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Survival Guide: Website Choices
Got to have that website. It will be the fastest gun in your selling
arsenal. It will also be the best representative of your company to
the outside world, so you want to be involved in its creation.
Fabulous, but just how involved do you want to be and how much can you
To help company owners and managers sort through the overwhelming
number of web options and website enablers, the Raritan Valley Chapter
of the New Jersey Small Business Development Center presents "Get
Online Now" on Thursday, April 21, at 7 p.m. at the Raritan Valley
Community College. Cost: $42. Call 908-526-1200, ext. 8515. Featured
speaker Nat Bender, NJSBDC director of E-business services, outlines a
very specific list of web development methods, along with accompanying
supplier sites and cost ranges.
Bender’s career has mirrored the communications evolutions through the
past 15 years. Raised in Plainfield by parents who each worked in the
non-profit arena, Bender quickly learned the subtleties of proper
communication. After earning a B.A. in journalism from Rutgers in
l990, he spent five years as a trade journal editor, writing for
industries ranging from health foods to Army-Navy merchandising.
As the world of print began partnering with the web, so did Bender.
Gaining a master’s degree in communication and information studies,
Bender joined AT&T and began developing the company’s websites.
Following intensive course training from the New Jersey Institute of
Technology, he consulted for several private firms and then joined the
New Jersey Business Development Center as its E-business guru.
"It’s all a matter of price and involvement," says Bender. "Website
creation now allows for several increments of participation, depending
on your time and technical ability." But before shopping too hard for
the lowest price, he warns, remember the value of your time and
remember that too often you get only what you pay for.
owner total control – often at a very low cost. But add-on features
can quickly swell the cost, and the process may be more involved than
it first appears. Bender suggests that anyone choosing this path
strongly consider using Dreamweaver, at
www.macromedia.com/software/dreamweaver. It provides the cutting edge
software for building your own page. The company can be reached at
Other providers of build-it-yourself software include Adobe and
Microsoft, at www.adobe.com/products/golive/main.html and
according to personal need. Shopping carts can be installed from
www.miva.com (or www.trustcart.com). Stock photography (available from
www.corbis.com or www.picturequest.com) sharpens a site and can even
help in logo selection. Employing a content provider (such as
interestalert.com or freenewsfeed.com) can spice up a site with
appropriate news summaries. Even basic domain registration is made
easier with the helping hand of www.internic.net (or www.godaddy.com).
While dealing with each of these specialized services can buy
expertise at great savings, your web costs can become as confusing as
a hospital bill with multiple invoices of individual fees.
provides a successful web solution for a specialized retailer with a
dedicated client market. It is a great way to draw the kayaking
community to your paddles or the Corvette restorer to your parts
supply. "You can create it on a desktop," says Bender. "The buyer
views a photo, some description, and he makes a decision."
Since the template allows for little creativity, it works best as a
place where products can be ordered by the already willing, rather
than a place that lures the browser into a purchase. Yahoo, at
www.store.yahoo.com, will provide a website template for as little as
$40. Www.freemerchant.com and www.goemerchant.com are two other
low-cost options that Bender recommends.
www.emoonlighter.com , and www.guru.com act have lists of web
competing for your business. You draw up an ad, list all the
requirements for a proposed site, and place it on the site, where the
designers bid for your business. Bids are often far less than quotes
from land-based designers would be.
However, as with everything done virtually, the personal touch, and
often control, is missing. The web design that costs $2,000 locally,
may bid down to $500 in Iowa and $20 in India. But it is very
difficult to gauge the distant designer’s knowledge of your business
provides an enormous savings in time. It also affords great creative
flexibility, which may make the added expense well worth it. But the
selection of which designer to choose is indeed a trial. The choices
are overwhelming, the quality highly variable, and the pricing
complicated. Bender’s personal recommendations for Garden State web
design firms include www.inforest.com, www.bza.com ,
www.orienttech.com , and www.nicwebdesign.com .
To choose a web designer look at several sites he has designed, quiz
him on his experience in your field, and ask about whether he can
provide content and can arrange for placement with top search engines.
Bender offers a basic checklist of considerations that your designer
needs to meet. The shopping cart should be customized, suggest like
products, and above all, be easy to use; a modeling tool that matches
client proposals is a must for manufacturers; the site’s uploads must
meet both governmental and client RFD (request for documents); the
site should link into marketplace buying with others for bulk rate
advantage; and it should be set up to handle quick bids.
As a final word of advice, Bender advises would-be websters "to be
visionary about what suits you now and in the future." Planning for
expansion usually becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and in the case
of websites can save costly retrofitting.
– Bart Jackson
By next year, the average family health insurance premium will be
over $14,500. Last year, the average individual health insurance
premium rose 11.2 percent – the fourth consecutive year of double
digit increases," says Jim Leonard, vice president of government
relations for New Jersey Chamber of Commerce. Employers bear the costs
in most cases, but the burden is increasingly unbearable. "New Jersey
has 1.4 million uninsured individuals, up from 1.1 million in 2003.
Clearly when the costs go up and employers can’t afford to offer
health insurance, more people end up uninsured."
Leonard is just one of the speakers at the upcoming Small Business
Conference on Friday, April 22, at the New Brunswick Hyatt.
Registration begins at 8 a.m., followed at 8:30 with opening remarks
by NJ Chamber of Commerce president Joan Verplanck and by Jim Kosci,
director of the Small Business Association’s New Jersey district
office. Workshops kick-off at 9:30 a.m. and include Marketing on a
Small Budget; Financing Sources: There’s Money Out There for You; How
to Do Business with Government/Corporations; and The Art of Selling:
Obtaining and Keeping Clients. Cost: $69. Call 609-989-9696.
Throughout the day SBA loan providers and purchasing agents are
available and there is free one-to-one business counseling from New
Jersey Small Business Development Centers and SCORE counselors. A peek
at tomorrow’s office technology is provided by a Microsoft RV, which
attendees are invited to board and explore. Lunch includes the annual
SBA Awards Program. This year’s honorees, receiving the award for
Small Business Persons of the Year, are Joseph Needham and J. Scott
Needham of Princeton Air Conditioning.
Health insurance, a critical issue for employers and employees alike,
is the topic of the Small Business Health Insurance Options workshop,
where Leonard addresses both the importance of health care for small
businesses as well as new options.
Leonard thinks that, as much attention as health insurance costs have
gotten, it is not enough. "There’s been a discussion about having a
constitutional convention because of the astronomical costs of
property tax in New Jersey," he says. "The average family in New
Jersey pays $5,000 in property tax. By comparison, the average
family’s health insurance cost is $14,500, but you don’t hear anyone
calling for a constitutional convention to deal with that. So I think
our priorities need to be worked on a little bit.
"In 2004," says Leonard, "63 percent of all small New Jersey
businesses offered health benefits to their workers, down from 68
percent in 2001. And what’s most disturbing is that 50 percent of New
Jersey’s uninsured are full-time employees."
Leonard, who received his BA in communications from the State
University of New York at Geneseo in 1986, thinks any business owner
who is frustrated by how much he spends on health care, should attend
the workshop. But employees should also find it valuable because more
and more are being asked to contribute to their health costs. If the
employee discovers new health care options, he can bring it to his
The largest and most dramatic change in the health care arena has been
the advent of Consumer-Driven Healthcare Plans or CDHPs. In the
not-too-distant past, corporations would decide on the amount of an
employee’s pension, and the employee would be grateful. In the 1980s
there was a shift toward more participation on the part of the
employee. That’s when 401(k) plans started to appear. Through these
nearly ubiquitous plans, the employee invests money in a retirement
account, and the employer often matches some or all of the
"A similar transformation is going on in healthcare today," Leonard
says. "The most common form of CDHP – and the newest health care
product available to small business owners and their employees – is a
health savings account (HSA)."
HSAs are individual savings accounts that allow individuals to save
money on a tax-free basis to pay for health expenses. Legislation has
been proposed that would allow small businesses to band together –
perhaps through trade or professional associations – to purchase
affordable health packages for their employees.
HSAs are different from a flexible spending account in which workers
have money taken out of their salaries, pre-tax, and set aside to pay
for medical expenses. Unlike flexible spending account, which have an
annual use it or lose it policy, any leftover balance in an HSA
account can be rolled over year after year, and used later for health
purchases. In addition, an HSA is portable. The account follows a
worker when he changes employers. If a retired employee needs a
nursing home, for example, the HSA balance can be used. HSAs are only
available on a limited basis; the only carrier in New Jersey currently
offering an HSA product is Horizon Blue Cross. AmeriHealth is
scheduled to release an HSA product this summer.
Most workers who have an HSA will also have the traditional insurance
coverage that kicks in after a deductible is met, much like disability
insurance. With a $2,000 deductible, the first $2,000 of medical
expenses are paid out of the HSA, anything above that is covered by
conventional health insurance. The catch is, if you don’t contribute
enough money to cover the deductible, the additional health insurance
coverage doesn’t kick in.
"HSAs encourage the consumer to act more responsibly," says Leonard.
"For instance, if my daughter has a sore throat on a Saturday night, I
can take her to the emergency room and spend $386 out of my health
savings account. If I take her on Monday, during normal business
hours, it will only cost $100."
From that perspective, employers should look at an HSA very closely,
says Leonard, who believes that the new plan can lower crippling
health insurance costs.
Leonard has this advice for small business owners: Get involved in the
healthcare policy debate before it’s too late. To learn more or to
sign up for the Chamber’s legislative alert, E-mail Leonard at
– Fran Ianacone
The American people may be soft hearted, but they are also savvy.
Besieged daily by mail and phone solicitations, they now select and
check before donating their hard won discretionary cash. Increasingly
potential patrons log onto www.GuideStar.org or call the New Jersey
Division of Consumer Affairs at 973-504-6215 to find out if a charity
is properly registered, its fiscal history as disclosed in the IRS’
non-profit form 990, and the actual benefit ratio of each dollar
At all levels, government is backing up its consumers. After the
tsunami destruction there was a tidal wave of fraudulent charities.
For this and other reasons, several new and proposed laws have forced
all charities to be ever more watchful in how they operate. Help in
figuring out reporting requirements is available in a free talk, "Hot
Topics in the Laws Affecting Non-Profits," on Friday, April 22, at 8
a.m. at the Green Acres Country Club. Call 609-219-1800. (This is a
change from the previously announced date of Wednesday, April 20.)
Sponsored by the Princeton Community Foundation and insurance firm
Borden Perlman, which has offices at 2850 Brunswick Pike, this seminar
features Jennifer Hauge, deputy director of Newark-based Pro Bono
Partnership, and fellow senior staff attorney Nancy Eberhardt.
Pro Bono Partnership provides a free legal resource for all non-
profits. In addition to offering workshops and literature, the
organization also matches charities with volunteer lawyers throughout
the New Jersey and New York. Its attorneys offer aid in incorporation
procedures, contractual proceedings, and IRS obligations. "We do
everything but litigate," says Hauge. To get in touch, call
973-273-0600 or visit www.ProBonoPartnership.org.
Hauge is one of those attorneys who sided with the angels right out of
law school. A native of Princeton, Hauge attended Dartmouth College,
earning a B.A. in English literature and French in l982. Following her
law degree from Boston College, she returned to New Jersey and worked
for Morristown-based Pitney Harden as a non-profit specialist.
Hauge then launched her own law firm in Morristown, focusing on
tax-exempt companies. In l994 President Clinton named her to the State
Justice Institute, a Congressional corporation designed to improve the
quality of justice in the state courts. Five years ago, Hauge joined
Pro Bono Partnership. She is author of the book "Taking the High
Road," a guide to effective and legal practices for non-profits.
"The government is very serious about non-profit transparency and
accountability," warns Hauge. "Charities may be perfectly well
meaning, but they can still cross into ethical gray areas or run afoul
of the new laws."
On the horizon. From within the Senate Finance Committee, Senator
Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, is pushing a non-profit reform
bill that would give a wake-up jolt to every tax-exempt organization
in the country. Its proposals are several and controversial, but three
have received an unusually large amount of attention.
Tax exempt status is now an eternal tenure. This bill would limit
tax-exempt status to five years, subject to review and renewal. It
seems like a good idea, a way to protect the public, but
implementation would be staggering. Currently only 89 IRS agents are
assigned to handle the over 500,000 new-tax exempt forms that come in
annually. The very idea of a five-year review sets both charity and
IRS paper chasers trembling.
Secondly, the proposed bill takes a hard look at goods donated in
kind. Now if a corporation donates, say, computer equipment, it earns
a tax credit. If this bill is passed, that benefit would disappear.
There is a question as to whether this will reduce the incentive for
companies to take the trouble to find a worthy donor for their
slightly outdated computers and go to the expense of delivering them.
The third controversial element of the bill involves limiting
non-profit boards of trustees to 15 members. Designed as a safeguard
against charities ladling out trusteeships like candy for favors, this
stricture seems a bit Draconian. The image of only 15 frenetic
trustees desperately trying to meet the obligations of the Ford
Foundation or the American Cancer Society is almost humorous. Yet the
bill also provides an increased due diligence and a narrower ethical
path for trustees.
forcing non-profit trustees and senior executives to toe the same
ethical mark as publicly held for-profits. All registered Garden State
charities must have some stated conflict of interest policy.
Conflict of interest is a complex issue that may arise in even the
most well intentioned charity. If an individual is on a non-profit’s
board and does business with that organization, this is not
necessarily illegal or unethical. The same is true with major donors,
or even the families of trustees and donors.
In many cases, the professional computer specialist on the board
designs the organization’s software at near cost. The conflict becomes
more a matter of disclosure. The non-profit is required to have a
written policy on defining what level of business profit constitutes a
need for disclosure. The individual board member must disclose fully
his business dealings with any part of the organization or in what way
his firm might benefit indirectly from his board membership. Then the
board must decide whether it is ethical and practical to put a given
job out for bid.
nowadays is their getting carried away with plans to bring in more
money," says Hauge. As competition for non-profit dollars grows more
fierce, the lure of partnering haphazardly with private industry grows
The charity whose mission is job training for the disabled may decide
to open a bakery for its people. It may partner with an experienced
company to run the shop. Good idea. But the situation can get a little
tricky. "The charity’s board must balance the benefits," explains
Hauge. "If more benefit – cash or labor – is flowing back to the
private firm than is coming down to the charity, you may create a
problem for your tax status."
The charity can and will be charged excise tax on the additional
profits made from the venture and the board of trustees may personally
have to fork over this tax obligation.
Americans obviously love charities – they have so many of them. Amidst
this sea of solicitations, even the most attractive missions and
purest charities can get lost to public consideration. The push toward
transparency and accountability may actually help an individual
charity to attract donors and volunteers. By obtaining the right
registration number or variance and by maintaining a spotless board
and admirable IRS 990 form, along with a good benefit ratio, the small
charity may just give itself enough of an edge to win over those new
and much needed patrons.
– Bart Jackson
Are we reaching out or retrenching? That markedly vague term
"globalization" has become such a cliche that every business person
sleeps with the uneasy feeling that all his competitors are benefiting
from international partnerships. Digital communications have made it,
supposedly, all so easy. But at the same time, we on the home front
face an economy hampered by a prolonged, costly war, skyrocketing fuel
prices, and a weakening dollar.
Learning exactly how this tangle of economic factors affects the hopes
and plans of business and consumers is the job of James Almeida. As
chair of marketing and entrepreneurial studies at Fairleigh Dickinson
University, Almeida annually conducts a New Jersey Consumer Confidence
Index, the results of which can be found at www.publicmind.FDU.edu.
This year he has added a component to the survey, asking Tri-State
area technology companies to reveal whether they are expanding
globally, and if so, where.
Almeida unveils the results of this survey at the New Jersey
Manufacturing Summit II on Tuesday, April 26, at 1:30 p.m. at
Fairleigh Dickinson University in Hackensack. Cost: $75, but just $15
for students. Call 856-787-9700 or visit www.NJTC.org. Sponsored by
the New Jersey Technology Council, this summit, entitled "The Role of
Globalization," has a long list of panels and speakers, including Paul
Raetsch, regional director of the U.S. Economic Development
Administration, and Ashok Tomor, deputy consul general of India’s New
York Consulate. Case studies are presented by Robert Somolinski, CEO
of Transistor Devices, and Richard Cass, CEO of Advanced Cerametrics.
Launched early on into the international milieu of both academics and
business, Almeida’s has been a career of constant, yet easy,
transitions. Born in Bombay, India, he earned a B.S. in
pharmacological studies from the University of Bombay in l986. Upon
graduation he joined a major drug firm and instantly discovered a love
for sales. "There was a real thrill that came with closing a deal," he
recalls. As often happens, these successes, along with a graduate
marketing degree, led him up the corporate ladder, into design and
promotions, and out of sales.
Emigrating to the United States, Almeida earned an MBA at the
University of Louisiana and a Ph.D. in strategic management from the
University of South Carolina. Following his doctoral studies, he
joined the South Carolina Small Business Development Center, which
sparked his special interest in small and mid-size business.
While the final numbers for Almeida’s Tri-State globalization survey
are still coming in, the initial findings point to a link, or at least
a correlation, between the expansiveness of consumers and the health
of the business community. "Interestingly, no one seems sure if they
are living in a fools’ paradise," says Almeida. "They feel good, but
they don’t know if the feeling is justified."
percent of New Jersey residents believed they will be better off
economically in 2005 than they were in 2004; while l9 percent
predicted they would fare worse, according to the Consumer Confidence
Index. Compared with last year, the number of pessimists, expecting a
personal fiscal downturn, took a small 4 percent rise. But Almeida is
quick to point that of the 55 percent of those who previously had
envisioned 2004 as year of improvement, only 37 percent actually
This triumph of expectation over experience has its limits. "We seem
to express a cautious confidence in the state," says Almeida. "People
travel more, take more vacations, but political factors guard any
optimism." Two thirds of those expecting a worse 2005, and even the
majority of those predicting improved finances, felt that "the country
was off on the wrong track."
have globalization thrust upon them, but in either case, they are
finding that the quality of work they can expect to find has never
been better. Back in the late-1980s, China wanted to become the
world’s leader in computer chip manufacturing. Unfortunately, while
the nation’s labor supply was inexpensive and plentiful, it was also
very inexperienced, and it showed in the quality of work being turned
"But today the production in so many goods and even scientific testing
has become so routinized and automated that the level of required
expertise has dropped enormously," says Almeida. "Where you once
needed craftsmen, you now only need line workers." Currently, China
produces chips in record number.
Yet while such automation, simplified communication, and increased
political inducements have eased the way to international networks,
getting onboard is not always a matter of choice. "If your product or
service can be digitally transmitted, your company will almost be
forced to jump on the globalization band wagon," says Almeida. In some
cases this is because of market competition. Many a domestic company
intends to settle into a comfy market niche, then finds itself
outmaneuvered by competitors from other countries. The firm’s only
choice for survival is to outsource some work abroad.
inroads in China, India, and the other high population, emerging
countries. The numbers of people in these countries are so large that
even if the percentage of those with discretionary cash is low, the
actual markets remain huge. "For the small and mid-size company, this
may not present the ideal playing field," says Almeida. He suggests
that instead of hopping the next flight to Tokyo or Beijing, smaller
firms might check the schedules to Buenos Aires or Krakow. Even
nations like Paraguay and Mongolia afford an accepting environment and
a large enough marketplace for the smaller company.
We are moving to an age when global partnering is viewed less as
outreach and more just the standard course of business. Thirsty
markets abound around the world, as do skilled workers. Those who have
studied the customs, laws, and competition and are flexible enough to
adapt, may just partner themselves into some very sweet profits.
– Bart Jackson
Many people reach a point in life where they want to consider giving
back to the community in a more significant way than by writing a few
checks to a variety of charities. Often, however, they are unsure
about the best way in which to go about it.
There are two main options for a person or family interested in a more
organized approach to charitable giving, says attorney Ann
Reichelderfer. She speaks on "Charitable Giving Options" at a meeting
sponsored by the Princeton Area Community Foundation at 8:30 a.m. on
Wednesday, April 27, in the foundation’s conference room at 15
Princess Road in Lawrenceville. The meeting is free, but reservations
are required. To register, call 609-219-1800.
Some of the first questions to ask when considering charitable giving
are how much time and money you want to spend on administration and
investing, and how to distribute the money most effectively, says
Reichelderfer. The answers to these questions will often determine
what kinds of charitable vehicles should be considered.
There are two basic types of funds to consider, she says, a private
family foundation, or a Donor Advised Fund. The type of fund you
choose depends on you answers to several questions.
How much control of the fund do you want to have?
How long would you like your fund to continue?
How much money do you have to place in the fund?
How much are you willing to pay in terms of the cost to set up the
A Donor Advised Fund can be set up either through a non-profit agency,
such as the Princeton Area Community Foundation, or through a
profit-making firm, such as Fidelity or Vanguard, Reichelderfer
The PACF is a non-profit organization, founded in 1991 to raise the
level of charitable giving in the central New Jersey area "by
connecting individuals, corporations, and non-profits to each other
and to the issues and causes that matter to them."
Not only does the organization help individuals and groups set up,
administrate, and invest funds, but it is also "a great source of
information on non-profit organizations," says Reichelderfer.
PACF manages more than 150 individual, family, and corporate funds,
and nonprofit agency endowments. It is one of a network of over 660
community foundations across the nation, and is one of three similar
organizations in New Jersey.
The PACF’s website notes that less than two percent of its funds are
used for administration, including investment management, which puts
98 percent of all funds invested through the group to work for
In fact, last year, PACF awarded about $6.4 million in grants, with
nearly $15 million given back to the community since its founding.
Primary service areas for PACF include Trenton and 12 other
municipalities in Mercer County, along with communities in Hunterdon,
Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth, and Burlington Counties.
"If your goal is just to benefit the immediate needs of an
organization, you can just send a check. But if you want your money to
appreciate, and have security, if you want to think about what an
organization’s needs will be over time, then you should think about a
Donor Advised Fund," says Reichelderfer.
An attorney with Stevens & Lee, a firm with offices at 600 College
Road, she concentrates her practice in estate planning and probate and
trust law. A graduate of Swarthmore College and the New York
University School of Law, she also represents several institutions of
higher education in matters such as gift planning, trust and estate
administration, taxation, and regulation compliance.
Reichelderfer’s interest in Donor Advised Funds is both professional
and personal. "Charitable giving is a logical component of estate
planning," she says. Her work in estate planning has also made her
familiar with groups such as PACF, and she has served on the boards of
the Gift Planning Council of New Jersey and the National Committee on
Planned Giving and has been a committee member with Leave A Legacy New
Jersey. She is currently a member of the board of PACF.
Reichelderfer recommends $10,000 as the minimum amount of money needed
to set up a Donor Advised Fund. The foundation invests the money for
you, and while you do not control the day-to-day decisions on your
investments, "there are options that you choose when you are setting
up your account," she says. Your investments are pooled with other the
foundation’s other funds, so that they are safer as well as more
In addition you decide where your money is donated, although,
"technically, the gifts are made by the foundation," she says.
Reichelderfer recently set up her own Donor Advised Fund. As her
children have grown, she says, "I see beyond where I am to a place
where I can spend more time with charitable groups and charitable
gifts. A fund like this is long-lived."
The fund also will enable her children to participate in deciding
where and how charitable contributions are made. "We can talk about
where we want the money to go," she says. PACF’s educational resources
and knowledge of area charities will help her family make wise
decisions, she adds.
A private, family foundation is the second option for someone seeking
a long-term investment in charitable giving. However, more money is
needed for this type of fund. "I recommend a figure at least in the
high six figures or low seven figures as minimum for a private
foundation," Reichelderfer says.
Private foundations are more complicated and take a greater commitment
of time, as well. "The legal and accounting fees are much greater,"
she explains. However, there are advantages. A private foundation, she
says, "offers much more control. You have family members on the board.
For the right family, it is a good way to go." A number of well known
foundations began this way, she notes, including the Robert Wood
Johnson Foundation and, on a much larger scale, the Ford Foundation.
– Karen Hodges Miller
Add an entrepreneurial spirit to a teacher turned psychologist and you
get Teena Cahill. In her 50s, having taken time out of her career to
care for her sick husband, she decided she wanted to be a "top
speaker" – nationally. Her first step was to hire a hall in Florida,
invite her friends and neighbors, and give a talk – with all the
action documented by a wedding videographer. She impressed an agent,
and after six months of "begging people to speak" and "trying to
figure out what a hot speaker looks like," she hit the big time.
Culling her own experience as a mother, grandmother, teacher,
businessperson, and psychologist, Cahill’s upbeat talks to
corporations, associations, and educational facilities share the
meaning of wisdom, as she has come to know it. "Wisdom," she says, "is
a combination of understanding and judgment." She provides her
audiences with the knowledge she has gained through research findings
and her own personal experience, but she says "it is up to you to take
the research and make judgments about your own life at work and at
As keynote speaker at Mercer County Community College’s Administrative
Professionals Day on Wednesday, April 27, at 9 a.m., Cahill addresses
issues of leadership, balance, and power as they apply to life at work
and at home. The full-day event takes place at MCCC’s Conference
Center. It includes lunch and a number of other talks, including Marc
Dorio on "Building Better Work Relationships," Stephen Oliver on
"Managing Multiple Projects and Bosses," Ellen Benowitz on "Effective
Business Writing," and Suzette Gore on "Strategies for Stress Relief
in the Workplace." Cost: $139. In addition to MCCC’s Center for
Continuing Studies, sponsors include the YWCA of Princeton, the
Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the Greater Mercer County
Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call 609-586-9446, or
According to Cahill, the first step toward wisdom is understanding the
context of the world in which we live and work and using it to best
suit our purposes. Two models, she says, operate simultaneously in
corporate America and in the personal realm, one competitive and one
relational. In the competitive model the road to success climbs up
through the hierarchical pyramid – you need to be seen, speak up, have
high impact jobs, and compete to get to the top. A coexistent model
for achieving success involves forming "webs of connectedness around
you." Personal impact in the work place comes through people you are
comfortable with and who you can rely on.
Cahill sees a place in life for both models. "You have to know that
both exist and which mode to use in different circumstances," she
says. She cites examples from her own family. Her husband was a Marine
fighter-pilot, "life or death in skies," she says. Clearly a
competitive model. But he is also a great guy with many friends and
webs of connectedness to others. In her own field of psychology, which
demands "a level field so people are able to say what they need to
say," Cahill always works within a web of connectedness. But just
watch her out on the tennis court, where it is "pyramid" all the way
to the top. "I choose in different situations what model will work
best for me," she says. "There is no way you can be successful with
just one model."
Leadership is a convergence between the two models, requiring
connectedness with colleagues and reports, and a clear awareness of
the needs of the hierarchical structure. "Leadership is not about you;
it is about the people around you and what is best for your company,"
says Cahill. "It is about listening, developing other people, and
setting up a succession so that many can take over when you are not
The next level of leadership, dubbed by Cahill "strategic leadership,"
is "the interaction between what you have learned from the people
around you and your judgment about what is best for your company, or
even your family." Although women don’t often see themselves as
leaders, Cahill believes they practice the same approach in the family
setting: listening to their kids and making strategic decisions about
what is best for the family.
Leadership does not require a particular personality type, but it does
demand self-understanding, self-care, internal balance, and optimism.
Cahill explains a number of these necessary ingredients for successful
power to say no to unrealistic expectations, to distractions, and to
suck up time, like the computer," says Cahill. By clearing this
temporal space, "you can say yes to the things you’re really good at"
and that "you love to do." She believes that people can only be
leaders consistent with who they are and what they love to do. "If you
have a passion for something, you will lead about that," she says,
adding that everyone has the capacity to lead, and it’s just a matter
of finding your own strengths.
care of yourself, you can’t be available to anyone else," says Cahill.
She describes an incident in the wake of 9/11 where her own anxieties
prevented her from correctly assessing her granddaughter’s needs.
Picking up her granddaughter at school, Cahill grabbed a globe and
showed her where Afghanistan was, only to be interrupted by "Grandma,
do you want to watch me to do a handstand?" Her granddaughter was
fine, but Cahill’s own fears blinded her to that possibility.
Cahill believes that although we are hardwired to overcome crisis,
this is not true for the irritations, oppositional people, and
communication difficulties we encounter daily. Through a "cognitive
reframe," however, we can transform pessimism about these difficulties
into hope, allowing us to move forward despite them.
Cahill relates that 12 years ago her husband had a cerebral hemorrhage
and stroke and was given no chance to live. But finding he was still
alive after 20 hours, she did a cognitive reframe and decided, "I will
plan on him living. If he dies, then I will deal with it." She says
her thoughts affected her feelings and her feelings, her behavior. "A
cascade of hormones is set off," she says, "when we believe we can
have a positive effect on the future." She had her husband
helicoptered to a hospital "where they had hope too," and he survived.
they think it
is personal, permanent, and pervasive," says Cahill. Optimists, on the
other hand, look at a mistake and ask: What did I do wrong? What can I
learn from this? "People who are incredibly successful rarely had
success on the first try," she continues, but they learned from their
errors and moved on.
and say "50
percent of what I do I’m good at, 50 percent not." Instead of focusing
energy on your weaknesses, Cahill’s advice is to do what you’re good
at 75 percent of the time.
the middle of a great performance, it’s not time to relax," says
Cahill, except for short breaks every 90 minutes or so. Once the big
job is finished, however, take a serious time to relax, maybe even
going away for a few days. "Those who succeed take breaks," she says.
If you go from intense work straight to more intense work, that leads
to burnout. Downtime used to be built into the system, but now stores,
cell phones, and computers keep us going 24-7, unless we choose to put
on the brakes.
that the sexes
are more alike than they are different. "Men and women are both from
Earth," she says. Beyond that, she adds, "in today’s world, when you
start playing the gender game, women lose." Her goal is to maintain a
neutral standard by using neutral language.
"If someone were to say, ‘I think we need to do a study to see if
there is a biological reason why women don’t go into carpentry,’" she
says, "you’ve just set going into carpentry as a male standard,"
thereby marginalizing women. The better approach would be, "I wonder
if we should do a study of the biological reasons why people choose to
go into carpentry." On the other hand, it used to be that running the
family was based on a female standard, and men got marginalized. "When
you are making things gender neutral," says Cahill, "you feel freer to
Besides running around America giving lectures, Cahill maintains a
small psychology practice in Princeton. What this woman with a B.S. in
education, and M.S. in counseling, and Ph.D. in psychology loves to
say about herself these days is: "For the first time in history, on a
mass scale, a woman who is almost 60 has started her third career and
succeeded quickly in the setting of corporate America."
But she adds that, in truth, it is the same career. She started
teaching, then moved to psychology, which is part teaching, now she’s
just teaching in a different way. She ends with some advice for other
women thinking about what to do when they retire. "Find out what you
love to do," she says, adding, "This is what I’m going to do for
retirement. But I’m not ever going to retire."
– Michele Alperin
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