Job Hunting Skill: Marketing

Before Outsourcing Think Twice

Hire Smart, Improve The Bottom Line

All About Blogs

Sky High Networking

Low Coast Loans for Small Businesses

Corrections or additions?

These articles were prepared for the November 3, 2004

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Survival Guide: Wine Tastings

Glendale Liquors in South Brunswick is a good commercial neighbor; it

supports lifelong learning. So it is only natural that on Thursday,

November 4, at 6:30 p.m., when high end appliance manufacturer Miele

hosts a benefit for the South Brunswick Public Library at its

corporate headquarters on Route 1 that Glendale joins in and provides

the wine.

Despite its being a benefit for the major expansion by the library

[which is headed by the wife of U.S. 1’s Bart Jackson], cost has been

held to $50, which includes cooking demonstrations and food presented

by chef Susan Jaslove, blended with Glendale’s array of over 100 wine

selections. Call 732-329-4000, ext. 7287. The question is: what does

all this effort really do for the bottom line of Glendale Liquors?

Are such consumer wine tastings, which have grown so popular, merely

nice public gestures, or are they a savvy, thrifty way of expanding a

customer base? One thing is certain: America’s taste for the grape has

metamorphosed time out of mind in the last few decades. Wine tastings

are being held everywhere from museums to orchards. After tasting,

many are buying, pushing per capital wine consumption in the country

up by nearly a third, from just over two gallons to nearly three

gallons in just a few years. It is hard to determine whether the

retailers are instructing their customers or vice versa. Whichever way

this cork and bottle controversy comes down, wine mania was not on the

radar when Benjamin Leannari opened the first Glendale Liquors 30

years ago.

The Leannari family’s entrance into the liquor business was a bit of a

fluke. Benjamin, having carved a successful career as a Trenton

realtor, found himself in possession of a lot on the corner of Parkway

Avenue and Pennington Road. A liquor store seemed the most profitable

venture for the less than prestigious property. Thus began the first

Glendale Liquors.

Back in the mid l970s, it was mostly West Coast jug wine and various

European vintages crossing the counter. Wine accounted for at most 20

percent of a liquor store’s business, with the real profits coming

from beer and the hard stuff. But things changed:

The wine explosion. Fifteen years later, under the guidance of Ben’s

sons, Joe and Bernie Leannari, Glendale expanded, opening up the South

Brunswick store on Route 27, on the edge of Kendall Park. Then eight

years ago, they opened the third Glendale Liquors in the chain,

located on Quakerbridge Road. Now, the old sales profile has virtually

reversed.

"Today at least three-quarters of the stock we sell is wine, and the

amount is rising," says Bart Deschaepmeester, wine master of South

Brunswick’s Glendale Liquors. Many factors account for this beverage

shift, but the Glendale’s manager sees the primary cause as education.

Twenty years ago most Americans just did not know wine varieties.

Customers would hit upon one acceptable brand and make it their

personal house wine, without change. Now a massive push from global

markets and the current try-and-buy attitude has made customers yearn

for both knowledge and taste.

Deschaepmeester views America’s growing interest in the grape with an

amused detachment. Born in Zeeland, Belgium, he grew up in a

wine-loving household in a wine-loving nation. "As a child, my

grandmother and uncles would take me on tours through all the

vineyards in Burgundy," he recalls. "I had no idea they were planting

seeds that would determine my career." Immigrating and settling in

West Trenton, Deschaepmeester took on the job of Glendale’s manager in

l997. As the growing number of wines compete for space in the 7,000

square-foot store, its manager struggles to get buyer feedback and

keep abreast of trends.

What’s newest & finest? Many new trends peer over the wine horizon,

but probably the greatest is the desire to experiment. Oenophiles

increasingly want less to be credited as imbibers of impressive

classical vintages, than as the pioneer who is bringing to light some

as yet untasted discovery – and they are eager to go global in their

search.

Gone are the days when Napa Valley stands as the sole upstart against

the entrenched vines of France, Germany, and Italy. "Australia and

Chile have joined the international market, not just as major

producers, but as ardent competitors for international awards," says

Deschaepmeester. But even these, he hastens to add, are now too

established to be considered fertile grounds for discovery. Instead,

look to South Africa and Argentina to bring new surprises.

South Africa has had a long wine history with a great number of

vineyards cultivated over vast acreage. Then under apartheid,

Deschaepmeester explains, the nation’s premier vintners left the

country and moved to Europe and California, where they were welcomed

as knowledgeable workers. Now these experts are returning to their

homeland, bringing all the latest American and European techniques

(and more than a few root stocks). The result is a host of high end

selections. Deschaepmeester goes to the 20 shelf feet of South African

bottles and pulls down a De Toren Fusion V for $20 and a Nek Ellis

Shiraz for $15, either of which compares admirably with a $35 French

Cote de Roti.

Perched up against the Andes, the Mendosa region of Argentina boasts a

wine history dating back to the Jesuits in the early 16th century. For

centuries the area’s huge Italian immigrant population has produced an

astounding quantity of wine, which most critics felt was better left

within the region. But recently wine-guzzling Mendosians have been

switching to beer and soda, forcing the region’s wineries to shape up

for the international markets.

Also, watch out for a German invasion. Many of the Rhine vineyards

have had several good vintages, with a crisp taste, leading to a

rediscovery of this long neglected source.

Tasting: cost/benefit. "We are a lot like the South Brunswick

Library," jokes Deschaepmeester, "They need their patrons to be

literate before they’ll take out a book, and we need them literate

before they’ll buy our wine." Thus Glendale champions wine literacy

through tastings. On Saturday, October 23, the store set up a tasting

for a McCarter Theater benefit. There may be another on All Hallows

Eve weekend, then quick on its heels comes the November 4, South

Brunswick Library benefit at Miele.

Does the discerning retailer adjust for theater versus library

supporters; Princeton versus South Brunswick? "Not really," says

Deschaepmeester. "Wine authority is a lost cause. People are

increasingly choosing by their palate, not their pocketbook or by the

experts’ dictates." Additionally, this time of fall and the early

spring are the main wine tasting seasons. Most all suppliers are

embroiled in a frantic tasting schedule and Glendale must select from

those available.

For Glendale Liquors itself, the actual financial outlay for a tasting

is fairly minimal. Typically, Deschaepmeester assembles eight

different suppliers, each of whom brings quantities of 10 different

wines. The retail store tosses in another 20 or so offerings to round

out the choices to an even 100. The real cost comes in staff time –

long days behind the counter ending at midnight – both in the store

and at the tasting sight. Then there are of course comes the state’s

off-site licensing fees: three required at usually $200 each.

All this effort and good will seldom translates into an immediate

stampede of customers charging through the door. But, if gradual, the

effects are noticeable. The public tastings and wine literacy

instruction steadily builds a loyal customer base that is unachievable

any other way. For a retail liquor store, one wine tasting is far

cheaper, and has proven far more effective, than a major print ad.

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Job Hunting Skill: Marketing

When the Fortune 50 engineering firm that Vicki Foley worked for in

the early 1990’s closed its central New Jersey offices, she was given

the option to relocate to the new offices in central Connecticut, or

to lose her job. A New Jersey resident her whole life, Foley was

reluctant to move her young family, which included a toddler and one

on the way. Instead, she used the outplacement services offered by

her company and began the process of looking for a new job. After a

while, she began to look upon the job loss as an opportunity to

re-think her career. "I really stopped, looked, and assessed what I

liked to do," she says.

Now a senior vice president with Lee Hecht Harrison, a career and

leadership management services company, Foley supports other people in

taking the steps necessary to find and manage their perfect careers.

Just like she did all those years ago.

On Saturday, November 6, at 8:30 a.m. Foley speaks to the Career

Professional Networking Group at St. Paul’s Church on Nassau Street on

"Targeting the Job You Want." During her years with Lee Hecht

Harrison, she has worked with countless people forced into transition,

just as she was, and she says that the key to finding the job you want

is a targeted strategy.

Raised in Mt. Laurel, Foley received her undergraduate degree in

business administration at Thomas Edison State College. Her father

spent his entire career with RCA as a draftsman. When Foley was in

third grade, RCA went on strike, and her mother went to work to

support the family. What started out as a temporary solution, turned

into a lifelong career. Starting in an administrative position at

Union Carbide, she retired from a management position. Married with

three children, Foley is currently in graduate studies at Rutgers,

working on her master’s in occupational development and psychology.

Foley’s career with Lee Hecht Harrison came about when she was using

them for outplacement, but she says she never would have considered

that work if she hadn’t done her homework. Previously content in

human resources, when she started rethinking her options and expanding

her vision, she saw that she really wanted to work on the other side

of the desk, helping people develop themselves and their careers.

Originally focused in the career management and transition division of

LHH, Foley is now focusing her energy in the leadership consulting

side of the business, helping organizations become better performers

through leadership development.

During her upcoming talk, she plans to preach what she practiced

during her own career transition.

When people lose a job, "they lose control over their own lives,"

Foley says. Even if someone is currently in a job and on the market,

the process of job hunting can make even the most confident soul feel

tossed about by elements beyond their control. The smartest thing

that job hunters can do, says Foley, is to take the control back.

"You can take control back by targeting your marketing," she says.

The biggest mistake people make when looking for a job is that they go

about it randomly, sending out resumes, looking at ads, and networking

without any real focus. Foley recalls speaking to a group of about 50

people on the job-hunting topic where she asked how many had a

marketing plan. "Maybe 10 hands went up," she says. "But that’s what

it’s about; a job hunt really IS about marketing. You’re marketing

yourself."

And even though books are out there, and the conventional wisdom says

to get strategic, some people don’t really get it. "I think if

someone hasn’t been through this before they really don’t know how to

do it," she says. But having a marketing plan makes your job search

efficient. It helps you take control. It’s re-energizing and it

helps you be more confident in your search. To get targeted, she says,

first you have to take stock. Steps include:

Assess your strengths. Think about what you’re really good at. This

might include the obvious skills that you have used in your job, but

it also might include the intangibles, such as your ability to get

along with people and diffuse difficult situations.

Determine your likes and dislikes. "You may be really good at

accounting," says Foley, "but you may be burned out it." You’ll want

to avoid that in the future. Or maybe, she says, you really like

something that you only were able to do every once in a while.

"You’ll want to look for that in your next role," she says.

Determine your job objective. Now that you have looked at your

strengths, likes, and dislikes, you’ve probably got a good idea of

where you’re leaning in your search. What do you want to do? What

sort of contribution do you want to make to an organization and what

kind of role would that be? Then, make a plan.

Do your market research and identify companies. Once you know the sort

of role you would like to play in an organization, "look for companies

that have that function whether they are hiring or not." You never

know, says Foley, a company that isn’t hiring today might be in the

market for someone just like you next week. Or they might be able to

recommend someone who is.

Develop your market strategy. Make a list of your top 15 to 20

companies. "Ask yourself," says Foley, "how am I going to get

connected? Do I know any key players? Who can introduce me?" If you

hear about a pharmaceutical company that has just introduced a drug

into Phase III, "think about what that could mean to you," she says.

"Don’t just send your resume. Think of ways you can get connected.

Talk to your network. Share your top 20 list with them and ask them:

what’s the latest? Do you know anybody there?"

Keep at it. Stay on the case and don’t give up. But, she cautions,

develop a Plan B. "Don’t wait until you hit the wall to have another

strategy," Foley says. If you really wanted to work in public

relations but you aren’t making headway, consider a non-profit

organization or a corporate communications office. If you consider

your options in advance, says Foley, you will continue to feel in

control of your job search before you land the job you’re targeting.

– Deb Cooperman

Top Of Page
Before Outsourcing Think Twice

With new laws that make patient confidentiality more important than

ever, a major hospital received a nasty jolt when it received a

message saying, "Your medical records are out in the open," and

threatening to post them on the Internet. The entire University of

California San Francisco Medical Center jumped back. For two decades

this hospital had outsourced the tedious chore of transcribing

dictated medical notes. Now through a series of four different

subcontractors, the files had ended up in the hands of an outraged

Pakistani whose employer had failed to pay her wages. Outsourcing run

amok.

As an increasing number of legal, accounting, and medical companies

seek to trim costs and tedium via subcontracting, the towering ideal

of client privacy seems to quiver more than a little. Public awareness

of this problem, along with some possible solutions, is the topic of

"Global Outsourcing: A Double-edged Sword," one of many programs at

the Garden State chapter of the Society of Human Resource Managers’

Annual Conference on Monday and Tuesday, November 8 and 9, at 7 a.m.

at the Westin Forrestal Village. Visit www.GSCSHRM.org. for more

information.

The Global Outsourcing seminar, taking place on Monday at 1:45 p.m.,

features Rider University professors Steve Lorenzet, of the business

management department, and assistant provost Jim Castagnera. The

speakers seek an interactive workshop, with discussion of how

outsourcing affects morale, profits, security, and other issues.

Few men have bounced around the business world, and gained as many

perspectives as labor attorney, entrepreneur, professor, and business

journalist Castagnera. Born in Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, and raised in

this scenic Lehigh River Valley town, Castagnera attended Franklin and

Marshall College, earning a B.A. in government in l969. He then moved

to Cleveland’s Case Western Reserve University where he became

director of communications while working on his Ph.D. in American

studies.

Realizing that a law degree and doctorate in digital computers might

be a better source of groceries than American studies, Castagnera

completed these two degrees, then added a journalism masters from Kent

State while in the Coast Guard. After a stint in Texas, Castagnera

returned East, working as a labor and employment lawyer. He guided the

leveraged buy-out of Krausers convenience stores and ended up as a

partner in the chain for about a year. He now teaches business at

Rider University and writes a weekly column, "Attorney at Large."

"I’d like to say that this case of the unpaid clerk in Pakistan is

rare," says Castagnera, "but similar incidents turn up in the papers

every day." There can be no doubt that compartmentalizing one’s

production by outsourcing can frequently decrease costs and allow

quicker fulfillment of orders. Yet the instant information leaves your

office door, just how much control do you maintain? How well can you

honestly protect your own clients?

Privacy published. The real control problem, Castagnera notes, is that

most companies assume that their work is only being outsourced one

step – to the one subcontractor with whom they conduct business. In

the case of the University of California San Francisco Medical Center,

the patient files went first to Transcription Stat. Owned by Kim

Kaneko, this firm had been handling UCSF’s patient files for over 20

years. Kaneko outsourced the files to Sonya Newburn in Florida, who in

turn outsourced them to Texas subcontractor Tom Spires. He shipped

them off to the Pakistani woman, Lubna Baloch. In each case, the

subcontractor felt certain that it was sending the patient files to

the people who would actually do the work.

The American Association of Medical Transcription estimates that about

10 percent of all medical transcription is done abroad. And

interestingly, the real out-sourcing panic typically begins only when

the client information leaves America’s borders. But apparently Ms.

Baloch advertised herself over the Internet as a medical doctor and

Spires, the Texas subcontractor, separated by cyberspace, became

totally unreachable. Both those transgressions could have just as

easily occurred if the files had never left San Francisco. It is the

business process, not the nationality, that puts client/patient

information at risk.

Tax forms abroad. Financial records are just as sensitive as hospital

records, and the pressure is on the accountants. For years tax

preparation firms have faced the annual "Easter Parade," when the tax

season is all wrapped up and employees fidget nervously, awaiting

their pink slips. The answer to this boom-and-bust hiring and laying

off process is to ship the forms to India. In 2001 India Chartered

Accountants prepared 1,000 American tax forms. Last year, the figure

jumped to 20,000, with an estimate of 200,000 for this year.

For the American firms, the Indian college graduate accountants’ $250

a month cost, compared with the $3,000 to $4,000 monthly salary of

U.S. preparers, marks a real savings. But many legislators say that

the risks outweigh the savings. Senator Diane Feinstein has stated to

several major banks that: "I am gravely concerned that sensitive

consumer data, as tax preparation, is being sent overseas without

proper safeguard." Senator John Kerry is seeking legislation to have

all such overseas operations disclose their locations.

Exporting your briefs. Throughout thousands of law firms, attorneys

sit in their offices, keeping client secrets, shredding every telltale

document, while just outside their doors their secretaries dutifully

ship the entire client files to some unknown Internet station.

According to an August article in the Newark Star- Ledger, Newark’s

McCarter & English, the Garden State’s largest law firm, sends trial

documents to Indian vendors for coding to free staff for more

complicated work.

Morristown’s Riker, Danzig, Scherer, Hyland & Pernetti refuses to

outsource any work overseas, saying in the same Star Ledger article

that it always asks vendors if work is going to be sent out of the

country. "You’ve got to protect your own," said managing partner Glenn

Clark in the Star Ledger article.

The process of outsourcing began quietly about five years ago in the

legal community with such clerical chores as proofreading and basic

coding. Now the trend has taken off and case citations and even trial

organizations are being prepared by out-of-nation subcontractors.

India, an English-speaking nation with similar laws increasingly is

seen as fertile outsourcing ground. "Despite all encryption methods,

this sort of outsourcing puts the home attorney at incredible

liability – both moral and legal," says Castagnera.

No one logically should predict the death of outsourcing due to

security risk. More and more information will get spread further and

further abroad, count on it. But before taking on the risk

subcontracting, firms might want to think twice. As American

Association for Medical Transcription’s president Amy Buckmaster

states: "We don’t say that outsourcing is a terrible thing. We only

say it needs to be disclosed."

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Hire Smart, Improve The Bottom Line

People cost money. And the wrong people cost more than the right ones.

The significant sign of a poorly run company is high turnover in

personnel. So instead of cringing at the cost of searching for that

one perfect employee, consider the fiscal liability of jamming an

inadequate person into a demanding position. Whether measuring by

company morale, production, or just plain bottom line, excavating that

ideal individual from the hundreds of resumes is a valuable discovery.

The archaeology of such talent demands an exactingly specific,

organized approach insists Susan Gauff in her talk "Hire for Higher

Performance." Gauff, founder and CEO of the Growth Solutions Group,

which has offices at 66 Witherspoon Street, is one of a host of

featured speakers at the Garden State chapter of the Society of Human

Resource Managers’ annual conference, on Monday and Tuesday, November

8 and 9, at 7 a.m. at the Westin Hotel in Forrestal Village. For more

information visit www.GSCSHRM.org.

Gauff’s Monday morning lecture, at 7:15 a.m., is aimed at showing how

a few simple steps can slash employee turnover and increase

shareholder value. Her original candidate assessment techniques, as

detailed on www.PredictiveHiring.com, have been forged throughout

three decades of solid business personnel experience in major

corporations. Born in West Virginia, Gauff graduated from Centenary

College in l967 with a B.A. in government.

As senior communications director of Siemens, Gauff raised employee

satisfaction to an unheard of 89 percent amidst a 50 per cent

downsizing, she says. As vice president of corporate communications

for Lexmark International, she handled shareholder and employee

relations through the firm’s first public offering.

"Eight years ago, I wanted to settle down somewhere permanently," she

says. "While I always saw myself as a marketer, Sarnoff offered me a

human resource position." For five years as senior vice president of

people and communications, Gauff enticed and selected Sarnoff’s top

talent. Then, three years ago, she stepped out on her own, forming her

human resource consulting firm, Growth Solutions.

Many of the solutions Gauff and her consulting team bring to their

clients come in the form of structuring typically haphazard hiring and

promotion practices. There is a better way to unearth talent. Some of

the components include:

Chemical dependency. Three partners need a new CFO. The common answer

is that each partner conducts a separate face-to-face interview with

each short list candidate. If one partner does not like what he sees,

the candidate is gone.

Simple, swift and woefully ineffective. "The personal interview is one

worthwhile hiring tool – but only one," says Gauff. "For too many

companies, this groping about for personal charisma serves as the sole

hiring procedure." It makes the entire selection process dependent on

the personal chemistry between the candidate and someone with whom he

probably will not be working.

Instead, Gauff suggests that companies first establish at what point

in the hiring procedure personal interviews should come. Secondly, how

much weight should the face-to-face be given against the other hiring

tools in the total evaluation package.

Lax hiring discipline. "The most common flaw in staffing?" Gauff’s

answer is instantaneous: "The total lack of a standardized hiring

discipline." All too often, vital questions are left to conversational

style interviews, which means that information is often lost or each

candidate reveals only one side of himself.

Gauff believes in the interview, but says that questions should be

standard for all candidates. A great deal of help is available on the

Internet, she points out. There are also several $100 software

packages with a question series that interviewers can customize.

"These provide junior league, much cheaper versions of the Herb

Greenberg/Caliper assessments, with questions that determine

motivation and ability in qualifications within context of the job,"

she says. "They are the kind of revealing questions which the

interviewee can’t fudge."

Passing the test. Between the resume culling and the actual short list

invitation, Gauff frequently inserts a testing step. Tests, again

customizable from inexpensive software, can be E-mailed out to a

larger list of qualified people. Depending on the employer’s need,

they can discern specific skills, personality traits, or merely

factual data.

Standardizing questions and one’s entire hiring discipline also

affords legal protection to the employer. In case of any hiring or

promotion grievance, the human resource professional can display a

regimented, scrupulously impartial paper trail.

Being smart about the big picture. No employee labors in a vacuum – at

least not well. Thus employers like to invite important potential

executives down to the house for the weekend to learn about the whole

person. Gauff sees this as a fine instinct, but one that requires more

analysis on the employer’s part.

Gauff dissects "that gut feeling" into five categories. Abilities

involves certain overall strengths such as problem solving. Motivation

entails not just if, but how and why, a person is driven toward

performance. Personality proves important in blending individuals into

a work force. Behavior, unlike less changeable personality,

encompasses how a person reacts to certain situations. Is he

malleable? Job skills and experience provide the nurture side to the

candidate’s nature.

Assemble solid facts on each of these five and you should have a good

working profile of the individual. Chances are that a weekend of

fishing and cooking out will not be enough to gather all of the

information.

Pricey turnovers. "Reduce your company’s turnover rate by only one

percent, and you’ll save thousands," says Gauff. For doubting clients,

she crunches the numbers. Let’s say your $100,000 a year sales

executive decides to move on after only one year. What are the

rehiring costs? Well first figure the time lost while you spend two

months searching a replacement – $16,600. Then count the lost business

caused by this key person’s absence – $30,000 in lost sales and

opportunities. Don’t forget the staff time to take on his extra burden

and the human resource cost of searching and interviewing – a

conservative $25,000. Of course once you get this new star, he must be

trained – another $10,000. And even so, he won’t be up to productive

snuff for another three or four months – $33,000 lost. Total: $114,600

– more than the executive’s original salary, and this doesn’t even

consider the double billing of severance and pensions.

As Eddie Cantor so soulfully crooned in his l930s song, "Making

Whoopie," "You’d better keep her. You’ll find it’s cheaper." Wise

advice for human resource folks who want to keep their corporate

family happy and in the black.

– Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
All About Blogs

Everybody from CEOs of Fortune 10 companies to lawyers, associations,

politicians, and journalists are blogging. B.L. Ochman, president of

whatsnextonline.com of New York City discusses this burgeoning form

of communication at the NJ Communications, Advertising and Marketing

Association’s (NJ CAMA) luncheon on Tuesday, November 9, at 11:30 a.m.

at the Doral Forrestal Hotel. Cost: $40. Call 609-799-4900.

Ochman talks about how blogs, basically ongoing online journals or

collections of news items or commentary, fit into the marketing mix,

and their applications in PR and customer service. Participants also

learn who in the company should blog, what should you blog about, the

costs involved, and how to build an audience.

B.L. Ochman is an award-winning Internet marketing strategist,

blogger, and sought after corporate speaker. She publishes the

successful online newsletter What’s Next Online, and the popular

What’s Next Blog. She conducts Bloginars for corporations and

associations and frequently speaks blogging at conferences. Her

Internet marketing successes include Internet strategy consultation

for Ford Motors, IBM, Biomerica Corporation, and Thomas Register.

Ochman has created traditional marketing/public relations campaigns

for companies ranging from entrepreneurial ventures to multi-billion

dollar international companies including Stew Leonard’s Connecticut

grocery store, Miracle-Gro Plant Food, The American Dairy Association,

and Kaneka Corporation.

She is the author of the soon-to-be-released book, Plugged In PR. She

has taught marketing at FIT. Her articles on Internet marketing and

public relations strategy are published regularly online in Marketing

Profs, Expert PR, and many others and offline in On Wall Street

Magazine, PR Reporter, Ballyhoo, and the Strategist.

Top Of Page
Sky High Networking

Networking is a lot like the Golden Rule, according to businesswomen

Sherise Ritter and Marguerite Mount. "Treat others like you wanted to

be treated," says Ritter, who with her partner, Mount, is a managing

director of the Mercadien Group. The two, along with Judith

Lindenberger of the Lindenberger Group speaks as part of the Mercer

Business Forum Series.

"Expanding Relationships through Mentoring and Networking: The Sky’s

the Limit," is the title of the presentation taking place on

Wednesday, November 10, at the Conference Center at Mercer County

Community College. Breakfast and registration begin at 7:45 a.m. The

forum is sponsored by the Women in Business Committee of the Greater

Mercer Chamber of Commerce. Cost: $20 for Chamber members, $25 for

non-members. To register, check online at www.mercerchamber.org.

Ritter and Mount attribute much of their business success to

networking and mentoring, and say the two topics are closely related.

"Mentoring and networking cross a lot of lines," says Mount. "They are

both relationship-based tools." Mentoring can, in fact, come out of

what begins as a networking relationship. "Mentoring is a one-on-one

relationship between a seasoned professional and someone who is just

entering into an area," says Mount.

"It is a coaching, teaching, and nurturing relationship and most of

time the mentor gets as much out of it as mentee," Ritter adds.

Networking is also about "developing trusted business relationships,"

says Ritter. "A lot of people think that networking means handing out

business cards. You go to a big event and if you hand out a lot of

cards to different people it has been successful." That is the wrong

approach to networking, the two women agree. Instead, "if you go to an

event and hand out one card and have one solid conversation with

someone, then you’ve been successful at networking," says Mount.

Ritter and Mount say that they "have mentored and been mentored by"

each other during their 20-year professional relationship. They also

credit their first employer, John Lee, with teaching them about both

skills. "One of John Lee’s personal goals was to become president of

the New Jersey State Society of CPAs," says Ritter. "The year that he

made that goal he brought us with him and exposed us to a lot of

people and to a lot of opportunities. It was our first real networking

experience." Eventually, Mount and Ritter purchased Lee’s company and

it became the Mount-Ritter Group, a certified public accounting and

consulting firm.

Networking also played a significant part in the recent merger of the

Mount-Ritter Group with Mercadien, which is based on Quakerbridge Road

in Hamilton. Ritter first met members of the Mercadien group through

her volunteer work on the Hamilton Township Economic Development

Advisory Commission. "We found as we talked that we shared the same

business philosophies and the same ideas for innovations," she says.

Mercadien is a group of companies that assist business in a variety of

growth and profitability issues, including accounting and auditing;

tax, non-profit, and public entity consulting; estate and trust

planning, litigation support, business and management consulting,

asset management, technology consulting, outsourcing, and foundation

services.

The original, brief networking discussion led to further talks between

the two companies and eventually there was a "marriage" of the two.

"We felt the merger would take two strong entities and make them both

stronger," says Mount. "They had a 70 person firm and we brought our

all of our 12-person firm along with us."

As partners, Mount and Ritter have found their personal interests have

taken them into different areas, doubling their networking contacts.

"We are part of different organizations and in different community

activities and different boards," says Ritter. A graduate of Rider

University, she is a member of the Rider University Accounting

Advisory Council and the Mercer County Chapter of NJAWBO (New Jersey

Association of Women Business Owners). Along with her work for

Hamilton Township, she is also a long-time supporter of the YWCA of

Trenton and is currently chairman of its Centennial Anniversary

Committee.

Mount is a member of the board of Preservation New Jersey and chairman

of the City of Bordentown Historic Sites Committee and Gilder Park

Task Force. She is a trustee and past president of the Bordentown

Historical Society and chairman of the arts committee of the YWCA of

Trenton. She is also treasurer and a member of the executive committee

of Hamilton Partners, a business group designed to improve economic

growth and development in the greater Hamilton area.

Often, networking begins at a large event, whether it is a Chamber of

Commerce lunch or a charitable event. In such a situation, how should

a businessperson begin networking?

Introductions are important say Ritter and Mount. "If you are in a

group of people, make sure everyone is introduced to each other.

Remember your business etiquette." Help the person in the corner to

join the group, and he will never forget your kindness.

Engage with people is another important rule. "When you are having a

conversation, look at the person you are talking to. Don’t look over

their shoulder at who else is coming into a room," says Ritter.

Quality is more important than quantity, the two say. The winner at a

networking event is not the person who walks away with the largest

business card collection, but the one who has made one or two solid

business contacts.

Networking doesn’t end when the event is over. Collecting that

business card is just the first step. Developing that contact into a

relationship is what makes networking successful.

The most important rule of networking, however, say Ritter and Mount,

is to remember that to be successful you must be sincere, not

superficial.

"Networking is about building trusted relationships," says Mount.

"After I meet someone at an event, I want to follow-up with them if I

think that either I can provide something for them or they can provide

something for me." It can be as simple, she says, as sending an E-mail

to answer a technical question, or getting together for coffee with

someone who interests you. "Getting in touch with someone after

networking shouldn’t feel like cold calling," she adds. "You should

have something in common with them."

Another mistake that people often make in networking, says Ritter, is

thinking only in terms of customers and clients. In her business, she

says, "I’m the quarterback for my client’s team. I can’t do everything

for a client, but I can recommend other people they can trust." Those

contacts may range from the obvious, such as an attorney, to the

obscure, such as recommending an architect or other professional.

Even, adds Mount, finding a mentor for a client who is branching into

a new area. "Anything I can do for my client enhances my relationship

with him," she explains.

Most important, say Mount and Ritter, is to remember that a networking

relationship should benefit both parties. Volunteering in your

community is a wonderful example of how networking can benefit both

parties. Ritter’s work with the YWCA is just one example. "I began

volunteering and it has become my passion," she says. "I saw a need to

help them with finances and I have the right experience. Then I became

board chairman. It’s turned into a 10-year relationship."

That relationship is "a two-way street," she says. "I have gained

experiences there that I couldn’t have anywhere else. It’s been an

experience I wouldn’t replace with anything."

Again, having your name on a board of directors without actively

working is not enough to be true networking, Ritter and Mount say;

participation in the key. "Networking is like a solar system," says

Mount. "Everything has to rotate around each other."

– Karen Hodges Miller

Top Of Page
Low Coast Loans for Small Businesses

New Jersey’s small businesses can now access applications online and

at all PNC Bank branches for a new $100-million, below-market rate

loan program to help them purchase equipment and machinery or acquire

real estate. The program, called the New Jersey Business Growth Fund

and announced on October 29, has been developed jointly by the New

Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) and PNC Bank.

PNC Bank is making up to $100 million in low-interest loans available

to New Jersey companies committed to creating or maintaining jobs in

New Jersey, while the EDA is providing up to a 50 percent guarantee of

any single loan for qualified projects under the program. The loans

are being offered at below-market rates either floating at prime

(currently 4.75 percent) minus 2.5 percent, or fixed at the five-year

U.S. Treasury rate (currently 3.37 percent). Businesses with annual

sales of up to $20 million are eligible to apply for the program, but

must commit to creating at least one new job for every $50,000

guaranteed. Manufacturing companies need only commit to maintaining

existing jobs. Loans can range from $100,000 to $2 million.

Applications for the New Jersey Business Growth Fund are available at

all PNC Bank branches in New Jersey, at www.pncbank.com, or at

www.njeda.com. They can also be obtained by calling PNC Bank at

877-BUS-BNKG (877-287-2654), option 3.


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