saving lights, several thermal enhancements, and all native-plant landscaping, requiring no irrigation. The parking lot was constructed of porous paving materials that allow runoff to feed into a retention basin. The structure uses 42 percent less energy than the typical building of its size and has saved $30,000 on water alone.
At Camden County College NJHEPS-inspired students scoured the campus, converting buildings to energy saving lighting, installing motion sensors, and automatic turnoffs, and saved that institution an estimated $105,000 a year in energy costs. At Princeton and Rutgers similar efforts have been made, and Fairleigh Dickinson added courses on how to manage a business sustainably.
Business on board. In 1999 Cusack couldn’t get the Bank of America to even consider the concept of environmental investments. This past year that institution invested $2 billion in environmental items ranging from solar systems to trading credits in Europe. Much of this environmental consciousness is simple awareness of bottom line benefits. Following LEED standards, if established at the outset of construction, typically adds only one half percent to the total cost of a project, with a maximum two-and-a-half-year payback.
Environmental formulae have proved that every 200 thermal units of greenhouse gases taken out of the atmosphere results in a $300 savings for the building owner. This can be achieved either through insulation or by using alternative heating. Such thrift explains the blossoming of the large solar arrays now being installed atop many central Jersey warehouses. The 1.4 megawatt version in South Plainfield is reported to be the largest in the East. (A 2,000 square-foot residence will typically meet its annual electrical needs with an 8,000 kilowatt system.)
Adding to all this bottom line interest, major corporations are getting a few other nudges in the green direction. Pension funds control up to 45 percent of the stock of many major companies — including several huge oil corporations. “When these stockholders vote for a company to disclose its climate change risk and develop new policies, management listens,” says Cusack.
New Jersey. Additional nudging of companies and individuals toward environmental awareness is coming from state and local governments. Among the foremost green leaders, New Jersey is considering legislation to require that any new state construction contract must include LEED standards. Like the 1975 auto emission legislation that led to nation-wide use of the catalytic converter, this legislation will change drastically how all of the homes in the state — and quite possibly, down the road, in other states — will be built.
Governor Jon Corzine has signed an executive order requiring that greenhouse emissions be reduced 20 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2050. And everyone is scrambling to fulfill this order by whatever means possible.
Venture capitalists now devote 9 percent of all funding to clean technology such as ethanol, solar systems, and cleanup innovations. It is rare indeed for the public, government, and business to all champion the same cause. But for now, the environment is reveling in enthusiastic support from all three.
— Bart Jackson
Attracting Sports To Mercer County
The Mercer County Sports and Entertainment Commission is one of the county’s best kept secrets. But that is changing, says Mika Ryan, president of the commission, which was formed last year to bring more sports and entertainment events to Mercer County. The commission is holding its “coming out party” at the Thursday, April 19, luncheon of the Mercer County Regional Chamber of Commerce at the Trenton Country Club.
At the meeting Ryan speaks on “The Dollars and Sense of Attracting Sporting Events to Our County.” Registration is $55 and can be made online at www.mercerchamber.org. For more information call 609-689-9960. Members of the Trenton Thunder baseball team also will be introduced at the event.
The new commission grew out of the ad hoc committee formed to help with the NCAA women’s basketball tournament held in 2006 at the Sovereign Bank Arena. Ryan acted as head of that committee. The success of the tournament convinced Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes of the “power of the numbers,” says Ryan. The tournament games brought 13,065 fans to the arena, and netted businesses in the county about $1.5 million. That includes not only ticket receipts, but also revenue for hotel rooms, restaurant meals, gasoline, and shopping.
“Mercer County is a great place to attract both sports and entertainment events,” says Ryan. “We have a lot of great facilities and venues. The success of the basketball tournament shows us that.”
Ryan has been involved in sports for most of her life. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she was captain of the women’s basketball team and a member of the marching band. After graduating she became assistant women’s basketball coach and head coach of the softball team at the University of Virginia. She met her husband, Pat Ryan, while he was in law school at UVA, and in 1981 married him and moved to New Jersey.
Here she worked as an assistant basketball coach at Rider University and in 1984 became head coach at Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey. She retired from collegiate coaching in 1993 to stay home with her daughters, Kate, Molly, and Megan, but she did not leave sports. She has been active with the Hopewell Valley YMCA youth basketball program and currently coaches a sixth grade boys basketball team and umpires girls high school lacrosse.
The new commission is less than a year old and its executive committee is not yet complete. “We are close to formalizing the members of the board,” says Ryan. She has spent the last year researching similar commissions in other communities. There are about 400 municipal sports commissions around the country, each with its own particular style and emphasis.
Her vision starts with recruiting volunteers. “It could be as many as 60 people, but we’ll probably start with 30 to 40,” she says. “I want the people involved to have fun. We will have members who are focused on entertainment events and really don’t care about sports, and people who are focused on particular sports, like baseball.”
There are two major areas on which the commission will focus. It will work to help attract and create new events for the county, and it will actively support events that are currently held in Mercer County. The commission is ready to assist with publicity, volunteers, and plans “to rely on support from throughout the community, including hotels, restaurants and the chambers,” she says.
The group is already seeing success and has won bids for several events.
Women’s basketball. Women’s basketball will return to the Sovereign Bank Arena in 2009 and 2010. In 2009 the arena will host the women’s NCAA regional finals, and in 2010 it will again host the first and second rounds of the NCAA championships.
Men’s basketball. While the arena is not large enough to hold spectators for the March Madness men’s championship games, Ryan’s commission is working to attract single game events with NCAA Division I teams competing against area university teams.
The games will be held at the Sovereign Bank Arena rather than at the smaller university arenas. “The teams want to come here for several reasons,” she says. “It gives the universities exposure in this area and many of them have players on their teams from the local areas.” There could also be appeal for area alumni who enjoy attending games and supporting their college teams.
Baseball. The Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) baseball conference tournament will be held at Waterfront Park stadium in 2008. “Waterfront Park is available when Thunder is on the road,” says Ryan. “It is a great facility that has been under-utilized.” She hopes to bring even more events to the stadium.
Rowing. Next month the MAAC rowing championships will be held at Mercer Lake. Hosted by Rider University, some of the other schools that will attend include Marist College, Niagara University, Loyola-Baltimore, and Iona College.
Mercer County hosted the NCAA Division 1 finals in 2006. “Mercer Lake is one of the best rowing facilities in the world,” says Ryan. “We have Olympians who train at the lake. We need to bring even more events here.”
Ryan credits the success of last year’s NCAA women’s games and the warm welcome the players received as the main reason that the county won the bids for 2009 and 2010. Her committee brought together the area’s business, academic, civic, and public sectors to not only promote the games, but also to ensure that the eight visiting teams enjoyed the Mercer County area during their stay.
The committee raised its own operating funds through events such as a golf tournament, luncheons, and speaking appearances. In addition, with the help of Rider University, “host families” were assigned to each of the teams. The families met the teams at their hotels and introduced them to the community. “They helped them to find the mall and arranged dinners for them at restaurants. One of the families brought the entire Texas Christian team into their home for a home-cooked Italian meal.”
The success of the commission and of each of the sporting events that comes here will be determined by the community, says Ryan. “Our community can enhance the experience of the visitors and the athletes,” she says. That, she is convinced, is the playbook for making Mercer County a popular site for more and bigger events.
— Karen Hodges Miller
Tuesday, April 24
Different Cultures Demand Different Leadership Styles
For J. Barton Luedeke, formerly the president of Rider University and now an adjunct mathematics professor at Mercer County Community College, the success or failure of leaders often depends on whether their styles meld with an organization’s culture. “A discussion of leadership usually focuses on either the leader’s skill set, his understanding of and responsiveness to those who are followers, or on the communication between leaders and followers,” he says. “Often culture is, if not overlooked entirely, not given a lot of attention.”
Suppose, he suggests, that you have a person with a terrific skill set according to a conventional perspective on leadership. “If that person is put into an organizational culture that is counter to the kind of skill set the person has, even though the person looks like a leader, and may have been one elsewhere, he will not succeed.”
In Luedeke’s first job, with Proctor & Gamble, the person in charge was not much of a leader, and didn’t inspire leadership in his reports, but he was perfectly suited to the top-down corporate culture. “His job was to convey expectations and to ensure the execution of those expectations,” remembers Luedeke. That leader told his staff, “This is what we want the unit to do, and this is the productivity we expect.”
“His style was perfect for what they wanted,” Luedeke observes. “If he had sought participation, and asked his staff to be creative and come up with new ways to do things, he would have been a failure.” He might have evoked ideas useful for the company, but he would have failed as a manager.
Luedeke speaks on “Organizational Culture: Leadership Choices” at the Princeton Regional Chamber’s spring leadership forum on Tuesday, April 24, at 8 a.m. at the Princeton Theological Seminary. Cost: $55. For more information, call 609-924-1776. To register online, go to www.princetonchamber.org.
Luedeke’s definition of organizational culture comes not from a textbook, but from his own experience. “To me, culture is how we do things and how we see ourselves,” he says. “But one of the problems in talking about culture is that it is unique to every organization.” But he does suggest several variables that distinguish one corporate culture from another:
Organizational decision-making. His experience at Proctor & Gamble was of an entirely top-down organization. He describes another organization that he has worked with as also top down, but with a difference. That organization solicits new ways of doing things from people in the organization, even as they execute directions from the top. A third organization he describes as “a significant mix of bottom up and top down, where efficiency isn’t highly effective but creativity is.”
Communication styles. Do people interact only within the bounds of a conventional organizational structure, or is cross-communication encouraged? An organization that encourages interaction among its members may lose something in terms of efficiency, says Luedeke, yet by increasing creativity it may raise the value of a corporation in the long run.
Definition of efficiency. Does efficiency mean getting a job done, producing product, and meeting a financial goal, or does it include creative and collaborative efforts of people? Does the organization welcome, even solicit, new ideas from its members or not? It is up to each company, school, or volunteer venture to decide which style suits it best.
Size. To some extent culture is a function of size. “It is not the determining factor, but a factor,” says Luedeke, giving the example of a large manufacturing firm with 6,000 employees, versus a mom-and-pop laundry with a staff of five. It is impossible to maintain a loose collaboration when thousands of employees work from dozens of offices, but such a culture can work well when fewer people need to pull together to meet organizational goals.
Luedeke worked in a junior position in Proctor & Gamble’s home office in Cincinnati for a couple of years, was president of Rider University between 1990 and 2003, after rising through its ranks since his arrival in 1971, and has been on the board of a large insurance company for a number of years.
“They are three very different organizations,” he says, “in terms of culture, organizational structure, and type of business — manufacturing, service, and education.”
Luedeke’s doctoral work was at least tangentially related to issues of leadership. After receiving a bachelor’s in psychology and math from Hanover College in Indiana in 1964 and a master’s that combined mathematics certification and counseling from Xavier University in Cincinnati, he received a doctorate in higher education administration, with a concentration in statistics and research design, from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana.
Luedeke’s father was an attorney who practiced estate law until he was 90 and his mother was a homemaker.
When Leudeke talks with people about leadership, he often asks them to step back and ask themselves: Are we focused primarily on service or product manufacturing? How do we do things? What do we value? How do we define success?
A corporate culture is the unique mix of an organization’s goals, structure, interactions, and approach, and answering questions like these can help leaders figure out whether their style meshes with the context in which they work, or whether they might be better off looking for a new job.
— Michele Alperin
Looking for a Big Spender? Try the Government
When most people hear the words “selling to the government,” they think in terms of high-tech weaponry and a wall of impersonal bureaucrats underneath a veil of secrecy. But it can also mean selling lettuce to a school board member who spends his days at home watching “The Price is Right” or furniture to state government officials remodeling their offices.
“Many companies do business at all levels of government,” says Michelle Hermalee, owner of BH Sky Associates (www.bhskyassociates), at 100 Overlook Center. The business helps companies negotiate the sometimes-intimidating waters of selling to the government. “The government does billions of dollars worth of business each year for so many different things, from selling vegetables to the local school district to selling IT systems to the federal government. It is definitely something many businesses might want to consider,” she says.
Hermalee is the featured speaker at a seminar entitled “Positioning your Company to Sell to Government” on Wednesday, April 25, at 10:30 a.m. at the Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce, 1A Quakerbridge Plaza Drive in Mercerville. The seminar is free, but reservations are required. For more information, call 609-689-9960.
The prospect of doing business with the government, famous for its red-tape hurdles, can be daunting for many business owners. But according to Hermalee, too many businesses make the mistake of dismissing the idea out of hand without even researching the possibilities.
“It’s often not as complicated as people think,” she says. “Sometimes people get the paperwork and get put off by the sheer amount of it. But it is really not that intimidating, and a lot of the contracts, especially at the state level, are pretty standardized.”
Of course, it is a different experience for a company trying to sell to the Army, as opposed to the school board. “The government has rules that govern all procurement and they all have their own set of purchasing regulations,” says Hermalee. “The procedures are often different as well. Some governments, such as school boards, are forced to offer companies an opportunity to bid for a contract with the award going to the lowest bidders. But often at the state and federal level awards can be based on past experience or how the company may meet the technical specifications.”
Born and raised on Long Island, Hermalee moved to New Jersey in the 1990s to attend Rutgers University. She graduated in 1999, earning a bachelor’s of science degree in a public health. She spent the next seven years working in private industry in the government procurement business.
“I know what it is like to be on the other side, working at a private company selling a product and trying to market, sell, and win long-term large volume government contracts,” says Hermalee. “I won contracts with the EPA, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Navy, and long-term state contracts all over the United States.”
In January, 2006, she began her own consulting business, BH Sky and Associates. “I am a private consulting company specializing in assisting companies to do business with the government,” says Hermalee. “I help them to identify, negotiate, manage, and market government contracts.”
She founded her company in response to the rising demand from the private sector for professional consulting services to assist with government sales. “There are a number of consultants who do this type of work in the DC beltway area,” says Hermalee. “But there is a growing need here in New Jersey, and there are a few other consultants here who do what I do. We all work together because we all have different backgrounds and different specialties. My background is with federal contracts.”
One thing that certainly helps for businesses hoping to sell to the government is having a good track record. “It’s important to have substantial experience, especially if you are looking at long-term government contracting vehicles, such as a GSA contract,” says Hermalee. “But with that, you do have to have commercial sales and with a lot of federal contracts. You do need to have experience selling to private companies.”
Hermalee suggests that businesses considering the possibility of selling to either the state, federal, or local government start out by doing some research. “The first step is to check out whether the government is buying your product or service,” she says. “One thing I often advise my clients is to really research the government’s past procurement history. People don’t always realize that that is public information. It is not difficult to research what has been purchased in the past, as well as to find forecasts of what the government intends to purchase in the future.”
A lot of the initial research can be done on the Internet. “You can visit some of the federal government’s websites, where potential vendors can explore the needs and wants of a number of government agencies,” she says. “But then also sometimes you need to call them personally, or even to submit a request under the open public records act.”
As in all forms of marketing, the trick is to become visible to allow the potential customer to come to you. “If someone feels that there is a demand for their product, they can start marketing themselves to sell to the government,” says Hermalee. “That means getting their company on the main database where the government looks for vendors and suppliers.”
A major concern for many is how much competition there is among businesses.
“It really depends on the contract itself,” says Hermalee. “For some, like printing services for the state, it can be extremely competitive. It is like getting into a price war. But it really depends on the goods or services you are selling. Small local government bids are a little bit less competitive. They don’t advertise as much and they are harder to find.”
Hermalee suggests that businesses look at the possibilities, even if they have never considered selling to the government in the past. “A lot of people call me and say, ‘Hey I sell milk and coffee, but how do I sell this to the government?’” Her answer is that schools, local municipalities, and federal government agencies are all full of coffee drinkers.
“I help my clients to discover how to find out about the opportunities, and what to do with them once they find them,” she says. Hermalee also offers the following tips to government vending wannabes:
Research. “A lot of time and money can be saved by doing a little initial investigation,” says Hermalee. “The government buys just about everything — from pens and pencils to trucks. A lot of it is bought in large quantities. Find out who uses the kinds of goods and services that you are selling. Who are the major players — the companies that are winning these contracts? How do your services and prices differ from theirs?”
Don’t be intimidated. “Many people download all the governmental forms, look at them, and say ‘oh my gosh,’” says Hermalee. “Don’t be afraid. It is often not as complicated as it looks. A lot of the forms are very standardized, especially at the county and local level.” Figuring them out, she says, is not impossible — and can be well worth the effort.
— Jack Florek
Going global is a lot easier now. Little more than a century ago international expansion required getting the empire’s army to march into an overseas nation and cut a swath to clear the way for merchants. Now most companies find it more effective to migrate in electronically and build via peaceful links. Yet the process still requires the precise planning of an expedition.
While the markets throughout Europe and Asia have become increasingly popular expansion targets, a surprising number of firms enter these portals by blindly feeling their way. To shed some light on the caveats and benefits of such expansion, the New Jersey Technology Council presents “International Partnerships for High Tech Companies” on Wednesday, April 25, at 8:30 a.m. at the offices of Morgan Lewis at 502 Carnegie Center. Cost: $80. Visit www.njtc.org.
Attorney Steven Cohen, founder of Morgan Lewis’ Princeton office and an international business specialist, hosts the discussion. Other panelists include Tab Borden of the Canadian Government Trade Office; Wan Hashim, director of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority; and John Lindfield, HM Consul and East Coast director of UK trade and investment.
Cohen grew up in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. His father advised: “Son, get your degree and go into law. Then you can do anything you want.” Taking his father’s counsel, Cohen attended Wharton, earning a bachelor’s degree in business in l986, and then took his law degree at New York University.
Soon after graduation, Cohen joined Morgan Lewis’s Philadelphia office. In l990 the firm sent him to establish a Princeton office, which he has built into a 40-lawyer practice.
Cohen has traveled to and set up joint ventures in China and Japan. “I travel hardly at all any more,” he says, “but I still make just as many overseas partnerships. That’s a pretty good indicator of how things work nowadays.”
Virtually every European and Asian nation’s trade consulate is growing organizational arms that reach out to solicit American trade agreements. They help to find partners for manufacturers and investors. But despite the enticements, Cohen warns companies to engage defensively. “The key is to create in advance a backdoor that allows for a clean separation, implemented objectively, if things don’t work out,” he says.
Business pre-nups. Typically American high tech companies bring their own licensed technology to the table. The international partner provides knowledge of the consumer climate, and often a relationship with local markets.
But honeymoons end, and it’s a wise idea to have contracted certain considerations when dealing at such a distance. Threshold or achievement clauses should accompany the granting of exclusive territories to a local distributor. If the effort or output is not living up to what both parties agreed upon, fallback profit-sharing plans can kick in.
The protection of intellectual property when dealing abroad has proved a particular nightmare for many an overseas manufacturer. Legal protections and enforcement are nowhere as strong as in America, and therefore knockoff markets flourish to the detriment of the original maker.
“One of the greatest values of your product is usually the proprietary way in which you make it,” says Cohen. For that reason he warns clients to be careful of how much they outsource. It may be better to have the foreign partner just handle the assembly, rather than the entire production.
Partner swaps. New Jersey is a great region for technology items. United States’ life science and software products are globally known. We have often transferred our technology licenses to foreign sources where the drug or productivity tools can be made more cheaply. But this is turning around. Increasingly, partnerships across the seas are jointly working on the research and development of products — particularly in the life science arena. The trick is that it may be the laws of each government that determine where ownership lies.
It is a good idea to have local attorneys work on the legal aspects of manufacturing and shipping prototypes and products for sale. “The FDA equivalents in foreign nations do a very thorough job, and often have requirements more stringent than our own,” says Cohen. The European Union’s current system is one that most American business traders will find familiar.
“But in Asia,” says Cohen, “it’s important to know both the law and the lore if you are to succeed.” Impatient Americans face the lengthy process of getting to meet the right people and the one person who actually has authority for a deal. The solution is to realize that you are in another land, which operates differently, though very effectively.
Capital sharing. In any partnership the question is “who holds the money?” Traditionally the larger company holds the profits and doles out expenses and shares to the smaller. This size model is currently being replaced by the yardstick of risk. He who risks the most has the money in his pocket. And risk, Cohen reminds, comes in all flavors — money, time, research and development costs, and intellectual property.
In this electronic age, it all appears so easy. Finger-tap communication and instant delivery are indeed great enticements to take business abroad. But Cohen warns that it is important to weigh the risk versus the reward. “Don’t jump in too hard or too fast,” he says. “After all this is still an expedition to a foreign land, and while time has shrunk, planning has not.” To arrive where you want, you still have to plan as thoroughly as Columbus.
— Bart Jackson
Fine-Tuning The Outer You
Her name was Jewel, but at the office, she was “the Iron Maiden.” She sat at her desk in front of the director’s office, warding off all comers. Her frozen, beehive hairstyle and buttoned-up suit seemed to bespeak her formidable intent. And there she sat for 27 years, with never a promotion.
What is the image you want to project? Nina Jamal, founder of Image Management, invites clients to answer that question, and then take an honest glimpse in the mirror and see how close they come to conveying it. To help individuals better align their outer appearance with their inner selves, Jamal speaks on “Image: Your Most Powerful Tool of Command” on Wednesday, April 25, at 6 p.m. at Tessara Restaurant in Mercerville. Cost: $22. Call 609-987-4502. The event is sponsored by the Mercer County Administrative Professionals Association.
A native of England’s northern midlands, Jamal admits to growing up in a formal atmosphere. “Even if they are just going shopping, English women get more dressed up than Americans — no flip-flops — and I think that makes them feel differently,” she says.
Jamal began her working career as a trainer in business communications. Later she owned her own clothing and accessories line. This experience, along with a wide range of international travel, and even a brief dabble in the world of modeling, gave her an interest in the world of nonverbal communication.
She trained at the Imagery Soul Center of New York, and became certified with the Association of Image Consultants International. Three years ago she founded Image Management (colorandstyle@
comcast.net, 908-902-0366) and has since consulted for a number of organizations, including Roche Pharmaceuticals, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Swarthmore College. Jamal is also launching a series of etiquette and protocol classes.
In addition to consulting to organizations and offering classes to individuals, Jamal has some ideas about how entire job titles — including that previously described “Iron Maiden” — can get a much needed facelift.
Fixing Jewel, the Iron Maiden. It is not easy to turn around an entire corporate bias against a single position, but Jamal offers several suggestions for the beleaguered office manager or administrative assistant. First of all, she says, professional associations for people in these positions must admit that an image problem exists, and must deal with it directly.
From the top down, these organizations can inspire their members to advertise their vital roles as facilitators to the business community. “The right image merely authenticates the inner you that you want to convey,” says Jamal. “Look inside, examine yourself, distill what you want to present, then use your dress, body language, and speech to present it.”
Finding a standard. American casual business dress is running hard up against increasing globalization, where dress codes are distinctly more formal. Recently one of Jamal’s New York-based clients appeared in Mexico City so woefully underdressed that he almost sank the deal he was sent to cinch.
Even within one nation, dress is not unilateral. In Frankfurt, Hamburg, and Munich bankers are all wearing three-piece suits, yet in the wild city of Berlin loan officers are signing contracts in chinos and sport shirts.
Studying business travel books and checking the Internet saves tons of embarrassment. “Don’t overdress and show people up, or underdress and sabotage your capability,” says Jamal. “The goal is simply to make all the involved people feel comfortable.”
For employees, the best guide is look up the ladder and take your cue. Let the bosses know that you are ready to mingle at their level.
Nothing expresses capability as well as positive energy, and this includes a pleasant smile and good posture. (For the latter, put your back flat to the wall several times a day, and then walk away, maintaining that stance.)
How feminine? “I have had clients who are in the workplace primarily to find a husband,” says Jamal. “In their case, the flirtatious look is honest and fine. Just don’t expect it to net you a promotion.”
Generally speaking, it is a good idea to dress seriously, like someone who has come to work to do work, and people will respond accordingly. This precludes ultra tight sweaters and pants for women and muscle shirts for men, even those who weightlift.
On the other hand, women who go too far in masking their femininity create resentment. The overly mannish pants suit with tie screams that the wearer is assertively expecting to meet a combatant, not a coworker.
Colors differ depending upon the business — more black for attorneys, more colors for sales people. Today’s business trend, Jamal says, is toward brighter colors, and more femininity as women establish themselves in the workplace.
Personalizing your look. Fashion is fickle and, says Jamal, strictly for runway models. Today’s workers are no longer bound to a single business style, and should thus choose what best suits them.
Sometimes the fixes are amazingly simple. One mid-range brunette who shifted from blacks to browns and oranges received a wealth of compliments from her firm’s attorneys. If you are a self-consciously tall man or woman, wear pants with cuffs to present a shortening horizontal line. Conversely, for the athletic, broad shouldered lady, vertical stripes often work best.
Of course dress shifts with the situation. A square-off, confrontation meeting with the board demands a stronger dress statement than a morale boosting session with the sales force.
“The power suit still has its place,” says Jamal, “but it has changed. Remember to think of your audience.” For women the power suit makes its statement by cut, rather than by color, with pure black yielding to basic colors. For men, the tie is the statement. A bold red tie on a white shirt proclaims a force not to be dismissed lightly.
Beyond clothes. He stood only five-foot-seven, but he told all his parishioners with a laugh to call him Big Al. Somehow the name stuck and folks began noticing his broad shoulders more than his diminutive height. Developing a form of address for yourself, perhaps Robert vs. Bob or Butch vs. Howard, goes a long way in changing your image.
An additional part of the first impression is a standard greeting in person and on the phone. One naturally gruff and athletically formidable salesman practiced incessantly to mold a warm, friendly voice, which made customers feel comfortable and welcome.
The idea of working to create an image can have connotations of shallowness — and even deception. Yet for the individual who wants to have his talent and contributions recognized, sculpting an appropriate image is the ultimate honesty.
— Bart Jackson