Reaching Hispanics

Caregiving For Doctors’ Dollars

Rev Up Your Resume

Leadership Skills For New Businesses

Corrections or additions?

This articles were prepared for the October 13, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide

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Reaching Hispanics

The key to targeting the "Hispanic community" is remembering that indeed Hispanics are no more a cohesive community than are Europeans. In fact, those people whom America conveniently lumps into the bin of "Hispanic" include a continent and a half of 25 various sub-cultures, connected loosely (and only very loosely) by a common language. But since the Hispanic culture now accounts for 12.5 percent of Americans and 13.3 percent of Garden State residents, this underserved market, with its increasing individual buying power, has become the new advertising hot spot.

For business owners, advertising professionals, and other interested folks, the New Jersey Ad Club is sponsoring a dinner event, "Tres Amigos: Getting to Know the Hispanic Market," on Wednesday, October 13, at 5:30 p.m. at Cibeles Restaurant in Lyndhurst. Cost: $55. Call 201-998-5133 or visit www.NJAdClub.org. The evening features a panel discussion on the Hispanic market moderated by Deborah Rivera, senior art director for the advertising firm of Alexander & Richardson in Warren. Other panel members include Manuel Martinez-Llorian, vice-president general manager of WNJU Telemundo 47 Radio; Jorge L. Ayala, general sales manager of El Diario/La Prensa; El Diario editor Rossanna Rosado; and Carey Davis, promotional director of WSKQ Radio.

The scene flashes across the television screen. Grandma is in the kitchen with some other family members. It is a Latino household, the background music is salsa, and everyone moves unconsciously to the rhythm. Mom and dad come in with an arm load of new purchases. Twenty-five words of narration puts forth the advantages of owning a Citibank credit card. End of commercial. "This is great," says Rivera. "Think about it."

"The ad targets the general Hispanic community without being exclusive." The words in English are minimal, the music speaks to a cultural contribution that all American ethnic groups crave. Every group enjoys the music, Hispanics take pride in being depicted positively, and the Citibank message hits its target.

Getting such well thought out messages across to the Hispanic community has been a major part of Rivera’s life since early childhood. In Cuba her father was a professional translator for both government and business. Emigrating to Elizabeth, New Jersey in l969, he reversed his translating role, trying to explain the ways of the Hispanic tongue and mindset to American business. Working for AT&T, Proctor and Gamble, and Reunite Wines, he tried to redevelop ethnically-targeted messages in acceptable ways.

His young daughter Debbie, fluent in English and Spanish, had the additional advantage of a Catholic schoolyard education that afforded her an unending slang vocabulary. "I remember walking down the street with my father," she recalls, "and he would try out phrases on me to see if they would work with the kids." Graduating from Kean University in l996 with a B.S. in visual communication and advertising, Rivera teamed up with Alexander and Richardson, where she has remained ever since. In addition to her graphic arts talents, the agency has also placed her in charge of its new Hispanic marketing division.

"It’s great that the Hispanic market is now hot, but it’s about 20 years too late," says Rivera. "You have a whole generation of this culture that is very ad savvy." The question is not how are these people different, but how are they distinctive? Then ask how can we include them in our advertising?

Beyond translation. Twenty years ago, Proctor & Gamble was one of the first major companies to actively solicit the Hispanic community. Its approach consisted mostly of directly translating ads into Spanish and placing them in local print, radio, and television outlets. It worked, but only because the company was a step ahead of its competitors, who were simply ignoring the market altogether.

If you are going to rework an ad for a specific Hispanic market, remember the primary rule: there is no such thing as an exact translation. Today, with the competition for Hispanic dollars growing, marketers are first sampling the regional community, determining their needs, and then selling to them. If the ad is to be in Spanish, test thoroughly before putting it in print.

Direct mail. Every once in a while Rivera pulls out from her mailbox an ad solely in Spanish. This really pleases her, and she invariably reads it. The bilingual flyers typically end up in the trash. "The ones in English and Spanish are just an impersonal blanket ad to anybody," she explains. "The Spanish ad shows someone has taken the time to find at least a little bit about me."

It’s not a very difficult procedure, she says. All you have to do is go through the phone book and pull out the obviously Hispanic names and send them a Spanish ad. You may miss a few, but they are not likely to be offended, and the others will feel the connection. For local and regional sellers, a knowledge of ethnic neighborhoods is key.

Staff. To many Mexicans the word "cajeta" is synonymous with bubble gum. However to those from Argentina and Uruguay, the word evokes a ribald potty humor – something you probably don’t want associated with your chewable product. To prevent such blunders, all words, selling angles, and images ideally should be checked by representatives of all the various sub-cultures to whom you intend to market.

But let’s be reasonable here. Both North and South America are too diverse to hire full time gaff-checkers. Most companies are finding solutions by hiring one or two multi-cultural experts with the experience of living abroad awhile and a host of connections for specific projects.

Stereotypes. This is tricky. The Citibank ad shows beans on the stove, grandma cooking, and everybody moving to salsa music. Some young Hispanics who have grown up in this country, Riviera notes, might perceive this as an unflattering stereotype picture. On the other hand, she says, most recent immigrants would not.

"Immigrants are a different breed for the advertiser," she says. "Like all newly-arrived people, they want to fit in. They are the first ones to buy the Nike shirts and all the American-seeming goods – including anything with a flag on it."

As with every people who uproot and come to the United States, there remains the endless blending of the new and old cultures. Some few reject the new, or abandon entirely the old, while the majority make their peace, adopting bits of each. The recent immigrant from Buenos Aires is no longer an Argentinean and not quite wholly American (whatever that is). He is a unique part of the diversity that makes our nation rich.

– Bart Jackson

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Caregiving For Doctors’ Dollars

The ways of healthcare are seldom understood by us mere mortals. Go into a hospital for a 20-minute procedure and three weeks later you are floundering in a dozen unintelligible bills. Even your trusted family physician (now labeled "primary care physician") is shunting you through a maze of specialists and testing labs each with its own separate fee and referral needs. Trying to comprehend it can make one ill.

Alas, neither the doctor himself nor the staff at the front desk have the knowledge to make the protocols and billing formats clear. Increasingly they are outsourcing billing and insurance complexities so they can get on with the real business of treating the sick.

For the properly qualified individual, this presents an entrepreneurial opportunity, and is the subject of "Medical Billing as a Business," a seminar taking place on Wednesday, October 13, at 1 p.m. at the Women’s Business Center in Hamilton. Cost:$195. Call 609-581-2220 or visit www.theclaimsmanager.com. Sponsored by the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners, this talk features Maria T. Sanders, who will also be giving a morning lecture on "Medical Coding and Billing."

Founder of a Neptune-based company, the Claims Manager, Sanders, with 20 years of experience, shakes her head and admits that a lot of uninformed individuals are struggling woefully through the healthcare billing process.

Born in Maryland, a self-professed Navy-brat, Sanders attended school in Hawaii, earned a B.S. in psychology in the Philippines, then joined the U.S. Army as a medic. While at Fort Monmouth, she earned a master’s in human resources. This degree encouraged her shift out of the clinical side of healthcare, into administration. "I used to man the front desk all day and deal with peoples’ problems," she recalls. "It seemed as if every patient had been given conflicting directions."

The Porsche drawer. Out in the civilian world, Ms. Sanders discovered that medical billing and coding were, if possible, even more askew. Forms that insurance companies mailed to physicians’ offices would totally dumbfound the clerical staff. They had neither the training to understand them nor the time to fill them all out, so the forms just got jammed in a drawer.

Sanders remembers opening up several such drawers and discovering that the value of these unfilled claims could have, in many cases, put the hard-working doctor behind the wheel of her own Porsche. In 1993 Sanders started her own firm, The Claims Manager, to help turn these virtual desk drawer wastebaskets into cash.

Sanders is the first to admit that "medical billing and coding is a tedious business and it is not for everyone, even accountants." The patient who undergoes a 20-minute hospital procedure can count on separate bills from the facility, the anesthetist, the doctor with privileges at the hospital, the radiologists, and any number of specialists. If the emergency room is involved, it will prepare a separate bill. Then, if the patient receives a diagnosis, goes in for a test, and an updated, second diagnosis is made, this can shift the entire coding format and of course the final array of bills.

Training. There are courses that guide the newcomer through these complexities. Sanders’ own firm, at www.theclaimsmanager.com, provides detailed training. But nothing beats working experience, typically gained at a hospital that does its billing in house. She estimates at that it is a good idea to put in at least a couple of years in such an internship before starting one’s own firm.

Two certifications provide a nearly-necessary resume punch: the Certified Professional Coder (CPC) and the Certified Healthcare Compliance Consultant (CHCC.) These involve exams and are each followed by a period of apprenticeship.

Costs and profits. Technology makes medical billing an ideal home-based business. Files transfer swiftly across cyberspace and can be mutually stored in your office and in the physician’s office.

But cyber transfer notwithstanding, you will need at least one large room in your home totally dedicated to your business, because the paper flow is enormous. The purchase of a top level computer, fax, and phone with multiple lines is also necessary. But the biggest chunk of your startup investment will be your billing software, which can run from $1,000 to $10,000. Sanders vehemently warns against software salesmen who promise the moon and dazzle customers with unneeded features. Before Sanders made her own software purchase, she made an appointment with the firm’s president, flew down to Florida, and had him personally give her a demonstration.

She also warns against the seductive ads from such companies which promise "Make $50,000 in your spare time at home with medical billing – no experience necessary." Such incomes can be earned by medical billers, but not without a lot of work and years of training and experience.

Marketing. Doctors are getting more savvy, Sanders points out. They do not throw their income receipts at the first person who comes along. You will be competing for each client with several other professionals. Your training and years of experience and general demeanor weigh heavily.

"Yet mostly," Sanders says, "doctors find billers from their peers. They ask each other, `who’s making you money?:’" It becomes your job to initiate a word of mouth ad campaign.

The routine. While you may be working at home, you are not working in a vacuum. Billing and coding entails a constant pipeline flowing between the doctor, his entire staff, and you. Usually, the professional biller begins with a training program for the front desk staff. "I can perform beautiful billing, but if the staff is not trained to get referrals, documentations, and permission for surgical procedures, the doctors can literally go broke," says Sanders.

As a final caveat, Sanders warns that a home-based business is not a hobby. "You don’t casually play with other people’s money," she states. "If you are going to get into this work, make your business plan and go all the way. It can indeed prove very rewarding."

– Bart Jackson

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Rev Up Your Resume

Do you have a resume? You should. Don’t need one because you’re happy in your job, you say? That doesn’t matter, according to Carmine Perri, principal in Perri and Sons LLC, a resume and interview skills consulting company. "You should be ready for the moment when someone calls you and says ‘There’s this opportunity and you’d be great,’" he points out. If you don’t have a ready resume the opportunity could well be lost.

Perri speaks on Effective Resume Writing at a meeting of the Career Networking Group on Saturday, October 16 at 8:30 a.m. The group meets in the St. Paul’s Church at 214 Nassau Street in Princeton in the cafeteria. www.stpaulsprinceton.org/Ministry_Jobs.htm

From Perth Amboy, where his father worked as a union member, and his mother was a housewife, Perri went to college at Fairleigh Dickenson and eventually landed in a HR management position in a payroll company. During his tenure there he saw his share of resumes – effective and not so effective.

Then, after 15 years there, Perri left the company "with a package." A married father of two, he took a month off "for a little vacation" and then started back into the job hunt, only to be surprised by the lack of response he got from his inquiries and Internet job postings. With all of his experience, he expected more.

"I had a lot of experience – not a lot of jobs, but a lot of experience – good skills, good everything," he says. "I got not one phone call. I was shocked. I thought I could get a job anywhere." That’s when he made a few changes to his resume, re-posted it online, and "got more hits that you can shake a stick at."

After several interviews, Perri moved to a position with a staffing company where he assisted jobseekers and HR departments in finding the perfect match for key jobs.

Helping people get clarity about what they wanted to do, and then helping them get it, was a great match for Perri. "I was really good at it," he says. His experience in the hiring manager’s seat gave him and advantage. "I got to know what people were looking for," he says. And he knew that the resume was the most important element in a jobseeker’s arsenal.

"The purpose of your resume is to get an interview," he says. It’s not a complete career history or confessional, it’s a promotional document that should get you in the door."

These days, Perri is developing his resume and interview skills company. He notes that there are some simple things you can do to get your resume noticed:

Know what you want. "Be clear about what you want to do," he stresses. Many people think that having a career objective limits them, but having a clearly defined objective has the opposite effect. If an HR manager is looking for a facilities manager and you have experience in that, but don’t say it up front, you may be passed over. "And if you have multiple backgrounds," says Perri, "have multiple resumes. As long as you have the skills you should have the resumes."

Know what THEY want. If you’re looking for an entry-level job, don’t waste your time sending resumes to employers who are looking for extensive experience. If you’re looking for a job in pharmaceutical sales, says Perri, "they want personality and sales experience." The more you know about the companies you’re targeting, the better you can target your resume to what they’re looking for.

The Internet offers many clues. Nearly company now has a comprehensive website, and it often includes news, current projects, executives’ biographies, and mission statements. People working at the company can round out the picture with "on the ground" insights.

Keep it simple. "Go for two pages, no longer," says Perri. This may sound hard if you’ve been in the workforce for over 10 years, but nobody said that your resume has to be the history of your whole work-life. "Recent work history is enough," he says. "The skills will still show up. If you have them, they’ll be on your resume."

This tip is also helpful if you’re a bit older. "Let’s say I’m somewhere between 45 and 60," says Perri, "but I don’t want to be discriminated against because of my age." Having a resume focused on the last 10 years is not lying, says Perri, it’s just keeping you current. Stay focused and keep it simple.

Think creatively. If you’ve been out of the work force for several years, consider the skills you’ve used in your home or in volunteer work. "A woman may have been a housewife, but she’s had experience with managing the family bills. That’s accounts payable." You have to think skills, not job titles, says Perri.

And contrary to conventional wisdom, Perri says "you can have your resume on different colored paper – not too gold, not a flashy color. But a light blue or beige is OK. It stands out from the rest of the white and ivory resumes." Just don’t go for colored ink, he says.

Don’t overdo it. Personal information isn’t necessary unless it reinforces your key skills. If you’ve been involved with the Boy Scouts, that might show management and leadership, but don’t overdo associations and affiliations. Be brief, says Perri. Keep high profile positive associations on the resume, "especially if they highlight skills like team-player.But, because so many managers have different thoughts about this, membership in controversial associations are best left off" unless it supports the environment you want to work in.

Incorporate feedback. If you get to a screening interview and someone questions something on your resume, you’d be wise to give it another look, says Perri. Staying up to date is easy with computers and high quality printer; no resume has to be static.

– Deb Cooperman

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Leadership Skills For New Businesses

Sit at the feet of an owner whose firm has launched, struggled, even fallen a bit, and then wildly succeeded. Such people do not advise in sound bite maxims. They will not dismiss the budding entrepreneur with "think out of the box" or "increase ideation." Instead, if encouraged, they will spin a tale rich in experience, which can pilot the attentive business novice through the treacherous startup waters.

The Princeton Chamber of Commerce gathers three such owners in this mentoring category for a panel discussion, "Leadership in New Businesses: Myths and Realities," on Tuesday, October 9, at 8 p.m. at the Chauncey Conference Center. Cost: $40. Call 609-924-1776 or visit www.princetonchamber.org.

Jim Bartolomei moderates a panel consisting of David Culley, founder of the Blue Tulip; Jim Nawn, director of the Fenwick Group/Panera Bread; and Glenn Paul, founder of DotPhoto. All three of these Princeton-based entrepreneurs point out the advantages and pitfalls of setting up shop in central Jersey.

It really would have made sense for Culley to open a book store. After all, one should always sell what one knows best, right? And this man knows books. Following a boyhood in Guilford, Connecticut, Culley obtained a philosophy B.A. from Upsala in l974, then went on to doctoral studies in education at NYU. He then taught elementary and high school.

Culley shifted easily into Bambergers as the chain’s book buyer. This led to a decade as general merchandise buyer for Barnes and Noble, and a publishing stint with Simon and Schuster. In the l980s Egghead Software sought out his expertise and he took the firm from 2 to 174 stores nationwide.

But in 2002, Culley decided not to sell what he knew best. Instead, he examined the people of Princeton. "You have to look at the individuals beyond the demographics," Culley says, "not just what they buy, but how they buy and how they live." Here, he had some great help.

Partnering expertise. Culley possessed enormous skills in opening, staffing, and running retail stores. But when it came to honing a precise product niche, he wanted some backup. Enter Joe Ellis, who brought his three decades with Goldman Sachs as a retail analyst to the project. Together the two partners realized that area stores were selling product categories, not filling total needs.

Princeton was full of traditional families, who wanted to celebrate or note various occasions in their lives. Typically, the responsibility of turning a date into an event fell on women who worked in the home, outside, or both. "These women were time poor, yet discerning," Culley says. "They wanted to mark certain events with quality, but they did not want to run around to five different stores to assemble things." From this idea was born the first Blue Tulip, on 20 Nassau Street.

Competition surveys. Everyone seemed to be the Blue Tulip’s competitor. Giants like Macy’s and Target offered gifts. Party City sold celebrating supplies. Staples sold stationery. Local stationery stores did custom printing. Culley and Ellis only had one 4,000 square foot store.

Their answer? Develop a unique, personalized collection. Culley and his three buyers lined up over 600 suppliers. They brought in distinctive jewelry, gifts, favors. Their mainstay, stationery and custom printing, consisted of offerings simply not found anywhere else in the area. Additionally, they designed various gift baskets suited to individual desires. The Blue Tulip became a one-stop shop for collecting the items necessary to celebrate an occasion with taste. The format worked.

The lay of the land. By the summer of 2004, The Blue Tulip had expanded to four stores with two more set to open up by the end of the year. The natural choice would have to move into other nearby town centers throughout the central Jersey area. But Culley and Ellis opted for a more selective market plan. Princeton was succeeding because of the needs and buying habits of the families within the town. Thus, seeking communities with similar residents, Blue Tulips sprang up in Marlton, Fairfield, Connecticut, and Paoli, Pennsylvania. Currently all are flourishing, with Bronxville, New York, then Canton, Connecticut, to open soon.

Staffing. "The buying experience is just as important to customers as is the actual product," says Culley. "You’ve got to have sales associates with whom people will form a relationship." Walk into any Gap store and you will see clothes-conscious young ladies selling mounds of items to other clothes-conscious young ladies.

By the same principle, Culley selected more mature, family-centered women for his sales staff positions. He cites occasions where certain sales people have spent up to an hour and a half working out just the right wording for a delicate announcement or invitation. The drive for such attention to customer needs comes partially from the top, and partially from within the right kind of employee, and it wins patrons for life.

Two-Way pipeline. Culley and his buyers meet frequently with not just the store managers, but the entire staff. "Our buyers select the products," he says, "but some of the very best ideas come from the customers and sales associates."

Virtually every new business leaves the dock underfunded and overloaded with fears. When the new owner is not working late, he’s worrying late. But mentors can be found. And while they may not make your way smooth and easy, they will at least reassure you that others have sailed this way and survived.

– Bart Jackson


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