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These articles were prepared for the June 29,
2005 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
What works for one generation of workers, may not work for the next.
Business supervisors are discovering that Generation X struggles out
of bed and comes to work for entirely different reasons than does its
Baby Boomer parents. Additionally, those who graduated and entered
business onward from the late-l980s seem to thrive in a wholly
different work environment than do those who came to the office with
the mud of Woodstock still clinging to their Birkenstocks.
Such generational shifts, along with the advent of global diversity,
are teaching executives that one single “management style” no longer
fits all. To explore this new path of accommodation, Mercer County
Community College offers a five-session course, “Leadership Skills for
Management,” beginning Wednesday, June 29, at 6:30 p.m. Cost: $270.
Call 609-586-9446. Taught by Stephen W. Oliver, founder of the
executive training firm Oliver & Associates in Philadelphia, the
course provides, as he puts it, “innovative theories blended with
heavy doses of hard reality.”
Viewing himself as leaning more toward the Baby Boomer style of
business, Oliver left his Vienna, Virginia, hometown to attend West
Virginia University in l981. Earning a B.A. in English in l984,
followed by a masters in human resource development from Marymount
College, he entered the field of healthcare executive training, where
he has remained. Oliver worked first with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and
later moved to the Allegheny Health System, where he struggled to
instill communication skills in every employee — from orderlies to
“Pediatrics doctors were fairly open,” he says. “The surgeons and
academics were, well, less so.” Ten years ago, Oliver came to
Philadelphia to train employees in that city’s Children’s Hospital. In
2002 he formed the executive training firm of Stephen Oliver &
Associates, taking on individual clients and designing E-learning
“The really good manager,” says Oliver, “works to get into the head of
each employee. He learns what makes that man show up at work, and what
he wants out of a job.” Much of this is, naturally, individual and
executives must be wary of generalizations. However, generational
differences lurk in the background, and the wise supervisor makes
himself and his projects flexible.
The “they” generation. In the generation preceding the Baby Boomers,
management was simple. One supervised by fiat. If you wanted something
done, you told an underling — and off he scurried. Or at least he was
expected to do so. This was the age of the pyramid, where information
ran up and orders came back down.
Jobs were generally tight, and still haunted by depression memories,
and so workers at all levels clung to the job and any shred of rank
with tenacity. The main motivation was to work hard and smart, and
after a lifetime with the company, move up that pyramid to a major
The “we” generation. In the late l960s American business soared, jobs
became easier to find, and the ex-hippie-turned-worker became more
selective. Unhappy with his or her father’s infrequently rewarded
devotion to a single firm, this generation began zig-zagging its way
up the ladder. Often the pyramids had become too vast to hope for a
top slot, and instead Baby Boomers, fueled by the times, took greater
pleasure in a team approach to projects. Satisfaction came less from
individual remuneration than from group effort and a task well
completed by a team of fellow workers.
“Today such team-oriented motivation is still very evident,” says
Oliver. “This generation is ambitious, wants responsibility, but still
has enough of the old school in its training to desire direction and
guidance from managers.” Now that this age group is stepping into
management positions themselves, they have raised high the banner of
communication and teamwork for their employees.
The “I” generation. If any banner is to be raised by the workforce of
Generation X it indeed must be “Leave me alone.” By the time this
group came onto the business scene, commerce had shifted into a much
higher gear. Competition had become global and desperate. Careers were
fast tracked or sent spiraling. The company to which you hitched your
wagon could one day be a star, the next a tree stump. Quickly these
newcomers learned the maxim of “if it is to be, it is up to me.”
Oliver says that “the generation X worker is not a person seeking
guidance.” Rather he says, this generation’s refrain is “just give me
the responsibility; go away; and let me run with it.” While such
energy, ambition, and accountability are valuable, Oliver points out
that guidance from a distance must be maintained. Inexperience can
make the best of intentions into loosely aimed cannons.
While Generation X loathes micromanagement, its members are only
slightly less fond of communication. Born into the high tech age,
quick E-notes coming from solitary stations are typically preferred
over the face-to-face meetings favored by their elders. The palm-pilot
missive “Wazzup?” may replace the old, more time consuming memorandum
calling for a lengthy progress report.
Solutions. So what’s a manager to do? All these individual generations
and national cultures wander the floor and each seems to require its
own special handling. Oliver’s answer is give it to them.
A firm believer in management by walking around, Oliver advises
supervisors to be constantly available, but to give the appearance of
moving somewhat on the fly. This allows each individual to sip as
deeply from the counseling cup as he desires, without feeling drenched
Also a great believer in power shedding, Oliver instructs executives
to lift burdens off their own shoulders and onto their employees as a
Oliver tells of the president of a 50-person materials handling
company in Plainsboro who has had two vice presidents over the past
eight years. The first, “Jim,” age 55, would do any job asked of him.
He was known for receiving a project, swiftly gathering workers behind
him, and doggedly pursuing it. At day’s end, he scheduled sessions
with the president to discuss progress and receive instruction.
“Keith,” age 32, now holds the post, and the president scarcely ever
hears from him. He is constantly inventing new jobs, of which his
superior only learns when they are near completion. He asks no advice
and the president must keep after him to put the rest of the company
in the loop. This president’s method of management? Enjoy the ride
with both. Play to their strengths and be happy you’ve got them.
— Bart Jackson
eBay is possibly the closest thing we have to an open and efficient
market, easily accessible to buyers and sellers, with information
available to all. It is an electronic marketplace that serves both
people looking for bargains and those willing to pay anything for a
one-of-a-kind item. Sellers range from people emptying their attics to
art dealers selling 17th-century paintings. By the end of 2004, eBay
had 135 million users, 56 million of whom had been active during the
previous 12 months.
As a seller who has sold about 1,500 items on eBay for himself and
others, Scott Marshall has accumulated tips for successful buying and
selling that he shares in “eBay Auctioneering” at Mercer County
Community College, for six sessions, beginning on Thursday, July 7, at
7 p.m. The course is really a hands-on workshop, with each person
sitting at a computer and actually making or observing sales. Cost:
$165. Call: 609-586-9446.
People sell for a variety of reasons using different strategies, some
of which are very idiosyncratic. One category is collectibles, in
which buyers are adding to their collections, getting rid of
duplicates, or upgrading to better items. Others are items inherited
from relatives, homemade arts and crafts, and jewelry old and new. One
example of a “strange” way of selling, says Marshall, is someone in
China who sells jewelry for a penny an item and charges $30 for
shipping. “Somehow it works for them,” he says.
Marshall explains some of the basics of eBay selling:
Find out if your item is worth selling. Check on eBay to see if
someone else is selling the same object. Look at a potential sale from
the perspective of a buyer to find out what kind of money is to be
Imitate successful sellers. “Find people who are doing what you want
to do successfully and imitate them,” advises Marshall. “It is an open
market, and you can see what everyone is doing and how.” Describe your
item carefully, in a way that promotes it, but doesn’t oversell,
making it look so attractive that “when buyers get the item, they are
Make sure the photo accurately represents the item. Photos must show
all aspects of the item that the buyer needs to see to make a purchase
decision. Select film and set lighting combinations so that picture
colors are true. “If people don’t like the color, they may not buy,”
says Marshall, “and even if they like it and it’s false, they may be
upset when they receive the item.” Something as tiny as a reflection
from the flash on some part of an item might be interpreted by buyers
as an attempt to cover a flaw.
Set starting and “buy it now” prices for objects of known value.
Starting low makes people think they are getting a good value, says
Marshall, “but you don’t want to sell a $100 item for $1.” Sellers
must also be aware of what eBay takes per item sold; for example, the
service charges more for items starting at $10.00, hence many items
start at $9.99.
Working in tandem with the starting price is the “buy it now” price.
This is the price at which the seller is willing to stop the auction —
as long as there are no other bids. Marshall advises using this “only
if know what item you’re selling is worth.” These two prices serve the
two different groups in the eBay audience: those who have a ceiling on
what they will spend and those who will pay anything for what they
Setting prices when value is unknown. Especially for old items, says
Marshall, the seller often has no idea what an item is worth. “The
wonderful thing,” he says, “is that in many cases the buyers are
experts.” He gives the example of a set of smoking pipes he was
selling for a friend’s grandfather. Most sold for $10-20, but one went
for $500, and he thinks the reason is related to an E-mail he received
asking whether the internal metal tube was intact. He was also given
instructions on how to open the pipe. Once he had unscrewed it and
pulled it out, he took picture of the tube and added it to the auction
Set fair shipping price. Shipping should not be a money maker, says
Marshall, although he acknowledges that sometimes it is. In such
cases, it is a “form of fee avoidance, because eBay doesn’t get a cut
of the shipping costs.” It is also a way to deceive potential bidders
as to what they will actually pay. As a result, many buyers will shy
away from items where shipping is not specified.
Dealing with competition. “You can use other people’s experiences to
optimize your chances of getting the most money for your item,” says
Marshall. Find out if other people are selling an identical item.
Unless your item is in better condition, don’t put it up at same time.
The best strategy is to schedule your auction to start a minute after
theirs ends. The sale price of the identical item can be the
“buy-it-now” price for your product.
Keeping track of auctions. Marshall uses a paper method, with one form
for each auction. He places the form in a tabbed notebook, moving it
as its status changes — from running the auction to waiting for
payment, to waiting for the check to clear.
eBay’s annual report describes its purpose “to pioneer new communities
around the world built on commerce, sustained by trust, and inspired
by opportunity.” Like any community it has roles and rules — written
and unwritten. One day Marshall got an E-mail informing him that he
was a “power seller.”
This is a title based on a sellers’ statistics — monthly sales, items
sold per month, and a high enough feedback rating — and indicates a
combination of being dependable and prolific as a seller. Feedback
maintains quality control. It is a mechanism through which buyers and
sellers rate each other after each deal. Everyone on eBay has a
number, and “the higher the number, the better you are in the
perspective of people you buy from and sell to,” says Marshall. “If
you cheat them, they’ll write and say so.”
Another way to make money on eBay, rather than selling off your own
stuff, is to become a “registered selling assistant.” This means that
you have registered on eBay to sell for other people. eBay maintains a
list of registered selling assistants by zip code. When Marshall sells
for other people, he negotiates a percentage of the sale based on the
expected sale price. When figuring his charges, he might ask for 50
percent if the item is worth only $10, because it can take an hour to
put the item up. For an item worth a significant amount of money, he
might ask for 10 percent.
As in real life, people on eBay break rules, and buyers and sellers
have to watch out. “My basic strategy on eBay is to be a good guy but
to protect myself from bad guys,” he says.
What are some of the unethical practices a buyer may encounter? A
seller may take your money, but not send the item. A seller may also
claim that an item is “like new,” but then send something “junky.”
Sellers also face risks. One is that a buyer’s check can bounce, hence
it is advisable to wait for a check to clear before sending an item.
Sometimes buyers will claim that an item is broken when the seller is
certain that it’s not. Marshall says that if the seller refuses to
make good on a sale, the buyer may say, “I’ll give you bad feedback
and keep the item unless you give me my money back.” The seller’s only
recourse may be to respond with his own bad feedback on the buyer.
Although eBay has a policy of not retracting any feedback, Marshall
says he has succeeded in having bad feedback about himself removed.
A 1969 graduate of Princeton High School, Marshall’s background is in
computers, and he has been a software and game developer for 20 years
(U.S. 1, December 1, 1999). He was dating a woman who was selling on
eBay, and she suggested that he try it. His photography background has
been helpful in the endeavor; he was the school photographer in
seventh grade, has been an audiovisual technician for the Princeton
school system, and has taught kids photography and darkroom
eBay is a culture, and Marshall’s experience with it makes him
something of an anthropologist. Sometimes in class, he says, it is all
questions and answers, with him sharing anecdotes. From selling 1,500
items, he has accumulated a thousand stories on how to avoid trouble
and maximize success — experiences there is no other way to get.
— Michele Alperin
What publications does a small business need to grow? Many business
owners, particularly those with young businesses, think of
“publications” as something that only large businesses need. But in
reality, says Karen Hodges Miller of Lawrenceville-based Creative
Publications (www.creativepublications.biz), all companies,
particularly young and growing businesses, need some publications. A
brochure, a sales flyer, a newsletter, all should be part of the
business person’s sales tools.
Miller, who is also a freelance contributor to U.S. 1, speaks on “Five
Essentials for Publicizing Your Business,” on Thursday, July 7, at
9:30 a.m. at Panera Bread’s Nassau Street restaurant. The seminar is
hosted by Team Nimbus, a Hopewell-based business (609-466-6592). To
make reservations for the seminar, contact Megan Oltman at
Oltman holds the New Jersey franchise for Team Nimbus, a company that,
she explains, “works with business owners and independent
professionals to grow their revenues and achieve outstanding business
results in a ridiculously short period of time.”
The main business of Team Nimbus is a 90-day program designed to help
groups of business people double their income or other significant
factor in their business through seminars, group coaching,
accountability, and support. In addition, Oltman offers a series of
workshops featuring “essential tools” for business owners and
professionals. The publications seminar is the first in the series.
What are the five “publication essentials?” A brochure, a flyer, a
press release, a newsletter, and case studies or testimonials. “Every
business needs some or all of these things,” says Miller. “In fact, a
press release announcing your new business is one of the first things
you should do.” Flyers are “short-term publications” that most
businesses, particularly retail businesses, will use to announce sales
or specials or talk about a new product or service.” Case studies and
testimonials are often used by both service businesses and retail. “It
is always good to have a testimonial from a satisfied customer. It
should be short and can be used in a brochure or on a website.
Anywhere a new customer is likely to see it,” she says.
Case studies, on the other hand, are usually reserved for “big ticket
items.” If what you are selling only costs a small amount of money,
people are going to be willing to take a chance on it, says Miller.
But if they are spending a lot of money, they want to be sure about
what they are getting. “Case studies can give them concrete examples
of how other people, in similar circumstances, have benefited from
Brochures are one of the first marketing tools a new business should
invest in, says Miller. A brochure is “a long-term publication,
something you will be printing a lot of and using over a period of
months or a few years. Because of this, your brochure needs to project
the image you want your clients and customers to have of you and your
business. If your budget is limited, this is the one piece of
literature you want to spend the extra money on.”
There are several things to think about when designing a brochure,
Content: text and graphics. The first step in choosing the content of
your brochure is to ask yourself, “Why do I need it? What is its
“The quick answer,” says Millers, “is to tell people about my
business, but actually, it is more complex than that. Do you want to
educate people about your business and what you do? Do you want to
show off a particular product? Do you want to give your customers a
list of your services? Maybe you need to accomplish several of these
Size and shape. The size of your brochure depends on the amount of
information you have. “Remember, in today’s ADD society, people don’t
want to spend a lot of time on any one thing,” says Miller. “If you
can get your graphics or photos, your logo, and all the information
you need on a 5 x 7, you don’t need an 8 1/2 x 11 three-fold.”
And while people often think that size and shape is “the standard” for
brochures, it doesn’t have to be, says Miller. A brochure can be the
size of a postcard so that it can be easily mailed, or it can be one
page, two pages, or more. And it doesn’t have to be a rectangle; it
can be whatever shape you want. “Just remember,” she adds,
“non-standard sizes and fancy shapes cost extra. Make sure it is worth
the money before you decide on something different.”
Layout and design. The layout and design of your brochure will follow
naturally after you have decided on the content and the size of your
brochure, says Miller. “Arranging your copy will come logically as you
work around your photos or graphics or your logo.”
Color and paper stock. “One of the basics of printing is the more
color you use, the more it costs,” says Miller. Full, four-color
printing is the most expensive choice that can be made. “Sometimes it
is necessary and worth it,” says Miller, “but most businesses don’t
Who does need four-color printing? “If you are selling something where
the color is important, clothing for example, or art, you should
definitely go for four-color printing,” she says. If not, you can
probably do a beautiful job with black and one or two colors. “I am
also a fan of plain, old, black and white. Black and white, when it is
well done, can be truly gorgeous.”
One quick and inexpensive way to add color to your brochure is to
choose a colored paper stock. “But be careful what you choose,” says
Miller. “Dark colored stock can look beautiful, but it can be
difficult to read the printing on it. And don’t use a colored stock if
you are using photos. Nothing is less attractive than photos of people
who all look green.”
Newsletters. Newsletters, says Miller, are one of the best choices for
boosting business. “A newsletter is just a miniature newspaper devoted
to your business.”
The ease of sending a newsletter by E-mail has caused them to become a
favorite internet business tool, she says, but however you publish
your newsletter, certain things always hold true. When so many people
are using newsletters your clients may receive three or four
newsletters a week.
“To make sure your newsletter is read, not deleted, give them
something that they can use: information that can be quickly located,
quickly read, and has meaning to your particular clientele.” For an
interior decorator that could be the latest color trends. For a
marketing consultant it might be an article on how to conduct a better
Miller has a long and varied background in publishing and writing.
After getting a bachelor’s degree in journalism and speech
communication from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, she worked as a
reporter, editor and publisher for several daily and weekly
newspapers. “I’ve always worked for smaller publications. The good
thing about small newspapers is that you learn to do everything. You
do the interview, write the story, help with the layout. If the
photographer has another assignment, you take the photos, and if the
advertising salesman is out, you get the ad. I’ve even put the
newspapers in the back of my car and delivered them when I had to.”
Her final advice on business publications: “Don’t bore your customer!
It doesn’t cost anything extra to make your publications visually and
Corrections or additions?
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— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.