Friday, May 18

New Women’s Networking Group

‘Networking with a Heart,” is the slogan of Powerful You!, a networking group that has grown in the past three years from just an idea to a nationwide program. Its founders have big plans. They see an international network of women connecting not only for business, but for personal growth as well. Powerful You! is the brainchild of Sue Urda and Kathy Fyler, both of Wayne, where the business is based. They are checking out Princeton as their next location.

“Women approach things differently than men,” says Urda. “We have different issues in our lives, we handle things differently, we talk about things differently, and we do business differently.”

Urda holds a seminar on “Networking with Intention” on Friday, May 18, at noon, at Mediterra Restaurant. Cost: $35. For reservations call 973-248-1262. The seminar is planned to explore interest in starting a chapter of Powerful You! in the Princeton area, and to find a facilitator to run it.

Urda and Fyler started Powerful You! in 2004 with just a handful of chapters in northern New Jersey. Today they have 30 chapters and close to 400 members in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Alabama, Florida, Arizona, Connecticut, and California. Their goal is to have more than 1 million members and more than 300 chapters throughout the world by 2010.

Urda and Fyler were already in business together when they developed the idea for Powerful You!

“I’ve been in the manufacturing business twice, once with my father and the second business with Kathy, manufacturing signs and displays for advertising purposes,” says Urda. Their company made Inc. magazine’s list of 500 Fastest Growing Companies.

The inspiration for their next venture, Powerful You, came from experiences they had as entrepreneurs, in the corporate world, and in various networking situations. “What we learned as entrepreneurs is that many women who work for themselves don’t get out much,” says Urda. “They work from home or are simply too busy wearing so many hats that their only human contact is in the form of E-mails and phone conversations. Since we all have a basic need for connection, it seemed like such a natural thing to create a space for women to meet other women in business for ideas, guidance, support and even friendship.”

Women only. Powerful You! differs from other networking groups in several ways, says Urda. First, it is women only. While there are other groups that are aimed at women, they do allow men to attend meetings or to join as associate members. Powerful You! does not.

Types of memberships. Many networking groups focus on business people, either business owners, or professionals, or people who are in sales. Powerful You has four categories of membership: business owners, professionals, non-profit, and personal growth. The personal growth members may not have a job outside the home, Urda says, but find they still want to connect with other women.

Holistic approach. Powerful You meetings include time for meditation to “tap into our lives and learn about our needs,” Urda says, as well as to “clear out” negative feelings. “We think of the things we want to get rid of in our lives,” she says.

Networking with intention. Like most networking events, Powerful You offers “open networking” time at the beginning of a meeting and each person who attends also has the opportunity to stand up and give a “30 second commercial” about themselves and their business. But networking with intention is a little different.

At each seminar Urda leads a visualization exercise, where the women decide on an intention for their lives. The intention can be anything from improving a relationship to increasing business. The intention is written down, then participants pair with another person and share their intentions. The pair then hold the intentions for each other and follow-up to see how things are progressing.

The follow-up, says Urda, is particularly important as a method of accountability. Having someone else know your intention makes it more likely you will actually do what it takes to achieve it.

Sharing successes. The participants share business growth stories and tips, as well as other things in their lives that they are grateful for. This exercise tends to create bonds among participants.

Not every Powerful You meeting focuses on intention networking. Topics vary from chapter to chapter, but generally focus on self-improvement. Topics at recent meetings throughout the country have included “Reading for Business and Pleasure” and “Pushing Ourselves to New Heights,” a presentation by a woman who has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.

Work life, says Urda, should not just be about “numbers, statistics and dollars.” But numbers can’t be discounted, either. Urda says that she and her partner’s bottom line is made up of membership fees, which are currently $125 for corporate and business members, and $65 for non-profit and members. There is also a one-time $25 application fee.

They require that women become members even if they don’t attend meetings regularly. They encourage membership through special advantages such as a profile on the Powerful You website and special rates for meeting and seminars. As part of their plan for growth they are increasing their services. A monthly national teleconference began last year, and they also want to publish books by their members.

Says Urda: “Any time you create value and offer value to people that they are willing to pay for, you can create a business. That’s what it’s about — adding value.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Monday, May 21

Creating A Consultant Brand Identity

As Ed Delia was getting his bachelor of arts diploma in English from Dickinson College in 1995, he remembers thinking to himself, “I don’t know what I’m going to do with my life, but I’ll be darned if I work for my old man.” But when his father offered to teach him the family business — Delia Associates, a brand development and business marketing firm in Whitehouse, New Jersey — and groom him to take it over, he decided to forego the job he had arranged in Philadelphia and give it a try. How many people, after all, have the opportunity to run a business at age 22?

It wasn’t like he came in with no experience either, even though he was young. “By virtue of being exposed to the business,” he says, “I got to know lot about it over the years.” At age seven or eight, he remembers collating press kits. Five years later he was helping to erect trade show booths. By the time he was 15 he wrote his first press release, and by 17 he was doing media analysis.

His father, who founded the firm in 1964, retired fully in 1999 and moved with his mother to Charleston, South Carolina. At that time Delia, still only 25, started to buy his father out.

Delia speaks on how consultants can market themselves by identifying — and promoting — exactly the services at which they excel on Monday, May 21, at 6 p.m. at the Institute of Management Consultants at the Marriott Forrestal. Cost: $60. For information, call 609-896-4457 or register at www.imcnewjersey.org.

According to Delia, the average consumer of home or business goods experiences at least 2,500 marketing messages daily. Because the human brain can’t process that many messages, he says, “we have to train ourselves and create systems to dismiss most of the communications that come to us.” To break into a consumer’s consciousness, then, any communication must be simple and focused.

This is true for deodorant soap and Mediterranean cruises. It is also true for people, and especially for management consultants, whose services are not always as easily understood as those associated with, say, carpenters or chiropractors. Delia says “their persona is their brand.” So the trick is to develop that brand and then market it successfully to potential clients:

Develop a unique niche. “If a consultant has a complex range of services that someone has to absorb and figure out,” says Delia, “it’s not going to happen. Consultants often try to position themselves as far too broad, in terms of knowledge and capabilities. They are often bright and talented, but from a branding standpoint, not believable.”

Most often, he explains, a single individual simply does not possess a deep knowledge of all aspects of modern business — operations, sales and marketing, human resources, corporate leadership, global markets, information technology.

Rather, Delia concludes, “companies and individuals who say ‘I am uniquely excellent at one area, practice, or discipline,’ stand to get their message across with far more effect and efficiency than people who tend to say ‘I do this, this, and this.’”

Identify your ideal client. Delia suggests that consultants look closely at the nature of the clientele with which they excel. “Everybody is not the target customer,” he says. In fact, a consultant probably has outstanding engagements with some customers and not others, and there are good reasons why.

“It’s not by fate or chance,” he says. “It’s something the consultant is bringing to the table and the organization has a need for and there is a fit on many levels.” By examining these successful cases, a consultant can often find common circumstances, and a perfect match for his expertise.

Develop a message and a look. After a consultant has been successful in meeting a particular set of needs, says Delia, the next step is “to build the language and the identity that represent the unique advantage he offers.” The consultant must decide: What is my core message or promise? What is the “look” with which I am going to position myself?

“We’re still very much a visual culture,” says Delia, “and we make judgments and determinations based on appearance.” Look encompasses apparel, corporate literature, the feel of stationery, the design of a business card, and Internet communications. “All of this should be coordinated — one brand, one message,” he says. “Every communication is a chance to deliver brand.”

Figure out the best way to deliver your message. The formats in which a consultant communicates brand include presentations, newsletters, articles, white papers, and appearances on panels and at other intellectual and educational venues.

“You have to put out your message with consistency and frequency,” says Delia. Even though people know that a regular and frequent marketing regimen is valuable, they often don’t have the discipline to keep one up, he finds. That may be because momentum builds very slowly when consultant is starting out. Often there is little feedback or return until the combination of frequency, consistency, and saturation builds up a critical mass, and potential clients are calling with invitations to speak and new opportunities.

Delia’s wife has now joined him in the family business. With toddler twins, she had been working part time as an attorney, and the couple had continual conflicts trying to accommodate two work schedules and child care. She is now the vice president and general counsel and manages internal operations and staff and does project oversight. Delia’s role is more external, working side-by-side with clients, doing presentations, and seeking new business.

Although Delia’s English degree has been a helpful tool for the writing and communication essential to his job, he has learned the business primarily through the challenges of daily experience — going way back, to when he hung around his father’s office after a hard day in kindergarten.

— Michele Alperin

Understand Your Intellectual Property

Intellectual property: what is it? Do you have it? And if so, have you taken the proper steps to insure that it is legally protected?

There are many misconceptions about intellectual property law, says Jennifer Gaeta, an Eatontown attorney who helps businesses protect their non-patented intellectual property.

Most people, even people who work in the media or in other fields where intellectual property is important, do not fully understand the differences between trademarks, patents, and copyrights and tend to use the terms interchangeably. However, each covers a different area of intellectual property.

Gaeta speaks on intellectual property law at a free meeting of the Professional Women of New Jersey on Monday, May 21, at 8:45 a.m. at the American Diner, Route 130, Hightstown. Register by calling Josie Pizzolato at 609-799-2922.

Gaeta graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law in 1999. After law school she worked at a large New Jersey law firm in the areas of intellectual property and litigation. She then moved to the New York office of an international law firm and also worked as a trademark attorney for a Fortune 500 company before opening her own practice. She counsels small businesses on matters of non-patent intellectual property and Internet law.

The law began as “a back-up plan,” says Gaeta, but it has now become her passion. A native of Wyckoff, she received a bachelor of fine arts degree from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and planned to be an actress. Her father, a retired judge, insisted on the back-up plan. She soon learned that “training will only get you so far” in the world of acting. “Great training is a tool but tools don’t pay the rent,” she says. “It takes contacts and luck.” Her interest in the entertainment industry sparked an interest in entertainment law, which eventually led her obtaining a concentration in intellectual property from Seton Hall Law.

It is important to understand the differences between a patent, a trademark and a copyright, says Gaeta.

Patents. A patent grants an inventor property rights for an invention. Generally a new patent is granted for 20 years from the date on which the application was filed in the United States. It is also important to note that U.S. patent grants are effective only in the United States, its territories, and possessions. It does not grant protection in other countries. Patents rights exclude others from “making, using, offering for sale or selling” the invention in the United States, or importing it to the United States.

Copyright. A copyright is a form of protection for authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and “certain other artistic works,” such as choreography. “It protects original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” says Gaeta.

The protection is available to both published and unpublished works. To be protected, the work must be “fixed,” such as by writing the work down or by recording the work in some way. For example, choreography need not have been performed, but it must be fixed in a tangible medium of expression.

Trademarks. “A trademark or service mark is an indicator of the source of a product or service,” says Gaeta. “It tells the public that certain products come from a single source and it represents goodwill.” A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of words and design, among other things, that identifies the source of the goods of one party from those of others. A service mark is basically the same as a trademark, except that a service mark identifies the source of a service rather than a product.

Two marks that are often seen identifying a trademark are words “registered symbol” and the TM symbol. The TM shows that a company “is claiming trademark rights,” while the registered symbol shows that the mark is “actually registered by the United States patent and trademark office,” says Gaeta.

It is important to understand the basics of intellectual property not only to protect your own property, but also to keep from infringing on someone else’s rights. “People who don’t know the rules can either lose their rights or run afoul of other’s rights,” says Gaeta.

When a company is choosing a name for itself, or for a new product, it has to find out whether the trademark on that name is clear for use. “Trademark rights stem from using the mark, not from registration,” Gaeta says. Registering, however, does give a company certain advantages. For example, registering a trademark provides constructive notice, nationwide priority, and advantages in court should a dispute arise.

Trademarks fall into several categories, from weak to strong. A word such as “hamburger” is the name of the product itself and, therefore, cannot function as a trademark. A word or phrase that describes, but does not define, the product or service, could be a trademark.

A better bet can be a term that suggests the product or service, without actually describing it. Coppertone, for instance, “is a classic example,” says Gaeta, because both “copper” and “tone” conjure up the skin color users are aiming for.

Sometimes, though, the best trademark can have nothing to do with attributes of a product. Gaeta gives “Apple” as an example. Yes, it’s arbitrary, but it has worked well for the computer company. Going a step beyond arbitrary, a trademark can be a fanciful, coined, or out-and-out made-up word.

While trademarks can be fanciful, intellectual property is just as real as physical property and its owners have rights under the law. Basic knowledge of intellectual property laws is a must for almost every business. Even if you do not plan on seeking trademark protection for your own mark, it is important to know that you have not infringed on someone else’s property rights.

— Karen Hodges Miller

Tuesday, May 22

Accounting For Non-Profits

As donors grow sharper and more cautious, non-profit businesses are being challenged to become a little more business like. It may be a noble labor to collect funds and spend them on worthy causes, but if there is not absolute accountability, and accurate recordkeeping, the fiscal spigot will soon be turned off.

To help nonprofits get on financial track, Mercer County Community College offers a four-session course on “Accounting for Nonprofits” beginning Tuesday, May 22, at 6:30 p.m. on the West Windsor campus. Cost: $113. Call 609-587-4800. Course instructor Leonard Steinberg, principal in the Steinberg Group in West Windsor, notes that this course is aimed at non-profit board members and CFOs, but not professional CPAs.

A native of Brooklyn, Steinberg attended Yeshiva University, graduating in l968 with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He then earned a master’s degree in educational psychology, which led to a teaching job in New York City’s school system. For three years he taught severely emotionally disturbed and physically challenged children, and then took on more mainstream classes at all levels.

Then in l990 Steinberg returned to academe, this time to take his MBA from Hofstra University, with a major in international business and finance. For several years he served as an accounting advisor for the Small Business Entrepreneurship Council. Shortly after founding the Steinberg Group in 2002 Steinberg was called to testify before Congress as a representative of New Jersey’s IRS advisory panel. His company has a specialty in tax issues and does general accounting for businesses of all sizes.

“The truth is most nonprofits do not keep good books,” says Steinberg, “and they are beginning to pay for it with a lot of bad press.” He cites the United Way, which was shunned by donors when stories of that charity’s general lack of internal controls made headlines several years ago. No non-profit wants to be in that position, and the best way to avoid the bad press, he says, is to pay close attention to financial infrastructure.

Competitive bookkeeping. “In this cut throat climate for nonprofits, your financial records can be your best fundraising tool,” says Steinberg. The goal for nearly every charity is to generate money for its programs, often by taking donors beyond their expected level of giving.

Americans are a very generous people. The average household donates a little over 3 percent of its annual income to charitable causes. For those who go beyond that, giving 5 percent or more, due diligence is almost always part of the donation process. This can be as simple as checking out the non-profit on www.GuideStar.org. This roster of 1.5 million IRS-recognized non-profits provides a disclosure of names, finances, programs, and category status.

Donors can also obtain from the IRS the Business Master File (BMF) on any charity from the IRS’s www.irs.gov/charities website. For their own tax benefit and peace of mind, donors are making the searches, and giving only to the fiscally most worthy.

For major grantors, the donation process has now become more formalized. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, one of New Jersey’s biggest givers, routinely examines each grant candidate’s 990 tax return, its entire financial statement, and its last audit. Those who show themselves more responsible, with a fiscal infrastructure intact, gain an enormous competitive edge.

Income streams. Excited about the good they are about to do, and in a hurry to get their programs launched, too many nonprofits fail to precisely separate their income streams into the three major categories, says Steinberg.

The first, unrestricted funds, are the darling of any nonprofit. This is money that can be used for any research, for administrative purposes, or for more fundraising efforts. In this age of more specified giving, nonprofits frequently find themselves short of this kind of donations, and thus stinted in administrative areas.

Temporarily restricted funds are typically donor-specified for a single project — for example, the purchase of 10 computers for an after school program. To accurately account for these funds the computers must be established as a distinct program and the money from the donor must be entered in the ledger for that program alone, with the program ending upon their purchase.

The third main stream of nonprofit income is permanently restricted funds, or an endowment. These funds are typically placed in trust, with only the earnings meted out for the designated project, perhaps a university’s chair in philosophy. “As basic as this all seems,” says Steinberg, “you’d be amazed at the number of charities that lump the money all into one pot as income.”

Double-entry precision. Virtually every non-profit has done some double-entry bookkeeping at one time or another. Not every charity makes a full entry for every transaction. Each action comes in as a credit, and must be balanced with a debit in some other listed account. In a for-profit business, determining which account gets the credit and is recorded with the corresponding debit is a fairly simple affair. An clerk pays a vendor for supplies. The money is debited from, logically enough, the account marked “bank” and is transferred into the “ABC vendor pay” account.

Nonprofits, however, tend to slice off accounts based on the various programs they offer. Also, operating more with a rotating, part-time cadre of volunteers than with staff, non-profits have a harder time of keeping track of in-kind donations.

“If a volunteer donates 10 hours of clerical time,” says Steinberg, “the nonprofit must find an appropriate account, make a monetary evaluation, and mark the credit/debit.” If that volunteer’s work was worth $10 an hour, the resulting $100 must be marked to one program’s account or appropriately split. Additionally, it must be debited, allowing this gift to be recorded for the volunteer’s use.

For example, if that volunteer brought in supplies or used his car to make deliveries, these are tax deductible. Double entries provide the history to back up his tax deductible claim.

Allocation methods. There are many ways to monitor a specific program’s cost and, but a non-profit doesn’t always get to choose. The non-profit running an after-school center may have a gym, a library, and a day care nursery. If a $750 donation is received and applied to the utility bill, how much of that is marked to each facility?

The accountant may divide the appropriate amounts based on the square footage of each facility, the number of employees involved, the number of participants, or another method. However, many funders and most government agencies specify one method of allocation. It pays to know what, if any, allocation preferences are entailed, when applying for a grant.

For nonprofits the real glamour will invariably remain on the front lines — helping those in need. But in keeping with their innate charitable spirit, non-profit officers must remember that they are working with other peoples goods, money, and time. The truly caring person, says Steinberg, will value these and take the painstaking effort to record accurately each item as if it were his own.

— Bart Jackson

Wednesday, May 23

Avoiding Employee Lawsuits

Just because a business calls itself “employee centered” and can point to policies that favor its employees does not mean that it is sued less than a firm that does not make this effort, according to John Sarno, president of the Employers Association of New Jersey. In fact, when his organization studied the litigation history of New Jersey employers, it found that no amount of training for supervisors reduced the incidence of litigation.

The companies that were proud of being employee centered, says Sarno, claimed to be proactive for their employees in three ways: they had open-door policies where their supervisors were supposed to be available to employees to resolve issues; they had written philosophies about their employees being valued; and they trained their supervisors on employment and discrimination law.

“Although this sounds good,” says Sarno, “it made no statistical difference in how often the employers were pulled into the court system to defend themselves. I began to think that training was flawed,” he says.

As it turned out, the companies would hire a lawyer to come in and tell people not to violate the law in terms of sexual harassment and race discrimination. Because this type of training had no practical impact in the workplace, Sarno, who is both a lawyer and an executive and management trainer, began to think about what might make a difference.

Sarno has been sharing the new training approach he came up with, which he calls “value-based leadership,” with New Jersey employers and will do so again at a hands-on workshop on Wednesday, May 23, at 8:30 a.m. at the offices of Miele at 9 Independence Way. To register, call 609-393-7100 or 973-758-6800 or E-mail barbara@eanj.org.

“A lot of people will subtly resist legal messages because they are too punitive,” says Sarno. Consequently, the legal issues, he asserts, cannot be front and center, but rather should be integrated with training about key leadership issues applicable to all managers, from production supervisors on the shop floor to bank executives:

Ethical, or value-based, leadership. The first value is an honesty that extends to self and to others. In his workshop Sarno looks at a case study where a new manager is dealing with an employee he believes to be unproductive and blames her for the problem. But if the manager had been honest with himself, he would have seen his role in the employee’s under-performance.

“The supervisor has not been clear about his expectations, is not able to prioritize, and has closed himself off,” says Sarno. For the supervisor, honestly admitting that he is part of the problem will be the first step to modifying his management style.

Integrity. Sarno says that, in the workplace, this translates to having an ethical basis for discipline. If a manager is going to criticize, he should also be giving credit for good work. The problem Sarno often sees is the absence of praise, which can serve to balance punitive measures.

Effective leaders must learn how to use praise as a tool. “Praise should be used authentically, for a purpose,” says Sarno. “There is a difference between meaningful praise that recognizes someone’s contribution, and cheerleading.” To give meaningful praise, he says, supervisors must “have to have a deep understanding of the contributions of the people they are leading.”

Say an employee generates a report, and her manager is impressed. Rather than sending a “nice job” E-mail, an effective leader will make time — and it can be short — to sit with the employee and explain why the report has contributed to the success of the department.

Conflict resolution. The key to resolving conflicts is an openness based upon genuine and effective listening. To practice these skills, Sarno forms groups of three — a listener, a speaker, and an observer. He asks the speakers to talk about something important to them that they want to convey to the others, but the listeners are instructed not to listen.

“They play different roles,” says Sarno, “and realize how hurtful and demeaning it can be when someone is not listening.” In fact, it conveys disrespect. “The participants begin to realize that listening is a powerful tool, and the foundation for conflict resolution.”

Transparency. This means fairness and “no surprises,” says Sarno. It requires ongoing feedback that gives people the opportunity to improve. Leaders accomplish this in a number of ways: coming in earlier so they can find more time to interact with their employees, relying less on E-mail, and getting out of their offices more for greater visibility.

Power is often misused, says Sarno, and most of the time leaders have no insight into their conduct. He hopes that his workshops will help leaders feel comfortable with their authority and believes the only way to do that is to exercise it in highly ethical way.

“At the end of the day,” he says, “they can say they have done everything possible to resolve conflict, and the only thing left is the exercise of power.”

The problem with bringing in lawyers to do training, he says, is that “they say exercise power first, and then we’ll justify it legally.” But Sarno looks at leadership differently. “Rather than justifying it legally,” he says, “put in the effort up front and lay an ethical foundation for the use of power. That is not only sound, but is the best legal defense you can have.”

— Michele Alperin

Call Before You Dig

Springtime is here and many property owners and professional contractors are taking advantage of the warm weather to undertake landscaping and outdoor projects that require digging or excavating. Elizabethtown Gas urges landowners and contractors to dial the new toll-free “Call Before You Dig” hotline, 8-1-1, before beginning a project.

Dialing 8-1-1 will connect callers to the New Jersey damage prevention center. This notifies the appropriate local utilities, which then sends technicians to the requested site to mark the approximate location of underground lines.

Created to eliminate the confusion of multiple “Call Before You Dig” numbers across the country and to be an easy-to-remember resource, 8-1-1 will make it easier for everyone to call before attempting any digging project. For more information about the 8-1-1 service, campaign, and a new national survey on consumer digging habits, visit www.call811.com.

SBA Urges Return of Loan Applications

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) urges recent storms and flood victims to return applications even if they have insurance. Those who do not return their SBA application may be missing out on referral for additional help for individuals in the form of grants.

Homeowners, renters, and business owners who are not fully covered by insurance may need additional funding to replace items and complete their repairs. “A disaster loan could close the funding gap and provide the necessary financing to help victims recover from their losses,” Frank Skaggs, director of SBA Field Operations Center East, said in a prepared statement.

If a victim is not aware of the amount of his insurance settlement, SBA will consider making a loan for the total loss up to its lending limits, provided the borrower agrees to use insurance proceeds to reduce or repay an SBA loan.

Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Businesses of any size and private non-profit organizations may borrow up to $1.5 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets.

Call the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955, or 800-877-8339 for the hearing-impaired, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Business loan applications can also be downloaded from the SBA website at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance . Completed applications should be returned to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, Texas, 76155.

The deadline to return applications for physical loan applications is June 25, 2007. The deadline to return application for economic jury is January 28, 2008.

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