These articles were written by Peter J. Mladineo and Barbara Figge Fox.A husband and wife are in court trying to determine equitable distribution on a large pension plan the husband has. He’s pulling in $80,000 a year; she owns a beauty parlor and says she makes $20,000 a year. Proving that the woman is underreporting income is not such an easy matter, so the husband’s attorney brings in Lawrence J. Thoma, a forensic accountant, to investigate. The first step, says Thoma, is to get the beauty parlor’s books examined in court.
This is foiled when the woman reports that the boxes containing the records were stolen from her car, and has a police report and a broken window to prove it.
The only record the woman has left is an appointment book dating back nine months. But that’s enough for Thoma, who can use it to reconstruct the beauty parlor’s gross receipts. When they are all added up, he ascertains that the woman is making at least $75,000 a year — more than $50,000 more than she reported, and that information causes the woman’s attorneys to chose to settle. Judges are required to turn over to the government someone underreporting income.
A director of Withum Smith & Brown’s litigation support service division, Thoma lectures at the Institute of Management Accountants, Princeton Chapter, on Wednesday, January 21, at 6 p.m. at Good Time Charley’s. This joint meeting with the Institute of Internal Auditors costs $24. Call 609-840-0700 for more information.
While matrimonial cases create the most work for forensic accountants, the landscape is marked with various kinds of commercial investigations, like cases involving accidents at work or inventory shrinkage. Here are some case studies from the world of forensic accounting:
Skimming. An investor in a diner hired a group to operate it but then became concerned when he noticed that the heavily-trafficked spot was pulling in suspiciously low amounts of cash. To prove this, the forensic accountant first did a count of customers over a period of time, then used that figure to calculate that the average check per customer only amounted to $2 a head. That was far below the average diner check in that area ($8 a head). In this case, gross receipts were being severely under reported by the diner’s managers.
Fudging commissions. A major magazine company sells subscriptions by mail and by phone solicitation. When it is suspected that a phone solicitor is doubling his income by lifting mail orders from the mailroom and writing them up as his own orders, the forensic accountant contacted all of the people who placed orders with the magazine, and proves it.
Thoma, 50, is a CPA and an attorney who got his accounting degree from City College of New York (Class of 1969) and his JD from Fordham Law School (Class of 1973). His dual interests in law and financial issues got him into this work 30 years ago and he hasn’t wavered since. "My interest in numbers and the law seem to go together," he says.
Like a well-versed detective, he has developed a sixth sense for sniffing out the BS. "There are not that many of these people who could be considered criminals, where they should be put in jail, but they’re very liberal in regard to expense accounts and business meals and entertainment," he says. "Some people who own their own businesses take advantage of this to a certain extent."
Money & the Psyche
Suzin Green believes that money reflects some aspect of the bearer’s personality. "A very generous person will be very generous with their money," she says. "A very tight person will be very tight with their money and, generally, will be very tight in their relationships as well. I think we tend to project a lot of ourselves on to money, so many people think that money is
People who are disorganized often tend to eschew money, Green notes. "In their outer life you also see that in their disorganization that they are running from things about themselves that they don’t want to look at," she says. Likewise people who inherit money often feel a subtle sense of guilt that makes them irresponsible with that money. "Instead of managing money they let it drift through their fingertips," she says.
Green, who teaches meditation and yoga at the Princeton Center for Yoga & Health, and Amy McKhann, a New York City-based financial advisor and portfolio manager, give a seminar, "Financing Your Vision: Mining the Currency of Your Soul" on Sunday, January 25, at noon at 113 Commons Way, Montgomery Commons. Call 609-924-1586 for $45 reservations.
Green speaks in terms of inner and outer wealth, naming Princess Di as an exemplar of someone possessing both. At the other end of the scale: "Howard Hughes is a great example of someone who had great outer wealth but if you look at the state of the way the man died you see someone who had little inner wealth," she says.
Negative perceptions of money stem from America’s Puritanical roots, Green maintains. "I think we are conditioned to believe that it’s not okay to be happy, that if we’re not suffering we’re somehow not alive," she says.
With a masters degree in from Leslie College in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
Green is a specialist in what she calls "source work," yoga, and chakras, and she also leads Hindu chanting groups. For her, money has an almost spiritual property. "I know that we hear stories about beggars in India who seem to be at great peace but I’ve never met anybody who was homeless and feeling on top of the world," she says. "We can’t really have true outer abundance if we don’t
also feel inner abundance, and vice versa. If we don’t have our basic survival needs met because we’re never going to feel quite safe."
The way Green sees it, the world of mammon is fraught with dichotomies. While it is the way to realize dreams, it is also a source of potentially corruptive power. "There is a difference between the obsessive pursuit of money for the sake of making money and working really hard at something we love," she says. "Money gets very cloudy for people because money is often the way we measure power, and we never have enough. We drive ourselves to try to make more money but inside something is dying."
She met McKhann at a women’s vision conference in New York. "We felt such a rapport that we said we have to have a workshop on money somewhere down the line," says Green. "My work was about helping people cultivate inner abundance and her work is about helping people cultivate outer abundance. In talking we both felt that we all need a balance of the two."
Women and Clothes
High above Times Square is an electronic billboard for Liz Claiborne, the women’s fashion designer. The gleaming electronic sign is a testament to the power of marketing and to a company that grew from a small fashion line with one white women’s jacket to a $2.5 billion multi-line empire.
Not bad for a company that once looked down on marketing, says Elaine Goodell, controller. "When Liz Claiborne first started, she thought marketing cheapened your product. We now spend $30 million a year marketing our product." Claiborne, the founder, is comfortably retired in Montana with her husband.)
The company has a website, www.lizclaiborne.com, and constantly seeks out new ways in which to engage the public. And by Goodell’s description of the hyper-competitive fashion industry, it has to. "Everybody is racing to create the most excitement," she says. "You need to reach your consumer in creative ways. Your product has to be great and then you have to go beyond that. We reinvent
ourselves four times a year."
Goodell talks about the Liz Claiborne brand for the New Jersey Technology Council on Wednesday, January 28, at Lucent Technologies in Murray Hill. Call 609-452-1010 for $40 reservations. "Basically we have built our brands on understanding our consumer and over time having to evolve and expand our line," she reports. "Your brand is you. Someone once told me if your brand was a person would you take it to dinner? Your product has to represent what you are and it better be good or people won’t want to buy it."
As the Times Square ad suggests, Liz Claiborne puts a high premium on high-energy excitement. "The buying process has to be some sort of a fun event," she says. "The time that people have allotted for free time is not a whole heck of a lot — 30 percent sleeping, 27 percent working, 19 percent leisure, 13 percent household, 7 percent kids, 2 percent exercise, 1 percent grocery shopping and the other is 1 percent. Therefore you have to have some sort of excitement because otherwise people won’t notice you.
But getting the clothes on the backs of its buyers means dealing with two sets of clients — people who wear the clothes (consumers) and people who sell them (customers). "We have to go through our customers to get to the consumers, and they’re not always on the same wavelength," Goodell explains. "Consumers just want the right product in the store at the right time in their size. Customers want to make sure you have the product packed right."
Technology will play an increasing role in the clothes industry. An example is Levi Strauss & Co., which is now offering jeans tailored to personal sizes. "If you can engage the individual in the buying procedure to make them feel a part of it you probably have some kind of a unique presentation you can bring to the table," says Goodell.
Currently, Liz Claiborne partners with its retailers, but in a future milieu, the company might end up trying to find ways to partner with its consumers, Goodell suggests. "If you don’t get into the trend you’re going to be out of business."
Women and Drink
The Metro Employee Assistance Service recently reported this observation: women comprise one third of alcoholics, but are less likely to be referred for treatment. The reason is, their supervisors, are less likely to confront a woman about a suspected alcohol or drug problem.
"When a female employee is in obvious trouble, the problem is more likely to be explained as depression rather than alcoholism," says the report. "Some male supervisors consider women to be more emotionally fragile, while female managers may find themselves wanting to protect the employee by giving time off, or overlooking decreased productivity." However, statistics now suggest that more women are seeking treatment for alcoholism and addiction than ever before.
Woman and Science
Kathie Young met her first mentor at a breakfast at Marshall Fields in Chicago. A post doctoral student in Northwestern’s molecular biology department, she had responded to a survey instigated by the launch of new perfume that was tantalizingly named "Destiny." The marketing firm for the perfume recruited 200 professional women to be mentors and then processed applications for young women asking for guidance. Young "won" as her mentor a chemist who belonged
to the Association for Women in Science.
Young then moved here to work for American Cyanamid, and she helped establish New Jersey’s first chapter of the Association for Women in Science. Though this chapter has no formal mentoring program, Young says it gives her a perspective to look at her situation in context. "We are so friendly in our group that people feel comfortable calling anyone. At this point we can mentor college or graduate students."
Young grew up in Lakewood, Ohio, near Cleveland, where her father was a technical salesman and her mother worked for the school board. She took a track scholarship to Penn State and was one of the few pre-vet majors with no intentions of being a vet. "I wanted to get a job in the zoo and work with species that were endangered to do captive reproduction and repopulate the wild."
Discouraged by the restrictions on zoo research she switched her interest to biology and earned her doctor’s degree in reproductive physiology at the University of Florida. After her stint at Northwestern she moved to American Cyanamid and became a principal investigator. She has just moved from Cyanamid to work on Ridge Road for Wyeth Ayerst, a sister company also owned by American Home Products. She will be working on neuro-degeneration diseases such as stroke and Alzheimer’s.
Young was the founding president of the AWS, Rosie Wong of American Cyanamid was last year’s president, Deirdre LaMarche at FMC is this year’s president, and Marcia O’Connell, who teaches genetics and does research on Zebra fish at the College of New Jersey, is the president elect.
In addition to its meetings the group has garnered corporate sponsorship to award a $500 scholarship to a high school senior who plans to major in science. Association members are available to speak at high school and college career days. Local dues are $10 and national dues range from $25 to $70 and include a bimonthly publication plus the privilege to vote and hold office. At a free meeting on Wednesday, February 25, at Bristol-Myers Squibb, Elizabeth Antry will discuss how to present technical information to a non-technical audience,
"You’ve Got What It Takes." For information call Sandra Carson at American Cyanamid, 609-716-2000.
To celebrate National Engineers Week the Society of Women Engineers of New Jersey will present a career day on Saturday, February 28, from 9:115 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. at Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical on Route 202 in Raritan. Panelists will address changing careers, going back to school, starting your own business, and managing change. Workshops will be on professional poise and self esteem, plus resume critique and interview skills." Cost: $25. Request a registration form by faxing Stephanie Hontz at 973-765-2209.
Women and Money
Whether women are the business owners or the employees, they are just as interested as their male counterparts, perhaps even more so, in effectively controlling their financial affairs. Two workshops on this subject are scheduled in the next two-week period. Smith Barney sponsors "Take Charge of Your Financial Life," a workshop of interest to women, scheduled for Tuesday, January 27, at 7 p.m. at Good Time Charley’s. YWCA Princeton’s second annual conference on the psychology of women and money, "Women, Work, and Identity,"
will be Saturday, February 7, at 9 a.m. at the Nassau Club.
Daryl Torlay of Smith Barney will host a panel that includes Angie C. Clark of Oppenheimer Capital, Karen Bullot of Alliance Capital Management, and Elaine Britt, an attorney with Fox Rothschild O’Brien & Frankel. Clark’s topic is "Interested in Today’s Environment," while Bullot will discuss retirement planning and Britt will cover estate planning. For free reservations call Lisa Velkovich at 609-538-4800.
Lisa T. Forrester, president and CEO of the Harmony Schools, will keynote the YWCA conference on February 7. A networking buffet brunch — flanked by workshops — will be served at 11 a.m. Participants will be able to attend two of five workshops offered. Make choices when you preregister for $30 — at least by January 30. Call 609-497-2100.
Net Savvy Women
Women business owners are flocking to the Internet in greater droves than men, according to an IBM-sponsored National Federation of Women Business Owners survey of 800 businesses across the country. Just 16 percent of the men business owners have a home page, but 23 percent of the women consider the art of HTML to be important to their business.
Women are also increasing their investment in computer hardware and software by 51 percent over last year, says Micki Napp, national market executive of women-owned businesses for IBM. The survey also revealed that 21 percent more women than men say having a toll-free help line is an important factor. Those percentages are nearly the same for the question of whether vendor knowledge and post-sale technical support are very important.
"Our research documents that women entrepreneurs place value on relationships and factual information," says Lois E. Haber of Delaware Valley Financial Services and chair of the NFWBO. "As women-owned firms continue to increase in numbers and economic power, it’s valuable for policy makers and business owners to understand and benefit from these differences. For details call 301-495-4975
or go to http://www.nfwbo.org. A 1997 video documentary "Women Business Owners — Continuing to Break the Boundaries" is available at $14.95 by calling the same number.
Women and Capital
Women-owned firms seeking expansion capital can apply to the Women’s Growth Capital Fund at 202-342-1431 or E-mail >email@example.com. The fund will invest $100,000 to $500,000 in women-owned companies that are at least two years old, are growing at 20 percent or more a year, and are profitable or are generating positive cash flow.
Calling All Managers
Good sales people don’t always make good sales managers. Everyone knows a manager who did a fabulous job as an underling but never quite got the knack of supervising other people. "It’s one thing to be a successful employee doing an excellent job," says John Punyko, president of the Sandler Sales Institute.
"It’s a quantum leap to move from being a good employee to being a successful leader." For someone who is, by nature, an outstanding employee, it’s hard to expect less from their subordinates. "They often make expensive management errors because they don’t fully understand what drives the people they are managing."
So who’s teaching the managers? Punyko has set up a year-long program, "Strategic Sales and Business Management," for managers and business owners. It involves twice monthly group meetings plus consulting services and access to sales programs. He offers an introduction, a free hands-on seminar, "Building an Organization That Sells," on Friday, January 23, from 8:30 to 11 a.m. It repeats on Friday, February 6. For reservations call 609-452-2722.
"The minimal qualification is sales manager," says Punyko. His program aims not only to teach managers but to also give managers and owners the opportunity to explore the issues they don’t necessarily want to share with staff — how to hire and fire, for instance. "They’re lonely. They can’t talk to their sales people, and their spouses may not understand the business. They have nobody to talk to about their problems. Here they practice in a low-risk environment among peers to become competent in the skills needed to lead an organization. Know and understand the characteristics of a super salesperson and an ineffective salesperson. Understand the gap that exists between manager and employee expectations and improve communication and management skills to reduce or eliminate the gap. Get a full understanding of the true cost of turnover
so you will work toward getting better screening, testing, and training procedures.
Punyko recommends the interview tool called the SEARCH mode: skills, experience, attitude, results, cognitive skills, and habits. "Fail to define and uncover them," says Punyko, "and the potential for a bad hire increases exponentially."
Grief in the Workplace
Your colleague has a death in his family but he seems to be just fine and hardly misses a day of work. But two months later he starts coming to the office looking haggard after a night with little sleep, and he loses his temper over insignificant matters.
Most businesses don’t understand how the grieving process affects workplace productivity, says Caryl Tipton, the volunteer and bereavement coordinator with Community Hospice, part of Visiting Nurse Association of the Delaware Valley. Businesses often provide a three-day leave, she says, but for most people the intense grief doesn’t hit for two or three months, when reality starts to hit.
Tipton offers a free workshop to provide information about the grief process and give practical applications for the workplace. "Grief in the Workplace" will be Saturday, January 24, from 9:30 a.m. to noon at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Pennington. Registration is required. Call Mary Jane Warznak at 609-895-0121.
Tipton also offers a workshop for those who want to volunteer on the Community Hospice Family Support Team. A 20-hour training course starts Saturday, February 7, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lawrenceville branch of the Mercer County Library. Hospice volunteers in Mercer and Bucks counties can help with personal care, provide respite time for families, lead bereavement counseling and support groups, and help with general household tasks. Call Tipton at 609-695-0329, extension 2224.
After going to Westminster Choir College, Class of 1979, Tipton was an arts administrator, managing Musica Sacra (an orchestra and chorus) and working for the New York Philharmonic. But, she says, "I had been touched by grief and loss, and I knew I wanted to do more." A certified grief counselor who is getting her social work degree, she offers the grief workshops and counseling to businesses onsite.
"I gear the workshop towards productivity," says Tipton, noting that troubled employees not only decrease productivity but also increase health care costs, absenteeism, and accidents. Bereavement situations encompass more than the death of a relative. For instance, divorce or the break-up of a long-time relationship will be accompanied by grief. If one of your cohorts leaves the
workplace as a result of downsizing or job change, you might experience grief.
One of Tipton’s former clients mourned saying, "I worked next to this person for 10 years and they are no longer there."
"You can’t just stop grief at the door," says Tipton. "I had one woman say to me she would lose an hour of work trying to hold herself together. `If I had had just 10 minutes to close the door and cry,’ she said, `I could have been right back to work.’ It takes a lot of energy to hide all that emotion, but she didn’t have the support simply to take that 10 minutes."
"Denial results in complicated grief, but denial is not always bad — it can be a physical, emotional, natural way of taking a break. It can result in sickness, physical problems, lack of sleep, lack of appetite, overuse of substances. Too much of anything — eating or sleeping — or not enough — then it starts affecting your work."
If a colleague dies suddenly or violently, Tipton recommends having private individual meetings to inform co-workers. "This gives staff a chance to express feelings openly and time to adjust to the shock before going into the work situation. Provide small-group time for people to express themselves."
Says Tipton: "An employee who has suffered a major loss yet shows no symptoms of grief, and acts as though nothing has happened may be more at risk than one who shows these emotions."