Stem Cell Decisions Demand Hard Questions

PRISM: the Future of Materials Science

Women Helping Women Celebrates

Marketing at MCCC

Leaving an Elegant E-mail Trail

Real Estate For Business Owners

Corrections or additions?

These articles were prepared for the October 20, 2004 issue of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide: Learn What and How to Delegate

‘Delegation," says Marc Dorio, "is one of the most misunderstood parts

of leadership." While many managers are afraid to delegate tasks and

responsibilities to their co-workers, delegation is an important

leadership tool that allows a manager to have the time and energy to

get more accomplished and to take on more challenging tasks.

Dorio teaches a five-session course, "Getting More Done through

Delegation," beginning Wednesday, October 20, at 6:30 p.m. at Mercer

County Community College. Cost: $270. Call 609-586-9446.

"Getting More Done through Delegation" is one of several electives the

college offers as part of its American Management Association

Certificate in Management. To earn the certificate, students must

satisfactorily complete four core courses in a chosen area of study,

plus four other AMA or elective courses. The class may also be taken

on a non-certificate basis.

"The Continuing Education program at Mercer County Community College

is a great place for adults who are returning to school for more

education and training," says Dorio. "It offers a lot of great classes

for adults in a variety of areas." The delegation class, he says, "is

very practical and hands-on. There are a lot of professionals who take

the course and we have a lot of sharing of experiences among the

students."

Learning to delegate can be one of the most difficult, yet most

crucial, skills to learn. "It is critical that managers learn to

effectively delegate," he says. Otherwise, there is a good chance that

they will be wasting time and will be far less productive than they

could be. "It can effect the growth of an organization," he says. "A

manager should ask himself, ‘should other people be doing this task,

or should I be doing it?’" Dorio suggests his students use a

four-point list to help them learn to delegate. Under each heading,

list the appropriate tasks.

Things that only I should do.

Things that I should do with the help of others.

Things that others should do with my help.

Things that others should do.

The exercise, he says, can help people to prioritize work and decide

exactly which items they should delegate to others. It sounds simple –

terribly obvious – but how many managers actually stop long enough to

ask the questions? It often seems easier just to plow along full speed

– eating up as much work as possible before collapsing. Yet, says

Dorio, delegating work to others has many benefits, not only for the

manager who is doing the delegating, but also for the employees under

him. "It is another method of training the people under you," he

points out. "It is also a time management tool and a core skill that

needs to be developed at every level of management."

But how does a manager learn to delegate effectively? There are

several aspects of effective delegation, Dorio says.

Communicate expectations. "Make sure the person you are delegating to

understands what you want them to do," he says. "If the manager is not

clear in his instructions, he can not expect the work to be carried

out effectively." Take the time to provide clear parameters – and a

precise timetable. Be sure to give every employee ample time to ask

questions and to clarify the assignment.

Training. The next step in delegating is to learn if the person knows

how to do the task that he or she has been asked to do. If not, the

employee needs to be trained properly before the manager can expect

the task to be accomplished. It is far easier to supply the training

upfront than to have to make many corrections along the way.

Coaching. "Give feedback," says Dorio. "It is essential that the

person knows if he has done the job properly or not." This oversight

can ensure that an employee doesn’t waste oceans of his time – and

yours – trying to figure out how to do a task.

Letting go. Knowing how to ask an employee to do an assignment is also

important, says Dorio. The way in which the manager goes about

delegating tasks is also a part of a manager’s leadership style. You

have to let the employee take ownership of the project and empower

him. While oversight is important, hanging over an employee’s shoulder

is not a good idea. The more the employee sees the delegated task as

"his" work, the more eager he will be to get it done – and to do a

good job.

Troubleshooting. Sometimes even the best leader will delegate a job,

and the employee will not follow through. What happens if the work you

have delegated does not get accomplished? That, says Dorio, is another

important area of leadership. "If the task isn’t done, or isn’t done

properly, the manager needs to go back and troubleshoot," he says. To

do that, he or she must first find out why the task wasn’t

accomplished. "Did the person know what was needed? Did they know how

to do the task? If they didn’t, were they afraid to ask you for help?"

says Dorio.

A second question to ask is: Was the employee able to do the work?

There can be many reasons why he or she could not accomplish it. "It

could simply be a lack of time," says Dorio. "Was there a conflict in

priorities? Did you, or someone else, give that person so much to do

that they just didn’t have the time to accomplish the task?"

A final reason that delegation commonly goes awry, Dorio notes, is

that an employee does not have the aptitude for the task. This

aptitude lag can involve either hard or soft skills. Maybe the

employee did not have the technical skills, or maybe he was not

comfortable with what he has been given. Perhaps he was too much of a

perfectionist, going over and over something without being able to

finish it. Sometimes, Dorio says, the person "really just can’t do

what you have asked them to."

Dorio, a management consultant based in Titusville, has worked to help

managers learn delegation and other leadership skills since 1993. A

New Jersey native, he spent eight years at a seminary in Rochester,

New York, where he earned a master’s in divinity and a master’s in

theology. For seven years he was a priest in Camden. He left the

priesthood, and after getting a master’s degree in industrial

psychology from Stevens Institute.

Dorio is the author of six books, including "The Personnel Managers

Deskbook" (Prentice-Hall) and the "Staffing Problem Solver: For Human

Resource Professionals and Managers" (John Wiley and Sons.) He has

also written both the first and second editions of "The Complete

Idiot’s Guide to Getting the Job You Want" and "The Complete Idiot’s

Guide to the Perfect Interview" (Alpha Books).

A final word on delegation for those who see it as the lazy way out of

work: "Delegation is a part of leadership," says Dorio. "It is not

abdication."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Top Of Page
Stem Cell Decisions Demand Hard Questions

The Christian church historically has proved itself to be a great

advocate of genetic research. It was, after all, the Augustinian monk

Gregor Mendel who in l853 led science to the concept of heredity by

his tracing of constant biological traits, combined through

fertilization. His eight years of painstaking work with 28,000 plants

demanded, as he liked to joke, his full monkish discipline.

Now as genetic studies step forward onto the new plateau of research,

many of the scientists themselves are turning to theologians – this

time for answers more ethical than factual. And Fintan Steele seems

ideally made for such a challenge.

After earning his B.S. in biology from the University of Illinois in

l979, Steele joined the Benedictine Order at Saint Meinard. While

there, he gained a master’s degree in medical ethics. Leaving the

order after eight years, Steele earned a Ph.D. in genetics, working

with the National Institute of Health and John Hopkins. He has turned

his talents to explaining complex science to the informed laity,

writing for "Nature," "The Journal of Clinical Investigation," and

even producing the controversial documentary, "Salvation Cocktail:

Hope in the Fight Against Aids." Currently, he is global head of

communications for Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research.

Steele speaks at the New Jersey Symposium of Biomaterials Sciences,

hosted by Joachim Kohn of the New Jersey Center for Biomaterials, on

Thursday and Friday, October 21 and 22, at the Hyatt Regency in New

Brunswick. Steele’s discussion on stem cell research takes place at 6

p.m. on October 21. Conference cost: $250. Visit

www.njbiomaterials.org/symposium 2004 or call 732-445-0488.

"I may only muddy up the stem cell waters," laughs Steele, "but at

least I’ll give folks a direction in which to swim." As the knowledge

of stem cell studies broadens out through the general population, so

have the misunderstandings.

What the cells do. All cells within each human begin as fairly much

the same structure. At this stem stage they are termed

undifferentiated. That is, even though they have a genetic code, which

may later induce them to become kidney, heart, or lung cells, they

have not made the move yet.

Stem, then, refers to a stage, not a locale. And at this point, such

cells can be harvested for research with an eye toward reproducing and

implanting. The hope is that with enormous amounts of study these

cells could soon be pushed along certain paths and directed toward

desired directions. They could replace unhealthy tissue, affording

therapy for a range of illnesses from Alzheimers to certain kinds of

cancers.

Two sources yield these undifferentiated cells: First, adult tissue,

typically red and white blood cells offer the more malleable material.

Second, an early-stage embryo, at the point when it is nothing more

than a cluster of undifferentiated cells. These early-stage cells are

the ones that are the object of such controversy. (According to

National Institutes of Health, these cells are harvested from embryos

left over in the fertilization process conducted at in vitro

fertilization clinics. They are not obtained from fertilized eggs.)

Research issues. "What’s interesting," notes Steele, "is that even far

apart from the popular moral battles fought in the media, many

individual scientists who are doing this work feel queasy about it,

yet they are not sure why." In using adult cells for research,

problems arise around issues of intellectual property and informed

consent. With harvesting from embryos, the quandary lies in the debate

over when life begins. Additional issues include cost versus benefit.

Then there is a more vague issue: Some people hue to the idea that

certain natural orders must not be messed with – that someone other

than us was meant to direct life’s creation.

The personal quest. "Most of us do not analyze why we do what we do,

or on what rock our beliefs stand," says Steele. We absorb our moral

and ethical codes, for the most part, from exterior sources, and we

spend our lives shifting them until they fit somewhat comfortably.

The church, our schools, parents, peers, media, politicians, and

others constantly layer our ethical lives over with their dicta until

we believe them to be own. This doesn’t make those beliefs wrong or

insidious. We merely must be aware of their source.

Steele suggests that each of us needs to strip ourselves bare of these

external beliefs for a moment and ask a few important questions:What

makes a human? Is it just our genetics? Is moral status involved? In

the l9th century, some scientists claimed that bipedalism alone filled

the bill. Today more people are searching for a spiritual answer, such

as the existence of a self-spirit and its ability to in some unclear

way connect with the divine. Whatever your answers, Steele says that

they must combine into some shared benchmarks before we can approach

such questions as when life begins and what traits are morally

implantable.

What is humankind’s place in the universe? "This will be a fun one,"

says Steele. "For millennia man has been obsessed with the idea of his

own specialness. It’s an idea we ever cling to." Yet with each new

major scientific breakthrough, humans get knocked another notch off

their pedestal. Copernicus proved that man was no longer the center of

his universe. Darwin disproved the idea of man as the ultimate, unique

animal. With this new stem cell research comes the old fear that man

will again be set even lower in the moil of creation. And the ethics

of fear can invade our decisions in the guise of morality.

Stem solutions. Once the personal understandings and decisions have

been made, Steel explains, we can begin to think through to both

personal and societal choices. So far, most groups have not reached

this stage. He cites the George Bush approach to stem cell research as

well rooted, but not thought out. It is based in the idea that each

life, as it is defined, has ultimate value. But it goes on to state

that experimentation with existent lines of stem cells is fine, while

experimentation with future cells would be murder. "We need to

establish some common benchmarks," says Steele.

Stem cell research can scarcely be thought of as enigmatic. As medical

science continues to move through heretofore unthought of boundaries,

an increasing number of complex decisions will have to be made by our

society. These can only be informed decisions if each of us is willing

to not only learn the facts, but to discover our own internal moral

stance.

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
PRISM: the Future of Materials Science

If you think it is difficult to rearrange department structure to form

a new entity, you are correct. But the researchers that formed PRISM

were highly motivated, as a recent report showed. Princeton

University’s newest program is a combination of what used to be called

POEM (Center of Photonics and Optoelectronic Materials) and PMI

(Princeton Materials Institute.

PRISM presents its inaugural symposium on Thursday and Friday, October

21 and 22, at 8 a.m., at the Friend Center on Olden Avenue. The

speakers include Ching W. Tang of Eastman Kodak, Stephen Harris of

Stanford University, Harold G. Craighead of the nanobiotechnology

center at Cornell, Mildred S. Dresselhaus of MIT, Yasuhiko Arakawa of

the University of Tokyo, and, from Princeton, Stephen Y. Chou, Dudley

A. Saville, Roberto Car, Paul M. Chaikin, Emily A. Carter, Claire F.

Gmachl, and John J. Hopfield. The banquet speaker is architecture

professor Guy Nordenson, known for organizing fellow structural

engineers to work in 24-hour shifts to assess the level of damage in

the buildings surrounding Ground Zero. Registration is required at

(www.prism.princeton.edu) or at 609-258-1575.

Three years ago Amy Gutmann, then the university provost, formed a

committee to determine the future of materials science at the

university. It was cochaired by faculty from the chemistry and

electrical engineering departments, Robert Cava and Stephen Forrest,

respectively. Cava had been a researcher at Bell Labs in its heyday,

when it encouraged long-term basic research as well as product

oriented R&D. Forrest was one of the first academics to found

companies based on his research, notably Universal Display

Laboratories, a public company that is showing success.

The committee was not satisfied that the areas of materials and

photonics attracted 15 percent of all sponsored research at the

Princeton University. PMI and POEM were indeed getting grants of $.5

to $1 million, and the faculty did have an international reputation,

but the $1 million long-term grants were not forthcoming.

Part of the problem is attributed to facilities, according to a

recently issued report, which noted that Princeton has not built new

laboratories for the physical sciences or the physical side of

engineering, as compared to places like Harvard and Cornell, which are

building new facilities. PRISM hopes for a new building of at least

66,000 square feet to compete with Harvard’s 140,000-feet and

Cornell’s 150,000 feet.

Combining the two areas would seem to solve the problem.

In January, 2003, the dean of engineering, Maria Klawe, took the

faculty members on a retreat and elicited an enthusiastic response to

the idea of working at the intersection of "hard materials"

(semiconductors, photonics, nanofabrication, and ceramics, among

others) and "soft" materials (organic materials, soft condensed

material, polymers, biological materials, and genomics).

Where "hard" and "soft" converge includes such areas as organic

optoelectronics, quantum information, microfluidics, nanoimprinting,

and biomedical imaging. "Most of the action in materials science takes

place at the interface between different kinds of materials," says

James Sturm, who believes Princeton will be unusually well-positioned

to carry that work from the earliest stages of theoretical research to

applied inventions suitable for commercial development.

Some of the biomedical topics – orthopedic inserts, design of

biomedical materials, bone replacement materials made from polymers,

bioactive composite gels of proteins and synthetic polymers, and

biomedical titanium alloys – would seem to overlap with the New Jersey

Center of Biomaterials that is located at Rutgers. By an apparent

coincidence, Rutgers is staging its two-day biomaterials conference on

the same days, Thursday and Friday, October 21 and 22 (see story

above).

"As expensive as PRISM may be in the short term, the price for not

striving to achieve the vision represented by PRISM in the long term

will be the marginalization of Princeton as a premier institution of

higher learning across a wide section of science and engineering,"

said the report. The challenge will require, among other efforts, "a

focus on working with industrial and government partners, and a focus

on building up the shared research infrastructure of Princeton."

Says Sturm: "I think it is going to be very exciting."

Top Of Page
Women Helping Women Celebrates

The women come from all walks of life – they are teenagers, adults and

seniors; single, married, divorced, stay-at-home and working mothers;

they are straight, gay and bi-sexual; they’re rich, poor and

everything in between; they’re in transition from divorce or job loss,

recovering from domestic violence, working to create a healthier

lifestyle, or simply boosting their confidence as they move into a new

stage in their life.

To all these women, the little house on Main Street in Metuchen – the

main office of Women Helping Women – is a welcome haven. On Saturday,

October 23, Women Helping Women holds its annual Starry Night Gala

fundraiser at the Hyatt Regency in New Brunswick. Keynote speaker is

Naomi Wolf, author of "The Beauty Myth", who will be speaking about

women and leadership. Honorees, all New Jersey residents, include

McCarter Theater artistic director Emily Mann.

"We wanted to honor women who are role models, women who are committed

to excellence. They’re our stars," says Arlene Klemow, development

director of WHW. "Emily Mann is a creative inspiration. With her

writing and directing, she touches so many people."

Other honorees include Nancy Snyderman, author of "Dr. Nancy

Snyderman’s Guide to Health for Women Over 40," vice president of

medical affairs for Johnson and Johnson, and a former ABC news medical

correspondent. Also being honored are Gloria Bachman, associate dean

of women’s health at UMDNJ, a division of Robert Wood Johnson medical

school, and Cynthia Jacob, the first woman president of the New Jersey

Bar Association. Tickets range in price from $60 to $150. Call

732-549-6000.

Men are invited to the gala too, says Klemow, "It’s not just for

women. We have men on our board of directors; we believe that when

women succeed, the community as a whole succeeds. And the idea behind

the gala is to raise awareness and money so that we can make our

programs available to more and more people."

Women Helping Women (WHW) is a non-profit community based organization

that has been providing support and encouragement to women in central

New Jersey at affordable rates for 29 years. The group also operates

an office in Somerset that is two years old. The main goal of the

organization, prominently displayed on its website (www.whwnj.com), is

to provide financially accessible therapy and support services to

enhance the quality of women’s lives: "We believe in the ability of

each individual to discover and build on her inner strength," says

Klemow. "The Women Helping Women community supports and inspires women

to overcome obstacles, reach their fullest potential, and thus enrich

their lives and the world in which they live and work."

The organization was initially formed by a collaboration between

Rutgers Community Mental Health program and the National Council of

Jewish Women. The two organizations saw a need for community-based

support for women and their vision became Women Helping Women.

"Initially the heart of the program was peer-facilitated support

groups that focused on divorce and health related issues," says

Klemow. "Now we have that, as well as individual, couple, and family

therapy with licensed social workers, and family law clinics,

telephone help lines and a wide assortment of community educational

programs."

Klemow grew up in Watchung, and earned her undergraduate degree in

sociology from Boston University, and her graduate degree in

communication from the University of Pennsylvania. She moved back to

New Jersey after receiving her masters degree. "I needed to move away

to really appreciate New Jersey," she says. "It’s a great place to

live." She has worked almost exclusively with non-profit companies in

public relations and fundraising and she has been with Women Helping

Women for 2 1/2 years. A Scotch Plains resident, Klemow is married

with two young boys.

One of the ways WHW hopes to expand is to make its help line, which

operates with trained volunteers and social workers from 10 a.m. to 9

p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. through 5 p.m. on Fridays,

available 24 hours a day. "It can be an entrance to our programs for a

lot of people," says Klemow. Someone may not know what the center

offers, or they may be hesitant to come to one of the community

programs, but with an anonymous call to the help line, they’ll find a

"listening ear" and they’ll also learn about programs that might be

available to support them that they weren’t aware of.

All of Women Helping Women’s counseling services are available on a

sliding scale "depending on income," and the organization accepts

Medicare and some health insurances as well. "Some women walk through

the door, not because of the price, but because of the quality of the

service or for a particular workshop," Klemow says. But some come

because they can’t afford anything else. "We receive funding from

United Way of Central Jersey, and we’ve received some grants from the

state," she says, "and we also have members who support what we’re

doing, as well as private corporate donors."

"The place is comfy and warm," Klemow says of the old house. "You walk

in the back door and you’re in the kitchen." The office may be small,

but the impact is big, says Klemow. "From 29 years ago when we

started," as a place for peer support, she says, they’ve grown into

"to a comprehensive center." A stellar history indeed.

– Deb Cooperman

Top Of Page
Marketing at MCCC

For Valerie Hartzell, the strength and clarity of the message is what

made her fall in love with advertising and marketing communications.

In fact, she enjoys sharing her enthusiasm for marketing so much that

she has helped to develop the marketing communications program at

Mercer County Community College. There she teaches several classes

through the college’s continuing studies program. This fall she

teaches "Planning for Action," a four-session course, on Mondays and

Thursdays, from October 25 to November 4, at 6 p.m. Cost: $168.

Call:609-584-7400.

Hartzell has been involved in the marketing program at the college

since 2001, when she was asked, with several other professionals, to

help develop the program. "The college felt there was a need for a

program that would include a number of courses, from background

classes to shorter, more specialized sessions in particular topics,"

she says. Some of the special topics offered include Internet

marketing, direct marketing, public relations, and an advertising

course, which Hartzell also teaches.

"Planning for Action" is a background course that Hartzell believes is

an important base, both for people who are in business or for anyone

who just wants to understand more about the tools that marketers use.

During the class, students write their own marketing plans. Doing so

in just four sessions is a challenge.

"I ask them to think in the context of a real product or service,"

says Hartzell. "If they have their own business or product they want

to promote, then they can write the marketing plan for that. If they

are a general interest student or don’t feel ready to work on their

own product, they select another, well-known product or service to

work on."

There are several issues a business person should focus on when

creating a marketing plan, she says.

The target audience. Who is the audience for your product or service?

"To be effective, you must be very specific about who exactly your

target audience is," says Hartzell. This is the age of specialization.

There are wilderness tours for committed gay couples, "one last fling"

tours for couples just a few weeks away from becoming parents,

sleepaway camps for dog owners and their pets. It is no longer enough

to sell travel – or deodorant or beer or convertibles. It is vital to

know the niche to which your product will appeal.

Situation analysis. "Look at the strengths and weaknesses of your

company or product. What is your goal? In what ways does your

competition do it better? In what ways are you better?" she asks.

The goal. What are you trying to achieve with your advertising? While

many people think of the obvious goal of selling a particular product,

there can be a number of other goals in a marketing campaign. Do you

want to strengthen loyalties? Raise public awareness? Be seen as a

good corporate citizen? All of these goals can be met by carefully

crafted marketing.

Differentiation. Before beginning a market campaign, every business

person needs to look at the ways in which his product or service

differs from their competition. Point out what sets you apart and

makes you unique. Many marketing experts caution that a common mistake

is to make price the differentiating factor. Doing so is increasingly

difficult as huge companies are able to squeeze price concessions from

suppliers and to use economies of scale in everything from shipping

to, yes, advertising.

But there are any number of other ways to carve out a niche. Stressing

quality or service can work, as can highlighting a generous guarantee,

quick turnaround time, or free delivery.

Evaluation. One of the most important parts of an advertising campaign

is evaluation. "You should be able to evaluate everything you do in

your marketing campaign," Hartzell emphasizes, "and connect it back to

your goal."

Tactics. "Advertisers are more creative these days in finding ways to

advertise," says Hartzell. Traditional venues such as print or radio

and television advertising are now augmented with everything from

advertising on the Internet, the back of shopping carts, and popcorn

bags. Special events, direct marketing, pamphlets, and brochures can

also be a part of a marketing campaign. Budgeting, of course, is

another important issue that plays a big part in deciding which

marketing tactics are used, she mentions.

Hartzell received her bachelor’s degree in political science. That may

seem like an unlikely beginning for an advertising executive, says

Hartzell, but for her, it made perfect sense. After graduating from

Rutgers, she began her career working in public relations for a

Trenton public affairs firm. "We were working with an advertising

agency to develop a public service campaign," she says. "I saw the

strength and clarity of the message the ad agency created and it made

me fall in love with communicating with people, with having an effect

on people."

The campaign, for the Department of Health and Human Services, focused

on the mortality rate of African American infants. "The campaign

didn’t resolve the problem," she says. "I can’t point and say the

mortality rate was resolved because of this campaign, but we did

accomplish a number of things." Raising public awareness was one of

the goals accomplished. "We didn’t want to make new mothers scared to

death, but we did want to make them aware of the risks and encourage

them to get earlier pre-natal care," she says. A new 800 number for

pregnant women and new mothers to call and receive referrals for

medical care was one of the specific benefits of the campaign.

The campaign also increased funding and awareness for research into

the problem and brought together several non-profit organizations that

were already interested in the topic. "Because of our campaign the

issue has taken on a life its own," she says. Shortly after finishing

the campaign, Hartzell moved to a position at a advertising agency,

Princeton Partners, and from there, moved to the Mega Group, a

Robbinsville marketing firm. She has been a senior account manager

there for the past two and a half years, working in the areas of

marketing planning and consultation.

"Not every method of advertising is appropriate for every product,"

says Hartzell. Television, for example, is excellent for a product

with a broad target audience, but is not good for "specialized

services." New alternatives, such as ads stenciled into mall parking

lots, may be just the thing for a mass appeal consumer product, but

may be totally inappropriate for a business-to-business product. What

the successful ads have in common is what attracted Hartzell to the

business in the first place: "strength and clarity of the message."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Top Of Page
Leaving an Elegant E-mail Trail

E-mails, proposals, reports…oh my! If you are in business – either

for yourself or in a corporation – you probably spend a good chunk of

your day writing. Even if you’re simply sending a brief E-mail, you

are still representing yourself and your company on paper, and a

poorly written note could cost you a project or job. Good writing is

essential in a marketplace where so much communication happens on

paper. But for those who aren’t comfortable with writing, the journey

through the business communications forest can look pretty scary.

Writing effectively for business should not be much of a mystery, says

Ellen A. Benowitz, a professor of business at Mercer County Community

College. All it takes is a little planning and time. And, perhaps, a

bit of a grammar review from time to time. Benowitz provides such a

review and offers techniques for creating clear, concise writing in

her popular six-week non-credit course Effective Business Writing,

which kicks off on Tuesday, October 26, at 6:30 p.m.

Born in New York City, Benowitz’s mother was a homemaker and her

father was a furrier. But "my parents wanted to give us a different

life," she says, and so the family moved to Bordentown. "My

grandfather had opened bars and restaurants and my father and

grandfather became partners. My father operated the restaurant for

eight or nine years," she recounts. He wasn’t particularly fond of the

work, and later went back to the garment industry with a management

job. Her mother eventually joined the workforce too, as an office

manager.

Benowitz stayed in New Jersey and attended Trenton State (now The

College of New Jersey), where she received her bachelor’s and master’s

degrees, and went on to receive a doctorate at Nova University in

Florida. She has been teaching at Mercer since 1972, and the place is

"a family institution" to her. Her son attended, and after working for

years in business, he is now a teaching assistant at the college. Her

granddaughter is in her second year there.

The Effective Business Writing course is popular, Benowitz says,

because the ability to write well, "can make the difference in someone

being a winner or just slipping by" in business. Gone are they days

when managers could count on secretaries and assistants to handle

their correspondence. You may be a great manager, but if your writing

is weak, it’s out there for all to see – and judge.

While office roles have changed, so has office communication. For

many, E-mail is the primary communications tool. But many people don’t

take care in preparing their E-mails. Says Benowitz: "They forget that

it’s a business document."

In becoming more effective with your writing, it’s wise to remember,

says Benowitz, that writing is a process. You don’t just sit down and

compose the perfect proposal,

Top Of Page
Real Estate For Business Owners

In Mike Pratico’s first business venture the real estate he owned was

"virtual" real estate on the Internet. Today, as a part of the

Richardson Companies, a family business, he helps his clients make

decisions about "brick and mortar" sites. Richardson Companies

consists of three separate groups, Richardson Management, which

manages real estate for property owners; Richardson Commercial, which

sells commercial real estate; and Lexington Appraisal, the real estate

appraisal portion of the company. Pratico is vice president of

operations for the property management company and oversees the

appraisal division.

Where a business is located is one of the most important choices the

owner will ever make, says Pratico. There are so many decisions to

make: leasing versus buying, how much space is needed. Then, of

course, there is that tangle of regulations and permits that varies

from township to township. "The problem," says Pratico, "is that while

most business owners are very good at running their own business, they

make most of their real estate decisions based on infomercials."

To help the business owner learn about the complex world of commercial

real estate, Mercer County Community College is offering "Commercial

Real Estate for Business Owners." Pratico, who teaches the two-session

course, says it is "not for someone who wants to make commercial real

estate a career." Instead, it is designed to help business owners make

better decisions when it comes to buying, selling, or leasing their

property. The full-day classes take place on Thursday, October 28, and

Thursday, November 4, at 9 a.m.. The $160 fee includes continental

breakfast and course materials. Call 609-586-9446.

The Richardson Companies have been in the business of commercial real

estate for over 30 years, says Pratico, whose father, Mike Pratico

Sr., has owned the business for much of that time. He purchased the

company from the original owner, Dick Plumeri. Most people expect a

family business to carry the name of the owner, but in the case of the

Richardson, the company was actually named for the street in

Robbinsville where the firm was first located.

While Pratico, who is not yet 30, is one of the youngest members of

the Richardson Company, his expertise in business is already large and

varied. A 1998 graduate of Cornell University, he and two partners

founded Davanita Design LLC, an E-strategy and implementation

consulting firm while they were still in college. Pratico was

responsible for many of the operational needs of the business,

including new business development, human resources, finance, and

legal considerations. He also oversaw a "capital infusion" by another

technology firm and later also oversaw the sale of Davanita to that

same company, Avatar Technology.

Having already founded, run, and sold his first business by age 22,

Pratico says that in his second business experience he "looked for a

mentor that I could trust; one who had common sense and business

experience." He found that mentor "in his own backyard" and went to

work in the family business. His father "was excited when I told him I

wanted to work with him, but never pushed me into it. He always let it

be my choice."

Along with his work at Richardson and teaching at Mercer County

Community College, Pratico is also active with the Cornell

Entrepreneurship Network, an alumni group focused on entrepreneurship

in the greater New York area. He has spoken on a number of panels for

the Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise Program at Cornell and is

also a part of the "distance education initiative for

entrepreneurship," a group of speakers that includes Jeff Hawkins,

creator of the Palm Pilot.

He also serves as an advisor to a handful of companies and sits on the

board of directors for IncQbate, a virtual incubator and consulting

firm based out of Ithaca and New York City, and he is works with a

local volunteer clearing house, Hands on Helpers, assisting the group

in "forging relationship with local municipalities."

Since joining Richardson four years ago Pratico has also learned many

things about the world of commercial real estate:

Think ahead. One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make

when looking for a site, he says, is to think only of current needs.

"When looking at real estate you need to think long term, not just,

‘How much space do I need right now?’ Sure, that 2,000 square feet is

perfect today, but what if the business grows? Will you need to move

in a year?" Moving is expensive, he notes, and in the long term,

choosing something with room to grow can save you money.

Consider leasing. Size is only the first of several key points Pratico

recommends his clients think about when looking for a commercial site.

The question of purchasing a property versus leasing it is another.

"Most people think they should always buy their property, but this is

not always true," says Pratico. There are tax considerations that can

make leasing a property less expensive than buying it outright.

Assemble advisors. A business owner cannot also be an expert on real

estate and property laws, says Pratico, so it is important that he or

she know how to choose the right experts to help.

"Selecting the right attorney and choosing a broker can be the most

important part of whether or not a deal goes through." In fact, he

says, if the students in his class leave with several "key questions"

to ask those experts he feels they will have learned one of the most

important things they need to know before venturing into the

commercial real estate market.

Is the lawyer or broker available? Does he or she have enough time to

take care of your business? "Many deals have fallen through because

the lawyer or broker hasn’t gotten back to the client in time," says

Pratico.

Are they familiar with the township you are buying property in, and do

they understand the laws and permit regulations of that township?

"It’s important that the people you work with know who to deal with in

your township to get the permits, to look at the environmental

issues," he says. "These are regional issues. That friend from North

Jersey may not know about regulations in Central Jersey or South

Jersey."

Grill your broker. "Ask your broker if this is a deal he or she is

attracted to," says Pratico. Brokers specialize. If the deal is a lot

smaller or larger than what the broker usually deals with, they may

not be prepared or they may not give it their full attention."

Finally, says Pratico, "Ask your broker to describe the last 20 deals

he or she has made. Ask about the size of the properties and the type

of properties. Was it office or industrial space, retail or

apartments? You need to get a feel for the type of transactions that

broker is doing."

– Karen Hodges Miller


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