Corrections or additions?
These articles by Deb Cooperman, Sally Friedman, Bart Jackson and
Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the July 14, 2004 issue of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
You only get one chance to make a first impression, and nowhere is
that maxim more true than when trying to raise funds for a new
business. "You’ve got to grip your audience in the first 30 seconds,"
says Virginia Bonker, partner and co-founder of Blue Rock Capital. You
may have the greatest business idea in the world, but if you don’t
plan your pitch to capture the attention of the investors, Bonker
says, you won’t get the money. You might not even get in the door.
On Tuesday, July 20, at 11:30 a.m., Bonker speaks on "Effective
Fundraising Pitches" at the meeting of the Venture Association New
Jersey at Headquarters Plaza Hotel in Morristown. Cost: $45. Visit
www.vanj.com for registration information.
Born and raised in Middlesex County, Bonker received her undergraduate
degree in computer science and electrical engineering from Harvard and
an MBA from Columbia University. As an International Rotary Scholar,
she studied philosophy in Southeast Asia.
Her company, Blue Rock Capital, located in Sussex County, specializes
in early-stage information technology and service businesses in the
eastern United States, and she wades through hundreds of pitches a
month. "There are lots of things that go into an effective
presentation," she says. "It’s a production. It’s about story-telling,
setting the stage, knowing your actors."
"Writing the check," she says, "is the easy part. After that you have
to live together. It’s like a marriage. The wedding is the fun part,
and the actual marriage – living together – that’s the hard part." But
before setting up housekeeping, entrepreneurs need to make it to the
church and take the walk down the aisle. Here’s Bonker’s advice to
entrepreneurs on making it that far:
Be venture ready. "You have to understand what it means to be venture
ready," she says. To be venture ready, you need to have built your
company, hired employees, and put a strong management team in place.
Further, you need to be validated by customers, as well as by your
service providers. "Do your lawyer and accountant believe in you?,"
she asks. "Have you captured their imaginations? Who has your team
attracted? The people you’ve been able to get on board because they
believe in you – that has to be part of your story."
You should also be able to explain your vision clearly. There should
be a demand for your product or service in "a well understood market
that you can demonstrate," Bonker says.
Know your audience. "If you really want to put the effort into getting
venture capital, you have to know your audience," Bonker says. "It’s
amazing to me how many people will waste my time – which is the only
commodity for me – sending pitches to ‘Dear Sir.’ You should be so
knowledgeable: who they are, where they have invested in the past,
boards they’ve sat on. Reference specifics. Out of the 300 E-mails
they get, why should they respond to you?"
Know the requirements of your audience. Most investors have a
requirement for customer revenue. If your business is not there yet,
let potential investors know that you understand their expectations,
and tell them: "I understand your requirements; here’s our blueprint.
Here’s our vision. Let them know: ‘We’re going to meet your
requirements and we’ll be ready for you when you want to invest.’"
Ask before you need. "Start the fundraising process before you need
the money," Bonker cautions. "You shouldn’t go out there saying ‘I
need the money right away or we’ll go under.’ This process takes
months, not weeks."
Don’t overwhelm. There’s a fine line between giving the right
information and giving too much, says Bonker. Things you must include
in your package: management team, financial projections for the next 3
years ("Five years is too much."), when you expect it to be profitable
("Twelve months is great, 30 months is too long.")
Once you get past the paper pitch and are invited to a meeting, you
know you’ve captured their attention. "Now," Bonker says, "you have 20
minutes to a half hour for your pitch." If you do well, she adds "you
might wind up with two hours, but you have to be extremely disciplined
and focused to get there."
Everybody participates. If you are invited to meet with a funding
source, Bonker is emphatic that everyone on your management team must
play a part in the pitch. "If people come to the meeting and say
nothing, if the CEO does all the talking, we’ll wonder ‘Is this a
team, or does one person ride roughshod over the rest of them?’ Are
they a true team, or are these other people scenery?"
Be prepared, but also loose. The pitch should not be scripted, Bonker
says. Don’t overwhelm the room with a slick PowerPoint presentation.
"Twelve slides is about right."
Like the decision to marry, Bonker says there is something that can’t
be analyzed about the process of choosing a company to invest in. "We
have to assess chemistry, vision, passion, energy, and commitment,"
she says. So prepare well, but not so well that you paper over your
essence. It’s that elusive something special that may well seal the
– Deb Cooperman
There are those who would insist that looking into the region’s
economic future is futile, that a crystal ball is about as helpful as
anything else. But that’s not the attitude of the Rutgers-Camden
Quarterly Business Outlook crowd, a dedicated group of present/future
business trend-watchers that meets four times a year to consider the
outlook for the season ahead. Sponsored by the Rutgers School of
Business in Camden, the group has a solid purpose and mission,
according to Michael Sepanic, communications director of
"The Quarterly Business Outlook has provided the region with a
ground-level view of the economy for the past 10 years, and the need
for this information has never been more crucial," says Sepanic.
"Rising gas prices, an increase in interest rates, and a wobbly
economic recovery are just a few factors that make this summer event
The Outlook series is supported by the Cherry Hill law firm of
Flaster/Greenberg, where managing shareholder Peter R. Spirgel is one
of the driving forces behind the effort, and by the Chamber of
Commerce of Southern New Jersey. The summer seminar takes place on
Tuesday, July 20, at 8:30 a.m. at the Clarion Conference Center in
Cherry Hill, and is free, but pre-registration is required. Call
856-424-7776 or visit www.chambersnj.com/calendar.mv.
The summer seminar is organized around five business sectors –
economics, banking, retail, manufacturing, and automotive, and there
is a panelist to address each sector’s issues. They include Ted Crone,
vice president and economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of
Philadelphia, who addresses the economy in general; Jeffrey Brown,
president and CEO of Brown’s Super Stores, operator of six ShopRite
supermarkets in the Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey region,
addressing retail; and Peter Dooner, president and CEO of the John
Maneely Company in Pennsauken on manufacturing.
Also on the summer forecast panel are Mindy Holman, president and CEO
of Holman Enterprises, reflecting on the automotive industry; and
Warner Knobe, chairman and CEO of the Bank in Gloucester County.
Moderator is Milton Leontiades, dean of the Rutgers-Camden School of
Holman offers a preview of her upcoming forecast. "Interest rates are
still relatively low, which helps with the financing of vehicles," she
says. Her company is comprised of 22 car and truck dealerships and an
automotive parts distribution division as well as a large vehicle
fleet leasing and management company. This gives her a good view of
what is going on in the automotive sector as a whole.
"The June sales pace slowed down from the pace of the previous couple
of months, so inventories have blipped up a bit," she says. "The
automobile manufacturers have not slowed down their production to any
great extent, so it will be important to them to help dealers to move
their inventories." The combination of relatively low interest rates
and manufacturers’ desire to move merchandise could mean good deals
for consumers as they shop for the second largest purchase they are
ever likely to make – an all but essential ingredient in suburban
From Dooner of the John Maneely Company, a privately-owned
manufacturing company of steel pipe and tube products for the
non-residential building industry, comes the suggestion that the Asian
market will be a huge factor in the manufacturing sector during the
next quarter. "That’s what we have to be watching," says Dooner. Once
known chiefly as a manufacturing center for toys, clothing, and
novelties, and then for electronics, Asian countries are now pulling
in manufacturing orders for everything from fine furniture to flat
More than 300 executives attended the spring Quarterly Business
Outlook, according to Sepanic. At that time, attendees found that
"Southern New Jersey’s economic outlook is promising, but employment
and health care woes cast shadows on an otherwise sunny forecast." At
the April event, panelist Crone of the Federal Reserve Bank, who has
participated in nearly all of the Forecast seminars, offered generally
good news for the Garden State. "The recovery in New Jersey has gained
a solid footing," said Crone at the spring gathering. "The labor
market is showing substantial improvement."
Crone’s assessment was borne out just a few weeks ago when a survey
revealed that New Jersey is leading the economic recovery in the
greater New York region.
Stephen Greenberg, shareholder with the law firm of Flaster/Greenberg,
another April panelist, noted that the legal community regionally
experienced a 3.5 percent increase in 2003 over 2002. Despite that
growth, noted Greenberg, the increased expense of doing legal business
is an ongoing challenge.
There are so many pieces to the economic puzzle. They include the
expense of doing business, prices, interest rates, the cost of gas –
and consumer fixation with same – politics, taxes, foreign trade; and
that’s just a partial list. Economics is generally perceived as a
numbers-heavy discipline, and so it is. Yet psychological factors play
a large part in the direction of the economy. Will the presidential
election go smoothly this time? Will Osama bin Laden be brought to
justice? Will there be another round of high-profile corporate
lay-offs? And just how high will the price of milk go?
– Sally Friedman
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that those who shun
retirement in favor of work live a whole lot longer than
contemporaries who have no clock to punch. The study’s authors suggest
that those who love their work keep right on doing it, regardless of
age, and that those who dread Mondays should find work that will
engage them for years – or decades – to come.
Longevity is one reason for finding satisfying work. Success is
another. Few people who yawn and grumble through their workdays get
very far in their occupations. Ditch soul-killing routine; shift to an
engaging career; and find success. That is the message Stephen
Schiffman has been spreading for decades.
He gives his "What Stops Success?" seminar at the Princeton Chamber’s
Business Council Breakfast on Wednesday, July 21, at 7:30 a.m. at the
New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center on Alexander Road.
Cost: $25. Call 609-924-1776 or visit www.PrincetonChamber.org. He
also does a book signing that night at 7 p.m. at Barnes & Noble
A New York City native, Schiffman graduated from Cornell University in
l968 desperate to take that first trek to achievement, but not knowing
which mountain to scale. "It was an exciting time," he recalls. "So
much change was happening, it was scary. The country was divided.
Japan was making money off of our inventions, and technologically we
were overwhelmed." Schiffman had already taken the first step toward
success – one that most graduates neglect. He had assessed his times.
He analyzed business and also the state of his culture.
Then, in a flurry of action, Schiffman began tasting an occupational
sampler. In his first two years following school, he held nine jobs,
working as everything from a psychologist to a theater manager. From
all of these jobs he drew and distilled information. In 1979, after
working in sales and training for several private firms, he founded
the D.E.I. Management Group in New York. Scott McLaughlin, who has an
office on Wall Street in Research Park, represents the company in
Princeton (609-430-8292). Its business is providing motivational
training and imparting sales-boosting tactics. To date he has trained
over 300,000 business people. Along the way he has been a guest
commentator on CNN’s "Smart Money," and has written a number of books,
including "Cold Calling Techniques," "25 Most Common Sales Mistakes,"
and "High Efficiency Selling."
"Every one of us hits the wall of rejection, and hits it early," says
Schiffman. "At 12 years old, the kid is told he is the next Einstein
and can be president. Sometime during high school, after a C in math
and a D in political science, he figures out that he’ll be neither
president nor Einstein, and will probably never own a Lear jet."
Throughout life such rejection and disappointment continues for
absolutely everyone – even the successful. The big question Schiffman
poses is "How do you handle it and still achieve?"
Make a motivational choice. No one is going to beat you about the head
and force you to take a certain job. There are a lot of paths to
obtaining grocery money. Schiffman advises that anyone, at any stage,
considering a career ask first, "Will this job get me up out of bed in
the morning with energy or dread?" Most people tumble into their line
of work by accident or circumstance. It may be a fabulous accident.
But if not, it is a temporary misstep that can be changed.
Accept burnout. You can only go at anything so hard for so long. At
some point, maybe after five years, maybe after 30, you are going to
sit at your desk and say, "I’ve already done this." Just because
engineering enthralled you for years does not mean that it must excite
you now. "There are a lot of workers coming to the office every day
who are putting more into their lawn, than their job," laughs
Schiffman. "If so, admit it. And instead of shame, plan ways to move
Re-invent yourself. You may still want to do engineering. You may
crave a total career change. Either way, regardless of your
occupation, you can re-invent yourself. Initially, Schiffman suggests
that you change the little things: hairstyle, mode of dress, office
decor, anything that confines your thought, and feeds your brain with
the signal "brother, here we go again."
Afterwards, conduct an analysis to find out where the larger change
needs to come. Maybe you need to be your own boss. Perhaps there is
another field of work where your expertise and fresh enthusiasm would
be welcome. But before you jump, Schiffman advises, work at forming a
good vision of yourself. List your qualities. But also make the vision
a realistic one. If you would really be happier as a surgeon, are you
willing to sacrifice 13 years of life to the medical training
Exercise your voice. First, let out a huge yell. Wake yourself up.
Scream loudly and surprise yourself with the random thoughts that
follow. Once you have let it all out, work on your speech patterns.
"Give yourself a richer speaking experience," says Schiffman. "No
matter what line of work you seek, the better trained your speaking
habits, the better your success." It may take a course, it may take
practice and scripting, but keep at it. The ability to speak well is
one the few common denominators to getting a job and then excelling at
Bust a gut. "To break the mental rut, you have to do something
physical," says Schiffman. But again, use a little planning here.
Slogging along at a treadmill may not provide the stimulation to break
you out of the treadmill at work. Consider what excites you. Maybe
it’s a sport with lots of fast moving action, like volleyball. Perhaps
you need more solitary time, offered by bicycling or running.
Weightlifting may seem dull, but it affords a truly measurable sense
of accomplishment. Or maybe you just need to break free, run across
the park to a wide stretch and fling yourself down in the summer
Avoid mythology. "I have the biggest trouble training lawyers,
engineers, and book sellers," says Schiffman. "They read too much, and
they intellectualize all the common myths." If you work hard you will
succeed, they are told, so they wonder why they are not succeeding.
"The biggest obstacle to success is to get past all the ‘truth’ we
have been taught, and instead view our own situations realistically,"
Of course, the most pervasive myth is the common perception of what
constitutes success. Never at any time does Schiffman mention the
matter of money. Lear jets are fun, as are dozens of other costly
toys. But odds are achieving that they will not move your soul. So ask
yourself, if not jets, then what?
– Bart Jackson
A truly great marketing scheme not only captures the public’s
imagination, but it also solves a real problem. Marsha Stoltman,
founder of Mercerville’s Stoltman Group, and Roseanne Cofone-Stewart,
head of Robbinsville-based the Big Event, think that they have come up
with such a scheme to promote small businesses in the Hamilton area.
A problem for Hamilton’s retailers is business geography. This
39.5-square-mile township consists of many small village and business
centers, all segmented by highways, such as Route 130, which is home
to major chains and malls. So, while the scope of Hamilton’s business
services is impressive, many of its small to mid-size providers remain
unknown, even to township residents. "I cannot believe the number of
businesses I personally discovered just in setting up this hunt," says
Cofone is referring to the Great Hamilton Scavenger Hunt. She and
Stoltman came up with it after brainstorming revealed some basics of
human behavior. Shoppers hate to search, the two realized, but game
players adore the thrill of the hunt. After a little more thought, the
scavenger hunt, which began on Saturday, July 3, and continues until
midnight on October 1, emerged as a plan.
From now through the summer and the first days of autumn, residents
and non-residents alike are invited to pick up scavenger hunt "Task
Books" and to begin fulfilling as many of the tasks as possible in the
shortest amount of time. The individual items in the hunt center
around everyday life in town. Get a piece of pizza at this shop; have
your picture taken by that town monument; get your car washed; buy a
bouquet; have a piece of embroidery done by some local seamstress.
There are 25 participating businesses and approximately 40 tasks.
Ticket books are available at town hall, the public library, or any of
the participating stores. Store receipts are required as proof of
completion for each item; so hang on tight to them. Books will be
registered to only one entrant, who must be over 18 and who may not
have pals complete his tasks. Hamilton mayor Glen Gilmore sees it as a
fun way to draw non-residents into town and give them a reason to get
to know it better.
And the winner gets? He who completes the most tasks in the shortest
amount of time will be awarded the $5,000 cash Grand Prize at the
Hamilton Economic Development Advisory Committee awards dinner. A long
list of smaller donated prizes will be awarded in several categories.
"Our goal is to get people in our area to learn about the stores and
services already around them," says Stoltman, who has been organizing
events for two decades. Born in St. Louis, she earned her B.A. in
business administration from Southeast Missouri State University. She
has worked for Dow Jones in marketing positions and has planned events
for the Kelsey Group. Today she runs the Stoltman Group as president.
Her husband, Edward, whose background is in hotel management, is in
the business with her.
Cofone says that this initial scavenger hunt is a pilot project that
she hopes will entice more business participants to create larger such
hunts in the future. "It’s one of the few advertising investments that
guarantees customers," she says. Not only does it guarantee customers,
but it goes further, and can specify exactly what product a hunt
participant must buy. This is a boon to retailers with new products
they are sure that customers would love – if only they would try them.
The contest also allows restaurants to specify on which day, or during
what hours, a task must be completed. This lets a restaurateur
showcase a Sunday buffet or fill seats on a slow mid-week evening.
Like Stoltman, Cofone has spent her career planning major events. For
the past six years, her firm, the Big Event, has handled such clients
as Bristol Myers Squibb and several state banks.
Both women see the Hamilton Scavenger Hunt as an excellent opportunity
for small and mid-size businesses to showcase their service advantage.
"The large chains have been told that customers do not care enough to
pay for service, so they drop it as a frill," Stoltman says. "Our
businesses are proving them wrong."
So if you are wandering around the streets of Hamilton this summer and
you find yourself swept along by hubbub of shoppers and frenzied
pedestrians, fear not. These are the Hamilton Scavengers. Remember,
man is by nature a hunter and a competitor. And he loves making a game
out of his workaday chores.
– Bart Jackson
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