Thursday, June 21

Why Most Women Business Owners Come Up Short

There’s been lots of hype about the success of women in creating new businesses, and Aldonna R. Ambler, president of Ambler Growth Strategy Consultants, is cheering along with the crowd. In fact, she is an example of a woman who has created her own business, had as many as 1,000 employees over her business life, has usually owned at least three businesses, was named National Woman Business Owner of Year for 2000, and has done an employee stock ownership program.

But she also has some serious concerns about what the final dispositions of those businesses are likely to be, and she voices her worries with a series of statistics:

Fewer than 2 percent of women-owned businesses ever pass $1 million in revenue (or, according to one study, 3 percent). Women are five times more likely to dissolve a business than are their male counterparts. Average take-home pay for a woman business owner is $25,000. Less than 5 percent of all venture capital goes to women, and fewer than 5 percent of all applications are filed by women business owners. Fewer than 5 percent of members of paid corporate boards are women. Less than 5 percent of corporate purchasing and government procurement goes to women business owners.

What is far more interesting than these numbers is Ambler’s interpretation of why they are so low. It has to do with why many women get into business in the first place and what their goals are.

“We know how to start a business,” she says, “but we haven’t faced what we need to learn about how to grow it.” Women start businesses for a variety of reasons, often due to a lay off from a corporate job or an encounter with a glass ceiling. They go into business, she says, “instead of working for someone who won’t pay them enough or promote them.”

But their businesses are usually not about building value and developing something that can later be sold at a good price, and they are rarely even making a substantial profit in the present. “When you look at the statistics of how much women take home after they work so hard, bend over backward with customer service, and prove themselves so capable,” says Ambler, “everyone wins but them.”

She has seen women work themselves so hard that they end up sick and tired, and all for only a third as much money as they made when they worked for a corporation — and had a full benefits package. Why do they do this? “They have the misimpression that they have security because they won’t get fired,” she says.

Ambler, who has been in business for 36 years, is speaking at Central Jersey NAWBO’s “Reach For It! A Celebration of Women in Business” on Thursday, June 21, at 6 p.m. at the Nauvoo Grill Club, 121 Fair Haven Road, in Fair Haven. Cost: $30. Phone for directions only: 732-747-8777. For reservations, go to

It’s fine and good for women to start businesses, but they need to do it for the right reasons. Ambler draws a very thick line between a business that is an “incorporated career” and one that is a salable investment.

Many times a woman will build a business around what she likes to do, what her capabilities are, and what she has the time for. But, says Ambler, “there are only so many minutes in a year, and these women are limited by what they are capable of doing.” The business is not optimized. They spend money on their businesses as though they are investing — spending lots of money on marketing, not paying themselves at all or taking a low salary, and not putting in place a pension or savings program. The result is the total vulnerability of an incorporated career, not an investment in a business.

If, however, a woman sees her business as something that she will invest in and be able to sell, then “it’s not just about her and what her customers will pay.” Instead she will hire employees and build resilience — so that she will have permission to get sick, go on vacation, or even do something else to make money.

Because far more women have limited themselves to incorporated careers, Ambler says, “a time bomb is ticking.” Baby-boomer business women are getting ready to retire, with no money saved for their pensions. “Women may be the fastest-growing sector in terms of creating companies,” she says, “but if they don’t learn how to grow them, they will be very unhappy retired women when their business doesn’t lead to the financial freedom they thought it would.”

Ambler got interested in corporate America as a youngster when her math teacher father moonlighted to support his large family. Ambler says her house sometimes felt “like a group home,” with her five natural siblings, four adopted ones, “and I don’t know how many foster kids.” Her father’s second job was applying statistics to quality control for businesses in Rochester, where they lived. She remembers him sitting at the kitchen table on Sunday nights talking with her mother about “the guys upstairs” — the guys running the company. He would regularly repeat the same three points: “They don’t know where they are going, how to get it across, and how to follow through — that’s what’s going on in corporate America today.”

When she was 12, she remembers interrupting one of these discussions by interjecting, “Isn’t there a career there for me? Maybe somebody could help them with that.”

Her father, who she says was trying to protect her, shot back, “That’s a stupid idea, for two reasons. First, those are the big wheels of companies, and they would never let anyone in the room to help them figure that out; and, second, if they ever did, it would never be a girl.”

That’s when Ambler intentionally chose consulting as a career, not out of defiance or rebellion, but because what he said made no sense to her. She started out as a music major at the Eastman School of Music, but then moved to Syracuse University “to play.” When it was time for graduate school, Ambler decided that it was time to get serious. She intentionally asked herself what kind of education she needed to become a consultant, and she found a master’s program that combined business, marketing, and social work at the University of Pennsylvania. The necessary expertise, she says, “wasn’t just about the marketplace or just about money.” It required an understanding of “each of our individual reactions, how we get stuck, and how we get in our own way.”

Ambler was thinking about “the science of being a change agent,” which combined business expertise and a deep understanding of people.

She raises the example of an entrepreneur who has a $10 million company. He has a house on the hill overlooking a lake, a fancy car, and his children’s college tuition paid off. “He becomes risk averse,” she says, “and that slows down growth.” Yet his business may be at the point where he needs to revisit its purpose. For example, early on he may have hired relatives or grown managers from within and the question on the table is: Does the business have the nerve to transform its management team by hiring professionals? This is where Ambler saw herself stepping in to help out.

After graduation her first job was with the consultation and education unit of a mental hospital. Its 39 clients included local companies that wanted to learn to be more participative, schools needing to improve communication, cities doing strategic planning, and even hospitality companies like hotels and casinos. While she was there, the unit was trying to figure out a way to get paid for this consulting.

She eventually became director of the unit and figured she would not have to start her own business. Until, that is, her clients told her that they valued her advice, but didn’t want the stigma of going to a mental health center to get it.

Bottom line, she says, “my clients shoved me into my own business. It was a surprise to me that I became an entrepreneur. I thought I was going to be a consultant.”

Her Hammonton-based business ( specializes in helping entrepreneurs looking for a minimum of 50 percent growth. A typical client might be an electrical wholesaler with 12 branches, which has topped out at $20 million, and can’t figure out where to go next.

To help companies move from $20 to $100 million over the course of five years, she had to hire employees — accountants, attorneys, other consultants, human resources recruiters, and finance experts. “What my clients needed drove the growth of my business,” she says. Although people now often lean toward subcontracting and virtual corporations, she invested in employees, particularly people with double degrees, eventually reaching 123 full-time consultants. Running a mid-size consulting firm was tough, though, something like herding cats, she says, and retention was a problem.

So she decided to sell the company to her employees through an ESOP, an employee stock ownership plan. This enabled her to do other things. In her consulting business she looks with executives at whether the next wave of growth is going to come from an IPO, turning a business into a franchise, geographic expansion, a new product line, becoming more E-commerce oriented, or changing equity deals — and then helps them to align strategy. Then she brings in other consultants or upgrades companies’ staffs to implement growth plans. She also employs five people in a business where she helps companies get growth financing, and three people in her speaking business (she has averaged a speech of week for 25 years).

Finally, Ambler hosts an online radio program on Voice America Business, “The Growth Strategist” ( for which 183,000 people are logging on. She interviews chief executive officers who have executed the “growth strategy of the week,” and she says that her guests become her best prospects for her consulting work.

The NAWBO chapter where Ambler is speaking will celebrate the 2 percent of women who are taking chances. At the same time she is urging other women to overcome their fears and “ride the wave” into the future. The goal is for them to spot a market opportunity, something people want to put money into, and let it pull the business, telling the entrepreneur who to hire, and what kind of marketing and sales, infrastructure, and financing is required.

The alternative, the one where so many women find themselves stuck, is continuing to view their businesses as an extension of themselves, doing something they like and are capable of doing rather than creating something of business value.

— Michele Alperin

Info Technology: A Pause for Humanity

A hooray for humankind. The faster the rate of change, the faster we seem to be able to adapt to it. First the computer landed on our desks. Then E-mail. Then the incipient web and its “information highway.” Overcoming a few frustrations, we welcomed them all. Now in an even shorter span, we embrace Web 2.0 — and look toward Web 3.0, sitting on the horizon. We are also ready to embrace an explosion of information interchange via new means, devices, and individuals. Whatever the next generation of improvements, we say “bring ‘em on!”

Provided that we are not fighting worldwide wars over fresh water, or facing extermination from global warming, we feel convinced that technology will make our future ever rosier. After all, our best and brightest are laboring ceaselessly to bring us new and better IT. Previewing the latest and the greatest in technology is a New Jersey Technology Council event, “What’s Next in IT: Pharma, Finance, Automation and Logistics” on Thursday, June 21, at 3 p.m. at Princeton University. Cost: $60. Visit

Panelists include Roger Salomon, vice president/general manager of Data Systems Analysts; Albert Schneider, director of information technology at IBM; and Rick Pinto, attorney with Stevens & Lee.

When Salomon first began tinkering with computers, it was punch cards, vacuum tubes, and machines the size of gymnasiums. A native of Bloomfield, Salomon graduated from Montclair State University in l968.

“I had no idea how a math major could earn a living,” says Salomon. “Then a friend asked me if I’d ever heard of computers, and I said ‘what are they?’” After studying a few books, Salomon presented himself to New Jersey Bell as a programmer. Shortly afterward, he worked with ITT in Nutley establishing communications for the Department of Defense.

In l971 Salomon joined Data Systems, where he has been ever since, helping clients in Holland, Germany, and right nearby in Fort Monmouth. “The thing to remember about computers,” he says, “is that even in the days of vacuum tubes, the changes were amazing and fast.”

Not all of prognostications about IT improvements are pure crystal gazing. Salomon says, as with most technological advancement, IT involves a course of overlapping steps, whose first increments are being constructed now.

Finance. Brokers only in their late 40s still can recall the days when a buy or sell order was scribbled on a piece of paper, popped in a metal container, and sent on its way via pneumatic tubes. The process and volume of trading has changed tremendously, and now will increase incrementally, Salomon says. But the biggest changes will come in the field of analysis.

Having knowledge a few minutes before others is lifeblood in finance and it is what’s behind the demand for increased, fast-crunching business intelligence platforms. Imagine the value of a software that could analyze tens of millions of pieces of data in minutes rather than months. All the information concerning an individual stock, industry, or sector could be delivered to an investor on demand. Salomon sees such firms as Hyperion, Cognos, and Business Objects as pioneers in this technology, which will soon explode and become common. They are Web 1.0 equivalents, with 2 and 3.0 waiting in the wings.

On a related, but broader scope, the technology of data mining will provide another technological level that will alter the future face of investing. Using an artificial intelligence agent, the potential investor will be warned when this trade, that indicator, or that value reaches a vital point. The investor could set his system to trigger warning about the situation, or to actually make the specific trade when the warning arrives.

I.D. management. Like it or not, a lot more of our lives will be categorized with accesses or denials based on where machines say we fit. Salomon foresees increased access codifying, particularly for computerized data.

Four years ago a consortium of businesses, spearheaded by Johnson & Johnson, developed the S.A.F.E. system. This Secure Access for Everybody was designed to give users more comfort by assuring that any information typed into a computer would go only to those the creator wanted. The system operated on a PKI, public key infrastructure, with the user’s name encrypted on it. Each individual’s key was cross-indexed according to what information he could and could not access. This system evolve into the single smart card that can be carried with the laptop or other portable device to provide each employee correct access from anywhere.

This kind of leveled access is already increasing in scope and will probably be coupled with back-up biometric identifiers. Facial, iris, thumbprint, and other bodily identifiers are all possible, cost effective, and are easily adapted.

Human technology. Technology reaches beyond mere machines. Salomon sees changes growing within the basic business structure and predicts that they will change the way that companies function. Two of the greatest will be an increasing prominence of the project manager position, and a shift toward task-oriented operation.

Projects are now conceived, and the most involved individual is selected as the leader. The task ends and all the lessons learned seep away. Salomon claims that when the role of project manager actually obtains permanent executive status a continuity occurs. Like training officers in the army, project managers are given both technical and leadership skills. The group runs more smoothly under this recognized management.

Additionally, an elevated project manager stands high enough in the corporate structure to see the links and define the purpose. Unlike poor Dilbert, whose projects are whimsically started and canceled, members know where their work fits in the whole scheme. The result is a natural progression from the company’s mission to the actual tasks undertaken.

This human/corporate restructuring may take a little more adjustment time than the changes in software or hardware. We move happily from one electronic stage onto another, but the business hierarchy is slower to change. We do not leave it behind as easily. Independent team leaders muscling their way upward may rub more than a few folks the wrong way. Because our business structure is so fixed, it deserves a little reexamination, and perhaps a little more time to evolve along with our machines.

— Bart Jackson

When Management Stifles Creativity

Every individual is creative. Humankind’s urge to always come up with something new takes a back seat only to survival itself. Employers say that they want to have all of this creativity used in their companies, but do they? Many employers give lip service to the importance of creativity, but do little to foster it in their own shops.

With an eye toward helping its members be more bold in harnessing their workers’ creativity the Employers Association of New Jersey is focusing its annual membership meeting on “Innovation, Leadership, and Service.” The event takes place on Thursday, June 21, at 9:30 a.m. at the Palace in Somerset Park. Cost: $65. Visit Among the speakers is EANJ’s president, John Sarno. There is a panel discussion on “Competing to Win” that is moderated by Jim Barrood, director of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

Barrood cut his teeth in the entrepreneurial world very early on. He grew up in Somerset where his parents ran the Barrood Agency, which began by selling real estate, and has now branched out into insurance and travel. He jokes that he went to four different countries to get his education. After graduating from Rutgers University in l990 with a degree in economics, he emigrated to Texas A & M, where he earned an MBA. While studying in this vastly different culture, Barrood took advantage of the school’s advanced international programs and augmented his business studies in Mexico, and then in Germany.

Upon graduation, Barrood joined the family business and helped it expand. In l997 he was invited to serve as Rothman’s director, where he has remained.

Both Sarno and Barrood at Rothman continually tackle the innovation problem. “Bringing forth innovation is simply getting the very best out of the people you are paying,” says Sarno.

Culture creation. If innovation is so natural to the human condition, why is it so relatively rare at work? Unfortunately, Sarno says, the creative urge too often runs counter to many common strands found in traditional corporate culture.

The aggressive supervisor who hovers and judges each action forces all around him to play it safe and merely perform the routine. Ruling with swift discipline is another sure way to quell creativity. The old memo that states “the beatings will continue until morale improves” is not quite a joke in some workplaces. At the same time, the supervisor who stays aloof, communicating only by E-mail, will illicit the same “who cares?” attitude that he is sending out.

“You have to give people the sense that their contributions are valued,” says Barrood. “This means both with the daily work and the new ideas.” A variable rewards system that includes pay bonuses, perks, recognition, and increased responsibility should all be custom-tailored to the whole business, and fine-tuned to each individual.

Beware, though. Such rewards and recognition can also be diluted into mere cheerleading if done too often or too freely.

“Building a culture of creativity entails keeping the atmosphere open, but skeptical,” says Barrood. Employees have to know that ideas are mulled over both formally and informally. This means establishing a commonly-known innovative process through which ideas are honed. At the same time, while rewarding creativity, failure must never be penalized. Inaction and not taking advantage should be the only business sins.

Manager’s mindset. “We encourage innovation, just so long as it doesn’t involve change.” This tacit signpost in too many companies indicates a management-set mood that ideas may be welcomed, but their odds of making a difference are nil. “People have to feel they’re effective,” says Barrood. “For the manager this involves instilling two messages.” First, each individual in the company must have all of his tasks linked into the greater goal and the firm’s own mission.

The second message is that the idea, not the source, is what matters. Companies that have a “creative department” are announcing that the rest of the employees should just keep their heads down and let the special folks do the thinking.

Marrying to a team. For Barrood one of the manager’s most important jobs is skillfully building relationships. Like a well kindled fire, creativity feeds one person to another. Ideas bounce back and forth. Obviously, the easiest way to unify a team is to imbue them with the importance of the task. “Not everyone may feel that they are moving the company forward,” says Barrood. “In such cases the manager must entice a sense of commitment from those folks who feel cut adrift from the main stream.”

Unity seldom comes from homogeneity. It is well proven that the best ideas come from the most diverse teams. In addition to bringing representatives from different company departments and expertise areas, gathering together people with varied life experiences gives fresh perspective.

“As we grow more global, we have a chance for much greater diversity and the enormous business innovation it brings,” says Barrood. The urge is irrepressible, all we have to do is not stand in its way.

America’s basements are filled with elaborate workshops into which millions of employees spend happy hours after work. From these home workshops emerge an array of amazingly creative, high-sweat projects. The question each employer needs to ask is whether these basement labors are a refuge from a one-dimensional day job? Or are they an addition, inspired by an innovative atmosphere at work?

— Bart Jackson

Friday, June 22

Cultural Diversity In Healthcare

There are cultural disparities in healthcare — even for minorities who are fortunate enough to have adequate health insurance. Katherine Kish, president of Market Entry and co-executive director of Einstein’s Alley, this fact is costing big corporations both money and manpower. “If you don’t know that a problem exists, then you can’t do very much about it,” she says. “Employers believe that they are getting the same healthcare for all of their employees, when in fact this is not the case.”

Kish co-moderates a summit on “Your Health Disparities Scorecard” on Friday, June 22, at 8:45 a.m. at the Hyatt Regency New Brunswick. The summit focuses on the “impact of racial and ethnic health disparities on New Jersey business.” To register, call the American Conference on Diversity at 732-745-9330, or e-mail The event is funded by Harrahs Entertainment, and there is no fee, however, registration is required.

According to Kish, cultural assumptions regarding race and gender may be subconscious, but are having an enormous impact on business and health. “When an African-American and a Caucasian each present cardiac symptoms to a doctor, oftentimes the standard of care will not be the same,” says Kish. “Without realizing it the professional may look at each case differently. The thinking may be that the African-American doesn’t have a lot of family support and probably couldn’t do a complicated recovery protocol. But the African-American may be a vice-president of a corporation making $200,000. Because he is African-American, though, the stereotypes that kick in that keep could keep him from getting the gold standard of healthcare he are entitled to.”

This is a major problem, especially given that New Jersey is the most culturally and ethnically diverse state in the country with a minority population making up approximately one-third of the workforce.

“Because minorities simply do not get the same positive healthcare outcomes as their white counterparts, it means for business executives that about a third of your workers are not coming back to work as fast as they could be and that they are not as healthy as their fellow employees,” says Kish. “If you are the employer and are paying for your employees’ health insurance, you are not getting your money’s worth. In most cases employers do not know that this problem exists.”

“Some organizations work on something called a scorecard,” Kish says. “It’s a way of measuring departments. That’s why we titled it the way we did, so that people who work in corporations might relate to that idea. The important audience for this summit is large employers. That’s one of the reasons why Harrahs is sponsoring it, because they are the third largest employer in New Jersey and many of their workers are minorities.”

Opening the summit will be “Health Disparities: A Business Issue?” a morning session with Patrick Geraghty, senior vice president, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Featured speakers will be K. Andrew Crighton, chief medical officer, Prudential Financial; Jeanette Fuentes, vice president-corporate wellness, Merrill Lynch; Fred Jacobs, MD, JD, New Jersey Commissioner of Health; Patricia Johnson, manager/EEO diversity, Harrahs Entertainment; and J. Brent Pawlecki, corporate medical director, Pitney Bowes Inc.

The luncheon keynote address, “Are Employers Really Getting the Same Healthcare for their Employees?” will be presented by Audrietta Izlar, benefits manager, corporate benefits, Verizon. The afternoon session, “Where Do We Go From Here?” will include presentations by Barbara Frankel, senior vice president and executive editor, Diversity Inc.

The event’s sponsors include the American Conference on Diversity, the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services, the New Jersey Hospital Association, the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, and many of the state’s chambers of commerce, including the Mercer and Princeton chambers.

Historically in this country many minorities have not had access to quality healthcare because of a lack of health insurance, but according to Kish, this is not always the case. “In this country infant mortality rate for African-American babies is much higher than for white babies,” says Kish. “Most people think that is because African American mothers may not have access to good prenatal healthcare, but it turns out that the rate of infant mortality for black female corporate executives is as high as it is for young black teenage mothers in an urban setting.”

Kish says that this is because of the extraordinary pressure to succeed that many minority women feel when working in the high-stakes world of corporate America. “They need to be exemplary, because if you are a minority you are often in a fishbowl and they are always looking at you,” she says. “This generates an enormous amount of internal stress and stress isn’t good for a baby in utero.”

In addition, a lot of medical research has been based on faulty cultural assumptions. This is particularly true regarding gender issues. “Women for a long time were thought not to be at risk for heart problems, but then all the medical research was done on men,” says Kish. “It turns out that women die from heart problem just as much as men, and frequently because they are undiagnosed. The problem is that women present differently. Rather than getting the shooting pain that runs down their arm, a woman with a heart problem may get indigestion.”

Kish, a graduate of Allegheny College who holds a master’s degree from Antioch University, founded Market Entry, a strategic marketing and business development firm, in 1982. Focusing on launching or repositioning products, services and whole organizations, the company works with clients ranging from big electronics and publishing companies to universities, professional practices, and software start-ups. Kish has also worked as a marketing, sales, and strategic planning executive in Fortune 500 broadcasting, publishing, and information service firms.

Kish says that she has always been interested in questions of diversity. “I come from a medical family,” she says. “My father was a doctor, my brother is a doctor, and my aunt was an anesthesiologist. I understand the importance quality healthcare plays in people’s lives. As we all hope to live longer and live better, we need to take good care of this body that we have been given. Social justice, equity, and health are very important to me.”

While the one-day summit will not offer much in the way of solutions, Kish says that it could lead to better things ahead. “What we are hoping is that by pulling together people from big corporations like Verizon, Blue Cross, Harrahs, Prudential, Merrill Lynch, we’ll learn how they recognize the problem and what they’ve done about it,” she says. “We’re hoping that we will get a much higher level of awareness which will lead to a regional meeting later that will offer some tactical solutions.”

— Jack Florek

Monday, June 25

Touring The New Way (PHOTO)

Don’t let the gloomy economic forecasts fool you. Americans are poised on the brink of vacation with more dollars in hand to spend than in any previous year. Ever since former Governor Tom Kean announced “New Jersey and You: Perfect Together” in 1982, the Garden State has shed its refinery and stockyard image to become a tourist destination.

To help educators understand the expertise needed by the whole range of this field, the Princeton Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Educators’ Institute has selected the theme of “Hospitality and Tourism.” The Institute strives to create a dialogue between teachers, counselors, and the business community, so that students may be better trained for real world needs. Approximately 30 Mercer County educators are being invited to attend this free, five-day session, which runs from Monday, June 25 through Friday, June 29. To apply visit

The educators visit five related locations, including the Princeton Theological Seminary, Wegmans Food Market, the Sovereign Bank Arena, AAA-Mid-Athantic, and the Mercer County Community College Conference Center. Several business owners, ranging from Elizabeth Hunt, founder and chef of the Lawrenceville Inn, to Mitchell Sussman, chairman of the Starr Tours bus company, will present real world experiences. Also, Phyllis Oppenheimer, specialist with the New Jersey Office of Travel and Tourism tells where the new tourism trends — and new job fields — lie.

Most of Oppenheimer’s tours for the first half of her career took place on the campaign trail. A native of Manhattan, Oppenheimer graduated from the New York Institute of Technology in l977 with a major in political science and business. Upon graduation she joined Pfizer as a legal administrator. Her own sense of efficiency and hospitality led her employers to introduce her to then-President Ronald Reagan who brought her on board as part of the first couple’s advance team.

From l981 through l984 Oppenheimer would precede the Reagans on their travels, make sure the President’s traveling office was set up, and handle logistics. “They were both such easy going people, it was a pleasure to work with them — and I loved it all,” she recalls. After a brief return to Pfizer, the political realm again beckoned. In l986 Chuck Hardwick wrested the position of New Jersey Assembly Speaker from the Democrats, becoming the first Republican to hold the office since Tom Kean in l972. Hardwick invited Oppenheimer to head up his administrative office in Trenton. Since then Oppenheimer has served in several state posts. She took on her role in the Travel and Tourism Office nine years ago.

“We’re a $37.6 billion industry growing fast in New Jersey with no end in sight,” says Oppenheimer, “and that’s just the direct travel and tourism spending.” Both day-trippers and long-term vacationers are searching for something new in destinations.

Meanwhile, the state’s entrepreneurs have been sniffing these new trends in today’s travel winds, and responding with grand ventures.

Sites to watch. The newly-opened Crystal Spr

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