Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared
for the September 22, 2004 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All
Franchises have one of the highest success rates for new
business start-ups. But how do you go about finding the
right franchise for you? Jack Armstrong, president of the
Franchise Network of New Jersey, with offices at Pin Oak
Drive in Lawrenceville, is ready to help the prospective
business owner find that perfect match. Don’t just think
about franchises as fast food restaurants such as
McDonalds or Burger King, Armstrong says. There are
between 3,000 and 4,000 different franchises in the United
States, ranging from service industries to retail to
Armstrong speaks at a seminar on franchises, "Franchise
Opportunities for New Entrepreneurs," at 6:45 p.m., on
Wednesday, September 22. The seminar is sponsored by SCORE
and takes place at the Merrill Lynch Building at 7 Roszel
Road. Call 609-924-1776.
The typical new franchisee is "a 45 to 55-year-old
corporate executive who has been downsized for the third
time and wants to take more control of his or her future,"
says Armstrong. "They have found that as they have gained
more experience in the corporate world they have become
more expensive to their corporation and are considered
more expendable." A franchise, he says, can give the owner
"not only a more secure income, but 10 to 15 years down
the road they can sell the business. They can have an exit
A franchisee must be motivated to be successful. "This is
not just a job," says Armstrong. "You need to be the kind
of person who can go to the Chamber of Commerce meeting,
get the leads, and follow through. You can’t just wait for
people to come to you."
The Franchise Network currently works with about 75 to 100
different companies in New Jersey, and does not accept
every company that applies to the network. "We turn down
seven out of eight franchisers who come to us on a
national basis," says Armstrong. He works with companies
in a wide variety of service specialties, including
business coaching, sales training and recruitment,
handyman services, pet care, and dry cleaning. He also has
a number of retail and fast food companies.
"We have new companies, but we also work with older, more
well-known franchises like Carvel and Seven Eleven," says
Armstrong. And while some people are more comfortable with
an older, more established company, Armstrong says that
this is not always the right choice for every
businessperson. "The best way to success is to match the
person’s skills and resources with the right company," he
What does a first time franchisee need to know? There are
a number of business skills that make a potential business
owner more successful, says Armstrong. His advice is to be
career-oriented. "This is not just a job," he stresses. He
also says that potential franchisees need to be good
managers, be cost and service-oriented, and be good
salespeople. In addition, he says, the new business owner
"needs to have an inner motivation to make it though that
first year. They need to have working capital and to
realize they may not take anything home at first."
A business owner can get into a franchise for as little as
$35,000 to $75,000 for "a small, home-based service
business," Armstrong says. A retail franchise takes more
money. "Rock bottom $150,000," he says. Start-up expenses
can include building and construction permits, "and other
expenses that really add up." In addition, if your new
business needs employees, you have to budget for their
When a client comes into the Franchise Network, he is
first asked to fill out a profile to give Armstrong an
idea of the type of business for which he is best suited.
He develops a "business model" of the right type of
business for that person, including how many hours are
required, what the work environment is like, and how much
capital is required.
Different types of business require different skills. "A
lot can depend on how many hours the businessperson wants
to commit to," says Armstrong. "The retail or food
industry can require a seven day a week commitment, while
service industries are usually five days a week. The
environment you are comfortable with is also important. A
mall store requires a different kind of commitment than a
Once he has an idea of the type of business the client is
interested in, he works to find specific companies that
will fit the bill. His company will also help the new
business owner find other services he or she might need,
such as an accountant, lawyer, or banker.
Armstrong has owned the New Jersey rights to Franchise
Network for about 10 years and also owns a second
franchise, Sunbelt Business Brokers, out of Charleston,
South Carolina, which helps owners sell their businesses.
Armstrong began his career as publisher of Americana
Magazine. He was also involved in the start-up of New
Jersey Monthly magazine and MHQ, a quarterly journal of
military history. He first became interested in franchises
while doing his MBA at Pace.
Clients at the Franchise Network do not pay a fee. If the
client chooses to purchase a franchise the Network’s fees
are paid by the franchise company. If an individual
business is purchased, the Network gets its commission
from the seller. Armstrong says that franchisees that go
through his company have a 90 percent success rate one
No matter how a franchisee chooses his business, he can
look forward to support that most stand-alone businesses
don’t enjoy. "Corporate headquarters give the franchisees
a lot of support," says Armstrong. "They want their
franchisees to succeed because they are getting royalties
from them." In addition, the new owner also has a network
of other franchisees to draw from. "In most businesses you
just can’t call your competitor down the street and ask,
‘What did you do when you had this problem,’" says
Armstrong. "But with a franchise you can easily call the
owner in the next township over and get advice. It is a
very strong support system."
There are drawbacks to franchises, of course. The owner of
a franchise outlet has to pay fees, and is subject to a
host of rules. Some franchisees are happier with their
corporate structures than are others. Still, after 10
years, the success rate for an individual business is only
25 percent. For franchises, that rate is 80 percent.
– Karen Miller
The special effects in George Lucas’s 1977 film, Star
Wars, revolutionized movie making, but when he re-released
the original trilogy for the big screen back in 1997, the
technology had advanced so far that he went back and
"touched up" the movies, correcting images that had
bothered him for years. Since then, the world of
entertainment technology has changed so much that even the
updated effects of the anniversary edition of Star Wars
pale in comparison to the effects in last year’s Oscar
winner, "The Lord of The Rings, The Return of the King,"
which captured both Best Picture and Best Visual Effects.
Technology has changed so rapidly that if you’re involved
in any facet of the entertainment industry, and you’re not
keeping up with the new trends, you’ll soon find yourself
sitting on the shelf gathering dust with your Pong game
and trusty Betamax.
Keeping up with the trends in entertainment technology is
what Mercer County College’s Entertainment Technology
Conference (EnTech) is all about. "Five years ago nobody
owned digital cameras, and now so many people do that film
companies aren’t doing so well," says Michael Glass,
director of statewide training at Mercer County College,
who is coordinating the event. "The world of computers is
rapidly changing what we do in so many areas," he says,
"and (with the EnTech event) we want to make sure people
have the skills they need to keep up. The growth of
entertainment technology is big."
Last year’s event saw over 250 participants, and Glass
expects about the same number for the second annual EnTech
event. The conference takes place on the campus of Mercer
County Community College on Thursday and Friday, September
23 and 24. Cost: $295 for both days; $175 for one day.
Born in Trenton, Glass attended SUNY Buffalo and receiving
his master’s degree at SUNY Brockport. He returned to New
Jersey to attend Rutgers, where he earned a doctorate in
higher education. He began working at MCCC 25 years ago as
the director of admissions. "I’m always looking for new
opportunities and challenges," he says, and after a stint
as director of student services at Mercer, he took on his
"New Jersey is in fourth or fifth place in the nation when
it comes to movie and TV production," says Glass.
According to one of the events co-sponsors, the New Jersey
Motion Picture and Television Commission, in 2002 over 800
productions were filmed throughout the state, generating
more than $70 million.
"The industry is growing here, and the Economic
Development Authority got involved in the conference when
they saw how much was happening in the state," says Glass.
The movie industry in the state already provides hundreds
of jobs in categories ranging from on-set catering to the
leasing of vintage automobiles to location scouting – not
to mention acting, directing, and filming. A much hoped
for addition to the scene is the arrival of visual effects
giant Manex Entertainment (the folks who created the
Oscar-winning visual effects in the groundbreaking Matrix
Backed by substantial government grants, Manex has plans
to turn former manufacturing facilities in the Roebling
complex into cutting edge film making facilities.
The company has been in the news this month as it fights
off creditors, but former Mercer County Executive Bob
Prunetti, who is helping to broker the plan, has been
quoted as saying that it is still a go. Prunetti’s Phoenix
Ventures is Manex’s New Jersey representative. The
well-known former county executive is speaking at the
"Manex is traditionally known for visual effects," says
Prunetti, "but they want to get into the production
services business – everything that’s necessary to shoot
on location. Many times when a company needs equipment,
they go to a variety of shops and when they want to deal
with one provider for everything, they ship from L.A.
Manex wants a location on the East Coast – one-stop
shopping that will lower the costs for film production."
While some industry insiders doubt the magnitude of these
numbers, the plan – according to Prunetti – is to unfold
in three phases, bringing upwards of 500 employees to
Trenton. Phase one will bring the production services
offices to Trenton. Phase two will bring visual effects
services to the complex, and phase three will create
editing and sound stages to Trenton.
"I think we’re looking at the beginning of a whole new
industry in Trenton," Prunetti says. "The state already
has programs that give loan guarantees to producers who
will make their films in New Jersey – up to a million and
a half dollars for independent films. If Manex is
successful, the industry will grow in a significant way
here. And you have to continue to develop the talent pool,
that’s the significance of what Mercer County College is
Glass agrees. "Technology took a hit in the dot-com bust,"
he says, "but what’s been increasing is the need for
people who are facile in the technology arts. The
conference is designed to educate, inform, and train
people, giving them the skills they need to stay
The event features six areas designed to meet the needs of
industry professionals, as well as people considering a
future in the field, including Independent Film & Video,
Digital Media Production, Entertainment Business &
Marketing, Professional Tools and two tracks devoted to
Adobe and Apple Digital Media programs.
The conference is open to everyone, but most attendees are
expected to be in film and entertainment technology,
advertising, and graphic design. "People can come and go,"
says Glass. "Many workshops are entry level and some are
advanced. All computer related courses will actually take
place in computer labs – animation courses will happen in
our animation labs."
"Many people haven’t awakened to the fact that there are
going to be a lot of jobs opening in this area," Green
says. EnTech can perhaps be thought of as a trailer,
providing a sneak peek at the possibilities. The lingering
question for the central New Jersey film production
industry is when the feature event will begin, and who
will play the starring roles.
– Deb Cooperman
How do businesses survive a disaster? Statistics show that
43 percent of all businesses that experience a fire or
major theft go out of business within two years. And 93
percent of the businesses that experience a significant
data loss go out of business within five years.
In the wake of the third anniversary of the September 11
attacks and the late summer hurricanes bombarding the east
coast, the Plainsboro Police Department is making sure
that township businesses are prepared for any potential
disasters. It will be holding a free one-day seminar,
"Business Survivability: Are You Really Prepared" on
Friday, September 24, at the Harrison Conference Center &
Hotel on Scudders Mill Road (formerly known as the Merrill
Lynch Conference Center. Registration is at 8:30 a.m. The
event will be limited to 100 attendees. Call 609-799-0909
for registration information.
Held in cooperation with Merrill Lynch, American
Reinsurance, Bristol-Myers Squibb, FMC, Firmenich, and the
Princeton Plasma Physics Lab, the free seminar will offer
risk assessment techniques, business survivability
planning, information on OSHA regulations, insurance
considerations, and the role of local government.
"This is an excellent opportunity for our local businesses
to hear the lessons learned from corporations that
survived the attacks of September 11 and other natural
disasters," says Clifford Mauer, Plainsboro’s director of
After the seminar, corporate representatives and
Plainsboro Police officers will be available to discuss
ways attendees can develop their plans to handle such
disasters as fire, water damage, storm damage, large
theft, or loss of communications. Each attendee will
receive a disk with the seminar PowerPoint presentation,
risk assessment worksheets, Matrix handouts, emergency
preparedness guide, and an application for joining the
Plainsboro Business Partnership.
"This is the first event in this initiative," says Neil
Lewis, Plainsboro deputy mayor and township committee
member to public safety. "Our expectation is that we will
create a stronger partnership between the public and
private sector that will enhance the local emergency
Jo Leonard has a message for the parents of college
students: You are paying a lot of money for their
education. But if your children are to have the careers
they want, they will need a different set of skills.
Anxious about a tight job market, today’s professional
parents often try to be aggressive career coaches, working
their regular jobs by day, and, in the evenings, tapping
their networks to try to get good jobs for their progeny.
Leonard questions whether these methods are productive.
"Isn’t the ancient wisdom to teach them to fish rather
than keep reeling in the catch for them?" she asks. "For
example, networking for your college graduate might seem
to be the right thing to do, but I’d recommend teaching
your college graduate how to network for themselves and
then open up your Rolodex or Palm."
"Networking is an art form and, if learned early, a tool
that will serve the students well for the rest of their
lives," says Leonard. It’s not about asking people for
help, it’s about building a mutually beneficial
relationship. "Teach your child how to find out more about
each contact and encourage them to discover how they can
be of value to that person as well."
At PoWeR seminars (which stands for Parents Wanting
Results) Leonard shows what the new graduate will face
during the dreaded job hunt. The one-hour meetings cover
skills assessment, personal branding, resume building,
networking, and interviewing. Seminars are scheduled for
Wednesday, September 29, and Tuesday, October 12, both at
7 p.m. at HQ, 116 Village Boulevard, Forrestal Village.
Cost $45 ($60 for two) including materials and
refreshments. Call 215-297-5545 (www.joleonard.com).
Among the other services offered by Jo Leonard LLC are
all-day seminars for college students, with follow-up in
group chat rooms, and individual coaching programs that
can include networking and informational interviews with
professionals in the student’s chosen field. The full-day
seminars are under $250 and the coaching programs range
from $600 to $1,300. Corporate seminars in a ‘Lunch n’
Learn’ format are available for employees who have kids in
The daughter of a British hotelier and a graduate of
Montclair State, Leonard sees her service filling an
education gap. Not only is there no college major in
career search, she points out, but there is rarely a
course. Having spent four years and up to $120,000 in
obtaining a degree, many graduates have little idea of how
to find a job, especially in this economy, let alone how
to build a career.
"When a college education comes in at $100,000 or more,
there’s a certain return on investment expected," says
Leonard. "The fact is, however, that the cost of this
investment is going up just as the value of the return
becomes ever more uncertain." But campus career service
departments often suffer from large counselor to student
ratios. "This makes it nearly impossible for students,
parents, and employers alike to count on college graduates
entering the job market with the prerequisite personal
So what are the young people supposed to do to ensure they
achieve their goals and maximize this investment?
Have professional experience on the resume in the form of
an internship or co-op. This means that, as of sophomore
year, a college student needs to know what to look for and
how to find and land those precious internships.
Practice and perfect skills during the junior and senior
years. Having used those internship search strategies in
the second year, put as much focus on these skills as
academic skills; treat it as a separate major.
A college graduate needs to stand out in today’s
competitive marketplace, says Leonard. If social and
communication skills are lacking, hiring managers are
going to think twice, regardless of the GPA. They’re
looking for motivated, honest graduates with leadership,
teamwork, interpersonal and problem-solving skills.
Enlist parental guidance and support. Parents can be
extremely vital when it comes to navigating their
offspring through the career search process. They need to
know what an informational interview is and what
behavioral questions mean during the interview process.
Parents need to encourage their kids to get off the
Internet and to use the summers to get out and meet their
friends in different jobs and industries so that their
college-age child can well articulate his or her interests
and skills. For parents to be a good "coaches," they need
to be up to date with the marketplace, the strategies
being used by hiring managers and most of all, they need
to be aware of how long it takes to land a career.
Be realistic about the time frame. If students start
planning for employment in their second year of college,
by the time graduation comes they should have job offers
on the table or a set plan of action to move forward into
a career within the first few months. If they wait until
graduation, however, or even take the summer off and begin
job hunting in the fall, they’re looking at a 2005 start
date, if they’re lucky.
Leonard’s bottom-line advice to students and graduates:
"Even if the choice is made to take some time off after
graduation and travel or have a great adventure, I would
suggest putting aside some time each week to start the
networking process. Have a 30-second pitch ready, know how
to ask for an informational interview, get some research
under your belt. At that point the time off is serving two
purposes and you will transition into a career much easier
than starting from scratch after your adventure."
‘The future of energy is evolving and New Jersey is
leading the way!" claims Jeanne M. Fox, president of the
New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, referring to how
this state is sometimes called the "solar capitol of the
nation." Fox will speak at the Mid-Atlantic Sustainability
Conference, set for Wednesday, September 29, to Friday,
October 1, at the Lafayette Yard Marriott and the War
Memorial in Trenton. Conferees will discuss how to use
clean electricity, green building technologies, and smart
growth planning to reduce energy costs while advancing the
goal of a safer and cleaner future. Cost: $75 for one day
of workshops to $350 for three days. Call the Northeast
Sustainable Energy Association at 413-774-6051
Celebrity speakers include Time Magazine’s "Hero of the
Planet" Steven Strong, Hunter Lovins, president of Natural
Capitalism, Lance Miller, chief of staff at the NJ BPU,
and Michael H. Nicklas, president of Innovative Design.
More than 60 seminars and workshops will cover such topics
as high-performance building construction, smart growth,
brownfield remediation, global climate change mitigation,
and renewable energy. There will be an interactive trade
show and networking opportunities, including an evening
reception on Thursday, September 30.
Says Fox: "The future embraces renewable technologies,
energy conservation and greener and cleaner communities
that impact the way we conduct our business of energy in
this region. I am personally committed to helping to
improve the use of energy efficiency and renewable energy
sources in New Jersey and throughout the Northeast."
The New Jersey Small Business Development Centers sponsor
twice yearly seminars to educate technology entrepreneurs
on how to get government grants. The next two-day
conference, "SBIR: Pathway to Equity Financing," is set
for Thursday and Friday, September 30 and October 1, at
Rutgers Cook College Campus Center, New Brunswick. Cost:
$150 or $90 for Thursday and $60 for Friday. Call
On the first day Gail and Jim Greenwood of Greenwood
Consulting Group will cover developing proposals for the
Small Business Innovation Research Program, the federal
government’s largest R&D grants program focusing on the
small business community. Nearly $2 billion is available.
"It is unarguably the best source of risk capital to help
fund the development of promising technologies, says Randy
Harmon, NJSBDC director of technology commercialization.
Once SBIR funds are obtained, it is easier to get equity
The Greenwoods will explain the basics of the SBIR program
and a similar one, the Small Business Technology Transfer
Program (STTR), go over recent changes in each program,
and detail a simple four-step proposal writing process:
strategizing, drafting the proposal, obtaining a
pre-submittal review, and getting a debriefing. Viocare
Technologies’ Rick Weiss, a veteran obtainer of SBIR
grants, will give his case study at a working lunch, and
four presenters will offer state resources. Michele
Brunton will represent the New Jersey Economic Development
Authority, and there will be representatives from the
Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network, NJ Business Incubation
Network, and the NJSBDC Technology Commercialization
The second day, which goes from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., is
devoted to cost proposals and the government accounting
requirements (indirect costs, audits, and record keeping)
for projects like SBIR. "Applicants who are not well
versed in these areas," says Harmon, "risk losing money on
their SBIR grant or contract, being penalized for charging
the government too much, or being unable to justify
certain expenses. Guest speakers include Richard
Mattessich of Morgan Lewis and Patrick Alia and Mike
Devita of Amper Politziner & Mattia.
A more advanced workshop, set for Wednesday and Thursday,
December 8 and 9, is entitled "From the Lab to the
Marketplace, Technology Commercialization and Financing
Strategies." It will also include SBIR/STTR Phase II
Proposal Preparation. These workshops will also be led by
the Greenwoods, who devote their working year to teaching
at similar events in as many as 41 states.
Rutgers will offer its Mini-MBA Business Essentials
Certificate in daytime and evening sessions in Piscataway.
The 12-week program is organized in a "hands-on" format,
with case studies and discussions of assigned articles.
The three-hour modules cover such subject areas as
business strategy, finance, marketing, law, ethics, and
Set for Thursday evenings at 6 p.m., starting September
23, or Friday evenings at 1 p.m., starting October 1, the
certificate costs $2,495 including tuition and materials.
Call Claudia Meer at the Center for Management Development
at 732-445-5526 (www.cmd.rutgers.edu).
Corrections or additions?
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