Carrots & Sticks for Housing

It’s no secret that "affordable" housing is scarce in Central New Jersey, and – outrageous though it may seem – those with very low incomes might not even qualify for help. According to the rules of the Council on Affordable Housing, a single person would need an income of $24,500 to qualify for a rental unit. (A family of three needs $31,400). If you make less than that, says Mary Ellen Marino, you get a form saying you don’t make enough money to qualify affordable housing. The alternative is public housing (scarce) or federal/state rental assistance vouchers (for which the waiting lists are currently closed). Or a park bench.

Marino has founded the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness, a collaboration of nearly 150 nonprofit organizations, elected officials, government agencies, corporations, labor, congregations, community groups and individuals. To achieve the goal of ending homelessness in 10 years, the alliance aims to make changes across the entire community.

Marino is using both carrots and sticks to effect change. Her first carrot-like incentive was to partner with the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and the New Jersey Apartment Association to laud two model landlords, Deborah Gershen Gennello of the Gershen Group and Marian Jordan of Doolan Realty and founder of the Mercer County Landlords Association. As for the stick: She is grooming a corps of affordable housing advocates to lobby officials at municipal zoning and planning meetings.

"We need a group of community people who have learned the facts of the cost of housing and the need for housing," says Marino, "so they can go to public meetings and sign up to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves." The initial training session, led by David Kinsey of Kinsey & Hand, is Wednesday, June 15, 7 p.m., at the United Way of Greater Mercer County conference room, 3131 Princeton Pike, Building 4. For information call 609-844-1008 or E-mail:info@merceralliance.org.

An umbrella organization like the Mercer Alliance is the current gold standard, nationally, for how to deal with root causes of homelessness, and this is the first of its kind in New Jersey. "It is particularly vital to Mercer County because the level of family homelessness in our capital region is second highest in the nation," says Marino.

Marino had been director of advocacy at HomeFront, which works with homeless families. "We founded the alliance in order to separate it from HomeFront, so we could work more effectively with all the groups in Mercer County and claim resources as a nonprofit, instead of being part of a nonprofit," says Marino, who holds the title of interim executive director.

For now, the Alliance is incubated in office space at the United Way and has Marino, full-time, plus one part-time employee and a VISTA worker. Tyco International pledged $135,000 for two years; Janssen Pharmaceutical donated $20,500 and the Merencas Foundation (a family foundation) has given $25,000.

She grew up in South Orange, the oldest of three girls in a family schooled to be Eleanor Roosevelt fans. After going to Rosemont College, Class of 1961, and earning a master’s degree in African studies and government from Boston University, she worked for the NJ Department of Community Affairs and, for RideWise of Raritan Valley; she has also been a council member in West Windsor Township. Most recently she was director of advocacy at HomeFront.

"The Mercer Alliance meeting is to mobilize and train community volunteers to attend public meetings and put pressure on public officials to provide truly affordable housing. Those who are in overcrowded conditions can’t afford the nearly $1,000 per month required for a two-bedroom apartment," says Marino. "There’s an opportunity to utilize the rules to get something more done."

She cites the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s "Out of Reach Report" (www.nlihc.org) for the average rent in the county for a two-bedroom apartment: $977 a month. "In Trenton, three bedroom units are going as high as $1,200," says Marino, "and they are more than $1,350 in Lawrenceville. In Princeton, an undermarket rental with three bedrooms is $1,800; the efficiencies and one-bedrooms are $1,000, and the average Princeton rentals for more anything than an efficiency are $2,000."

Super Landlords?

Landlord/tenant relationships are famous for being contentious. But fighting and pointing fingers will not solve any housing problems, says Deborah Gershen Gennello, who has just been honored as a Landlord of the Year by the Mercer County Alliance to End Homelessness, the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, and the New Jersey Apartment Association.

"The job of a landlord and the job of a tenant are not two separate jobs. We have to work together if we are going to work on the housing needs of our community," says Gennello. "We are an industry that has been around for a very long time, and we haven’t figured out how to like other."

The two winners, says Marino, referring to Gennello and Marian Jordan, the other honoree, "are amazing individuals and landlords. They have created safe, clean, and well-maintained apartments and treat the renters with respect."

Gennello advocates for the Mercer Alliance: "The alliance brings all the organizations together. Each one has its own little niche. Mercer Alliance’s niche is working to educate everybody, not just landlords and tenants, but legislators, homeowners, and residents to help in any small way to provide good housing. To get people to open up and realize there is a problem in New Jersey, a problem not going to be solved by finger pointing but by working together to come to find a solution to these housing needs. We need to not point fingers but we need to point to solutions. The Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness allows us to find solutions."

Gennello is director of management for the Gershen Group, a licensed real estate broker and a certified property manager. With about 12 people in the management office, and a couple of hundred employees statewide, the company has built 9,000 housing units statewide and currently manages 1,500 housing units, primarily in Trenton, including the Alvin E. Gershen apartments, Pond Run, and Kingsbury.

One of six children, she comes from three generations of affordable housing advocates. Her grandfather used to work for the predecessor of the U.S. Department of Housing, and he purchased land for affordable housing. Her father, Alvin E. Gershen, built apartment buildings, and worked with the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency (a nonprofit mortgage finance company) and was instrumental in establishing Princeton Community Village.

Gennello was a broadcast film production and marketing communications major at Boston University, Class of 1984, and after working for a Manhattan radio station, she joined her father’s firm 25 years ago. He died in 1989, and she and her mother, Mildred, and her brother, Jonathan, have been maintained the business. Gennello and her husband, who works in the computer field, have four boys, including a set of twins, from ages five to ten.

Getting the award "was a very humbling experience," she says, "and being a landlord is something I love to do. "Being a landlord and having tenants, for me, is more of a symbiotic relationship than just collecting rent. We’re where people raise their kids, where they have good times and bad times," says Gennello.

She gets complaints about high rents – every landlord does, and sometimes she has had to evict tenants. "I’m not in the eviction business. Sometimes I have no choice," she says. "But I make my money by renting apartments. And it’s easy to say, ‘You’re a landlord and you collect a lot of money. you keep people in poverty. You’re getting rich off my back.’"

Her answer: "I show what we do and support ourselves with the income we receive. Most of my budgets are public knowledge. We show the costs associated with security, repairs, and after hours callbacks. Most people can understand that, and they work their way through getting the rent paid."

"My relationships go beyond just rent," she says. For a needy family, "maybe I have to be a little more lenient on when the rent come in. But not every tenant needs the same service. You can’t ‘cookie cutter’ people."

For instance, she accepts tenants who have guarantors or an outside funding source, and not all landlords do. The outside funding may come through a federal agency or from a church. "HomeFront is a major helper of people who need housing but can’t necessarily get the funds," she says.

"My parents were big on respect, whether for myself or anybody else. I would never ask someone to live in an apartment that I myself wouldn’t live in. Being a landlord is kind of like being a mom. It is something I love to do."

"I tell my kids there is always more than one side to a story, that if you are really interested in being with the other person, you have to listen to both sides," says Gennello. "We, as landlords, have to be committed to our tenants, because if we have no tenants, then we have no income."

"Last year the president of the New Jersey Apartment Association commented that we are an industry where our consumers do not have a good relationship with us," says Gennello. "I thought that was deplorable. Since the telephone is younger than housing, how could communication with our consumer be so bad?"

– Barbara Fox

Get Organized

Businesses generate a huge amount of data, but what was once a mountain of paper can today be hidden away in the computers that reside under people’s desks. With the help of software designed to support the information needs of a small business, the computer transforms business transactions into the reports required by banks and government and those that supply critical ongoing business information. Yet owners of start-ups and small businesses are not always aware of the capabilities of programs like Quickbooks and Peachtree, and CPA and teacher Kenneth Horowitz is on something of a crusade to communicate the importance of these tools to the people who need them.

For Horowitz, record keeping for a small business should take place within the context of one of these two computer programs. "These software products allow businesses to process normal transactions and almost automatically get financial statements and other reports that accountants would have done in the past," he says. They also provide business information in a timely way so that the owner can react quickly and correct problems.

Horowitz gives a three-hour class on "Record keeping for Small Businesses" on Thursday, June 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Mercer County Community College. Cost: $40. For more information or to register, call 609-586-9446.

In a paper system, says Horowitz, businesses keep multiple records, find it difficult to measure profitability, lose opportunities for strategic decision-making, do not have proper information for taxes, and in the end bring in expensive accountants to organize the disparate pieces of information.

Instead many people now use the accounting, financial, and record keeping capabilities of Quickbooks or Peachtree "as the common system for all business operations," says Horowitz. In addition to providing reports, they can do payroll, accommodate a cash register feed directly to the computer, and calculate depreciation on equipment. "These systems save so much in professional time and have so much benefit that they pay for themselves," he says.

Another big benefit is the elimination of redundant records. Horowitz notes that formerly people would have a Rolodex with customer names and contact information. Then, to invoice customers, they would have to type in the same information. But now entering customer names one time in the customer file enables them to "throw out the Rolodex."

The programs produce three categories of reports from the basic business transactions – sales, purchases, collections, and payments. The first includes the information necessary to complete tax returns. The second are the financial statements – balance sheets, income statements, and statements of cash flow – that are required if the business has bank obligations. Income statements express profit and loss, enabling the business to know which jobs are profitable and which should be replaced by other work. They come in different

iterations – summary, detail, time period, or comparative. Measuring cash flow enables the business to meet obligations when they become due.

One of the most important contributions of these systems is the business control information they create by summarizing, organizing, and then comparing transaction data. Numerous analytic reports enable the business person to "optimize revenue and control costs," says Horowitz, by making good pricing decisions, assessing purchasing options, and getting timely feedback so they can make corrections to their business. Over 100 separate reports support business operations and decision-making. They include:

Customer, vendor, and employee reports.

Mailing lists, with the ability to do mail merges.

Accounts receivable aging, showing who owes the business money, how much, and for how long.

Accounts payable reports, detailing who the business owes money to, how much, and for how long. This enables the business to manage its supply sources with a limited amount of available cash.

Job profitability, specifying revenues minus costs on specific jobs.

Business segment analysis, comparing profitability either for different products or locations

Percentage analysis. This compares percentages for different years budgeted to actual sales, by line item, and for different time periods. This report serves as a control mechanism for improving management

Born in Newark, Horowitz has had his hand in numerous types of businesses. With a degree in accounting from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1969, he began his career as a CPA at the American Arbitration Association. He then moved to Norwood Manufacturing, maker of sheet metal and insulation, and later worked at Scott Printing Corporation, which specializes in financial and commercial printing. He also has experience in mergers and acquisitions, international

trade, and hazardous material handling. He is an adjunct at Mercer County, Brookdale, and Ocean County colleges.

Because Peachtree and Quickbooks are so prevalent in the marketplace, says Horowitz, accounting firms are familiar with them and can often help with system problems. There is also "a good base of support if they need training or professional assistance in interpreting records."

As for ease of use, he observes that learning to enter transactions is like riding a bike: "The first three pedals take considerable effort, but 50 feet down, you know how to ride a bike."

– Michele Alperin

Bankruptcy Doors Close on the Little Guy

It is the most sweeping change in bankruptcy law in 25 years. Pushed hard by President Bush, the new Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act goes into effect on October 17 to the relief of creditors, and particularly credit card companies, which lobbied hard for it.

Debt counselors, along with credit card companies, are praising the new legislation, but a more skeptical legal community is still trying to unravel its ramifications. To help attorneys and business people understand this tide-turning legislation, the New Jersey Institute of Continuing Legal Education presents a series of seminars throughout the state entitled "The New Bankruptcy Code." The next seminar takes place on Friday, June 17, at 9 a.m. at Resorts casino hotel in Atlantic City. Cost $179. Visit www.njicle.com.

Attorney Thomas Subranni from Atlantic City-based Subranni, Ostrove & Zauber moderates. Speakers include attorneys Isabel Balboa, Nona L. Osgrove, Douglas Stranger, Michael Viscount, and federal bankruptcy judge Gloria Burns.

Subranni is not a man from whom you should try to hide anything. In 2001 he was appointed bankruptcy trustee for Hammonton-based Tri-State Armored Services after its executives had skimmed $50 million from its credit union and bank customers. Digging into Tri-State’s hidden vaults and accounts, he regained an amazing $21 million for the customers. He also brought to light the scandalously sloppy accounting methods of banks and credit unions in regards to their ATM machine transactions.

An Atlantic City native, Subranni lives in a home that is just down the road from where he grew up. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in l962 with a B.A. in English. He earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University followed by a masters from New York University’s law school with a specialty in taxation.

Subranni has helped people through the bankruptcy process for over 30 years. He says that plenty is being hidden from individuals in this situation under the new legislation, and he does not like it. "Probably the greatest change coming out of this law is that it takes bankruptcy out of the judiciary system and places it with professional debt restructurers," he says.

Over-the-top credit counseling tactics. Turn on the radio, pick up a newspaper, or go online – in every media you will find self-professed non-profit debt counselors begging to help folks overwhelmed by bills to restructure their lives and pay things off.

It seems so noble – until you realize how most of these companies get funded. These counseling firms squeeze their bankrupt clients into a tight budget, then extract all surplus cash, which they turn over to the creditors for a hefty 15 percent commission. They are, in fact, collection agencies, working to benefit credit card companies.

The promises given to the strapped client, desperate to get out from under, frequently lead to high registration fees. Recently Illinois attorney general Lisa Madigan sued the debt counseling firm AmeriDebt for failing to disclose to customers high initial and monthly fees. Subranni has seen that families of four are being counseled into budgets of $350 a month for food and all extra expenses.

While such counseling/collecting agencies may worry those in the legal profession, the administration’s new "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act" views them as the final solution. As of October 17, 2005, anyone under a certain income status cannot avail himself of bankruptcy court without first applying to one of these debt consolidating firms, undergoing its strictures, and bringing its seal of approval into court.

Judicial benefits. Traditionally the goal of bankruptcy judgments has been to provide the destitute individual or business with a fresh start, while giving the creditor as much of their due as possible. In some case these interests were served with a straight Chapter 7 – a basic liquidation of all of the debtor’s assets and redistribution among the debtor’s creditors. The debt was canceled completely. Often called the fresh start program, this gave the creditors as much of their original investment as remained, and afforded the debtor a chance to get quickly out from under and to start over again.

Debtors who had some source of income or assets that produced income were often placed into Chapter 13. There the debt was reorganized and a payoff plan, typically spread over three to five years, was structured. Nonexempt assets might be sold.

Creditors got as many cents on the dollar as reality dictated. The debtor got a chance to put his debt behind him, re-establish his credit and even qualify for an FHA loan within two years. But as of October 17, he must first qualify for a court hearing.

Other restrictions. The Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act entails several further limitations, all aimed at cutting the number of people who qualify for bankruptcy protection and raising the amount of their repayments. The law strictly curtails access to Chapter 7, particularly the fresh start provisos, reserving it for higher income cases. The bankruptcy petition fees have been raised, and the homestead exemption, under which debtors could keep their homes, is cut drastically.

But what rankles Subranni most is the codifying of repayment restructuring. "Now, when you file your bankruptcy petition and list your expenses on schedule J, this law dictates what your expenses are," he says. The law may allow your family $100 month for drugs, but your necessary prescription drugs may run $500. "This means that the already destitute individual is going to end up spending money on legal fees to plea for a variance, and bankruptcy will be more costly than ever."

Critics of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act are pointing to the several privileges given major credit card companies, which contributed substantial funds to President Bush’s re-election campaign. According to the George W. Bush 2004 election website, CitiGroup, MBNA, and Credit Suisse Boston all ranked in the top 10 donors to the administration’s campaign. The credit card companies are arguing that too many people are seeking bankruptcy as an easy escape and that the doors need to close.

"It is a huge bill," says Subranni of the legislation that will close those doors, "and we have not yet teased apart all its elements. For larger businesses there should be no great changes. For others, we will have to see how it plays out."

– Bart Jackson

Commerce Locked and Linked

Perhaps it’s the Internet, perhaps the pressures of international competition, but increasingly businesses are viewing others as potential partners, rather than as suspicious competitors. Both individuals and companies are seeking ways to link up and make these links more efficient. Towards this end, scores of new communicating devices keep springing up, each a little more confusing than the next.

To help business leaders find the tools for making projects more fluid and effective, the New Jersey Technology Council offers a "Business Collaboration" workshop on Thursday, June 16, at 4 p.m. at Delta Corporate Services in Piscataway. Cost $40. Visit www.NJTC.org. Moderated by Nipun Patel, director of information services for the Liberty Science Museum, the panel includes Ron Guida, development manager for Optaros Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Joseph Roman, founder of Accelerant Sales Group in Montville; CPA Mark Mintz of Mintz and Associates of Fairfield; and Derek Riddle, partner in Defined Logic in Long Branch.

"Every project from a simple E-mail request to a multi-corporate undertaking involves some kind of collaboration," says Patel. "The question is how well do we collaborate, and how do we use the tools at hand?"

Patel has helped to develop collaborative tools at a technical level for 30 years. Born and raised near Bombay, Patel earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture from India’s Baruda University. Emigrating to New York, he then earned a master’s in architecture in l972, and became caught up in computer solutions. In l977 he launched one of the nation’s first computerized drafting firms.

Mindset & tools. Patel points out that there are an enormous numbers of physical tools for linking people on projects. Several software programs provide for contact management – keeping all of one’s group united and informed. Using this software, each individual feeds in his experience, which forms a knowledge pool to be drawn on by all team members.

But like any tool, it only works effectively when guided by the right hands. "The team leaders have to figure out exactly what information all the people need to know and let them have it efficiently – all at once," Patel explains. As in a library, the information must be not only be amassed and available, but its use must be urged. It does no one any good if it stays on the shelf.

Open sourcing. Veteran web integrator Guida calls it the information highway without a toll booth. With larger corporations leading the way, companies increasingly are pooling their software and resources into a kind of cyber public domain. Referred to as open sourcing, it involves logging onto giant online swapmeets, offering custom-designed software and walking away with databases or templates as needed.

Open source applied servers, like Zope, Mambo, and Clone each have hundreds of contributing companies with thousands of software offerings. Subscribers can find the basics, such as Real Estate Broker for publishing listings and Bastian Ledger for payroll planning, up to the more complex Nausite for content management systems, as well as many truly esoteric developmental models.

"The cost savings from such pooling are obvious and amazing," says Guida. "In the very near future we will see 80 percent of all software in use coming off such open source sites." Guida does not make these predictions haphazardly.

After graduating from Drexel University in l981 with a B.S. in business management, Philadelphia-native Guida found a very willing market for his web creating talents. He worked for Abbott Labs, Bluestone, and other Philadelphia-area companies. In l996 he launched a networking company, U1.net Inc. CitiBank, GE, and the New York Stock Exchange quickly became clients and U1.net flourished. Ever restless, Guida sold some of the company and currently develops new projects for Optaros.

Finally, Guida says, smaller businesses are catching on. In fields such as content management and E-learning they are finding the common sense of open sourcing. "After all, you don’t write a new text every time you teach the same history course," he points out.

Personalization. "Selling is a personal relationship, and it is a process," says Roman, founder of Accelerant Sales Group. "You deal with each person individually. But how you collaborate with them depends on where along the sales process they stand." Roman sees his sales approach as a funneling down, with different relationships at each stage.

At the big end of the funnel come the new encounters: people who by sheer ownership of a pulse and proximity qualify as a potential sales target. A few questions later, the new acquaintance reveals that he has a need for your product and may even have a supplier already. At this point, he becomes what Roman labels a "suspect." The collaboration becomes more than verbal. Cards may be exchanged, E-mail communications fly around, and maybe even phone calls are planned.

Once your suspect, through further communications, expresses an interest in your product at some time in the future, he graduates to a genuine "prospect." The relationship and collaborative techniques again change. Eventually, the prospect moves into the realms which Roman calls "forecast," then final "closure" – the final sale.

Exactly what levels of communicating are required for each level depends on your product and the type of clientele. But by systematizing the approach, the selling process becomes more thorough and less hit or miss.

Roman, who earned a business B.S. from Alvernia College in Reading, Pennsylvania, in l995, then a masters in marketing management from the New Jersey Institute of Technology, has been an avid marketing expert since graduation. Working for Parsippany-based Diologic, he rose to sales manager of its acquiring giant, Intel. "I always studied the successful reps," he says. "I actually knew one rep who owned his own island off the coast of Seattle. This was a man who had collaboration and communication down to a fine art." After all, the more interwoven, the better the fabric.

– Bart Jackson

Note to Job Hunters: Offer Knowledge

Selling yourself is a lot like selling a product, and both require understanding how a potential buyer thinks. Today’s buyers are more sophisticated with less time and patience – unless something is in it for them, according to sales trainer John Orvos. This includes those "buyers," also called "employers," who are looking for human capital to provide resources for their businesses.

Orvos, founder of Sell-Masters, a sales training and coaching company, talks about "Learning to Sell Yourself" for the Career/Networking Group on Saturday, June 18, at 8:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s Church Hall at 214 Nassau Street, Princeton.

"We have only one thing to offer at the beginning of any relationship," says Orvos, "insight and knowledge." For jobseekers to establish a connection with potential employers, they must provide the employer with new information – something they did not already know. The reason? "Power only buys from power," he explains. "If you are coming from a position of weakness, doing the ‘polite-beg’ call," then people with jobs won’t be willing to invest time, because they will have nothing to gain. By offering knowledge, jobseekers are aligning themselves with the potential buyer.

Orvos suggests three steps toward building the personal power that avoids the necessity of the "polite-beg" call:

Sleuth for information about the buyer’s challenges. The jobseeker’s goal is to uncover executive-level challenges and motivations. To accomplish this, Orvos suggests researching for industry (I), company (C), and executive (E) information – melting the "ICE" to get the knowledge that the potential employer needs.

Orvos gives the example of a vice president of IT in the financial industry. The "I" might be that the industry is facing challenges of mergers and acquisition and compliance; the "C" that the company just acquired XYZ corporation; and the "E" that Joe needs to execute a seamless integration of IT systems to be successful in his position. Create a compelling reason to meet.

After understanding how industrial and company information are affecting a potential employer, "sellers" are ready to create a short statement that will motivate the "buyers" to meet with them.

This opening statement will be about 20 seconds long and will explain who you are and what you do (20 percent of the statement) and why the executive should be interested in meeting with you (the remaining 80 percent).

Persist in efforts to contact the buyer. The first step in connecting with a potential employer is a phone call, yet a real human being picks up only 5 to 8 percent of the time, says Orvos, and even then it will be an assistant, not the desired party. The other likelihood is voicemail. Orvos notes that no one ever returns this first call, and hence the seller needs to "include this call in a portfolio of other ways to touch a buyer."

He recommends a "7-touch program" that moves from that first message with an assistant or voicemail, to E-mail, to a letter, then a repeat of those three touches, ending with one last voicemail/assistant message.

"The average seller stops after three touches," claims Orvos, but he believes that it takes seven touches, each combined with a compelling reason to meet the job seeker, to gain access to executives.

Orvos grew up in North Brunswick, and received a B.S. in marketing from Penn State University in 1989. Out of college he did corporate sales for R.R. Donnelley, and he has also worked for Rockwell Collins and Office Depot. He wrote the book Four Faces of Sales, which is the philosophical basis of Sell-Masters, whose approach to training he describes as primarily deal-based, with minimum time in the classroom. The 20 coaches, he says, are all former sales managers or VPs.

Orvos got into sales through sociology, because he has always been interested in how people interact. So what’s the connection between sociology and sales? His sales methodology is based on understanding how and why people develop relationships. As he puts it succinctly: "Sales is the moneymaking version of sociology."

– Michele Alperin

Think Like a Fish

‘Lose your fear," says Lisa Fahoury. "I find so many people are fearful and intimidated." What are these many people afraid of? Creativity, she says. "When people hear the word creativity they think creative accounting and cooking the books. Creativity has gotten a bad rap. But creativity is really just problem solving."

To combat that fear of creativity, Fahoury has developed a seminar, "Think Like a Fish: Develop Your Creativity and Jump-Start Your Business." She presents her ideas at the next Marketing Roundtable sponsored by the Mercer County chapter of NJAWBO (New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners). The free talk takes place on Tuesday, June 21, at 8:15 a.m. at the Mercadien Group, 3625 Quakerbridge Road. To register call Terry Adams of Adams Consulting Group at 609-430-9971.

Fahoury is chief creative officer for Fahoury Ink, a marketing communications consulting firm in West Orange. A graduate of Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business, Fahoury has worked for several advertising agencies, including the Curtis Circulation Company, for which she developed a full-service in-house ad agency for the Curtis Circulation Company, an international magazine marketing firm, and New York Daily News, where she was creative services manager. Fahoury Ink, founded in 1998, specializes in sales promotion for newspapers, books, and magazines as well as retail and manufacturing industries and professionals.

"No matter what the industry, whether it’s a seller of textbooks or industrial chemicals, I find people give me that deer in the headlights look when I mention creativity. They say, ‘Creativity: It’s not my forte.’" Instead of being afraid of creativity, people should realize it is just another word for problem solving, or looking at something "with a fresh eye," says Fahoury. "So many people tell me, ‘It’s not important to my business,’" but without creativity, most businesses will never thrive.

Creativity experts have, in fact, taken tools from science to develop materials to help people learn to be more creative. Some techniques include:

Stretching the challenge. This technique involves broadening your view of a problem or challenge by asking more and more abstract questions. Fahoury uses the owner of a sandwich shop who wants to sell more sandwiches as an example. She poses a series of questions and answers for the fictional shop owner.

Why do I need to sell more sandwiches?

Because sales volume is down and I want to improve my business.

Why do I want to improve my business?

To increase my personal wealth.

Why do I want to increase my personal wealth?

To lead a better life.

"By reshaping the question to an appropriate level of abstraction you’ve broadened the idea from selling more sandwiches to leading a better life. This can lead you to all sorts of creative solutions," she says. "The owner might decide to partner with a church to help feed the homeless." This very different solution will help the owner not only to "lead a better life," but on the practical side, can generate news coverage about the shop, leading to even more sandwich sales, she explains. "The more abstract the concept, the more creative the solution."

Squeezing the Challenge. The polar opposite of stretching the problem is squeezing or shrinking it. "If a problem is too broad, you need to set boundaries," she says. By asking a similar series of questions the problem is "drilled down to minutia."

Scampering to success. A third approach to creative problem solving involves a mnemonic: SCAMPER. Use the checklist of words and phrases to help come up with solutions to the problem.

S: Substitute or reshape the problem.

C: Combine a task with something else.

A: Adapt or copy someone else’s idea.

M: Modify or magnify to problem.

P: Put it to other uses.

E: Eliminate the problem.

R: Rearrange the idea.

The first creativity expert was Leonardo da Vinci, says Fahoury. "Da Vinci was the grandfather of creative thinking. He came up with hundreds of inventions. Several hundred years before the technology was available, he invented the helicopter."

To learn more about creativity Fahoury recommends reading books by creativity experts, including "Thinkertoys" by Michael Michalko, and "The Creative Whack Pack" by Roger von Oech. The "whack" theory, she explains, is that sometimes "you need a whack on the side of the head." He provides it "with a set of 64 bizarre, yet thought-provoking, idea cards."

The title of Fahoury’s seminar, "Think Like a Fish," and the story of how she came up with it, sums up her ideas on creativity. While she was searching for a creative and interesting title for her seminar she says she happened to read an article on tournament fishing ("Something I don’t usually do.") in Sports Illustrated.

The article was about a championship fisherman. When asked how he won so many tournaments, he replied, "I don’t think like a fisherman; I think like a fish." The creative leap was obvious to Fahoury. "For a person in business, don’t think like the business owner, think like the customer."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Grants Awarded

The Waldorf School of Princeton has received the largest gift in its 21-year history. The gift – 20 acres of prime, bucolic farmland in Bucks County – was given by Marvin and Joan Jaffe, grandparents of students at the Waldorf School of Princeton.

"I couldn’t be more pleased with the education that my grandchildren are obtaining at the Waldorf School," Jaffe said in comments at a celebration in his and his wife’s honor. "I want to ensure that other children have the same opportunities that my grandchildren have had."

Jaffe had a long career in the pharmaceutical industry. He was the president of the R. W. Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute, a Johnson & Johnson company, from its founding in 1988 until 1994. A graduate of Temple University, he received his medical degree and specialty training in neurology at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, where he remains a member of the faculty.

Since his retirement from Johnson & Johnson, Jaffe has been active as a consultant to the biopharmaceutical and biotechnology industry. He is currently a director of Allos Pharmaceuticals and Immunomedics.

Joan Jaffe received her BS from the University of Pennsylvania in medical technology. An artist, she has illustrated a children’s haggadah, which is in the process of being copyrighted.

Corporate Angels

The associates at RE/MAX Excel, members of the national RE/MAX Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) Miracle Homes Program, they donate a specific amount of money to CMN for each sales transaction they complete, and will display the colorful "Miracle Home" rider on top of their RE/MAX yard signs.

Children’s Miracle Network (CMN) is a national charity distinguished for improving healthcare for children by generating funds and awareness for 165 affiliated hospitals. One hundred percent of the local donations stay in the community in which they were made to benefit participating hospitals. In the Princeton area the funds go to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Associates at the East Windsor office who are members of the program are Tommy Cuilla, Broker/Owner, Karen Wagner, Owner, Smitha Basavaraj, William Bauer, Pam Erickson, Mickey Foltiny, Tom Friedman, Doug Gibbons, Karen Gillespie, William Iacouzze, Michelle Krzywulak, Mia Lutz, Ethelyn Maginnis, Keith Marbourg, Michele Mattei, Mathew Monforte, Ann Murphy, Peter San Paolo, and Alison Zimmermann.

The Eden Family of Services, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing lifespan services to children and adults with autism, recently held its annual reception honoring the members of the Eden Legacy Society (ELS). Currently 199 members strong, ELS consists of parents, trustees, faculty, staff and community members who have chosen to include Eden in their estate planning.

New members include Laura Novia of Morrisville, Pennsylvania; Rachel Tait of Pennington; and Adele and Hollister Sykes of Cranford.

On Tuesday, June 21, at the Doubletree in Mount Laurel, members of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), South Jersey Chapter will not only see their officers installed, but will also see a longstanding construction corporation partner with a women’s organization in an effort to better meet the diverse needs of women-owned businesses in South Jersey. Joseph Jingoli & Sons Inc. in Lawrenceville has announced its support and sponsorship of the National Association of Women Business Owners South Jersey Chapter (NAWBO SJ), an organization advancing the interests of women entrepreneurs.

The sponsorship affords Jingoli participation in NAWBO’s annual meeting and awards dinner, branding opportunities with the organization’s publications, website and events, and collaboration on other marketing initiatives. In addition, NAWBO has designated JJS as a Corporate Sponsor. JJS is the first major construction firm to support South Jersey women business owners in this manner.

"NAWBO is delighted to partner with Jingoli. South Jersey’s economy is critically dependent on women-owned businesses," said Michelle Bunting, president of the NAWBO South Jersey Chapter and CEO of Horizon Pediatric Systems of Bordentown, in a prepared statement. "Our collaboration with Jingoli further strengthens our chapter’s ability to deliver educational programs, scholarships, and networking opportunities to South Jersey’s women business owners."

Participate Please

Runners, walkers, and family members of all ages are invited to participate in the first annual ETS Firecracker 5K on Wednesday, June 29, rain or shine. The event benefits the Princeton YWCA.

Register at Conant Hall of Educational Testing Service at the corner of Rosedale and Carter Roads from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Then run or walk at 7:30 p.m. on the flat and safe course, contained within the ETS grounds. Individuals and group teams of at least four participants are welcome.

There will be prizes galore, awarded to age-categories (five year increments) and group team winners – first, second, and third place – ages 5 to 80. Participants will receive T-shirts, while they last. Also on hand for the event: a southern rock band, a hot air balloon launch, and refreshments donated by area merchants.

This is a USATF-certified course and sanctioned event; it is a USATF-NJ Grand Prix event worth 500 points. CompuScore results will be mailed.

In addition to runners and walkers, Sponsors and volunteers are needed. Giveaways, door prizes, or miscellaneous supplies and services are appreciated. Some examples are gift certificates, gift items, water bottles, food, and beverages.

Organizers are also looking for people to recruit runners and walkers, and volunteering to help the day of the run. Nearly 400 runners are expected to take part in this inaugural event, so supporters will be needed to help stuff giveaway bags, staff the water stops and food tables, provide parking and traffic control, post signs to the race, and provide a variety of other essential duties and projects.

Corporate sponsors to date include Aramark, Bracco, Careers USA, Covance, ETS, NAI Fennelly, the Mercadien Group, Pacesetter Management Consulting, Pepper Hamilton, Princeton HealthCare System, Princeton Packet, and Wegmans.

Proceeds will benefit the programs of the YWCA Princeton and the educational programs of the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce Foundation.

For more information, call 609-497-2100, ext. 322, or E-mail to porr@ywcaprinceton.org.

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