Human Resources:

The Crash Course

Richard Finger decided on a career in human resources back in the late 1980s while working in the retail industry. He was studying for his psychology degree while playing the role of a trainer at work. Before he graduated, he had decided on human resources — a blend of business and people — as his career.

A graduate of the New York Institute of Technology, he holds a master’s degree in human resource management, and has been working for Bristol-Myers Squibb for four years.

Finger teaches a four-session course on the fundamentals of human resources at Mercer County Community College beginning on Thursday, September 6, at 6 p.m. Cost: $270. Call 609-570-3311.

While this is a standalone course, most students continue on to receive a certification in human resource management, taking other classes that cover areas including performance management, compensation, effective reward programs, safe hiring and firing practices, and managing employees.

“Students run the gamut, from high school graduates who are looking to see what the human resources field is, to human resource workers, to small business owners,” Finger says. “There’s no real profile.”

Finger refers to his class as an intense crash course. There isn’t time to go into a lot of detail on any one subject. Rather, this is an overview of human resource functions. It provides information on employment laws and process, compensation, performance management, employee relations, testing, training, and development.

Finger combines information from the required text along with real life experiences and exercises. For example, he does an interview skit for the chapter on staffing and employment. One student reads the interviewer’s lines on the prepared script and another student plays the role of the prospective employee. Then after the skit Cooper says he asks questions such as “What is legal and what laws were broken, or why can’t you ask what the interviewer asked?”

While human resources remains a necessary requirement for most business operations, many companies are outsourcing some human functions, if not the complete department. Finger, acknowledging that a lot of the students in his classes have outsourced some functions at their jobs, says the course is still a good idea. They can see if the outside firm is compliant, he says. They can develop a system of checks and balances. “They’re not going to be experts,” he says, “but they’ll have some ideas and be thinking of questions to ask, and that’s a good thing.”

— Cindy Lewinter

Saturday, September 8

Legal ABCs

For Start-Ups

The American dream of starting a business can quickly turn into a nightmare without proper planning, but there is help for the fledgling entrepreneur. Middlesex County College is among the central New Jersey schools that offer guidance in getting started, and in growing a small business.

Lots of decisions need to be made even before a first sale is rung up, and many of them involve legal issues. So MCCC offers “Legal ABCs For Business Start-Ups” on Saturday, September 8, at 9 a.m. at its New Brunswick Center, and on Tuesday, September 11, at 6:30 p.m. at its Edison campus. The school also offers “Legal Basics of Business Ownership, Contracts, and Agreements” on Saturday, September 15, at 9 a.m. at its New Brunswick Center, and on Tuesday, September 18, at 6:30 p.m. at its Edison Campus. Cost for each class is $50.

Brett Cooper teaches both classes. He learned from his own Internet startup the importance of planning when he found himself scrambling for additional funds to rent office space. He had originally intended to run the business from his basement, but found out too late that this wasn’t his best option. Cooper incorporates the lessons he has learned the hard way in his classes.

Cooper graduated from the University of Michigan in 1996 with a B.A. in sports management and communication. He also holds a J.D. and an MBA from Rutgers. While attending law school, Cooper ran his own Internet business. He also maintained his own legal practice for two years before joining Random and Wetter in 2006. He now focuses on family and real estate law at the Somerville firm.

During the first three-hour course, Cooper says, “we go over choices of legal formations and options for starting a business.” This includes deciding if it’s best to start from scratch, or if it’s better to purchase a business or franchise. The second three-hour course, Cooper says, “goes into running the business and legal protections, such as copyright, trademark, and contracts.” He also discusses employee issues, including hiring, firing, and non-compete contracts.

While each course can be taken independently, Cooper says most students attend both. In fact, most of his students complete all seven courses at MCCC to receive their Small Business Certificate.

An advantage of earning this certification, he says, is that “banks like that you took this training because it shows you did research and took time to plan. It’s not like I can go into a bank and just say I want to open a shoe store. Give me money!” The certificate shows the lender that the borrower has developed a business plan, researched the best business structure, and understands all of the legal issues, and necessary business protection.

Cooper says that Middlesex keeps classes small — from five to twenty students, and that his students range in age from college students to senior citizens. All of his students come to the course with an idea, and many have recently started a business.

One-third of all small businesses will close their doors within the first two years, and only 44 percent will survive at least four years, according to the U.S. Small Business Association. To beat these odds, Cooper offers the following advice:

It’s not enough to know your field. “You need business skills,” says Cooper. “I see a lot of people starting a business because they did it previously, or fell into it.”

But, he says, they learn quickly that they know their area, but not the business.” The best idea in the world, or the most thorough knowledge of plants, or sushi, or web design can be for naught if a new nursery owner, restaurateur, or web designer is foggy about the basics of incorporation, contracts, and liability.

Don’t leave yourself short of cash. “Make sure that you start your business with enough capital,” Cooper says. “Getting money is not as easy as you think, and people usually don’t start off with enough. You think you can just use your credit card, but that doesn’t work.”

Saving is one obvious route to capital. Another strategy is to hold onto your day job, which generally includes health benefits along with a salary, while working part time on the new venture. Another possibility, especially if the new venture is to be a non-profit, is grant funding. A partner — silent or otherwise — can also provide cash, as can angel funders, including family and friends.

Get the right advice from the right people. It’s important to find a professional who knows your particular business. If you use a CPA or a general practitioner attorney, Cooper says that there is the possibility that it will take longer to get the specific advice that you need.

Cooper has been teaching legal courses for small businesses for the past three years, and says many students still keep in touch. Some have contacted him to say they’re doing well, and others have hired him for additional legal services. Cooper also teaches similar classes at Mercer County Community College and at the College of New Jersey.

In a season of new starts, the air is full of possibilities. If one of them is a new business, make sure that it starts out with the best possible chance of surviving the coming winter — and sailing right along far into the future. — Cindy Lewinter

Wednesday, September 12

How Your Image Becomes Your Company’s Image

‘If you are a service professional, you are the product,” says Sally Glick, chief marketing operator and director of marketing consulting services at Sobel & Co in Livingston. That fact makes it imperative that service professionals always pay attention to the image they are projecting — and not just to the image of their company.

Glick speaks on “Building Your Personal Brand: Becoming Famous!” at the next meeting of the New Jersey chapter of ICREW (Network of Commercial Real Estate Women) on Wednesday, September 12, at 8:30 a.m. at the Hilton Woodbridge in Iselin. Cost: $40. For reservations and more information visit www.icrewnj.org.

Whether you are an accountant, a real estate professional, an attorney, or a professional in any other service business, “your promises and your image are what your clients will remember,” says Glick. Whether you are a part of a large, nationally-known firm or are a small, independent business, clients are bringing their business to you — not to an impersonal company.

Creating a personal image is just as important as creating a company image. You need to stay aware of your own personal brand and image, she says, “because if you don’t control it yourself, your clients, and the community will create one for you.”

She suggests that professionals follow many of the same steps that a business uses when creating that personal brand. “Look at what is unique to you. What do you do that is different from others in your profession? Create a mission statement and a plan for yourself. Treat yourself as if you were your own company.”

Glick has spent more than 30 years in marketing for accounting firms. She is a pioneer in a profession that barely existed when she entered the job market. A native of Chicago, she says that she majored in psychology at Northwestern, “because I thought understanding how people think would always help me, no matter what I did.” She also earned an MBA at Lake Forest Graduate School of Business Management.

Her first job was with her father, a Chicago accountant, who asked her to join his business as his “business development person.” At the time, she says, accountants, attorneys, and many other professionals were not allowed to advertise or market their services through traditional channels such as television or newspaper ads. In the late 1970s that began to change and a new profession — accounting marketing — was born. Glick was on hand to step right in.

She has spent her entire career as a marketer for accounting firms, working throughout the United States, including several years for firms in Mercer County. She was named Accounting Marketer of the Year in 2003 by the Association for Accounting Marketing. She also is the first female non-CPA to appear on the cover of the “Practical Accountant” magazine. As head of marketing for an accounting firm, she says, her job is to not just market her company, but to assist its professionals in marketing themselves as well.

She says that there are a number of steps a service professional should take to build his or her own personal brand:

Build relationships. While it is now possible for service professionals to advertise on television, in newspapers and magazines, on highway billboards, and on the Internet, the most important way to build a personal brand is to build relationships, says Glick. This advice has been given often before, she admits, but it never hurts to repeat something so important.

Relationship building means “being willing to help others unselfishly,” she says. For example, she recently invited two friends, one an attorney, the other a media professional, to lunch. The goal was that the two could meet each other and help each other in their own business. “I did not get anything out of that meeting,” she says. “I did it to build my relationship with them.”

Think world class. A world class professional always does a little more, they exceed expectations, says Glick. This means always going above and beyond what your clients expect of you.

In fact, she says, everyone in a company must be on board to project that world class image.

“When a client walks into an office, he doesn’t just talk with one person,” she points out. His first contact is often with a receptionist, and then possibly with a personal assistant, before ever seeing the professional with whom he has an appointment. At some point he may have to make a call to the billing department or a customer support line. In other words, if everyone in the company is not polite and helpful, the image of the company will suffer.

Be proactive, not responsive. Most good professionals pride themselves on being responsive, says Glick. But that is not enough. There are hundreds of responsive professionals and companies around, and if that is all you do, you may find yourself losing business to the person who is going the extra mile.

“Think about what your clients need, and call them and offer it,” she says. Don’t just offer new products and services, either. Forget any direct benefit you could derive from a call.

Rather, if you see an article in a newspaper that relates to your client’s business, put it in the mail for them. Sobel and Co. has a number of non-profit clients, for example, and to be proactive, not just responsive, they sponsor seminars on a variety topics of particular interest to non-profits, and invite their clients.

While an individual may not be able to afford to host a large seminar, there are hundreds of ways to project a world class image. The trick, says Glick, is to know your clients. “Think about what keeps them awake at night. Think about what your clients need, not just what they asked for.”

— Karen Hodges Miller

Health Watch

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton jumped the gun on the central New Jersey race to build large, modern, upscale single occupancy hospital rooms on Saturday, August 25, when it officially opened its new four-story Lakefront Tower patient building on its hospital campus.

The facility, containing 64 private patient rooms, was designed by the Philadelphia architecture firm Ballinger, and built by L.F. Driscoll, also of Philadelphia. The building’s materials were selected for their ability to support a quiet environment. The infrastructure has been infused with elements of nature and many rooms offer views of either the lake at adjacent Hamilton Veterans Park or the contemplative Grounds for Healing, the hospital’s fourth on-campus healing garden devoted to peaceful reflection, designed in partnership with the Grounds For Sculpture.

As the facility opened, RWJ Hamilton recognized its contributers, including Yardville National Bank; the RWJ Hamilton Auxiliary; Roma Bank; Rue Insurance; Mr. & Mrs. Allen Haldeman; RWJ Hamilton employees; PSE&G Foundation; and the Sharbell Development Corporation.

Capital Health System is now offering CyberKnife Radiosurgery System. The hospital says that this enormous robotic surgical assistant is the world’s most accurate device for allowing physicians to treat tumors and lesions anywhere in the body with “killer” doses of radiation delivered to sub-millimeter accuracy.

Used as a noninvasive alternative to conventional surgery in cancer patients as well as patients with other medical conditions, CyberKnife ensures the most accurate targeting of tumors, allowing for less trauma to healthy tissue and quicker recovery time for patients.

The CyberKnife Center at CHS is the only one of its kind in central New Jersey.

The leading physician in the new CyberKnife Center is John D. Lipani, the hospital’s medical director of neurosciences, and the only fellowship-trained CyberKnife neurosurgeon in the United States.

Lipani comes to CHS from the Stanford University Medical Center, where he received extensive training in CyberKnife Radiosurgery under world-class CyberKnife expert, John R. Adler, its inventor.

IRS Offers a Refund? Beware of ‘Phishing’

The New Jersey Association of Certified Accountants is passing along this warning from the Internal Revenue Service. Apparently brazen Internet thieves are invoking a name that few taxpayers, and even fewer tax evaders, feel free to ignore. By pretending to be IRS employees, they are netting themselves a tidy profit.

The IRS has issued a consumer alert regarding a new, two-step E-mail scam that falsely promises recipients they will receive $80 for participating in an online customer satisfaction survey.

In the scam, an unsuspecting taxpayer receives an unsolicited E-mail that appears to come from the IRS. The E-mail contains a URL linking to an online “Member Satisfaction Survey.”

“We have seen many E-mail scams using the IRS name,”says an IRS spokesperson. “The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers through E-mail. Taxpayers should always use caution when they receive unsolicited E-mails.”

In this case, the E-mail notifies the recipient that he or she has been randomly selected to participate in a survey. In return, the IRS will credit $80 to the taxpayer’s account. There are references to the IRS in the “from” line and the “subject” line of the E-mail. The link to the survey and a copyright statement at the bottom of the E-mail also reference the IRS. The survey form features the IRS logo.

In addition to standard customer satisfaction survey questions, the survey requests the name and phone number of the participant and also asks for credit card information. Once the fraudsters have a name and phone number, they will presumably call the participant and attempt to retrieve other financial information.

The apparent objectives of this scam are to use the participant’s name and financial data to withdraw funds from the taxpayer’s bank account, run up charges on a credit card, or take out loans in the taxpayer’s name.

Tricking victims into revealing private personal and financial information over the Internet, telephone, or other means is a practice known as “phishing.” Taxpayers should be aware that the IRS does not send unsolicited E-mail. Additionally, the IRS never asks taxpayers for PIN numbers, passwords, or similar secret access information for credit card, bank, or other financial accounts.

Recipients of questionable E-mail that appears to come from the IRS should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the E-mail. Instead, the E-mail should be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration work with the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and various Internet service providers and international CERT teams to have the phishing sites taken offline as soon as they are reported.

Since the establishment of the mailbox last year, the IRS has received more than 30,000 E-mails from taxpayers reporting almost 400 separate phishing incidents. To date, investigations by TIGTA have identified host sites in at least 55 different countries, as well as in the United States.

Other fraudulent E-mail scams try to entice taxpayers to click their way to a fake IRS website and ask for bank account numbers. Another widespread E-mail scam tells taxpayers the IRS is holding a refund for them — frequently $63.80 — and seeking financial account information. Still another E-mail claims the IRS’s “anti-fraud commission” is investigating their tax returns.

More information on phishing scams using the IRS name, logo or other identifier can be found at www.IRS.gov.

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