A Formula for Online Fame & Fortune
Regional Planning Summit
Good Question/ Bad Question
New Year’s Classes
Retail: is Bigger Better?
Ditch Those Disks
Partnerships and More
Corrections or additions?
These articles by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Fox were published
in U.S. 1 Newspaper on January 14, 1998. All rights reserved.
Top Of PageA Formula for Online Fame & Fortune
Here’s a Web business model that works: give a bunch
of well-paid Internet naifs the opportunity to talk to each
other and search databases at a free, members-only site. Then get
advertisers interested in selling them everything from drugs,
services, and expensive cars to buy exorbitantly-priced banners. Then,
give it a name that will make it sound like a close cousin to AOL.
This is the strategy of Physicians OnLine — POL. "It is an
online service for doctors," says Steven Zatz, president
and CEO of this Tarrytown, New York-based firm. "It provides
content that ranges from private discussions to access to databases
of medical information and drugs and things like medical newsfeeds,
to help the doctor stay current with colleagues. We also provide ISP
and Web site access."
In a usual day, says Zatz, more than 14,000 different physicians will
access the service. Every month, the website attracts an average of
50,000 doctors who spend between seven and eight hours there. And,
Zatz adds, the company has grown 20-fold in the last 30 months.
Zatz, a 41-year-old internist with an MD from Cornell University
of ’85) and an undergraduate degree from Yale University (Class of
’79), speaks at the Venture Association of New Jersey’s program,
Commerce: Real Profits through Virtual Communities," on Tuesday,
January 20, at 11:30 a.m. at the Governor Morris Hotel in Morristown.
Cost: $55. Call 201-267-4200. Also speaking: Arthur G.
manager of the New York office of McKinsey & Company; and John
E. Burget, senior advisor of investment banking with Bentley
Physicians OnLine actually has two locations; www.po.com is
the commercial website; while members visit www.pol.net for
the bulk of its resources.
It is one of the few Web ventures that are flourishing at a time when
many are failing to justify their livelihood. Zatz describes the
"There is a view that one of the real opportunities on the Web
is to identify very well-defined communities and to serve those
I think that is a very sensible strategy — to try to understand
the business needs of business professionals, particularly to serve
the needs of those who want to come in contact with them.
At POL, advertisers like Pfizer, Mercedes, or Fidelity spend upwards
of $20,000 a month to post banners in a medium that’s open only to
doctors or medical students. "On a CPM (cost per thousand) basis,
it’s going to be higher than most, but the effective CPM is more,"
Zatz says. "It’s a highly targeted medium."
Like AOL, POL targets an audience of Internet novices, and Zatz
most of its 95 employees work in customer service. "A lot of our
members have never been online," he says. "You’d be surprised
by the amount of hand-holding it can take; particularly for a
that traditionally hasn’t been very technical. Physicians for the
most part are not heavy computer users. It’s pretty rare for the
to use a computer in the course of the day. We think one of the great
advantages we’ve had is a customer service unit that can help them
get online and answer their questions like, `What is Yahoo?’"
Another AOL similarity is that POL’s marketing strategy combines
advertising with other paid services. While POL doesn’t charge
fees, it makes money as an ISP, and it also offers intranet services.
This year it plans to start developing a prescription fulfillment
system as well. "Our view of the business of POL is to try to
take advantage of a number of opportunities to generate revenue based
on the community we’ve put together."
Its numbers show that POL succeeds in attracting this body of users.
"Most professionals want contact with some of their colleagues
and they don’t get it either face to face or on the phone" he
says. "It’s changed the way doctors get advice. It’s very hard
to contact other physicians to share advice and experience. We really
think it has revolutionized how physicians communicate."
For instance, POL’s E-mail capabilities have been a big hit with
— the company did not expect this. "You need to really to
understand what your audience wants and not imagine," says Zatz.
"You can be surprised thinking `I’m sure the audience wants this’
and it turns out that it’s not something that gets much traffic. What
you’re trying to do is understand the community, understand its
limitations, and understand how to make money having assembled that
Zatz adds that the POL business model — getting wealthy
to attract wealthy advertisers and take it from there — could
easily be applied to other professions. "Whether they’re
of engineers, communities of architects, communities of lawyers, I
think there are other opportunities to look at the profession, to
look at how dollars in that profession that could be spent more
and I think you’ll see more professional business communities in the
next year or two."
In 1998 Zatz hopes to continue hosting dinner meetings or symposia
and other "live" online events, as well as developing the
online prescription service, which could tap into a market that
sees 2.5 million transactions a year. "There are number of
to move those prescriptions electronically," says Zatz. "I
don’t think the adoption curve there is going to be very rapid but
I think the long-term opportunity is a very large one."
He also hopes to expand the service to patients. "At a single
time on our service we can have as many as 1,300 or 1,400 physicians
online at the same moment," he says. "I think it’s going to
be very popular among patients."
But although some of its advertisers are non-medical in nature, don’t
expect Physician’s OnLine to stray from cybermedicine. "We’re
in the healthcare field and it think it’s highly unlikely, that we’ll
branch out, at least for the near future," says Zatz.
is unusual because of what a large chunk of our economy it takes
l1H &l4H &l6H &l2H &l1H š @head 14 = Web for Patients
Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey is now not only
giving patients a directory of physicians, but it gives them
to their offices. The New Jersey health insurer’s corporate site,
http://www.bcbsnj.com, has street maps and detailed
directions to physician offices, among several new features.
The site was started in 1996 and initially listed names and addresses
of doctors who participated in either HMO Blue or Blue Choice managed
care plans. It was expanded in the fall of 1997 to include physicians
who participated in the Blue Cross Blue Shield’s traditional plans,
as well as HMO Blue Prime, Blue Choice Prime, and Medicare Blue.
The site has also been updated to allow users to seek out
doctors close to their home or workplace, and provides a good online
mapping system developed by Etak. Other new features include job
a calendar of events and promotions sponsored by BCBSNJ, and a nifty
suggestion box that allows users to rate the site and offer general
Top Of PageRegional Planning Summit
Regardless of who first said "united we stand,
we fall," in the Princeton area this aphorism is becoming a mantra
for regional planning proponents like Alan DiSciullo, former
chairman of the West Windsor Township Planning Board.
The current chair of the central section of the New Jersey Planning
Officials, a group that seeks to unite planning organizations,
is trying to organize planning roundtable for mayors, municipal
board chairs, and statewide officials. A regional transportation forum
cosponsored by the NJPO and the Princeton Regional Planning Board
begins Friday, January 16, at 8 p.m. at the Princeton Township
offices at 369 Witherspoon Street. Call 609-924-5366.
The group’s ultimate aim is to provide an information exchange on
issues affecting various municipalities such as traffic conditions
and growth management. The rationale for the group should be
by residents of the greater Princeton area, which has had to deal
with a slew of new commercial and residential developments as well
as new road construction proposals.
Issues likely to be raised at the NJPO meeting could include the
Millstone Bypass linking Route 571 to Route 1 at an overpass near
Harrison Street; Route 92, the Hightstown Bypass, and, as DiSciullo
urges, the rapid growth of underdeveloped communities in central New
Jersey like West Windsor, Plainsboro, South Brunswick, and Montgomery,
that are currently unable to handle the influx of new school children
and more traffic congestion.
When confronted with regional transportation issues especially,
are often forced to act on their own because there’s no collaborative
effort beforehand. "Developers can very easily go into one
or several and wantonly build developments without any
to the municipalities unless the municipalities have ordinances or
growth management in place," he says. "We found in our
in West Windsor that it really requires a regional effort. You’re
going to get economies of scale, it’s really strength in unity, and
the ability to draw on the experience and resources of each of these
municipalities. In short, you really have to get support."
The list of invitees to the transportation forum includes planning
representatives from Princeton, Ewing, Middlesex County, Franklin
Township, Washington Township, Hunterdon County, Montgomery, West
Windsor, Hopewell, Rocky Hill, Hamilton, East Amwell, New Brunswick,
Pennington, Somerset County, North Brunswick, Lambertville, East
Plainsboro, Cranbury, South Brunswick, Hillsborough, Trenton,
Mercer County, the MSM Regional Council, the DOT, and the New Jersey
State Planning Board.
DiSciullo explains that it’s the fourth such meeting of its kind (the
first was in June, 1996), but emphasizes that this meeting should
an expansion of the group’s agenda. "We’re hoping to formalize
this into a working group," he says.
Top Of PageGood Question/ Bad Question
Okay, so you’ve written your employee manual, you’ve
made the personnel file, you’ve drawn up the policy on sexual
you’ve given the feedback, you’ve even bought the employment practice
liability insurance to protect you should you accidentally fire
for the wrong reasons. What else should you do?
Standardize the interview process, says Frederic Schragger,
an attorney, who reports that one of the easiest ways to avoid a
suit is to make sure that you ask the same questions to all
employees. "You want to be consistent with each interviewee that
you interview for the same position," he says. "Ask the
that you’re permitted to ask and don’t ask the question that becomes
a problem: age, family, married, physical condition."
Schragger and Cara Verba, manager of employment at Princeton
Financial Systems, address the Princeton Chamber on "The Right
Way to Manage Your Employee Relations: The Techniques and Legalities
of Hiring, Evaluating, and Firing Employees" on Wednesday, January
21, at 7:45 a.m. at the Holiday Inn on Route 1. Cost: $17. Call
Schragger, who practices employment law at 3131 Princeton Pike along
with his son Andrew Schragger, frequently is asked which
can be asked job prospects during interviews. As a rule of thumb,
he says, employers are allowed to inquire about prior work history,
availability, and work experience; they are also allowed to ask for
references. Outside of that is the ever-expansive gray area, full
of legal uncertainty and a lot of work for attorneys like Schragger.
Here are some sample questions from that gray area:
Do you work out? This question may be germane to someone
who’s applying to work at health club but not for someone who wants
to work as a secretary or as a retail clerk. Instead, phrase it this
way: "Tell me about yourself, tell me about your work
Are you a Redskins fan? This inquiry doesn’t necessarily
violate the law and could be useful in deciphering an applicant’s
personality. But a better route around the "that’s not
objection is to let the applicant somehow lead into their football
preferences without being prompted. Again, start with "tell me
about yourself" and let them tell you they’re a football fan —
or a biker or a hip-hop head or whatever — first.
What did your parents do for a living? This query is
than gray. While there’s nothing blatantly wrong with it, Schragger
says that its tone leans against the spirit of the law. "I’m not
sure it’s objectionable but I don’t think I would ask it," he
says. "I ask the question, `Tell me about your family.’ `Tell
me about yourself’ is a better question."
Do you have any disabilities that would hamper your work?
This is obvious suit bait, but interestingly enough, a simple
of the question would get the job done without attracting lawyers.
Schragger’s suggested alternative: "Is there anything in your
family relating to you or your health that would not make you
to do this job 52 weeks a year, subject to the fact that we all get
the flu? I think it’s a proper question. It goes to their availability
to do that job."
Most of the time, a well-phrased question will elicit the
you are looking for anyway. "It’s the method of how you handle
the interview and how the person you interviewing handles the
Top Of PageNew Year’s Classes
How to get your company to send you to a continuing
Show the brochure.
Stress the benefits.
Emphasize the convenience.
Compare the competitive pricing.
Direct from the brochure of Mercer County College’s corporate
and community programs division, these tips serve to buttress your
determination to "improve yourself" this spring. Instead of
taking just a sprinkling of courses here and there, think about a
series of sessions that will lead to a certificate, and perhaps a
new job title.
MCCC certificate programs are available in business communication,
child care career development, construction project management,
management, leadership, management and supervisory skills, and
training. New this semester at Mercer are certificates that can lead
to jobs as a travel agent or a fiber optic technician.
In collaboration with AAA Central-West Jersey, Mercer offers seven
courses from February 3 to June 30. All but three of the courses are
scheduled on Tuesdays from 6 to 9:30 p.m., and cost $45 for two
(The computer reservation system workshops are held all-day on
in June.) Topics: air travel; hotels, motels & resorts; land and sea
travel; customer service and selling, and travel geography. If you
complete all seven courses you receive a certificate. Call Yvonne
Chang at 609-586-9446, extension 3278.
Even if you don’t aim to install or repair fiber optic cable yourself
— you merely want to sell it — you can benefit from learning
how light transfers through optical fiber and all about bandwidth,
gain and loss, types of connectors and splices, laser and led sources,
diode detectors, and calculation relative to power budget. Three
in the fiber optic technicians series meet on Thursdays from 6 to
10 p.m. starting May 14, and each costs $205. To get a certificate
for this series you will have to pass a test. Call Dominick
at 609-586-4800, extension 3456.
Another hot job for 1998 is webmaster. MCCC has contracted its
certification program to Princeton Internet Group (PInG). The 21-hour
course meets on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, 6 to 9:30 p.m., costs
$2,250, and includes Web page design, HTML programming, content
Web application programming, and Web server administration. Though
it is fully enrolled for the session starting February 3,
may be available.
Less intense courses on the Internet are also available. Mercer offers
Monday night introduction to the World Wide Web, two three-hour
for $78 including lab fees. Princeton Adult School has five-week
on Tuesday evenings, 6 to 7:30 p.m., for $45. The class is taught
by Peter Mazzei, information technology coordinator for the
New Jersey State Legislature, Office of Legislative Services. Both
classes go so far as to teach you how to create a Web page.
Also at Princeton Adult School, choose from two introductions to
95. Alan Goldberg (senior software support specialist for
University) teaches a six-week course starting Thursday, February
5, $50; and James C. Roberson (president of JCR Associates in
Barnegat Light) teaches an eight-week course on Tuesday, February
To learn at your own speed, sign up for courses developed by Ziff
Davis Education, channeled through Mercer County College. Check out
http://corp.learnitonline.com but register by February 9. For
$49 you can take as many courses as you want from February 13 to May
13. All the software and materials are on-line — you do not need
to own the software package that you are learning. If you get stuck,
you can visit the Mercer campus to ask questions in person.
Can’t stand sitting at the computer for one more moment? Take a course
in effective speaking and presentation, "Stand Up and Speak
The Princeton Adult School instructor, George Scherer, has his
own firm (Scherer Educational Services), and is past president of
Princeton Toastmasters and a member of the International Platform
Association. He offers to videotape your presentations to focus on
specific areas of self improvement. The eight-week course starts
February 3, 7:30 p.m., and costs $45. Scherer follows that up with
two sessions on "how to be funny" starting Tuesday, March
31, at 7 p.m., $35. "Plenty of opportunities to participate,"
he promises, "or you can just sit back and enjoy yourself."
For information on Princeton Adult School call 609-683-1101. For
County College’s noncredit courses, call 609-586-9446.
Top Of PageRetail: is Bigger Better?
In MTV’s cult cartoon "Beavis & Butthead," the
dull-witted redneck Anderson leaves Beavis and Butthead alone in his
yard to build his pool while he goes off to a Home Depot-like
(Home Labyrinth) to look for Spanish tiles. Anderson has no luck at
finding them and haplessly scours the aisles until long after the
store closes. Meanwhile the two miscreants are left with the
to trash his property with the help of a backhoe, a hose, and mondo
bags of concrete.
In its inimitable fashion, the cartoon is critiquing the retail
tendency towards aggressive expansion plans. Experts aren’t far behind
in this belief. Amid the news that Target, the country’s third largest
discount retailer after Wal-Mart is planning to open a new megastore
in the as-yet-unbuilt Nassau Park Pavilion as well as five other
in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, a report by Barry M.
a national director of Ernst & Young’s New York City office, and
Shipley, a senior manager of an Ernst & Young real estate group
in Orange County, California, questions the need to expand so large
It notes that several large grocery retailers and chains like Toys
`R’ Us and K-mart are reducing the size of new stores and suggests
that other retailers should heed their example. Why? "The risks
of shifting to larger formats are enormous in the current environment:
costs can rise with no guarantee that sales will follow. Leases too,
can become burdensome. In general, the larger the format, the longer
the required lease term."
The report also notes a few disproportions that could conspire to
undermine the mega-store boom. While the number of square
of retail real estate has increased in the last 10 years, it says,
sales per square foot in nearly all retail categories has dropped
over the same time period. Another irony: the Babyboomer generation,
America’s largest demographic group, has reached its prime spending
years but is beginning to divert its income from the retail sector
to health care and retirement preparation, because of its advancing
age (33 to 52).
The report advises retailers considering the move to the mega-location
to make sure they have ample justification. Ernst & Young highlights
several factors why stores shouldn’t make the move to an outlet of
the labyrinthian sort:
Customers have not requested a bigger store. The report
suggests using surveys or focus groups to get the customers’
The store’s supply chain is inefficient. Problems in
stocks could have little to do with the size of the store, says the
report. The products customers are requesting might be sitting in
the back rooms unpriced.
Existing stores aren’t laid out properly. Forty percent
of the retailers in an Ernst & Young survey said that sales would
increase if the layouts of the stores were changed. This is a lot
cheaper than garnering new real estate, the report adds.
Long checkout lines are not really hurting the business.
If long waits are really turning customers away, then an expansion
may be in order. But in many cases, long lines aren’t oppressive
to hurt sales.
The parking lot is not always full. Even if it is, this
by itself should not necessarily justify a move. "If it’s a
location," says the report, "the worst that can happen is
the parking lot gets a little crowded."
The bottom line is, for retailers, a move to another location
is always a risk. "Rapid format changes and continued mergers
have increased the number of dark stores," says the report.
a consequence, opportunities may exist for retailers to partner with
property owners to upgrade old or underperforming sites."
Not every store has the potential to become the next Wal-Mart or Home
Depot, the report adds. "These retailers have flourished were
others have in failed in part because of their unique situations.
Wal-Mart, for instance, is one of the few retailers with true market
Top Of PageDitch Those Disks
Here’s a way to stanch the flood of 3 1/2-inch AOL
into your office. An innovative program called "Floppies for
accepts used diskettes from around the country and donates them to
schools that request them. Started by Carol Blake of CityLink,
a Louisiana-based Internet company, this project has already resulted
in the donations of more than 25,000 disks to hundreds of schools
in the United States and other countries.
To donate, enclose any spare diskettes (they don’t have to be AOL),
formatted or unformatted, in a box addressed to USA CityLink Project,
Attention Floppies for Kiddies, 20349 Highway 36, Covington, LA 70433.
For more information, see the project’s website,
Top Of PagePartnerships and More
How would a partnership affect your business? How and
when should you plan to make your exit? If you are the top person
in a two-person firm — or a senior manager at a company that
thousands — you’ll pick up useful information at a conference
staged by the New Jersey Technology Council on Thursday, February
19, at the Marriott.
Dubbed the "New Jersey Capital Conference" it features a
speaker, PNC executive vice president Mike Nelson, who will
discuss "What Kind of Financing is Best for Your Company?"
The conference opens with continental breakfast at 7:30 a.m. and
through lunch with a CFO roundtable from 2 to 4 p.m.
Register soon — at least by February 13 — to be included on
the attendees’ list. Those who are not NJTC members pay $125 in
$150 at the door, including breakfast, lunch, conference materials,
and a 25 percent discount on the just-released New Jersey Financing
Manual. Students with a valid ID may attend free. Call 609-452-1010.
A slew of workshops will address a wide range of needs. At 8:30 a.m.
choose from "Private Equity Sources for Intermediate Stage
with Jim Gunton of Edison Venture Fund, Richard Robbins of
Arthur Andersen, and Gerard DiFiore of Reed Smith Shaw McClay;
or "State and Federal Backed Financing," with Jay
of New Jersey Commission on Science & Technology, Caren Franzini
of New Jersey Economic Development Authority, and Jim Millar
of Early Stage Enterprises.
At 9:30 a.m. learn how to grow your company through mergers,
and recapitalizations, taught by Tim Scott of Price Waterhouse
and James Roberts of PNC Bank; or investigate "debt capital
sources & solutions," with Nat Prentice of BT/Alex Brown,
Dan Conley of Funds for Business + Leasing, and Arthur
of Jefferson Bank.
"How to Finance Roll-Ups" is the 10:30 a.m. topic for Brian
Hughes of Arthur Andersen and Jim Hunter of Janney Montgomery
Scott with "Joint Ventures/Strategic Partnering" with
Thomas of Buchanan Ingersoll as the alternative. At 11:45 a.m.
"Outlook for IPOs" will be discussed by David Sorin of
Buchanan Ingersoll, Mike Mufson of Janney Montgomery Scott,
and Joe Nardini of Freedman Billings Ramsey Co. At 2 p.m.
IPO Experience" is the roundtable for CFOs and financial
Though most of the conference sponsors are represented on the program,
Jefferson Bank, Packard Press, and Princeton Venture Research are
also among the sponsors who will have exhibits in the main room.
Top Of PageAsian Hubris
Every excess is predicated on hubris, and hubris may
indeed be a root cause of the Asian financial crisis. So says Brian
A. Murdock, who will discuss the crisis and its potential effect
on the United States market at a meeting of the International Trade
Network (housed in the law offices of Miller and Mitchell at Research
Park). This ITN meeting will be at the Nassau Club on Tuesday, January
20, at 8:30 a.m. Call 609-921-3322 for $25 reservations.
Murdock — Cornell, Class of 1978 — grew up in Scarsdale, where
his career choice was influenced by his father, an international
who helped emerging multinational firms design benefit plans. In Hong
Kong and on Scudders Mill Road Murdock established and co-managed
Merrill Lynch’s International Portfolio Group. Until 1996 Murdock
had been working on setting up mutual fund companies in the emerging
capital markets in Asia, where MLAM has several joint venture mutual
fund companies. For the past two years he was responsible for
activities, business development, and client relations in the Asia
After 10 years in Asia — and, as it happened, well before the
crisis — Murdock brought his wife and four children "back
home." He is now first vice president of Merrill Lynch Asset
LP. As director of the trust portfolio group he is in charge of all
portfolio management activity based in MLAM’s 16 regional offices
and all managed trust business for Merrill Lynch Trust Company. For
this interview, and for his January 20 remarks he offers his personal
views, not those of Merrill Lynch.
Murdock declares himself "persistently optimistic" in his
analysis of where the Asian financial dilemma is now, where it will
go, and how it will impact the American economy. "The good news
is that sometimes crisis management facilitates change that otherwise
wouldn’t be achievable," says Murdock. "If this succeeds in
forcing the development of a regulatory infrastructure that would
better support indigenous capital markets to open up their economies
to broader participation — and to enhance Asian standards of
and disclosure — all of that may be worth the price," says
From Murdock’s perspective as a boss — while building mutual fund
companies he employed workers of all nationalities — he saw
this clash between Anglo Saxon and Asian values: "It’s difficult
when you find something objectionable and they don’t even see it as
Some of these values are useful to the economy: "A thrifty,
society that is dedicated to family and education and self improvement
with traditionally high rates of savings and work ethic." But
chief among the troublesome issues is a lack of arm’s length dealing
in business affairs. Banks lent money based on personal associations
rather than on asset value. In almost every Asian country except
says Murdock, "everything is an insider deal."
Of course, says Murdock, inappropriate borrowing and cronyism also
exists in the United States, but in Asia the crisis was magnified
by loans in United States dollars against assets in Asia.
Official response compounded the problems. "Local leaders said
either `we have done nothing wrong’ or `this is a foreign capital
conspiracy to wreck our economy.’ A constructive response rather than
a facesaving response might have mitigated the crisis," says
He foresees these domestic problems:
Share values could decline for multinational companies
earnings will be adversely impacted. "The high multiples were
predicated in part on the expectations that they would have
earnings because of their exposure to a fast growing market."
Competition could stiffen for companies competing in the
U.S. marketplace with foreign suppliers operating with devalued
Consumer confidence could drop when the public sees
dropping for multinational firms and factories laying off workers.
"The good point for the U. S. is that not in memory have we been
a stronger financial position to weather this kind of problem,"
"Countries that didn’t have fully developed business practices
and standards need to make their capital markets and their economies
more user friendly. They had confidence — bordering on hubris
— that Asian values would allow them to do things
says Murdock. "But if they prove the rules are fair, then the
liquidity will come back."
— Barbara Fox
Corrections or additions?
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