Resume Victories: Jim Deak
Jim Deak’s job vanished with the collapse of the telecommunications
industry he had no idea of what he wanted to do. Soon thereafter an
article in the New York Times about coaching caught his interest. He
thought that the career might suit his personality and his
interests, so he hired his own coach to clarify how to reach his
goal and, after 18 months, had a diploma in hand from Coach U
(www.coachinc.com), a distance learning school with headquarters in
Moving into something new was not an unfamiliar route for Deak,
because his career had already taken a couple of swerves. As a newly
minted graduate of the University of Pittsburgh with a bachelor of
science in mechanical engineering, he began a 10-year stint in
mechanical design engineering at Bell Labs. Eventually, he says, "I
realized it was not my calling," and he decided to try something
more in line with his interests: "I’m more of a people person. That
was an introspective type of job – it took too much thinking." He
ended up in telecommunications and network design, working with
Then in 1990 he took an early retirement offer and got a job
managing area codes at Bellcore, which is now Telcordia. After seven
years the FCC threw him a curve ball, mandating that the work had to
be done by a neutral third party. When Lockheed-Martin won the bid,
the company hired Deak, and he took the job on condition that his
office would be virtual (his wife was a second-grade teacher in
Parsippany, and had no interest in moving).
Although most of Deak’s coaching business involves helping small
business owners to "create a vision," he also does career coaching
and is offering a workshop on "Preparing a Resume that Highlights
Your Best and Most Marketable Skills" on Saturday, October 7, at
8:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s Church on Nassau Street in Princeton. Call
Resumes are something that should always be at one’s fingertips: a
recruiter may call, a job may end, a new internal position may come
up. "As things change in your career, new responsibilities, new
accomplishments, you want to make sure your resume is ready," says
Deak. And that resume should always be the most recent reflection of
your experience and qualifications.
The engine that feeds the resume-building process is a list of
achievements, but it’s not so easy to pull together. "Specifying
accomplishments is where people need the most help," says Deak.
"Most folks feel when they are working in a big company that they
didn’t do anything, that they were part of a blob. But in fact,
they’ve accomplished a lot."
A good way to unearth achievements that have slipped from memory is
to develop a PAR, which stands for problem-action-result. To
explain, Deak offers an accomplishment he is proud of from his
The problem: the department was faxing documents to 3,000 people
about three times a week. Using a fax was inefficient: it meant lots
of wasted paper and lost time. Furthermore, the documents were not
getting out on deadline and not getting to the right people, and the
lists were not being updated accurately as people changed jobs.
Deak’s action: He hired a software developer to come up with a
web-based solution. When it was implemented, people could get their
documents electronically, anywhere in the world, and could easily
update their E-mail addresses. It took just six months to get the
new system up and running.
The results: "There was overwhelming customer satisfaction," says
Deak, "and we probably saved $200,000 a year."
The translation to Deak’s resume: "Designed a unique web-based
document distribution system that replaced an antiquated fax system
and in the process saved $200,000 a year, to the overwhelming
delight of our customers."
"As an employee you are presented with a problem or a circumstance
and asked to do something," says Deak. "You took some action and did
it to the best of your ability, whether you designed something or
got a team together. The result is dollars saved or earned, a
percentage of something reduced or increased, a testimonial, or
something not quantifiable, like customers are really happy, you are
consistently rated number one in your division, or you got rewards."
"Create as long a list as you can of all your accomplishments, big
and small," advises Deak. "You can prioritize later."
Putting together this list not only provides critical ingredients
for your resume, but later, once you’ve clinched an interview, it
will help you convince the hiring manager that you are the right
person for the job.
"Going through your PARs cements in your mind what you have
accomplished," he says. For example, when the interviewer tells you
that one of the job requirements is excellent writing skills, you
can dig back into your PARs to find where you did writing and what
you accomplished. "It is creating a map of what you’ve done," says
Deak. And then he adds one more advantage of the PARs: "They help
people to believe in themselves a lot more."
The PARs come in handy mostly for the second of the three sections
of your resume, which include:
An executive summary. This should be short, no more than five or six
lines. It is a condensation of who you are and what you have to
offer a potential employer.
Chronological picture of assignments, general responsibilities, and
accomplishments. Although Deak says a functional resume may be
useful for someone like a homemaker who has a big block of time
where he or she did nothing professionally, he still recommends a
chronological format. "A chronological resume is the most accepted,
understood, and expected."
Carefully selected PARs constitute the meat of the chronological
resume. Pick the key accomplishments relevant to a particular job
and transfer them into resume language – use an action verb and
specify what you did and the result.
Education and special awards and skills.
A resume’s content is paramount, but it’s presentation is vital too.
It must be a well-designed showcase document. Use high-quality
paper, and leave a lot of white space to make the resume easy to
read. Make sure that there are no misspelled words or grammatical
errors, and more generally "nothing to draw the attention of the
reader in a negative way."
Deak suggests developing a generic resume that can be tweaked when a
specific job comes along. If a job requires great public speaking,
for example, and you’re an IT professional, you might want to throw
in a PAR about the great seminars you’ve given.
Deak, who describes himself as a "child of western Pennsylvania blue
collar stock," has been successful beyond the dreams of most of the
people with whom he grew up. His dad was a steelworker – first
helper on the open hearth furnace – who went to school through ninth
grade and then started working in the mill. His mother, he says,
nearly finished high school and was the "strength of the family in
terms of vision."
Unusual in a town where fewer than 10 percent of the kids went
beyond high school, Deak’s mother was determined that each of her
three kids would go to college, and they did. Deak’s brother is a
successful businessman, and his sister, who he describes as a
"wonderful giver," is a nurse-practitioner at the Mayo Clinic.
Deak studied computer science at the University of Pittsburgh (Class
of 1960), which, he says, was the "cheapest school we could find."
He also holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from New
York University. Although he has moved away from engineering, he
continues to appreciate the training: "An engineering education is
unique in that it helps you to think logically to solve problems. I
have found it useful my whole life."
As to where his mother, daughter of a Slovakian saloon owner,
developed her belief in education, he’s not sure, but it was a
central value for her. "It was something she absolutely found
imperative," he says, "even in the midst of not having much in money
and resources. She is a dedicated and focused woman."
Drawing on his mother’s wisdom, and the aspirations she had for her
children, he says: "Most people don’t reach enough for that big
brass ring on the merry-go-round. Most of the time we limit
ourselves. I ask my clients and myself to think bigger."
– Michele Alperin
Financial Planning for Women: Pam Elmi
It’s Pam Elmi’s job to take the pulse of the community, identify
areas where residents could use some help, and then put together
programs to meet common needs. Director of program development at
the Princeton YWCA, Elmi is all ears as she goes about her daily
routine in the community and at work. One thing she has been hearing
lately is the distress of 40-something, well-educated women,
suddenly alone, who have to quickly figure out how to stay afloat
"I don’t think any woman goes into marriage thinking of divorce, but
65 percent come out that way," Elmi says. What’s more, she is
finding, "in privileged families women don’t work." Sometimes they
don’t pay attention to finances, either, she says, adding "I would
think we would be beyond that."
Elmi is presenting the "Second Annual YWCA Financial Conference" on
Saturday, October 7, at 9 a.m. at the Johnson Education Center at
the D&R Greenway Trust. Cost: $30. Call 609-479-2100, ext. 307 for
The conference is for all women, Elmi stresses, not just for those
entering middle age. Topics include Social Security and retirement,
the financial implications of divorce, and getting out of debt. But
while everyone is welcome, if past experience is a barometer, the
audience will skew toward the tail end of the Baby Boomer
generation. "I held the first conference last year," she says, "and
they came in droves."
Elmi has also inaugurated a series of career workshops for women who
are re-entering the workforce or who are switching from the
non-profit sector to the for-profit sector, or vice versa. The women
who have attended these workshops also tend to be in their 40s.
They, too, have financial issues, whether or not they have recently
Those financial issues, Elmi finds, are almost always tangled up
with child raising.
"Everything stems back to motherhood," she says. "Women who stay at
home with their children feel rusty going back to work. Women in the
for-profit sector are working a bazillion hours, and want to switch
to the non-profit sector so that they will have more time for their
children. Women in the non-profit sector say `I need more money for
The presence of children also makes a divorce, and all of the
financial issues that accompany the break-up, more difficult. She
says that she is fortunate that she did not have children when her
own marriage ended. Even so, she took away a new view of personal
finance when she re-entered her single life, and she says that she
drew upon it in putting together this financial seminar.
Draw up a pre-nup. "Women in their 20s don’t think about this," she
says, "but you want to protect the assets you bring into a marriage,
and the assets you build up during the marriage." Young women may
not yet have substantial pension funds, inheritances, or six-figure
year-end bonuses, but by the time that they hit their 40s, they
could well have these assets. A pre-nuptial agreement can help to
Share expenses 50-50. "Married women can operate as independently as
single women," says Elmi. She thinks it is a good idea for women to
pay half of all household bills. That way, should they ever find
themselves on their own, they will be in the habit of meeting
financial obligations and will be able to transition more easily
into supporting themselves.
Keep your eyes open. One advantage of splitting bills is that doing
so means that women know what those bills are, something she finds
is often not the case with the divorced women she meets. Busy with
children or work, they have no idea of the size of the family’s
outgo – or income. They may not know much about bank or brokerage
accounts, pension plans, insurance policies, or assets such as
timeshares or coin collections, either.
This information is vital in the case of a divorce or a death, but
also if a spouse is injured or becomes ill. Keeping track of these
inherently dull details may seem like too much for a busy woman to
add to her schedule, but is well the effort.
"It’s like running a business," says Elmi. "You never want one
person holding all of the cards."
Don’t lose touch with work. Elmi, a graduate of the College of New
Jersey (Class of 1991), who has worked for 15 years in the
non-profit sector, seven of them at the YWCA, says that she had a
relatively easy transition after her divorce. "I had a good job,"
she says. That made it easier to "jump right into" a new,
Not everyone will chose to work after marriage, and especially after
having children, but it is still a good idea to remain in touch with
the 9-to-5 world. Part-time work, further education, consulting or
freelancing, substantial volunteer roles, all of these things can
pave the way for re-entry should that become desirable or necessary.
If nothing else, these experiences build up networks and increase
Elmi’s key piece of advice to women is to "hope for the best, but
plan for the worst."
I-Tunes Tips: David Ciotti
As a new technology grows to household name status everyone is
expected to be an expert in all things related or risk ridicule from
friends, co-workers, and worst of all, neighborhood children.
Apple’s iTunes (www.apple.com/itunes ) is one such technology.
Having racked up 1.5 billion music downloads and sold 60 million
iPods on which to play them, iTunes is the dominant force in legal
iTunes was an instant hit, but Apple did not rest on its success.
The computer maker, running with its smash hit, keeps adding new
features, and has just released version 7.0. It’s free and it
includes new capabilities for listening to music, watching TV shows,
and, for the first time, downloading movies.
To help iTunes devotees get up to speed, and to teach newcomers how
to get the most out of the must-have technology, and possibly get
one up on the neighbors’ kids (don’t count on that one), the
Princeton Macintosh Users Group presents an iTunes update on
Tuesday, October 10, at 7:30 p.m. in Jadwin Hall on the Princeton
University campus. Admission is free and more information can be
found at www.pmug-nj.org
The seminar, led by David Ciotti, will give attendees a better
understanding of how the iTunes software works and how media files
can be transferred to an unlimited number computers or non-Apple
Born in Philadelphia, Ciotti grew up in Pendell and joined the Navy
right out of high school, where he got his first taste of
electronics, back in the days of vacuum tubes, and well before the
debut of personal computers. Ciotti has been president of Ciotti
Industries, a Hamilton-based computer consultancy firm, since its
inception in 1986, and has been an Apple and a Macintosh computer
consultant for a number of companies, including the Princeton Plasma
Ciotti and his wife, Susan, live in Hamilton and both work for the
College of New Jersey, he as a lab technician in the School of
Engineering, and she as a program assistant in the honors program.
Rounding out their "tech family," their son works for Disc Makers in
Pennsauken, where he produces small run CD and DVDs.
iTunes 7.0 has just been released with much fanfare and loads of new
features. This would only seem to complicate things, and possibly
make users’ media harder to work with, but Ciotti promises that the
new software is easy to understand and work with.
While Ciotti does not condone the practice of uploading music files
and sharing them with the world, he sees no reason why he shouldn’t
"have complete access to information I pay for." He believes that
anyone should be able to make copies of their own files for their
personal use. He says that everything he discusses is "absolutely
Waltzing around digital rights management (DRM). DRM is the big
phrase in media downloads now, but what does it mean? DRM is the
technology that music vendors use to protect files from being
illegally distributed. The vendors’ attempts to protect their
profits, and those of their artists, are understandable, but tend to
trample on customers’ rights, says Ciotti.
At the forefront of consumers’ discontent with DRM is Apple’s
iTunes. iTunes will only allow an "authorized" computer to play
files downloaded from its online store. The company also limits the
number of authorized computers to five.
While five computers may sound like a lot, the number shrinks fast
when the average family factors in all of their home and office
computers. iTunes also requires Internet access to confirm that a
computer is authorized to play a file before it allows access. This
means that offices with strict firewalls can be left without iTunes
music to soothe those of their employees who meet deadlines most
efficiently while plugged into their music.
The rules sound tough, but according to Ciotti, "Apple did not go to
the great lengths that the record companies think they did." In
fact, the tools needed to remove the DRM from iTunes songs is
included in the new iTunes software. Actually it was included in the
older versions also, although many users may not have been aware
that this was the case. Removing the protections is as simple as
burning the downloaded songs to a CD and then ripping them back into
iTunes. They are then ready to be loaded onto any non-Apple MP3
Nobody files it better. Filing Music is one of iTunes’ strong
points, says Ciotti. iTunes’ powerful sorting and search engines
allow users to search for music not only by title and artist, but
also by genre, duet duo, album name, year of release, and more. Once
found, songs can easily be moved to an iPod or other digital player
as individual files or playlists – a personal mix-tape of sorts.
Audiophiles will appreciate iTunes subtle new touches. Ciotti points
out that while older versions of iTunes had to pause between songs,
the new iTunes 7.0 analyzes your library and identifies songs that
should be played back-to-back without pause, the Beatles’ "Abbey
Road," for example.
So you want to be in the movies? Movies are brand new to the iTunes
family of downloads. The new software allows the download of full
length movies for about $10. The movie library includes only Disney
titles now, but is expected to expand soon. By the sixth day after
its launch, iTunes’ movie section had pulled in $1 million in sales.
More major studios are expected to make their titles available by
the end of the year.
Movies join iTunes’ library upon the heels of the success of its
sale of television programs, a success that others have not been
able to replicate.
As of the last week in September, early iTunes competitors had given
up on trying to charge for television shows and were giving away
downloads. Comcast and CBS had been partnering to sell popular
shows, including CSI, for 99 cents, but scrapped the experiment,
saying that few consumers were willing to pay to see even their
favorite shows. They are now offering the television show downloads
at no charge, with an advertiser-supported model.
But iTunes’s titles have found an audience. In less than a year
there have been 45 million downloads, at $1.99 apiece, from its
library of 220 shows from 40 television studios.
The television shows are available the morning after they run, and
the new movie titles will appear on iTunes at the same time that
they are released on DVD. The television shows and movies can be
accessed from the same iTunes interface as the songs, and, like
music files, can be played back on up to five computers and video
iPods. Home movies can also be imported into the system for playback
on an iPod.
Let the games begin. Games are also making their big debut on
iTunes. For around $5 iPod owners can download a video game to play
while listening to their favorite songs. iTunes is only offering
nine games now, but the number is set to grow quickly.
Movies, and music, and games, oh my! There is a lot to do on the new
iTunes, and Ciotti is eager to talk about how using all 7.0 has to
offer can turn both neophytes and long-time iTunes fans into the
coolest kids in the office.
– Patrick Spring
Blogging 101: Janie Hermann
Here is what small business owners in search of a good, cheap
marketing tool need to know about blogs. They’re effective, they’re
free, and they’re a snap to set up and maintain.
These fast facts come from Janie Hermann, director of technology
training at the Princeton Public Library and an enthusiastic
blogger. In addition, she is a regular contributor to the Library
Garden blog (librarygarden.blogspot.com).
Hermann leads a free two-session blog workshop on Tuesdays, October
10 and 17, at 10 a.m. at the Princeton Public Library. Call
609-924-9529 to register.
This workshop isn’t just for small business owners. Anyone who wants
to know what blogging is all about is invited to attend. By the end
of the first session all participants will be bloggers, with their
own customized blog sites and blog addresses, and their first blog
To step back just a bit, it’s a good bet that anyone not just
emerging from a coma has heard the word "blog," but some may be
fuzzy on the details. And with good reason, as these definitions
indicate. The Miriam Webster dictionary is quite straightforward,
stating that a blog is "a Web site that contains an online personal
journal with reflection, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by
Webster refers those who still don’t quite get it to Brittanica.com,
which states that "Web log or Weblog is an online journal where an
individual, group, or corporation presents a record of activities,
thoughts, or beliefs. Some blogs operate mainly as news filters,
collecting various online sources and adding short comments and
Internet links. Other blogs concentrate on presenting original
material. In addition, many blogs provide a forum to allow visitors
to leave comments…"
Hermann provides some rationale for setting up a blog and guidance
on exactly how to become a blogger:
Why should you become a blogger? "A blog is a way to create a web
presence," she says. "It’s great for small businesses that can’t
afford a website. You don’t have to know HTML (the language of
website architecture). You don’t have to know web design. You can be
hosted free. It’s a wonderful way to communicate."
One of the people who took Hermann’s first blogging seminar owns a
small music school. She did have a basic website, on which she had
posted staff bios, but she wanted an easy way to get out current
information on classes, events, and staff changes. Blogs are perfect
for this sort of frequently updated information.
How can you get started? Go straight to Blogger.com. This site,
which Google purchased fairly recently, is completely free and very
easy to use. There are competing blogging services, including
WordPress, and they have their advantages, including advanced
tagging features (more on that later) and URLs – or web addresses –
that don’t end in blogspot.com. But, says Hermann, for ease of use
Blogger just can’t be beat.
Blogger provides a choice of templates that allow users to
personalize the look and layout of their blogs. Choosing a template
is the first step on the road to blogging, and it can be
accomplished with just a few mouse clicks.
How does content get onto a blog? "If you can use a mouse and a word
processor, you can post to a blog," says Hermann. Blogger presents a
Word-like page and users just type away. It has formatting and
spellchecking features, and can be edited in just the same way that
any word processing document can be. Complete a post, press
"publish," and a blog is created. Unhappy with a post? It can be
edited after it is published or it can be deleted entirely.
What about pictures? Hermann’s seminar covers picture uploads. It is
easy to add artwork to a blog, she says. Bloggers can incorporate
photos they have stored on their computers, can develop their own
designs, or can go out onto the Internet in search of illustrations.
Hermann recommends Everystockphoto (www.everystockphoto.com) as an
outstanding photo source. The site scours other photo sites,
including iStockphoto (www.istockphoto.com) and Flickr
(www.flickr.com) for photos that have a creative commons license.
This, she explains, is a write-it-yourself copyright that amateur
photographers often use. Photos with this type of license are
generally free to anyone using them for non-commercial websites.
Sometimes the photographers ask that bloggers E-mail for permission
to use them, but often they just release the photos with no
Can I blog with my friends and colleagues? Hermann shares Library
Garden, whose goal is to "ensure the health and relevance of
libraries," with five fellow librarians. It is easy to add
contributors to a blog. Professionals with a shared interest can
blog together, as can former roommates and members of a far-flung
family. Having more than one person posting can be important in
keeping a blog going, keeping a group connected, and adding varied
How is blog content organized? Blogger automatically archives all
blog posts by date. In addition, bloggers can aggregate content by
topic, but, for now, this is a little more difficult on Blogger, and
Tags are subject headings that allow Internet users to easily find
blog posts by topic. A blog on North Carolina farmers who are
selling free range duck eggs, for example, might have the tags
"North Carolina," "farming," "free range," and "duck eggs." This
lets researchers find blog information quickly. Tagging will become
more common, Hermann is sure, but is not used too much on Blogger
Meanwhile, Blogger blogs are searchable by keyword. Go to an
individual blog, on, say New Jersey politics, and type in "Menendez"
or "McGreevey" to retrieve posts on those men. The place to search
all blogs, says Hermann, is Technorati: www.technorati.com.
How hard is it to get good search engine placement? Blogs also come
up on basic Internet search engines. Type Hermann’s blog into Google
as one word, "librarygarden," for example, and it comes up second,
right behind a garden store of the same name. That is phenomenal
placement, as anyone who has spent thousands to get a mention
anywhere within the first 20 Google listings will attest. She says
that anyone who consistently posts good information on a blog will
not have trouble achieving good search engine placement.
This, of course, is great news for a small company working to boost
its visibility at no cost, and with a tiny time commitment.
Are there any pitfalls? If you’re an employee blogging about your
company or your industry, you had better be careful, says Hermann.
Even bloggers who post controversial material, but try to stay
anonymous, have run into serious trouble, typically in the form of a
go-straight-to-the-unemployment-line note. It is generally easy for
anyone with the right tools to pierce the veil behind which a
blogger might try to hide. Bottom line, says Hermann, "Don’t write
anything in a blog that you don’t want your boss to read."
Blogs can be serious business, can boost a business, or can provide
a little light relief from business. In a recent entry on Library
Garden, Hermann made a slight detour from her blog’s serious
mission. It was a rainy Saturday, she was busy preparing for her
son, Alex’s, third birthday party, and he was a tad restless. She
occupied him with Kneebouncers (www.kneebouncers.com), an incredibly
cool toddler website featuring flying, floating, and spinning
animals. She wrote about the experience on her blog, thereby
providing at least one Princeton-area professional, a newspaper
writer, as it happens, with five minutes of fun and a nifty virtual
toy to forward on to her granddaughter.
– Kathleen McGinn Spring
Profits for Non-Profits: Marion Zajac
It may seem a bit odd to hear about a nonprofit starting a business,
but over the last few years these organizations, large and small,
have been considering entrepreneurial efforts that advance their
missions while contributing to the bottom line.
In Paterson, for example, a United Methodist pastor running a thrift
shop decided to take it on the road. Using people from her
neighborhood as staff, she did trunk shows in the back of a big
truck in the wealthy suburbs surrounding Paterson. Because the trunk
shows also served to advertise the shop’s existence, contributions
increased, thereby increasing opportunities to earn revenue, and, in
turn, providing more jobs for more people. "It comes full circle in
terms of what she is trying to do," says Marion Zajac, director of
technical assistance programs at the New Jersey Economic Development
The reasons for the new interest in for-profit ventures by
nonprofits are fairly straightforward, according to Zajac. Grant
funding, whether through foundations or the government, is to some
extent drying up. In addition, nonprofits have been growing
exponentially and, as a result, the competition among nonprofits for
existing funds is greater. Finally, foundations are less interested
in funding organizations for the long haul. "They want to see
nonprofits having some plan to eventually become self-sufficient,"
So many nonprofits are feeling pressed to develop some sort of
revenue generator. Then, even if they do need funding down the line,
they will not be wholly dependent upon it.
Zajac speaks on "Earned Income Ventures for Nonprofits," on
Wednesdays, October 11 and 18, at 9 a.m. at the Technology Center of
New Jersey at 675 Route 1 South in North Brunswick. The classes are
sponsored by the Entrepreneurial Training Institute (ETI) of the New
Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA). Cost is $145 per
organization. Register online at www.njeda.com.
Nonprofits need to have several things in place before they even
start thinking about an earned income venture or, as it is also
called, social entrepreneurship:
A strong board. "We like people who are committed to the philosophy
of the organization, but also people who understand the expenses
coming in and out and have business perspective," says Zajac. The
leadership of the CFO and executive director are also critical.
Risk tolerance. Nonprofits need to understand, says Zajac, that a
business venture is not a sure thing. "This thing may not turn a
profit immediately on opening, maybe not in three years, and maybe
Appropriate staff to lead the venture. The board must either
identify staff within the organization who are going to operate the
venture or commit to hiring staff who have the necessary experience
to carry it forward.
Strong background in the basics of social entrepreneurship. The
organization needs to know what it can expect an earned income
venture to yield, and ETI offers a three-hour workshop on "setting
the stage" to provide this understanding, as well as workshops and
mentoring to help with planning and follow through.
A mission-driven business idea. Any business venture must also be
serving the organization’s mission. "It must be mission aligned,"
says Zajac, "otherwise they are stepping outside of the strategic
plan." If a nonprofit is just looking to raise money, it would have
to watch out for IRS issues.
New Jersey’s Habitat for Humanity, for example, is looking into
developing a home maintenance service. The idea is that its client
base, which has gained construction skills by building houses, can
earn money doing the smaller things that contractors won’t do, like
minor painting or repairing a step. Another venture is by 30-year
social entrepreneur Ranch Hope in South Jersey, which does job
training and rehabilitation for teenage boys who have gotten into
trouble. Ranch Hope opened a thrift store where the boys learn the
Good business advice. As nonprofits consider for-profit businesses,
they have to take care not to endanger their 501c3 IRS tax
designations. Zajac says that they need to be able to pay unearned
business income taxes, and she urges nonprofits that are starting a
business venture to consult with lawyers, accountants, and insurance
agents who specialize in this field.
A solid business plan. Once a nonprofit selects a possible business
venture, the first step is to investigate its feasibility. Will it
have customers? How will it market its product or service? Who are
its competitors, both direct and indirect?
A direct competitor is another organization providing the same type
of service, for example, another catering operation. But there is
also indirect competition for every spending dollar. The
organization must assess the mindset of the customer, who is
thinking, "If I have $10 in my pocket and am going to spend it, why
should I buy your catering rather than spend the money buying
Savvy marketing. The next step is to understand the financials of
the venture. The planners must develop a marketing strategy,
including how to build a sales team and get themselves out into the
public consciousness. They must also create sales assumptions – so
many widgets over a certain period of time at a certain price.
"Many small businesses think if they have the lowest price,
customers will come," says Zajac, "but that is fallacious. They need
to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, but price is not the
main success factor."
Creating the business plan involves all of the universal steps for
any small business, says Zajac, "getting into the nitty gritty and
striving to set yourself up for success."
Answers to lenders’ questions. With the business plan in place, the
nonprofit needs to prepare the pitch it is going to use for lenders.
First of all, the parent organization may need to be willing to
pledge its building against any financing the business will need.
The planners must also determine the following: costs for
advertising, how they will measure success, who will operate the
business, what the hours of operation will be, what kinds of
equipment and insurance they will need, and what paperwork they will
need to file with New Jersey and the federal government.
Starting a for-profit venture is a big step for a non-profit, but
there is no need to go it alone. ETI provides feedback at every step
along the way. Once the plan is done, ETI offers a panel of
nonprofit experts – lending professionals, accountants, and lawyers
– to assess the plan’s strengths and weaknesses, and suggest ways to
improve it. ETI also offers financing programs, and it has a cadre
of lenders, including the New Jersey Economic Development Authority,
to whom they can refer nonprofits.
Zajac, a native of South Jersey, graduated in the late 1970s from
Rider College with a degree in management statistics. She owned a
small custom decorating business, which she ran from her home while
her children were small. She then moved to corporate, leading
international training programs for Mobil for about seven years.