Save Money On Office Mailings

Big Screen Business

Should You Start Your Own Shop?

Corrections or additions?

This article by Bart Jackson was prepared for the January 8, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Tech: What’s Hot and What’s Not

And what miracles shall come to pass this year? Will

offices truly go paperless? Computer screens grow readable? Or are

we just due for another year of updated software labels and empty

promises? And even if technology does deliver unto us these long awaited

business tools, what sort of disaster protections will support us

as we climb ever more precariously into the electronic stratosphere?

The newest and best tools available are discussed at "Technology

Trends, Development and Issues" on Tuesday, January 14, at 8 a.m.

at the Merrill Lynch Conference Center on Scudders Mill Road. Cost:

$40. Register online at www.NJSCPA.org.

This breakfast meeting, sponsored by the New Jersey Society of Certified

Public Accountants, features Rosemarie Fisher, founder of Real

Possibilities, a Hamilton-based management and technology consulting

company. Fisher’s two-pronged talk disaster recovery and the latest

technological aids for the small and mid-size firm. While this seminar

speaks primarily to those in the accounting field, it is broadly designed

to benefit sales people, technical executives, and business owners.

"I love bringing new technology to CPAs and hardheaded business

people," says Fisher. "They have this `show me the dollars

and show me the payback’ attitude. They’re the hardest in the world

to convince." Yet if any Prometheus can bring the light of technology

to this grudging group, it is CPA and CFO Fisher — one of their

own. She grew up in Hamilton Township, and credits her common sense

approach to her immigrant Yugoslav mother. She attended Rider University,

where she obtained her accounting degree. Through the years she has

undertaken the CFO challenge for such firms as Think Centric and Pyramid

Consultants, yet has always kept her teaching ties with Rider’s Continuing

Education Program.

There will be some substantial innovations in 2003, Fisher predicts.

If some are not truly revolutionary, all should make much of daily

business infinitely more convenient:

Going paperless. Back in l981, East Windsor Township built

a new town hall with a startling number of innovations. Not the least

of these was vastly diminished storage space, despite a greatly expanding

town government. The building’s designers looked to the computer with

the same hope — and the same ignorance — that 1849 gold seekers

looked for in California. With the introduction of electronic storage

they thought file rooms were passe. Scarcely alone in this mistaken

vision, East Windsor administrators soon faced computers generating

more paper than ever, and no place to cram it all.

But now after 22 years, Fisher feels we have a much better shot at

saving our trees from the axe and our offices from clutter. Increasingly,

knowledge workers are burning permanent records onto CDs for the sake

of convenience and of durability. CDs have proven themselves dependable

despite both time and abuse. Further, as laptops become ever more

portable and indexing more complex, the CDs’ browsability vastly exceeds

that of a briefcase full of paper.

In addition, business and government are rapidly shifting formats

online. "Previously," notes Fisher, "an employer would

bring in all his W-2 forms, his 1099s etc. with backup copies to be

filed in the accountant’s office. Now, the forms are scanned in, burned

to CD, and the entire tax form is filed online."

The workable E-book. Several stabs have been made at portable

screens that can tuck under your arm and offer up the wealth of a

whole library. Trouble is, that while you can summon the entire compendium

of Elizabethan literature, you will be blind before you squint through

Shakespeare’s first sonnet. But on November 7, 2002, Microsoft unveiled

Tablet PC. This portfolio-size, amazingly clear, unflickering screen,

says Fisher, "just seems to do better — even for those in

the bifocal stage." It is easy to hold, easy to look at, and quickly

indexes vast amounts of data and swiftly indexes. So does this mean

we can look forward to doing business by the swimming pool? "Heck,"

says Fisher, "that’s what I do."

The ultimate gizmo. Road warriors now need a pocket PC

to direct E-mail, set schedules, and provide Internet connections,

a smart phone for calling in to the office, a pager for urgent messages,

and a laptop loaded with Excel spreadsheets. When are they finally

going to get around to putting all this into one single gizmo? According

to Fisher, soon. Within two years, a mass-market, de-bugged version

of an all-in-one-tech-dream-machine will be for sale. It will allow

the salesperson or accountant to enter a client’s office with that

firm’s data, and also with research links to competitors’ data, home

office resources, and data update capabilities — all on a single

tool.

Of course, none of this marvelous electronic esoterica means much

when you are staring tearfully into a black, crashed screen. For this

reason, Fisher grounds all her talk of future technological hope in

the reality of disaster recovery. Interestingly, her disaster counseling

provides more procedural than technical solutions.

Define disaster. Before you can set up any reaction plan,

you must first decide exactly what losses would cause a business-halting

disaster. Past sales data, for example is helpful, but not vital.

Current bank transactions are vital. Tax information can be refigured

later.

Set up firewalls. While most businesses install a thorough

system of computer firewalls, surprisingly few look at the building

that houses them. While you cannot predict earthquakes, electronic

overloads and fires can often be prevented with an expert inspection

and a few precautions.

Create a disaster box. After determining the absolute

essentials for continuing your business, make up a redundant backup

of those files and place them in one or more portable fireproof boxes.

Such boxes allow you to transfer your entire operation to a new, temporary

quarters, and still keep soldiering on instead of waiting two days

or a week to sift through the rubble for necessities.

Develop cost/risk analysis. If you are a bank with scores

of individual transactions going on continuously around the state,

the cost of a full backup generator and computer system may not seem

too high in the face of three hours downtime. If you are library,

training your staff members to substitute hand recording may prove

a cheaper, more cost-efficient fallback method. Whatever it is, balance

your backup insurances against not only the probability of disaster,

but the havoc it would wreak.

With every new business tool comes more complexity, more efficiency,

and most likely, new problems. Yet the world of business has never

been for sissies. The quill-pen era was not free of problems either.

Prizes will go to the folks with the best information and the gumption

to act on it using the best tools available.

— Bart Jackson

Top Of Page
Save Money On Office Mailings

Before an as-yet-unidentified terrorist used a central

New Jersey post office to send anthrax-laced messages to media outlets

and politicians, most of us took the mail pretty much for granted.

Toss a letter in the office mailbox and it would go out.

In the ensuing months, as we looked at the route the contaminated

mail might have taken, we learned of the incredible complexity involved

in sorting and routing mail. How letters, mass mailings, and packages

are prepared in the office can make a difference to a company’s

bottom line because the post office has an enormous range of rates

based on dozens of factors.

Barton and Cooney, a company with headquarters on Lower Ferry Road

in Trenton, handles mailing chores for corporations. In a recent newsletter,

it offers tips on keeping mailing costs down.

Appoint a USPS expert. Have someone on staff or have ready

access to a consultant who is thoroughly familiar with the latest

USPS regulations and the changes taking place this year.

Review the physical characteristics of each mailing piece.

Make sure it falls within the USPS dimensions, aspect ratio, and weight

limits. Unusual pieces with non-standard dimensions may be disqualified

from earning USPS incentive discounts.

Think small. Consider reducing paper stock weight or mailing

piece dimensions to bring the mailing into a lower postal bracket.

Check permits. Examine the indicia and artwork for FIM

(facing identification mark) for proper wording and permit data. If

the USPS detects an expired or wrong permit number, this may be ground

for exacting considerable extra fees by the post office.

Use technology. Have your address list checked and standardized

using CASS-certified software. This will verify ZIP information and

insert ZIP + codes so that Delivery Point Barcodes can automatically

be printed on the outgoing mailer during the address imaging process.

Check addresses. Run your list against the NCOA (National

Change of Address) file on a regular basis, and monitor it for the

percentage of moves and non-matches.

Look at your options. Study the various mail sorting options.

By using a postal sortation program, you can choose the sortation

level that will qualify your mark for optimum discount — whether

to sort to the Bulk Mail Center or Sectional Center Facility level,

for instance. This software can also produce the necessary financial

information for USPS reporting and auditing requirements.

Get a good return. Make sure your return envelope is properly

printed with Zip + 4, delivery point barcode, and the FIM next to

the stamp area.

Save on Business Reply Mail. If you use Business Reply

Mail, consider participating in the Postal Services’ Business Reply

Mail Accounting System, which requires an annual accounting fee of

$185 and testing of mail piece samples in order to reduce the handling

fee by two cents per piece. The break-even for the system is about

600 pieces a year.

Keep current. Monitor proposals for other USPS regulation

changes. For instance, changes to palletization regulations would

increase the cost of production, and routing changes to BMC and SCFs

for destination drop shipments would affect the cost of freight.

Top Of Page
Big Screen Business

The Trenton Public Library is set to screen a series

of movies about the business world. Part of its Winter 2003 Film Series,

"Movies About the Business World" begins on Thursday, January

9, at 6:30 p.m. with a screening of the "Hudsucker Proxy,"

a 1994 movie set in 1958, which tells the story of a gullible country

boy who becomes president of a vast corporation. Tim Robbins, Paul

Newman, and Jennifer Jason Leigh star in this Coen Brothers creation

of big business gone berserk.

The second film in the series, being screened on Thursday, January

23, at 6:30 p.m., is "Other People’s Money," in which Danny

DeVito plays a ruthless Wall Street corporate raider who sets his

sights on acquiring and destroying a longtime family wire and cable

business in New England. In the process, he falls in love with the

president’s daughter, who is also the company’s legal adviser.

Moving from rusty, industrial New England to the just-vanished hipness

of the New Economy, the library rounds out its business film series

with the "Startup.com," which it is showing on Thursday, January

30, at 6:30 p.m. This documentary follows two boyhood friends who

start an online service, combining their strengths in computer and

business know-how. The film makers followed the young dot-com entrepreneurs

for more than a year, depicting the ups and downs of their business

venture.

All films screen at the Trenton Public Library’s main location at

120 Academy Street. Call 609-392-7188.

Top Of Page
Should You Start Your Own Shop?

The woman sitting next to me at a holiday party answered

the "So where do you work?" question by saying she had just

been sent packing by the New York City financial services company

for which she had been laboring for the past two and a half decades.

Well before I could summon an appropriately sympathetic comment, the

beaming ex-exec declared herself to be thrilled by this turn of events.

She probably wouldn’t have given up the paycheck had she not been

shed in a downsizing, she said, but she sure was glad to be cut free

from a job and a commute she had grown to dislike — a lot.

The next move for my new acquaintance may be self-employment, a route

many newly-downsized executives consider. The life of an entrepreneur,

however, is quite different from that of a corporate employee. Northwestern

Mutual, a financial services company, has come up with an online evaluation

to help those considering an entrepreneurial enterprise determine

whether flying solo is for them.

Find the four-page self-assessment at www.nmfn.com/savinofinancial,

where a click on "Take Self-Employment Screen Now" brings

up the worksheet. The self-assessment analzyes and describes some

key inherent characteristics and attitudes that influence entrepreneurial

success. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and indicates not

only whether one is suited for life as a business owner, but also

what type of venture might be the best fit. Self employment business

environments are broken into four areas — agent/representative,

consulting/contract, franchises, and small business.


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