Corrections or additions?
These articles by Bart Jackson, Jack Florek and Fran Ianacone were prepared for the March 29, 2006 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
On January 12, 1986, soaring at 212 miles above the earth, Commander Robert Gibson gave the order. "Gentlemen, we are set now, you can remove your seat belts and move freely about the capsule." First time astronaut and 38-year-old East Windsor resident Robert Cenker recalls this moment as the most vivid during the six-day mission. "I remember slipping out of that harness and my arms just floated up. My helmet weighed nothing on my head," says Cenker. "I looked down at that chair and realized that my body would never settle in it again for the next six days. It was scary, amazing, awesome, and something I can still feel."
Cenker, an aerospace engineer, had burst the bonds of earth on the seventh flight of NASA’s new marvel: the space shuttle Columbia. She was the first vehicle to fly into space and to fly back under her own power. The seven-man crew’s primary mission was to offload into orbit Cenker’s own baby – the Ku-1 telecommunications satellite, which he had designed for RCA at its West Windsor plant.
Cenker relates his adventure in space, one which only 448 others in all of humankind have experienced, when he gives a free talk on "Six Days in Space" on Thursday, March 30, at noon, at Mercer County Community College. Call 609-586-4800, ext. 3729.
Cenker may have been born and ideally trained to be an astronaut, but he had a hard time of convincing NASA recruiters that that was the case. A native of Unionville, he attended Penn State University, earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering. He then earned an electrical engineering degree at Rutgers before becoming an associate fellow in the Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
As a senior satellite designer throughout the late-1970s and l980s, Cenker worked for RCA during the heyday of telecommunications satellites. "These were those first fast years of the Internet in the sky, before 9/11 brought it tumbling down," says Cenker. "We just couldn’t get the commercial stuff up there fast enough." Twice before Cenker had submitted his resume to NASA, and both times NASA had refused him for astronaut training. Then one day in l985 RCA’s senior vice president of research asked him if he wanted to take a ride on the Columbia. Cenker considered the idea for "three tenths of a nanosecond, and then accepted." To this day, Cenker finds the selection process a bit of a mystery.
Interestingly, after his first mission, Cenker twice again applied for career astronaut duty, and despite his successful space experience, he was twice again turned down. "You just cannot believe the caliber of these people who finally make it," says Cenker. The last time NASA called for applicants over 10,000 resumes landed at its door. Admissions officers claim that after weeding out the daredevils and otherwise unqualified, 8,000 exceptionally capable individuals still remain to fill 40 slots. Those who pass this microscopic filtering are all NFL-level specialists.
"I had fallen victim to the romantic profile of astronauts as hard-bitten men, living life on the edge," says Cenker. "Once I arrived for training, I encountered some of the warmest, most interesting, and of course, intelligent, folks I’d ever known. Meeting them alone made the experience worth it."
Cenker’s own flight crew grew and remained close. Commander Gibson and pilot Charles Bolden had both flown four previous missions. Steve Hawley, George Nelson, and Frank Chang-Diaz served as mission specialists. Cenker’s own title of "payload specialist" was shared with Congressman Bill Nelson, only the third sitting Congressperson to enter space. "Actually, I was on board mostly to observe, and as a backup if trouble occurred," says Cenker. "The launching of the Ku-1 satellite was designed to be fully automatic."
Jet jockey launch. After four frustrating wave offs, the Columbia at last took off at 6:55 a.m. on January 12. There is so much happening so quickly at lift off that the commander and pilot truly need that fighter-jet reaction time. If some error is detected within the first 10 seconds after launch, the commander orders the pilot to steer the craft and land it at a specified South African Destination. A few seconds later, the shuttle has already passed that point, and they must try for a northern European spot. An instant later and it is too late to abort there, so the pilot is ordered to make a quick trip once around the earth and bring her down. It is to make such split second decisions that career astronauts, like as Gibson and Bolden, train exhaustively for two years.
Cenker, as a crew member, had to remain alert to obey any orders, yet like the other mission and payload specialists, he had no specific liftoff tasks. His six months of intensive training had left Cenker with a much greater sense of calm than he had anticipated.
From the ground control center, Cenker’s wife, Barbara, watched the successful launch. As she rose to leave, one of the scientists sat shaking his head at the monitor and announced, "Ya know, one of these days we are going to lose one of these things."
Encapsulated. As the shuttle Columbia began its 96 earth orbits, the crew began a series of experiments. After monitoring the Ku-1 launch, Cenker tried out a new infrared camera designed by RCA and Sarnoff. It was uniquely sensitive to one-tenth degree differences in temperature within its field of view.
He also conducted several tests with "microgravity," a field he continues to study to this day. "Researchers call it microgravity, instead of zero gravity," explains Cenker, "because theoretically, even the shuttle and our seven bodies exhibit some minute gravitational force, even in space." Astronomers Hawley and Nelson had planned to photograph Halley’s comet from the aft deck window, yet the delayed launch had brought the comet too close into the sun’s path for any good shots.
On January 18, after 2.1 million miles and 146 space hours, the space shuttle Columbia uneventfully touched down at NASA. Six days later, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing Cenker’s good friend Christa McAulife and six of his other training comrades.
Challenger specter. "I remember Christa (McAulife) asking what would happen if this certain program failed during a mission," says Cenker. "Then we will all die" was the response. "She simply nodded matter of factly," says Cenker. "Both of us knew that the opportunity to make our journeys far outweighed the very, very calculated risk."
Following the disaster there was talk about safety issues and poor judgment in taking nonprofessionals like McAulife on dangerous space missions. But Cenker says, "I had worked with Christa McAulife and let me assure you she was uniquely qualified in every way. As to safety, NASA runs the safest venture in the world. The Oregon trail is littered with an unknown number of graves per mile. In our little bubble today we have forgotten that living involves risks."
NASA politicized. Today, despite the unfortunate loss of the Challenger, and, in 2003, the Columbia, manned space travel goes on. Commercial launches have cycled into an upswing, as telecommunications demands increase. Cenker continues to consult with NASA and do research with Lockheed Martin in the field he grew to love – microgravity. But compared with the commercial launches, Cenker has noted what he terms as "a real case of analysis paralysis due to the politicization of NASA."
Cenker does not imply that NASA officials are constantly striving to curry favor with certain senators or with the whims of the current administration. Rather, he says, with every action it takes NASA fears that it might be called to task by either one of these groups for wasting taxpayer dollars. He says that NASA is being bound up by expensive indecision over saving money. "It is tragically ironic," says Cenker, "that the very concern with overspending is dragging a two-and-a-half-year project out to more than a decade."
Yet in the end, Cenker believes that space travel will clear this hurdle and will flourish. The benefits of this travel? As with Columbus’ journey, they remain nonspecific, but sure. About 50 years ago, researcher Jack Shakley discovered that certain metals in certain conditions did, then did not, conduct electricity. Because society allowed this man to pursue this science for science’s sake, we now have the semiconductor and the transistor.
But even beyond the inventions, Cenker says that we must go on, deeper into space.
As the little boy playing in the yard instinctively races out to see what’s beyond the back fence, so must humankind, by its very nature continue to explore. It is what we are; it is what we do.
– Bart Jackson
`You’re going to invent radium, or I’ll pull your hair," Clara Schmitz loudly pronounced to her daughter Doris. Young Doris tried to explain the difficulty of this task – basically, Madame Curie had already made that discovery. But her mother was having none of it. She had high ambitions for her daughter. And while Doris was unable to discover radium, she racked up impressive achievements, including founding a national company based on her own invention, and shepherded it to success – beginning at age 80.
Now, at 93, Doris Drucker, widow of world renowned management consultant and economist Peter Drucker, is set to fly in from her California home to her alma mater, Fairleigh Dickinson University. She speaks at its Rothman Institute on "Entrepreneurship at Any Age" on Friday, March 31, at 6 p.m. Free, but reservations requested. Call 973-443-8842.
To call her an author, inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur scarcely covers it. Even as a young woman growing up in Germany, Drucker showed remarkable energy and intellectual curiosity. "I had a real passion for the sciences. I desperately wanted to study physics, but that was a time when professors were advising would-be physicists `Why not go and find a new decimal point for pi?’ So, I ended up studying law instead," she says.
Failing to marry a Rothschild (her mother’s goal for her), Doris married just as advantageously, when she wed Peter Drucker, who would become known as the father of modern business management theory. Emigrating to the United States in l937, Peter became a college professor and freelance writer, while Doris pursued her passion for physics, earning a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University.
Throughout her career, she consulted with many startup firms, helping them bring new inventions to market. Her recently published autobiographical book, "Invent Radium: Or I’ll Pull Your Hair," is a humorous account of her youth in Germany. It relates such anecdotes as the night young Peter Drucker spent hiding in the Schmitz cellar to avoid detection by mama, who deemed him unworthy of her daughter’s hand.
Visivox launched. Throughout his career, Peter Drucker, author of 35 books and prime shaper of American management theory, was always invited to speak somewhere. "It became my job to sit in the back of the hall and yell louder! when his voice started to drop," recalls Doris Drucker, "and I want to tell you, having heard these talks dozens of times, I was really getting tired of it."
Surely, she thought, there must be a better voice feedback method. So, finding nothing available on the market, she invented one. Her solution, Visivox, was a small device that attaches to a podium and translates the speakers voice volume into a series of warning lights. The speaker can thus project the proper voice volume to match the hall.
Partner up. "Nobody knows every part about starting a business," says Drucker. "You really need to find and bring in good partners who can help you." Drucker, quite naturally, turned to her husband. He had, after all, guided the world’s major businesses, and revamped the country’s view of business management. "So I asked for his help," she recounts, "and he says, `oh, I don’t know anything about small business.’"
Undeterred by her unhelpful hubby, Drucker partnered with an electrical engineer and, by l996, at the age of 84, she was ready to bring her invention to market, and carved out enough space to get it off the ground. "Every entrepreneur needs one to two years of food and shelter money to get started," says Drucker. "You have to have your time free."
Key marketing problem. "Inventing’s easy. It’s the marketing that’s hard," says Drucker. She had a product for which there was no known competitor – seemingly a perfect niche. But Visivox faced a far larger hurdle than competition. "Speaker ego was my biggest problem," says Drucker. "Every speaker behind every podium thinks his voice fills the room. They don’t care about draperies or different acoustics, they think their voice covers it."
Yet with a lot of intense marketing, Visivox came to be recognized as a valuable tool. Hotels and universities now equip their podiums with the device and preachers have come to accept that the faithful can get the message only if they can hear it. Speech pathologist George Whitmore of San Bernadino’s Casa Colina Center for Rehabilitation Medicine has found Visivox to be an ideal non-interruptive, self-monitoring tool for his brain-injured patients, helping them to learn how to speak again.
Successful aging, says Drucker, requires a small measure of discipline and a large dose of passion. She insists that nothing helps an individual age well as much as launching a startup. Her credo is to find something that engages you, and avoid falling into a daily routine. And of course, as the German saying goes "count only the sunny days."
At first glance, critics may be quick to note that Doris Drucker has the singular advantage of being married to one of the century’s great thinkers and business advisors. But as one gets to know Drucker, one begins to feel that the luck may just be on the other spouse. More than likely, any man to marry Clara Schmitz’s daughter would have been destined for the top of his field.
– Bart Jackson
Why would anybody want to be a journalist? Vilified by politicians, corporate spokespersons, and religious extremists, recent polls indicate that a sizable chunk of the American public considers most journalists to be distorters of truth and only slightly less smarmy than used car dealers. It’s hard to believe that there was a bygone era in which journalism – personified by such icons as I.F. Stone and Edward R. Murrow – was considered a noble profession.
"Actually there are a lot of people who want to become journalists these days," says Ron Miskoff, a longtime journalist, a committee member for the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists (NJSPJ), and a professor at Rutgers University since 1980. With several hundred students pursuing journalism majors at Rutgers alone, journalism is one of the more popular professional ambitions for young job-seekers.
A former president of NJSPJ, Miskoff helped organize this year’s annual regional conference of the Society of Professional Journalists at the Paul Robeson Campus Center at Rutgers University’s Newark campus on Friday, March 31, through Sunday, April 2. The conference is primarily for professional journalists and students, but members of the public are also welcome to attend. "We do get a few gadflies who like to see what those journalists are up to," says Miskoff.
Costs range from $119 to $199 for professionals and members of the public and $69 to $119 for students. There are discounts for members of NJSPJ. Visit www.NJSPJ.org to download a registration form and for complete information on the three-day event or e-mail to email@example.com.
Centered around the theme of "Old Media Meets New Media," this year’s conference features 75 speakers, including keynote speaker Gabe Pressman, the dean of New York TV news reporters. Pressman has covered such wide-ranging news happenings as the sinking of the Andrea Doria, all three New York City blackouts, the arrival of the Beatles in America, and numerous mayoral, gubernatorial, and presidential contests. He won the Edward R. Murrow Award in 1989 and has been honored for his reporting on New York City’s homeless and mentally ill.
The conference features a variety of panel discussions. These include "How to Get a Job" (featuring a workshop moderated by Bill Bleyer of Newsday, on resume writing, cover letters, selecting clips and tapes, and interview techniques); "Covering Private Equity" (moderated by NJSPJ president David Levitt, who offers tips for business writers); "Videoblogging;" "How to Cover Celebrities;" "The Challenges and Opportunities of Freelancing;" "The Journalism Generation Gap;" "Covering the War at Home;" "Covering Immigrant Communities;" and the "Ethical and Legal Dimensions of Using Anonymous Sources," (a hot topic given the recent unveiling of Watergate’s "Deep Throat" and the Judith Miller scandal at the New York Times.)
While Miskoff doesn’t exactly call journalists a noble profession, he does say that it is a worthwhile career for the 21st century – particularly for women. "When I started out, about 80 percent of all young journalists were male," he says. "But over the years it has gradually flip-flopped so that now about 80 percent are women." Miskoff attributes this metamorphosis to an anti-sexism enlightenment that has slowly settled onto the industry. "All you have to do is look at the television," he says. "It used to be rare to see a female TV news anchor, but now you can turn on CNN and see two women reading the news."
In addition, Miskoff says that there has been a gradual shifting of emphasis concerning what sort of medium journalists are working in. "It used to be that most people wanted to work in print, but now there are a lot more who are looking to have careers in broadcast journalism," he says. Many of his Rutgers graduates get their first jobs as professionals working in New York for various magazines or broadcasting companies. "We have students who work as interns at some of the big magazines or at places like ESPN," he says. "They often get hired when they graduate."
Born in Brooklyn, Miskoff earned his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers in 1969. A former journalist for the Home News Tribune as well as owner of the Middlesex County Trends, he is owner of his own two-decade old business, "Media Trends," a Metuchen-based freelance editing company that works primarily with school districts and colleges. "They write the articles and we do the layouts, editing, and print the paper for them," says Miskoff. "We do all the backend work."
The New Jersey chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists focuses on improving conditions for the journalistic community in New Jersey. "We are the only organization in New Jersey that is dedicated to the interests of all journalists and people in related fields."
Based in Indianapolis, the Society of Professional Journalists has been a steady force for over 90 years, promoting the free flow of public information and maintaining a vigilance in protection of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press. It also seeks to maintain high standards and ethical behavior and to encourage diversity. In seeking to keep government transparent and open, the society helped to pass the Open Public Records Act and is working toward a revision of the Open Meetings Act that was originally passed in the 1970s.
With an eye toward keeping things transparent between journalists and the general public, NJSPJ holds a public session at least once a year at a location where people congregate (such as a Barnes & Noble bookstore). "We talk about issues in journalism and invite the public to criticize and discuss with us just what their concerns are," says Miskoff. "Journalists have to be answerable to public just like government officials. It’s too easy to tell someone that if they don’t like what you wrote, write a letter to the editor. We need to face the public and listen to what they say."
The only requirement for membership in the SPJ is to consider oneself a news gatherer – a group that includes reporters, editors, producers, public information officers, freelancers, and owners of publications or radio or television stations. "That’s the great thing about journalism," says Muskoff. "There is no license you need to get, no permit, you just do it. Its the same with SPJ, as long as you pay your dues, you can become a member." A one-year professional membership is $72.
While journalism is not an easy profession, one of the prime characteristics of a good journalist is boundless curiosity. Although he enjoys being a professional journalist and likes teaching, Miskoff has recently embarked on a new adventure by returning to school as a student.
"I am working on my master’s degree in liberal studies at Rutgers’ Newark campus," he says. "It is never too late to learn. The campus there is beautiful and the teachers are wonderful. It is the best kept educational secret in New Jersey."
– Jack Florek
Real case: "Ken" was a toadying manager who cut the CEO’s grass for free and even washed his car regularly as a favor. He was the ultimate boot licker to all the senior staff. Yet everyone beneath him in his department was on antidepressants. To those above him, Ken seemed a hard task master. Those below, however, experienced him for what he was: a randomly malicious bully, whose threats and abuse strangled productivity at every turn. Ken’s comeuppance? He was promoted. After all, the CEO loved his car.
It seems straight out of a "Dilbert" comic strip, but this little tidbit of business reality is real life for any number of office workers – and tends to be ignored by upper management. On-the-job bullying is that special brand of harassment that targets nonspecific, non-categorized employees. The individual is being harassed or abused not because he or she is black, Muslim, over 40, or a woman. But the target is being repeatedly victimized nonetheless, to the point of being unable to fulfill his workplace duties.
Sweden, Britain, France, Quebec, and Australia have adopted laws to deal with this workplace terrorism. Now at last, state by state, America is considering such laws too. To help present the problem and the legal system’s possible solutions, the New Jersey State Bar Foundation is offering two public seminars on "Workplace Bullying: An Issue of Importance in the 21st Century," on Tuesday, April 4, at 6 p.m. at the New Jersey Law Center in New Brunswick and on Wednesday, April 5, at 4 p.m. at Seton Hall in Newark. A special lawyers-only seminar is planned at Rutgers Law School in New Brunswick on Wednesday evening. Free. Visit www.njsbf.org to register.
Panelist Gary Namie, author of "The Bully at Work," and founder of the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, explains the scope of this national problem ("Ken’s" case comes from his own studies.) Professor David Yamada of Boston-based Suffolk Law School outlines the "Healthy Workplace Bill" he has authored, and which is now being considered in many states.
Other panelists include J. Frank Vespero-Papeleo, New Jersey Civil Rights director; Sue Pai Yang, a workers compensation judge in Newark; and Leisa-Ann Smith, director of NJSBF’s Anti-Teasing and Bullying Program.
Social psychologist Namie and his wife, Ruth Namie, grew into the study of industrial bullying the hard way: through experience. Born in Pittsburgh, Namie earned a B.A. in psychology from Washington and Jefferson University in l974, followed by a doctorate in social psychology from the University of California. For the next two decades he remained a professor, happily entrenched in academe. During this he also consulted to private firms, where he worked on special projects ranging from management training and organizational behavior to ergonomics.
Then, in l995, Ruth Namie decided to get back into clinical work. Having earned a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, she had been working in the corporate world, training managers for the Sheraton hotel chain and others. Moving to the private practice of psychology, she joined a clinic, which wooed her and initially welcomed her with open arms. Then came Sheila.
Sheila was the type of office bottom feeder, who, using the weapons of humiliation and disruption, flourished like a toadstool in a swamp. She threatened, abused, spread false rumors, and used her position to spread fear on every occasion.
This experience changed Ruth Namie’s career direction, and that of her husband as well. In l997 they teamed up and devoted their talents to creating Seattle-based Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute, and the Work Doctor consulting service, which ferrets out and treats workplaces bullying onsite. Visit www.workdoctor.com.
"We Americans are tough," says Gary Namie, "And we all have been told that bullies only pick on sissies. So when a boss bullies you at work, you feel ashamed. Ashamed because you didn’t fight back and ashamed because you have fallen into the sissy category." The result, he says, is that we suck it up, hate our jobs, take to single malt therapy, and find every excuse to do a poor job. Those who can summon the strength to fight back against these on-the-job terrorists should be able to find help from their human resource departments, which should be able to arm their employees with the weapons of a fair reporting procedure.
Who is a bully? Whatever happened to Flashman, who bullied Tom Brown at school. Or for that matter, what happened to your own school’s bully? He grew up and lives in your office. The difference is, he probably fares better now, because, like Ken, he has learned how much easier it is to lie and ingratiate himself into a CEO’s good graces, than a school teacher’s.
And while your schoolyard bully probably used muscle to enforce his rule, it is probably not muscle that the workplace bully is wielding. In a survey of 1,300 bullying targets, the Namies found that 50 percent of workplace bullying is woman against woman, while only 30 percent of reported incidents were men bullying women. None of these 1,300 cases showed any preference toward race, religion, age, or gender.
In short, bullies are not a group, but individuals who randomly terrorize anyone available. Invariably, they ingratiate themselves to all seniors. It may be performing groveling favors, or doling out sickening praise. But Namie has also seen bullies who made themselves invaluable merely by being a good drinking buddy or a dazzling conversationalist. This ingratiation is vital to the bully’s tenure, since his cruelty toward those under him ensure that there is no way that his department can generate a solid, impressive production record.
Generally, the workplace bully falls into at least one of three categories. First is the constant screamer, who keeps workers walking on egg shells. Second is the smarmy snake who smears employees behind their back and plots inter-office warfare. The third variant physically pushes his workers around or constantly fires and suspends workers for no real reason.
Random targets. A bully seeks opportunity, more than personalities. Anyone at his rank or below him provides this opportunity. Yet, interestingly, the mean age for those who complain of being a bully’s target is 41. "We are seeing a whole different generation coming to work now," says Namie. "These young people are so full of themselves that they will simply not put up with repeated harassment from anyone."
Bully this new generation just once, and they quit, while their elders, the Baby Boomers, are likely to put up with much more abuse.
The cost. Bullies block production. The equation is simple. If one man can produce really fabulous software in three months, what quality software, in how long a time, will he produce if he is screamed at, threatened, and baited into fighting once every two hours? The answer is zero. The probable result is that this software designer’s absenteeism and lateness will increase dramatically. The bully may quite literally drive him to drink or pills. (Namie’s studies show this is scarcely hyperbole.) At the first opportunity, he will quit, taking his talents to your competitor.
The same scenario will probably prove true for the bully’s whole department. Find such absenteeism and high turnover in one department disproportionately, and odds are that you’ve got a bully. The question the business owner must ask himself is: How much is my clean car or drinking buddy worth?
If they are so bad for business and so despised by all around them, why do bullies last in the workplace? They create a myth. "He really cracks the whip and makes them jump," his supervisors say. The trouble is, this office tyrant’s approach is all stick and no carrot. Thus morale and production sink lower and lower.
Legal solution? Yamada of Suffolk Law School has recently developed the "Healthy Workplace Bill," which calls for on-the-job bullying to be legally considered the same as gender harassment. What Yamada and his proponents are trying to do is not to inundate the courts with claims, but rather to give human resource departments a wake up call. Faced with the threat of a potential suit, in which the firm itself may be held liable, companies will soon view workplace bullying as too costly.
But the law should tread lightly here. People must be allowed to say and express things that others may not particularly want to hear. "The last thing we want to do is tortify the workplace," says Namie. For this reason, the Yamada proposal emphasizes that bullying offenses must be repeated and be exhibited over a long period of time.
In Thomas Hughes novel, "Tom Brown’s School Days," the headmaster advises young Tom that "nothing breaks up a house like bullying. But bullies are cowards, so fight it through and you’ll be the better for it." Hopefully Yamada’s bill will arm employees with some other way of fighting it through, rather than quitting.
– Bart Jackson
It is the highest community honor. You have been selected, from an extremely short list to serve on a non-profit board of trustees or directors. Your peers seek your intelligence, your wisdom, and, admittedly, a bit of your money. Your head swells with notions of prestige. You imagine life on the board as one of making vital decisions that will steer the non-profit to greater heights, while, at the same time, raising your own profile.
All of this is a misunderstanding, and is not really your fault. You have fallen victim to non-profits’ age-old culture of misdirection. For decades board nominating committees (a dated term) have gone after the wrong people for the wrong reasons, and have tried to lure them into ill-fitting jobs. "Enough," says non-profit expert Sandra Hughes, founder of Hughes Consulting Group in Sarasota, Florida, (www.Hughesconsulting.com.). "Non-profits need to take a whole new look at their governance and sweep out the old molds."
Hughes outlines her plans for the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce in a "Non-profit Leadership Workshop: The Board Building Cycle" on Tuesday, April 4, at 1:30 p.m. at the Doral Forrestal in Princeton. There is no cost, but attendance is limited to non-profit executive directors and board chairpersons. Call 609-924-1776.
Hughes literally wrote the book on her subject, "The Board Building Cycle," which can be obtained from her old employer, the Board Source (www.boardsource.org), formerly the National Center for Non-profit Boards. The volume’s findings and suggestions are the result of a long career spent scrutinizing non-profits.
The daughter of an athletic coach, Hughes graduated from the University of Maryland in l966 and then attended Illinois University, earning a master’s degree in counseling and a doctorate (E.Ed.) in administration and organizational behavior, and eventually went to work for Levi Strauss & Co. as the company’s foundation officer. "This was my first chance to deal with community affairs," Hughes says. "I got to assess needs, translate them into a mission, and place funds where they would do the most good."
Hughes’ career from that point on centered on non-profit leadership. Amid a sea of lawyers, she served as CEO for the American Bar Association. She worked for eight years for the Board Source, helping non-profits fulfill their missions more effectively. She also served as CEO of the U.S. Rowing Association when it was located in Illinois. The current head, who presides over the association’s new Princeton headquarters, was an individual she hired and trained. Two years ago Hughes founded Hughes Consulting Group to guide non-profit governance along a more effective path.
The IRS has registered more than 1.7 million non-profits in America, where they employ approximately one out of every nine members of the nation’s workforce. Department of Labor statistics state that non-profits are among the fastest growing employers in the nation. It is amazing that an industry this huge, and expanding at so great a rate, should be filled with corporations that are, as Hughes puts it, "run so cavalierly."
Too frequently the term non-profit has become linked with nonprofessional. Hughes preaches that non-profits must shift from cozy tradition into an integrated mode to survive.
Missionary stance. Board members are tools. To get the right ones, you must first accurately define the job. Virtually every non-profit has a general mission statement. An updated version of this vision, coupled with a more strategic plan, shows everyone what the company basically strives to achieve. "The board is the guardian of this mission," says Hughes. "All those existent members and all potential candidates must buy into it."
Once this vision is defined, the leadership development committee merely casts about for the right tools – those specifically skilled board members – to get the job done. Please note that gathering in funds is not any non-profit’s primary goal. Visions may be to feed and raise the living standards of a city’s poor; to deliver top quality innovative theater; or to inform, support, and aid communication among a particular professional group. Fund raising is just a means to an end. Therefore, selecting fund raisers as guardians of your vision may be putting a good person in the wrong job.
Pulse and purse. Traditionally non-profit boards have appointed nominating committees to scour the countryside for folks who sit tall on their wallets. Then, as time grows short and the committee tires, anyone who is still breathing is gratefully accepted. Hughes says that candidates are seduced with inaccuracies – intended or not – about how little time board membership takes, and about how nothing is demanded beyond meeting attendance. With such a sales pitch, the board shouldn’t be too surprised to find itself burdened by a whole new slate of disinterested members who place the non-profit at the bottom of their commitment lists.
The optimum board size. Hughes stands four square against the bigger-is-better board concept. "In New Jersey, and in most states, it only requires three to incorporate," she says. "The actual governing often can be done by just this handful."
Board penalties. One reason that obtaining a large board has become more difficult is the new terror of accountability.
On July 30, 2002, in response to the Enron, Tyco, and other accounting scandals, Congress passed the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which demanded annual, independent, responsible auditing for all profit-making companies. Penalties for defying this Act include jail time for individual employees and board members. Immediately, many states followed up with tougher laws, applying them to non-profit corporations as well. Now boards have to not only audit themselves properly, but to convince all candidates that their board seat is not an electric chair.
Cash and creativity. While it is fine to state that non-profits should be run by only the few, the skilled, and the dedicated worthy of the honor, this is the real world. Visions, however lofty, take hard cash – and those who can raise it are very, very valued members of the team. Hughes agrees, but suggests a little creative structuring with this realism.
Able fund raisers and high contributors should be bound into the non-profit’s community. Yet the board seat is certainly not the only option, and is often the wrong one. Substantial donors may find more comfort and advantage to belonging to the non-profit’s Patrons’ Society. Fund raisers might often prefer to be named chair of the specific cash-garnering that they direct. In these roles, they get the prestige, connective contribution, and society, without having to squirm through hours of financial reports. And of course, to keep the old network of givers alive, the past-president’s association is invaluable.
Meetings and after. "And now that we’ve heard from finance, let’s turn to the equally enlightening transportation committee," drones the chairperson. This ancient, stultifying meeting format, which Hughes terms the "liturgical agenda," seems as changeless as scripture. Every committee gets up and reads aloud the sheet they have already sent to each of the board members.
Instead, she opts for a consent agenda, shifting the whole meeting from show-and-tell, to one of give-and-take. In this format board members agree in one omnibus motion to vote on acceptance of all of the standing committee reports and general business. They then move on and discuss the individual items that need to be addressed. To make this work, the board should have an annual retreat to cover just what kind of things really deserve prime attention in the meetings of the coming year.
As meetings come to a close and board members snap their portfolios shut, it is too often the case that all of those decisions and work assignments stay locked up until the next meeting. Hughes points out that some follow-up mechanism for each task must be set in place, even if it is only reporting to another board member. Since the CEO or executive director typically serves at the whim of the board, it is unfair to burden him with the task of nudging individual board members into activity.
As with any rapidly growing industry, non-profits are increasingly besieged by fierce competition. Talent and dollars must be spread around ever-expanding numbers. As is true for farmers, there is no room for the ones who merely work hard. Says Hughes, "the boards that place themselves under constant self-assessment and always push themselves toward the next level are continuing to thrive, despite the current harsh climate."
– Bart Jackson
Just what employers need, more red tape. While the Internet is a godsend for job seekers, making the drudgery of submitting employment applications nearly as easy as the push of a button, it has been less of a blessing for employers – particularly for companies that do business with the federal government, or with another company that does business with the federal government.
While record-keeping has always been a part of Affirmative Action requirements for contractors, recently updated federal regulations have added to the already considerable pile of red tape that contractors must endure.
"There are just so many variables for employers to be aware of," says Barbara Cordasco, a 20-year staff member of the Employers Association of New Jersey (EANJ) and an expert on Affirmative Action. She has been active in guiding companies through well over 100 OFCCP (Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program) compliance reviews. "Basically, if you are a government contractor and you accept walk-in resumes, mail-in resumes, and resumes coming via some kind of electronic means, then all of your applicants have to follow this Internet applicant process."
Cordasco facilitates a one-day seminar, "Internet Applications and the Resulting Record-keeping Requirements," on Wednesday, April 5, at 9 a.m. at Wellesley Inn in Fairfield. Cost: $95. For more information or to register call 973-758-6800 or 609-393-7100 or visit www.EANJ.org . The workshop is presented by EANJ in conjunction with the OFCCP’s Mountainside and New York regional offices.
As a member of the professional staff at EANJ, Cordasco has written hundreds of Affirmative Action plans for government contractors and financial institutions. She regularly conducts workshops and answers questions regarding Affirmative Action requirements and provides in-house training and consultation to companies on writing, maintaining, and updating an AAP.
The OFCCP’s newly revised regulations went into effect in February. The new rule requires that government contractors and subcontractors – meaning a company that sells a product or service to another company that then uses that as a means to satisfy their government contract – that accept Internet or other kinds of electronic-based employment applications are required to solicit – or "cast a wider net" – to minorities and women, letting them know about job opportunities. These companies then need to keep track of this data in terms of the race, gender, and ethnicity of applicants.
But of course, as with almost everything that has to do with the government, things aren’t always that simple and straightforward. "Things are now a little bit different from what the regulations used to say," says Cordasco, "because now there is a multi-pronged criteria used for defining an Internet applicant."
Receive resume electronically. The new regulations are directed at those contractors that allow individuals to submit an expression of interest in employment through the Internet or some other electronic device, such as the terminals that some retailers place in their stores. If a contractor accepts only hard copy applications for a position, then the rule does not apply. However, if a contractor accepts applications or resumes for positions via the Internet or related electronic technologies as well as hard copy, then the new rule applies.
Considered for particular position. It is important that contractors establish some sort of protocol to determine whether they consider someone who expresses an interest in working for the company a bona fide job candidate. No company is obligated to accept unsolicited resumes, either by Internet or through more traditional means.
"The company can determine what the policy will be," says Cordasco. "The company can have something that says that it has no openings at this time and therefore are not considering an applicant even though he or she sent us a resume. We don’t consider that an expression of interest because there is no particular job."
Limiting the number of applicants. According to Cordasco, one of the contractors’ biggest headaches right now is a direct result of the ease and availability of the Internet. "One job opening notice can attract the response of thousands of people seeking employment," she says. "So the company can say that it is going to use some kind of procedure that says it may decide to only accept the first 100 expressions of interest, in order to reduce the number of people it will consider."
Applicant qualifications. Does the individual’s expression of interest in an available position indicate that he or she possesses the basic qualifications for the position? The agency says that qualifications must be relevant to the performance of the particular job. This allows a contractor to weed out some of the people who really aren’t the type of candidates who would be considered for the position. If an applicant doesn’t have the basic qualifications, he does not have to be counted for Affirmative Action purposes, and data on his race, gender, and ethnicity does not have to be tabulated.
In stating basic qualifications, an employer would do well to be specific. "In other words, if the company requires a BA degree in accounting, that is a basic qualification," says Cordasco. "But a degree from a good school is not very objective, because who is to say what a good school is?"
Still a job candidate. The next criteria states that prior to receiving an offer from a contractor, if the individual does not remove him or herself from further consideration in the selection process, he is still considered as a candidate.
"This makes me blink a little bit," says Cordasco. "It simply states that they just want to be considered if they don’t tell you that they are no longer interested." Conceivably, under this regulation, a person who sent an application could be considered a viable candidate in perpetuity.
Keep good records. Record-keeping must be done by contractors and subcontractors, and the federal government expects these employers to keep track of who applies and to separate them in terms of sex and race.
"This is what Affirmative Action is all about," says Cordasco. "Are we reaching out enough to let minorities and women know that we might have a job for them? A company must make sure that policies are in place that will not allow it to unconsciously weed out someone who otherwise might be qualified for the job." In addition, once someone is hired into the company, records must be kept that indicates their progress through the ranks. Are they receiving equal training, equal pay, and equal opportunity for promotion?
No guessing games. While contractors are required to solicit information on race and gender, and to retain the records separate from any kind of employment record, the applicant has no such burden. "Of course it is strictly voluntary for applicants," says Cordasco. "Applicants do not have to say what their race is, and if they choose to disclose, that’s fine."
If there is no indication of race or gender, the federal government prefers that an employer refrain from guessing. Employers sometimes ask about race and sex on an application, stating that the information will not be used in the selection process. Another way that employers gather the information is by sending postcards to applicants. As a last resort, some employers "do it by visual," says Cordasco. But that method might not work with Internet applicants, unless they attach an electronic photo. "That is kind of the last resort," she says. "But for those of whom you have no determination, you would just have to track them by saying they are unidentifiable by sex or race."
Cordasco stresses that contractors be scrupulous concerning their Affirmative Action policies and resulting record-keeping. "Be consistent," she says. "The key to any policy and practice is that the company be consistent with that practice – from employee to employee and applicant to applicant."
– Jack Florek
Are you ready to take your company to the next stage? But are you running out of equity? Are you in the right industry with the right product or service? Are you familiar with the pros and cons of taking on an investor? How long do you plan to keep your business? Have you considered an investment from family or friends?
These are just a few of the issues that approximately 350 women entrepreneurs, small business owners, and government decision-makers will consider at the free half-day How Women Succeed in Business conference on Wednesday, April 5, at 8 a.m. at the Trenton Marriott. Register at www.prosperitynj.org. This third annual Empowerment & Inspiration conference is sponsored by Prosperity New Jersey, a non-profit organization that brings together business, education, and government entities to foster key state economic goals. The keynote speaker is Virginia S. Bauer, CEO & secretary of the NJ Commerce & Economic Growth Commission.
The conference’s main event features a panel discussion in which five successful New Jersey business women share their personal stories and discuss what it takes to succeed in today’s business climate. Panelists include Debbie Hart, president, Association Associates; Lorraine M. Kay, president, Kay Construction; Nancy K. Smith, CEO, Masterminds Advertising; Betsy Alger, director of operations, the Frog and the Peach restaurant in New Brunswick; and Karol Corbin Walker, an attorney with St. John & Wayne.
Kay, founder and president since 1995 of Kay Construction, a construction management, design/build and general contracting firm based in Mt. Laurel, counts Lockheed Martin, Commerce Bank, Comcast, and Toll Brothers, as customers of her $50 million-a-year operation.
With over 30 years experience in building commercial, industrial, retail, health care, residential, and senior living projects for contractors and developers, Kay has been named Business Woman of the Year by NAWBO South Jersey. Raised outside of Philadelphia, she attended night school at Spring Garden College to study construction engineering technology.
Initially, Kay admits, she was not interested in starting her own business. "I enjoyed running someone else’s business." But when the company for which she was working was sold, she "decided to start my own so I could call the shots and focus on delighting the customers."
While Kay credits former bosses, including Bill Rouse, the developer of One and Two Liberty Place in Philadelphia, for launching her career in a male-dominated industry, she says that "you have to earn the respect of those around you and take control of events for the good of all involved. You won’t gain results without knowledge, skill, and the respect of others."
Asked what advice she would offer women who run, or hope to run, their own business, Kay stresses:
Always be yourself.
Be professional and never compromise your reputation.
Do what you say you will.
Help others along the way.
"Being a woman in a non-traditional role – or even a traditional one for that matter – does not mean that you are at a disadvantage," says Kay. "Align yourself with those who believe that being a woman can be an advantage. Those people will give you the opportunities required to help you succeed."
Fellow panelist Alger is the proprietor and director of operations for the Frog and Peach restaurant in New Brunswick. Alger, who grew up in Morris County, established the restaurant 23 years ago with her husband, Jim Black. After earning a degree in plant science from Cook College, Alger changed careers and attended the New York Restaurant School. She is certified in both restaurant management and culinary skills.
Alger was the restaurant’s executive chef for its first three years, winning accolades from the New York Times. She now manages day-to-day operations, or as she says, "manages the managers."
Alger says that some women identify one mentor who helped them to chart their paths. "I don’t have any one person," she says. "Of course, I credit my mother as an example of hard work who also believed in me, and gave me the freedom to explore. But also, my culinary, pastry, and management instructors were very encouraging and believed in me. They gave me the knowledge and the confidence to change careers. This was back in the `80s, when remarkable American chefs were preparing nouvelle cuisine, including Alice Walker and Charlie Trotter. I really admired Charlie for his management philosophy of excellence and service."
Asked who inspires her today, Alger responds, "I find inspiration in everyday things – my professional staff, my PR person, my accountant, and my competition."
She also believes that you have to be open to inspiration, because if you’re not, nothing will seep in. "For me, inspiration comes from someone who gives me the tools and the permission to make decisions and do my job. I believe I can be a mentor by coaching others, and being an example for those who work with for me."
Alger recommends that women interested in business should do their research. "Know what people who are successful in your industry are doing. Know what the competition is doing. Ask for ongoing feedback from your staff, vendors, and customers. When you own your own business, it’s easy to see it from only your perspective. Also, embrace change. Change is good. Without it you’ll become outdated and overrun by the competition.
"And, don’t be afraid to make mistakes – they’re opportunities to grow. If you don’t make mistakes, you probably aren’t reaching far enough. Clean them up and grow from them."
– Fran Ianacone
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.