Corrections or additions?
These articles were prepared for the May 25, 2005 issue of U.S. 1
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Survival Guide: Grow Your Small Business: Doug Crisman
In l976 Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak sat in a garage, eating an apple.
They pondered the idea of forming a computer company. Four years
earlier Tony and Maureen Wheeler sat at their kitchen table writing.
Having just returned from an unguided trans-Europe and Asia jaunt,
they thought that there might be some money in publishing a guide book
or two called Lonely Planet. Not every business rises to the level of
those that these entrepreneurs founded, but at some point a great many
partnerships and one-person operations decide to expand into a real
For Doug Crisman, founder of Oldhorses, a consulting company with
offices at 212 Carnegie Center, such transitions demand less an
infusion of cash, and more a restructuring of time, talent, and
mindset. Crisman explains his plan for business growth in "Four
Disciplines for Breaking Through Plateaus," one of several workshops
at the New Jersey Association of Women Business Owners’ annual
conference on Wednesday and Thursday, May 25 and May 26, at Caesar’s
hotel in Atlantic City. Cost ranges from $550 full package to $50 for
individual events. Call 609-581-2121 or visit www.njawbo.com.
Crisman also conducts a similar, longer seminar for small businesses,
even those with $1 million gross or more, seeking to move to the next
level. Entitled "Achieving Your Business Vision," the free seminar
takes place on Tuesday, June 7, at 8 a.m. at the law offices of Pepper
Hamilton at 300 Alexander Park. Free. Call 609-919-6392.
Back in 2000 Crisman didn’t care that the pundits were all predicting
that the future belonged exclusively to dot-coms and executives in
their 20s. He had had a 30-year run in both big corporations and his
own startups, and like a lot of baby boomers he was not quite ready to
be put out to pasture. So with himself as president and his wife,
Grazina, as COO, he founded a business transitioning company and aptly
named it "oldhorses." The firm invests in a select group of expanding
businesses, providing restructuring plans and skilled executives.
"Unlike a venture capital company," says Crisman, "our goal is to
invest our services and keep the owner fully in control." Oldhorses
takes its profit from a percentage of sales.
Crisman was born in Ritsville, Washington, and moved around Idaho and
Canada, where his father owned several newspapers and his mother
worked as a journalist. Eschewing the family trade, he attended Boise
State University, earning a B.S. in the early l970s in management and
what was then called data processing. His high tech capabilities led
him to a sales and marketing position in Tandem Computers (now folded
into Hewlett-Packard), and later Diatron, where he served as Canadian
general manager. Moving to New Jersey in l986, Crisman joined the V.C.
firm of Bowlane Capital, and then launched a few of his own companies,
such as The Productivity Shop, a training consultancy.
When most sole-proprietors gaze into a future of expansion, they see a
frightening infusion of cash, overwhelming logistics, and a loss of
control. From this position, Crisman moves his often fearful clients
along a continuum toward greater leverage. That is, he helps transform
their company profits from more active income (sheer profitable
production) toward more leveraged, or passive, income, for example,
that coming from stocks or the labor of employees. It is a shift that
begins in the mind, and Crisman admits not everyone can make it. Here
is a roadmap:
Think as an investor. The owner who stops thinking, "I’ve got to make
$50,000," and begins to say, "I’ve got to have $50,000 in assets," is
well on his way. Says Crisman: "When a person makes the initial jump
from employee to self-employed, he has gained a great deal of freedom
and control, but not much leverage. I don’t really call such freelance
consultants a business." No matter how successful the tangible product
or service, the entire assets of the company rest on the owner.
Identifying new leveraged assets presents the largest creative hurdle
to success. Products, people, methodology, and distribution channels
all can be linked for leverage. Ancillary items or services, produced
by others, can be added to the company’s offerings. This can achieved
either by hiring employees or by linking up with other sole
proprietorship, who provide a broader market base. The idea of taking
more staff to just make more of the current product may be a good
expansion plan. But before making that expensive move it might be a
good idea to test new marketing and sales methods to make sure the
demand can expand to meet the planned output.
One of the most popular expansion methods is to link a product and/or
sales capability to a larger manufacturer. The producer, or in some
cases wholesaler, bundles your offerings with his and handles the
fulfillment for both from the orders you take in from your retail and
Freeing fixed costs. Instead of being inundated with an avalanche of
monthly expenses, tweak as many as possible into variable costs. This
move can slash overhead substantially. For example, very few sole
proprietors or partners have the gift of salesmanship. Hiring a
salesperson on straight commission creates a no-cost asset for your
"Never has there been more human talent available than right now, when
the corporate world is shedding so much of its personnel," says
Crisman. Contract workers can handle the full range of duties, and
often the tasks need not be outsourced any further than your own
county. Control remains with the owner.
Repeatable leverage. McDonalds and Home Depot succeed because they
remove emphasis from the individual and place it on the process. Each
shop and each job has a fixed, though not petrified, formula, that a
new franchisee or employee can use and repeat to generate more assets
for the company. So too small businesses need to concentrate on
anchoring their assets processes, rather than to sharp old Joe, the
long-time employee who can do anything, but whose methodology will
depart when he does.
Sales focus. "It’s more important to have a great sales manager than a
few genius sales people," says Crisman. If the method for selling is
incisively laid out, the actual sale becomes infinitely easier.
Finding that exact blend of direct, retail outlet, website, E-mail,
phone, and other selling avenues demands a strategic campaigner, not
just a lot of good foot soldiers. This is a difficult, says Crisman.
Sales management is one of the most complicated – and most important –
areas on which an entrepreneur must focus.
One cannot pick up a financial journal nowadays without reading of
some startup firm that has been sold for some astronomical figure to a
major corporation. The companies that get snapped up and leave their
former owners with jaw-dropping retirement packages all have one thing
in common. The assets far exceed the owner. He is not the hub of the
company wheel, through which all must pass. He is, rather, the handler
of the reins. By separating himself from his business’ assets, he is
in a position to hand the firm over at a substantial profit.
– Bart Jackson
A start-up company will walk away from a Princeton Reunions event with
$10,000 toward making an idea a reality. No, that is not the premise
of another reality TV show (even though the winner of Donald Trump’s
entry in that genre will be the keynote speaker).
In fact this business plan competition is just one event in the
day-long Princeton Entrepreneurs’ Network Sixth Annual National
Conference on Friday, May 27, at 8 a.m. at the Friend Center on the
Princeton University campus. Cost: $70. For more information, E-mail
Steven Schultz at sschultz@Princeton.EDU.
A women’s networking breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m. and is followed,
at 9:45 a.m. by a new venture showcase breakfast, which includes the
$10,000 business plan competition. During this event, six companies
will be pre-selected to give 15-minute presentations, followed by five
minutes "in the lion’s den" for questions by a panel of judges, most
of them high-profile venture capitalists, and all of them Princeton
The keynote, at 1:45 p.m., is given by Kelly Perdew, who Apprentice
fans will remember as the West Point graduate, whose military
background, combined with successful entrepreneurial ventures, and law
and business degrees, catapulted him above the competition to earn the
coveted Trump apprentice spot. Perdew is now spending a lot of his
time on Motorpride, his community website for car, truck, and
Following Perdew’s talk there are a number of panel discussions,
including "Embracing Entrepreneurism," "Entrepreneurial Careers," "The
State of Entrepreneurship," "Not-for-Profit Entrepreneurship,
"Engineering for a Better World: The Princeton Version," "Corporate
Formations & Structures," "Top 10 Business Plan Mistakes," "Marketing
Strategies: How to Get Noticed," and "Financing Strategies: How to Get
Volunteers are not just extra pairs of hands to free up a nonprofit’s
staff to do the "important work." Rather, they are ambassadors who
shape the community’s perception of the organization, building
visibility and credibility. "Volunteers are more believable than paid
staff," observes Norm Goldman. They are more believable in the eyes of
donors, legislators, and the community. They also provide an
organization with valuable feedback on whether it is accomplishing its
Goldman learned about the role of volunteers both directly, doing
government relations work for the Girl Scout Councils of New Jersey,
and indirectly, as director of community relations for Monmouth
University. He speaks on "Recruiting and Retaining Volunteers" on
Wednesday, June 1, at 9 a.m. at Mercer County Community College. Cost:
$59. Call 609-586-9446.
To attract volunteers, advises Goldman, an organization must satisfy
its individual needs to contribute to the community’s quality of life,
to get recognition, to achieve status, and to affiliate. "You don’t
get volunteers unless the organization is offering enough in terms of
value to the individual," says Goldman. "The cause may be significant,
but unless it matches personal need, it won’t attract them."
Goldman believes that successful recruitment of adult volunteers
depends largely on the person doing the recruiting. It should be
someone "who has tremendous respect in the community and is recognized
as a leader." The effectiveness of a brochure about volunteering, he
says, is only as good as the person who hands out the piece of paper
and talks about it.
Given this caveat, Goldman suggested the following list of potential
Friends, who are the most likely source.
Colleagues at work. Goldman notes that "in some corporations,
volunteering becomes the ‘in’ thing to do."
Students at schools or colleges. Many high schools require community
service, but even if not, "kids realize they have to build a resume
even before they enter college," so they volunteer.
Members of service clubs, including the Lions, Elks, Rotary, and
Volunteers for other organizations. "It’s not stealing," he says.
"You’d be surprised at how much piggybacking there is."
Within each group of likely prospects, Goldman suggests looking more
carefully at subgroups who may have some free time. Unemployed middle
class woman, he points out, may have both time and commitment to the
community. He particularly highlights mothers with kids in the schools
"who want to advance causes they care about" and need the volunteer
involvement for social purposes.
Newcomers form a good pool of potential volunteers too. They want to
make friends and be involved in their new community. Sometimes, says
Goldman, newcomers jump into the local branch of a nonprofit they were
involved with in their former home. But in other cases, the
transplants are just happy to be asked to become part of their new
towns by joining neighbors in working for a good cause.
It’s tempting to think that the newly-jobless are too preoccupied with
their job hunts to be interested in helping out. But Goldman points
out that approaching job hunters can be a strong win-win. This is so
because volunteering can help people stay current in their
professions, and provides valuable networking opportunities.
Those whose working days are behind them may be the most dedicated
volunteers of all. "Retirees are volunteering more than ever," says
Goldman. "They are healthier, surviving longer, have ability and
interest, and are very reliable." As experienced workers, family
members, and citizens, seniors bring to the nonprofit community
reliability, dependability, and discipline if they have a responsible
For the seniors, working in nonprofits enhances their personal
development, fosters a sense of community, and provides
intergenerational contact that is often lost when seniors live in
restricted communities. When these older adults volunteer in
organizations with children as clients, they provide a "rich
repository of social capital that kids need to make the transition to
adulthood," adds Goldman. One limitation when using senior volunteers
is that they often want to work only in the daytime.
Not yet retired for the most part, aging baby boomers represent an
up-and-coming volunteer pool. Among the baby boomers, who are expected
to leave their jobs at age 66, 80 percent plan to work in retirement
in less demanding "bridge" jobs. But even while baby boomers are
working, they will represent a great opportunity for volunteer
recruitment. "They want the engagement, the activity, the
acquaintanceship, and the growth," says Goldman.
Goldman cites a "fantastic" website for matching volunteers with
nonprofits who need them. It is called Hands On Helpers: Volunteer
Clearinghouse of Greater Mercer County. About 300 organizations
participate, currently offering about 800 volunteer opportunities. For
information, call 609-921-8893 or visit www.handsonhelpers.org.
Finding volunteers is one challenge – keeping them is an even greater
challenge. To keep volunteers happy and successful, they must be
trained and rewarded. Training usually begins with an orientation,
handouts, a CD, and a mission statement. But "the key in training is
pairing off the new volunteer with a coach, mentor, or experienced
volunteer," says Goldman. This provides continuing training as well as
opportunities for feedback.
Beyond the initial training, an organization must set up a volunteer
development system that provides extended support. "When it comes to
fundraising," observes Goldman, "nonprofits are sophisticated and
detailed," and he believes that the same should be true for organizing
volunteers – there needs to be a system for training and development.
Mentors provide what Goldman calls "light touch control," which means
checking in every so often about how things are going. "Catch them
doing something right," he says, "and provide positive feedback." In
addition, encourage volunteers to identify barriers they face in
performing their roles. If a problem crops up, the mentor should
solicit information privately from the volunteer and make a plan to
improve. Because volunteers have limited time to perform their roles,
Goldman advises mentors to keep meetings short, and to use E-mail,
telephone, fax, and mail.
Rewards and recognition "add to volunteers’ satisfaction and
self-esteem and refuel their motivation to volunteer," says Goldman.
He offers a long list of potential rewards, both large and small:
Ask a successful volunteer to be a coach and mentor for new people.
Provide lunch if there is a cafeteria on the premises.
Honor volunteers with end-of-year events.
Give special awards, pins, plaques, and trophies – not just for years
of service, but for actions and behaviors.
Move volunteers into the organization’s governance structure.
Train volunteers as recruiters, fundraisers, and speakers.
Provide recognition for volunteers in their own publics, by sending
articles to a volunteer’s corporate newsletter or writing letters to
the editor commending them.
Provide admission cards to related nonprofit institutions.
Invite volunteers to the high-priced organizational fundraiser, list
them in the program, and invite them to take photos with the guest
Offer words of support, notes, and thank-you letters to volunteers who
prefer privacy, not public recognition.
Solicit ideas from volunteers and use them so they feel they are
having an impact. "The people who are closest to the client are the
people who have the best ideas," observes Goldman.
"In the long run," says Goldman, "the real reward for volunteers is
personal satisfaction. They learn more about themselves, develop
compassion, gain a better understanding of the world beyond their
front doors, and contribute to a higher quality of life in their
– Michele Alperin
If you love your house, you probably love your real estate agent.
That’s because successful agents have the ability to place themselves
"in the client’s shoes," according to Loretta Smith, real estate
director for Mercer County Community College (MCCC) and Fairleigh
Dickinson University and owner of her own appraisal and real estate
To help people find the right house, Mercer County now needs
additional certified agents because of a combination of high demand,
low housing inventory, and a strong job market. MCCC is responding to
this need both by offering prelicensing classes for both salespersons
and brokers and, looking to the future, by "gravitating toward a much
larger perspective" for real estate studies, says Smith. The college
is now preparing for additional offerings in property management,
environmental programs, real estate appraisal, and continuing
education in real estate.
This summer Smith is teaching a summer-long Saturday course in New
Jersey Real Estate Prelicensing, beginning on June 4 and ending August
13. The all-day class meets every Saturday, except for July 2, at 8:30
a.m. Cost: $450. Call 609-586-9446.
A big advantage for anyone contemplating real estate as a first or
second career is that barriers to entry are low. "Most people can take
the required course, take the state exam, and affiliate with a broker
for under $950," says Smith. "No other business can make that claim."
Not only is entry relatively inexpensive, but the timeframe is short –
take the course, pass the test, and boom – you are out there listing
and selling houses. What’s more, says Smith, "a new full-time,
trained, and well-managed agent can expect to reach ‘breadwinner’
status in less than one year in this marketplace."
As a career, real estate offers many advantages. One is the flexible
schedule. Wilson also cites "unlimited income potential," based on the
realtor’s hard work and ingenuity; realtors are not tied to the
"limited income dollars dictated by a job description." A third
advantage is that an agent is an independent contractor – success or
failure depends upon the individual’s efforts.
The final advantage is that real estate offers a level playing field.
To enter the profession, a "person does not need vast experience nor
do they need any special educational degrees," says Smith. "So
everyone can basically ‘start at the same place’ as a new agent." She
herself had to leave college when her father was ill with cancer, and
a family friend who was a real estate broker encouraged her to get a
license. She did and then got a broker’s license less than four years
later. In the early 1980s she began taking appraisal courses and
eventually became a certified instructor both of prelicensing and real
estate appraisal classes. "Real estate has opened so many doors," says
Smith. "Only in real estate do you have no limit for success, because
you control your success."
Smith believes that brokerage and appraising go hand in hand, with one
supporting the other, and the state apparently agrees. "You can be a
New Jersey real estate broker and a licensed real estate appraiser all
in the same company," she says. Hands-on work in real estate listings,
she says, gives the appraiser proficiency in assessing value in a
designated marketplace. It works the other way too; lots of time spent
assessing houses makes it easier for the appraiser to help
home-selling clients to price their houses correctly based on the most
current trends in their neighborhoods.
Prelicensing requirements are pretty straightforward. A potential
agent must be 18 or older, have a high school diploma or equivalent,
attend a 75-hour prelicensing salesperson’s course, pass the New
Jersey State Exam, submit to a criminal history background check, and
then activate his or her license with a New Jersey broker of record.
The course syllabus, established by the requirements of the New Jersey
Real Estate Commission, includes contracts, deeds, agency
relationships, agent responsibility, mortgages, land and personal
property, financing, and the rules and regulations governing real
estate agents in New Jersey.
Working in real estate also has its down sides, but they can probably
be overcome by good time and money management skills. The first is
that a normal closing takes approximately 90 days, hence it may take
100 days to see a first pay check. The other issue is "being careful
not to let your clients run your total week," says Smith, who advises
that agents build in time for themselves and for their families.
The requirements for a successful real estate agent, beyond the desire
to help people and the ability to empathize with clients, according to
Good communication skills.
Developing and carrying out marketing and prospecting plans. Send out
marketing material telling all persons you know (and some you may not
even know – like your neighbors) that you are a full-time dedicated
agent and appreciate their referrals, advises Smith.
Self-promotion. With so many agents competing for a limited number of
listings and sales, it is important to find a way to stand out.
Holding seminars for home buyers and for home sellers can be a way to
Neighborliness. It is important to involve yourself in community
activities that display you as a professional realtor in your area.
Smith gives the example of sponsoring child fingerprinting by local
police at a community function as an activity that "gets loads of good
press and recognition."
Local knowledge. You have to know your town – and the towns that
surround it. Good agents can rattle off school statistics, point the
way to playgrounds, and tout cultural offerings. They know which towns
– and which parts of towns – are the most affordable, or have the
easiest access to trains, or can claim strong civic associations.
It is not enough to know all about your area as it is today. It is
also vital to know about any proposed changes – new roads, high rise
projects, or environmental constraints.
Smith emphasizes the need for a consistent pattern of repeated
prospecting to make it as an agent. Then, after a three-year full-time
apprenticeship, most salespeople get a broker’s license, which is
necessary either to manage a real estate office or to open a real
estate company. The prelicensing course this summer at MCCC is the
first step for what can be a fulfilling career and a well-paying one.
According to Smith, "New Jersey real estate agents in Princeton,
Mercer County, and the Middlesex County area far exceed the national
average income for real estate agents."
Summer is fast approaching, and the days when ambitious teens could
look forward to long, lazy days spent at the pool are just a quaint
urban fable they have heard from their parents – or grandparents, the
summer equivalent of "walking six miles to school in the snow." Forget
reading novels in the shade of the oak tree. Now summer is all about
gathering material for college admission essays, recommendations from
enthusiastic employers, and material for resumes. Parents eager to
give their offspring every advantage know that the right summer job
can turn the head of an admissions officer or a hiring manager.
Jo Leonard, a consultant who has made a specialty of pointing teens
upward, provides advice in "How to Land a Better Summer Job" on
Saturday, June 4, at 1 p.m. at Penn Wealth Planning in New Hope. The
workshop gives teens the skills they need to "market themselves to
potential employers," says Leonard, who coaches high school and
college students on a variety of issues, including presentation and
speaking skills, and career planning through her company, Jo Leonard,
LLC, located at 60 Wilson Street in Lambertville. Cost: $180. Call
215- 297-5545 or 609-773-0169.
Getting that first job is not as easy as it once was, says Leonard,
who didn’t even have to apply for her own, which involved working at
her father’s hotel. Few youngsters have the built-in work opportunity
that she had. They need to go out and search for that first work
experience, and they are competing with hundreds of other teens for
those jobs. "Everyone needs to learn personal marketing skills," she
says. "These are skills that will last them a lifetime."
There are three reasons teens look for a summer job, says Leonard:
"money, experience, or fun. They just need to decide what it is they
are looking for and go for it." But whatever the motive, teens need to
know how to ask for the interview, and once they’ve got it, how to
make the right impression.
These days, many high schoolers are interested in a summer job that
offers a learning experience, or something unique and different that
they can add to their college applications. To land that type of
position, the student needs a resume, says Leonard. But what should
the resume of a 15-year-old look like?
The resume should include:
A profile. This is a short list of the student’s "strengths and
passions," says Leonard, including two to three sentences about job
objectives. For example, one of her current clients, a teenager who is
interested in architecture, wanted a summer internship with an
architectural firm. Leonard worked with her to come up with a resume
to be sent to about 20 local companies. Her profile reads, "creative
and committed sophomore with desire to experience an architectural
firm from the inside during summer vacation; strong technical, and
organizational skills; long term goal to work in architectural field."
Activities and experiences. Leonard suggests these be divided into
on-campus and off-campus activities. Don’t just list titles and clubs,
says Leonard, but rather give details about the experiences. "Be proud
of your accomplishments," she says. "Don’t just list the school
newspaper; tell exactly what you did on the newspaper."
Technical skills, accomplishments, and awards. A few lines should be
devoted to awards and to special skills.
Recommendations. "Go ahead and get letters of recommendation," Leonard
says. "Then pull out a sentence or two and use it on the resume." One
of her clients, for example, was able to pull in recommendations
stating that she "has shown herself to be an engaging, responsible,
Cover Letter. The final step in any resume is the cover letter that
states what the student is looking for, "an internship with your
firm," for example. The letter, she stresses, should "sound like it
was written by a 17-year-old," not by the student’s parents.
After the resume and cover letter have been sent, the student should
follow up with a phone call asking for an interview. "All kids need to
learn to communicate. A student can have a fantastic resume," says
Leonard, "but if he is unable to communicate in person, he won’t get
the job. Many teens who look great on paper lack social and
communication skills. They are shy and they are not comfortable
talking with adults or talking about themselves."
Leonard teaches "matching techniques to help students learn to build
instant rapport." She suggests that teens watch the interviewer and
copy his style. "If the interviewer is very enthusiastic and bubbly,"
she says, "you may need to kick it up a notch."
While their parents have known about the importance of a sound hand
shake for decades, teens, operating in a less formal world, need to be
taught the basics. "Be firm, but don’t grip too hard," says Leonard.
"Look the other person in the eye and repeat his name – and no sweaty
palms." Always make eye contact when shaking hands, she adds.
It’s important to have a snippet of conversation ready to accompany
the hand shake. It makes a better impression to have something to say,
rather than wait for the other person. "Stand up and put out hand out
and say, "’It’s a pleasure to meet you,’" Leonard says, suggesting
that it’s a good idea to practice several opening lines. "It doesn’t
just happen naturally. We have to learn to do these things," she says.
Preparing for an interview also means giving thought to wardrobe. The
type of job should provide hints on what look to sport. "If you are
interviewing with a landscaper or for a summer camp position you dress
differently than for an office job," says Leonard. No matter what the
position, however, Leonard advises her clients to dress
conservatively. Never wear shorts and "remove all piercings," she
says. "This is not the time to show your individuality."
Other tips on dress include don’t forget deodorant, don’t wear
perfume, and make sure that your nails are clean. "For girls with long
hair, I tell them that if they have a tendency to play with their
hair, pull it back so they won’t be tempted. It looks very immature."
Her final advice on interview dress: "No underwear showing. A
17-year-old looking for a summer job is likely to be interviewed by a
person in his late 20s. They don’t have their underwear showing
anymore. They are a different level now."
Leonard began her in the communications and advertising arena, working
for the Carlson Marketing Group, Interpublic Group, JSL Hotels,
Saatchi and Saatchi, and Omnicom, all in New York City. After 9/11,
however, she decided to leave the city and moved to the Princeton
area, where she began work as a coach with the Ayers Group.
Her desire to work with young people, as well as a desire to own her
own company, led her to open her own coaching firm, focusing on
college and high school students. In business since 2002, she says her
own strategy in finding a career is the one she passes on to her young
clients. "Find a passion, a career you love, and go with it."
– Karen Hodges Miller
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