Small Business vs. Health Insurance

Giving it Away

How Confident? How Global?

Sophisticated Ways To Charitable Giving

Administrative Assistants Day

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the April 20, 2005 issue of U.S. 1

Newspaper. All rights reserved.

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

technically handle?

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.

Do it yourself. This handyman special approach offers the


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 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 and

Add-ons. A bare bones site can be upgraded


according to personal need. Shopping carts can be installed from (or Stock photography (available from or sharpens a site and can even

help in logo selection. Employing a content provider (such as or can spice up a site with

appropriate news summaries. Even basic domain registration is made

easier with the helping hand of (or

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.

Templates. Down, dirty, and cheap, the web template often

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, will provide a website template for as little as

$40. and are two other

low-cost options that Bender recommends.

Online marketplaces. Sites such as , , and 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

and needs.

Web Designers. Turning the entire web mission over to a


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, , , and .

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

Top Of Page
Small Business vs. Health Insurance

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

employer’s attention.

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

Top Of Page
Giving it Away

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 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

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.

On the board. Increasingly, a host of state and federal

legislation is

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.

The partner trap. "Probably the biggest blunder I see in


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

ever stronger.

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

Top Of Page
How Confident? How Global?

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

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 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."

Consumer conflicts. Surveyed just after this past

Christmas, 52

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

improved financially.

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."

International allure. Some companies are enticed overseas

and some

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.

Hot spots. Most of America’s big players have already


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

Top Of Page
Sophisticated Ways To Charitable Giving

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

charitable purposes.

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

Top Of Page
Administrative Assistants Day

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


Find your own strengths. The first step is to "find the

power to say no to unrealistic expectations, to distractions, and to

things that

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.

Understand the need for self care. "If you’re not taking

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.

Challenge yourself to look at the world differently.

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.

Learn to be optimistic. "When pessimists make a mistake,

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.

Focus on what you do well. Many people look at themselves

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.

Clump periods of intense work and relax in between. "When

you’re in

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.

Balance expectations of men and women. Cahill believes

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

be yourself."

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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