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This article was prepared for the October 10, 2001 edition of U.S.
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Trenton Small Business Week
Entrepreneurs always seem to have confident attitudes,
but Trenton’s eighth annual week to celebrate small business —
with its "The Opportunity is Here!" motto — shows more
than the usual optimism. Set for Monday to Friday, October 15 to 19,
this varied assortment of upbeat speeches, networking opportunities,
and nitty-gritty "how to" workshops offers encouragement to
every small business person, from the naive to the experienced.
Call the hotline at 609-396-8801 to make reservations for any of the
workshops or go to (www.smallbizweek.com). Additional telephone
numbers, provided in calendar listings or articles, refer to the
In addition to a series of specific seminars, three major networking
gatherings will be held, beginning with the kickoff party, Monday,
October 15, at 8 a.m. at the Sovereign Bank Arena. On Wednesday,
17, the Urban World Cafe will host a Unite for Success Gala from 5:30
to 8:30 p.m. Also Thomas Edison College will provide another
for business people to mingle, commiserate, and learn on Thursday,
October 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Networking begins with a kickoff breakfast on Monday, October 15,
from 8 to 10 a.m. at the Sovereign Bank Arena. It is free to those
who have registered, $10 at the door. Tuesday’s program features the
Greater Mercer County Chamber of Commerce luncheon at the War Memorial
($35), and on Wednesday, October 17, the Urban Word Cafe hosts a
reception from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Three businesses will receive honors at a free networking event set
for Thursday, October 18, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Thomas Edison
State College, 101 West State Street. Finger food and desserts will
be provided by Trenton restaurants, such as Marsilio’s, Maxine’s,
La Cocina Criolla, John Henry’s, and Utopia. Wenonah Brooks & Company
At the Small Business Celebration, Trenton Makes earns the "Most
Improved Appearance Award" for the five-year restoration of the
buildings at 439 South Broad Street, now the home of the Urban Word
Cafe, the Conduit nightclub, and studio/gallery spaes for 27 artists
(see page 47). The Mind and Soul Bookstore, a multi-cultural retailer
at the South Broad Street location, gets the "Most Successful
New Business Award." And the long-established beer distributor,
Ritchie & Page Distributing Company, acquires the Small Business of
the Year Award for its significant contribution to the revival of
Here is a sampling of the two dozen workshops offered during Trenton
Small Business Week.
You should have seen her sprawled against that rock
face. She climbed three quarters of the way up, hit a comfortable
niche and just rested there. When it came time to scramble for the
summit, she slumped down exhausted. All her energy had been spent
clinging to that niche, so she went down.
If your business fits this analogy — or even if that summit has
seemed too elusive for too long, you may be in need of a quick power
boost. On Monday, October 15, at 4:30 p.m., at the Trenton Pubic
Pucciarelli LLC will head a free workshop entitled "Has Your
Reached its Full Potential?" as part of the Trenton Small Business
Week. This seminar is designed for owners of small and mid-size
well as marketing and sales chiefs who are seeking to expand wisely.
There will be ample time for specific questions and problem solving.
"I’m in business to make money, of course. I want more sales."
If that’s your attitude, warns Bartolomei, you are destined to fail.
His motto? "Set up your business to satisfy needs and the money
will take care of itself." It is a doctrine he has been preaching
and proving for the past 20 years to central Jersey businesses with
great efficacy. Having grown up in Chambersburg, Bartolomei attended
Rider University, graduating in l981 with a degree in accounting and
computer science. Five years of working for area CPA firms convinced
him that businesses needed much more than help with numbers. Thus
he founded his consulting firm, based at 2155 Brunswick Pike in
which offers what he calls "a holistic improvement approach."
Here are some of the steps Bartolomei lists toward getting businesses
off that comfy niche and up toward the summit:
`I’ out of your business," says Bartolomei. "Most owners start
off their business working 80 hours a week and think it always has
to be that way." This leads to several limiting problems.
the company’s growth gets hemmed tightly within the bounds of the
owner’s personal energy. "I will work harder" may have seemed
a noble solution when expressed by Horse in George Orwell’s Animal
Farm, but remember, that head-down hero died young and fruitlessly.
As the owner draws his hands and his vetoes out of the daily routine,
his employees gain responsibility and job dedication. Further, the
owner, by restraining his involvement to a standard work day, frees
himself with more time to think. Hours spent planning and
needs are what makes business grow. All change is difficult. But this
initial step typically proves the most wrenching for the owner —
not only emotionally but structurally and financially.
form all a business’ transactions: the client, the employees and
the owner. Simply, to meet their needs, you’ve got to know them.
recommends a surprisingly honest approach. "Invite your 12 top
clients to your offices in a semi-social atmosphere and hold a
on their requirements." What do they most want out of you as a
supplier? What purchasing and payment methods do they prefer? What’s
an ideal service program? What surrounding amenities are frills? Which
are necessities? Just being personally consulted will heap mounds
of client good will in your corner.
Employees require and deserve the same involvement in a similar
"The owner may not always get what he wants to hear," laughs
Bartolomei. "He may find out that the sales force `just can’t
sell this beast.’ But you’ll never build a solid, directed team
such all-way communication.
The owner has the responsibility to make his or her needs known. If
she sends both groups away expecting the moon, a tangle of
will inevitably follow. The owner’s job at these ongoing meetings
is to share concern, hint at hope, and inject reality.
the suggestions of all the company’s staff. Owners and top managers
should indeed step back and envision the firm’s future. However, the
forging of this vision into a solid plan of action must necessarily
entail every member of the workforce. "Key your vision not only
on how to offer the very best product," advises Bartolomei.
on providing your clients the best possible buying experience."
specific job descriptions and individual duties. "For example,
your customer wants the same information and the same reception each
time he calls," says Bartolomei. Thus a sharp company will train
its staff and formalize procedure. Rather than stifle creativity,
such standardization provides employees with a security of knowledge
and methods. If they want to expand, fine, but they at least have
the basic direction and solid ammunition towards solving customer
needs be tracked and assessed. You don’t mount an ad campaign, check
it’s value after the first month, then just keep it rolling on
for the next year. (At least, hopefully, you don’t.) The same tracking
must continue ongoing with sales and all other teams. Here again,
the very act of seeking customer input on your current service efforts
earns goodwill and heads off client disenchantment.
individual who may not fit the regime, but whose success is
How does one break blanket rules without shattering the system?
adjustment, often with chaffing, is inherent in growth.
Bartolomei is the first to admit that his plan — and in fact most
business boosting ideas — are scarcely revolutionary. As a
it frequently becomes his job to rub the client’s nose in the obvious.
"Probably the greatest amount of a consultant’s time is spent
helping owners overcome the failure to implement plans that already
lurk in their brains," he says. Yet being obvious seldom makes
an idea’s launching run more swift or smooth. For the owner to move
himself away from the daily details, and to empower his team with
his own vision may take years. Hard years. "But if you can embrace
these tough changes," says Bartolomei, "you will end up with
an expanded business that doesn’t run you."
— Bart Jackson
What does your government buy? The answer is: Just about
everything. There are over 3,000 different types of goods and services
that are routinely purchased by the State of New Jersey, including
food, furniture, automobiles, office supplies, computers, shoes, and
clothing. Construction work, landscaping, janitorial services and
supplies, maintenance contracts, accounting and auditing,
are all in demand, and any company supplying these goods or services
might try to land a large and lucrative government contract.
It’s not that easy, and it’s not for everyone. Competition is fierce:
Can you work with smaller profit margins? Cash flow is crucial: Are
you able to pay employees while waiting to get paid? How flexible
is your workforce? Can you handle a contract that may be much bigger
To assess your government contract readiness, the New Jersey Commerce
& Economic Growth Commission is sponsoring a free three-hour workshop
on Tuesday, October 16, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Mary G. Roebling
Building, 20 West State Street, Room 218, in Trenton.
Navigating your way toward a bid opportunity can be tricky, says
Britman, director of Procurement Programs for the New Jersey Small
Business Development Centers, who speaks at the workshop. "You
have to do your homework,"she says, "and very often it’s who
you know. Networking is essential, also attending procurement fairs
and conventions, and learning the different cultures of corporations
and government agencies."
"Also,"says Britman, "you must be electronically capable.
This is an absolute must these days. I am recommending websites almost
more than talking to people. There is so much information on the
that you won’t find anywhere else."
Britman, a graduate of Douglas College at Rutgers with a master’s
degree in industrial relations, worked for an economic development
corporation providing on-the-job training for socio-economically
people. When her company received a grant from the Defense Department
to run a procurement center, she trained and learned how to advise
small businesses on government contract procurement processes. She
also received master’s certification in government contracting at
George Washington University.
"While large, established companies obviously have an edge, there
are great opportunities for small businesses," she says.
businesses that think they may be eligible should definitely check
things out with us. Our website is www.yourbizpartner.com/. Another
good source is the Small Business Administration at www.sba.gov/."
Small Business, agrees that getting basic information is essential
to becoming involved in state bidding. "Our office will help you
in finding out where contract opportunities are in state government.
If you’re not sure that you qualify, we work as a resource and
office for you. We are familiar with all of the 57 different state
agencies, and are in constant contact with them all. We can act as
a go-between to help you get involved in the process."
Guidotti has worked for the state for 36 years, 19 of them in the
Division of Building Construction, working on construction sites as
a surveyor. After courses in civil engineering, plus a lot of
training, he became chief of the state’s Prequalification Office,
responsible for permitting contractors to bid on state contracts.
"At the same time," says Guidotti, "I was running my own
liquor store, because it was a business where there was clearly no
conflict of interest involved — to my knowledge the state does
not purchase alcohol." Running the business was also good
in procuring small business loans. "Believe me," he says
can be done."
Most important, Guidotti believes, is getting registered and approved
to bid on government contracts, whether or not you actually decide
to do so. "There are so many opportunities," he says. "You
could be certified as a Minority Business Enterprise, or a Woman
Enterprise. The state has goals to purchase a percentage of goods
and services from these certified minority businesses. You can become
a certified vendor on a multi-source contract, which can be a great
advantage when goods are required rapidly and locally, or you can
bid as a sub-contractor in a huge variety of fields."
At the workshop, Guidotti will advise on how to get the appropriate
applications filed with different agencies. "We teach you how
to get on the list," he says. "It’s essential to be registered
and approved by our office before you can be eligible for government
contracts." To request a registration application, call
Or call 609-292-2146 for direct information.
By attending workshops like this, would-be vendors will get hands-on
instruction, plus the names and phone numbers of contact people in
the government who are responsible for contracting. Says Guidotti:
"I’m big on giving out names!"
— Gina Zechiel
Junk mail. It clutters our homes and eventually feeds,
via the recycling bin, into Marcal’s huge Garden State plant which,
rather aptly, turns it into toilet paper. But done well, a good
can net you between 2 and 14 percent response.
To help you discover exactly how to place your mailing out of the
bathroom and in that valued two percent, Trenton Small Business Week
offers a Direct Mail Marketing Roundtable on Wednesday, October 17,
at 11:30 a.m., at the Trenton Public Library. Speakers include
Schragger, founder/owner of ads Public Relations & Marketing,
Polhill from the U.S. Postal Service, and
owner of Corporate Addressing Services. Co-produced by the New Jersey
Association of Women Business Owners (NJAWBO), Mercer Chapter, this
free roundtable will allow time for discussion and questions. Call
Trenton Small Business Week provides a full daily calendar of
gatherings, individual counseling and specific seminars for business
people throughout the central New Jersey area. Programs are designed
with very little time overlap, so you won’t have to make tough
"The real reason we all keep getting so much direct mail,"
says Schragger, "is that it’s profitable. A solid two percent
response makes me very happy because it pays off." The cost of
the other 98 unanswered brochures is far below the two sales and the
two new customers your campaign has won. But unless you plan direct
mail as a full, continuing campaign, with a lot of careful strategy,
she says, you are just mailing your money away.
For nearly two decades, Schragger has been laying just such successful
strategies. After growing up in Baltimore, Schragger attended Goucher
College, where her bachelor’s in English education taught her the
motivating value of the precise word. Moving north into the Garden
State, she directed marketing for Star Tours, and then launched her
own company. She is past president of the Mercer Chapter of NJAWBO
and this year is directing the Trenton Small Business Week.
For the past 14 years, Schragger’s ads Pubic Relations & Marketing
has guided scores of non-profits, professional groups and other
firms into the realm of public outreach. "Direct mail success
is usually less a question of what people do wrong, than what they
don’t do at all," she says.
list parameters until she herself has an exact idea of who wants her
product (not merely who currently is buying it.) Of course, your
customer list is the ideal base, but expand and sharpen it to, for
example, all families with children ages 3 to 13, within 20 adjacent
Once your scope is defined, you can purchase a well-defined mailing
list from an advertised list broker. Which list from which broker
seems the most chancy, but frequently proves to be the most important
choice of your campaign. Many mail list brokers will provide potential
clients a sampling list of a dozen names. "Be careful about
too much stock in these samples," warns Schragger. "They’re
too small to determine a list’s quality, yet a broker’s willingness
to offer it shows at least he has faith in his product."
but alas most frequent, direct mail errors is neglecting a return
address. Even if all your customer contact is by phone and E-commerce,
customers want to know that your company is a fixed entity, not some
cluster of tent-folding scam artists.
Second dumbest on the most offensive blunder list comes misspelling
the customer’s name. You may not always be able to tell with your
initial mailing of a purchased list, yet at least give a prior
(Odds are those two ZZ’s in JacZZk are a typo.) And inquire about
the spelling on the follow up call.
not every direct mail offer is a product pitch. You may be asking
for an appointment (perhaps to discuss insurance or financial
or you may be sending a coupon, or a letter of solicitation, or maybe
you want to provide a calendar of events to your theater’s fall plays,
or to your store’s special sales.
Whatever your approach, says Schragger, "try to
translate care and some solid benefit to your recipient." In an
ideal world, she says, "direct mail pieces would be all hand
Considering this obvious impossibility, she finds laser script or
any presentation that appears different and more personal is
by person sorting through his daily mail.
The goal is to hit your audience with an attractive front and
grab their attention, and you haven’t got it long. ("Here is an
offer you can’t refuse…") Blocks of solid print are formidable.
Try sculpting your print body to an appealing shape and breaking it
up with graphics. But remember, print is how people will get your
message. Pictures alone need captions to make them "honest."
than a bookstore," says Schragger. Perhaps choose a few items,
feature them, then add a coupon stating "everything in the store
is 20 per cent off." Firms offering a broader spectrum of products
may want to visibly discount one item each from several categories
and feature them among a smaller, general discount coupon.
for your name to become established in a potential customer’s mind.
Schragger reports that "too many business owners splurge on one
lovely color brochure, glean nil response, and grumble `I’ll never
do that again’." All campaigns are won by strong follow up. View
the first flyer or letter as your foot in the door. The best follow
ups are by telephone. Get the name corrected; find the customer’s
If your staff is too small to phone the entire list, and hiring
seems a budget buster, continue your campaign with a varied type of
mailing. Begin with a letter or flyer, then make your second piece
a signed post card, and the third a coupon.
pre-sorting worth the time? Do regional cost/weight limits decrease
with volume? Polhill of the Postal Service says that these questions
— and others you may not dream of asking — can be answered
by the Postal Service’s specialized bulk mail counselors. They will
assign your business a mailing mentor.
Before you slip it in the box, "know the compliance laws and don’t
mail a pig into an poke," says Cenkner, a graduate of St. Peters
College in Jersey City who has spent the last nine years making sure
the mail gets through via his South Brunswick-based Corporate
Cenkner’s first rule is don’t buck the recipient or the Post Office.
Too many direct mailers insist on the street address, even though
the recipient lists a P.O. box. "Companies and individuals use
those boxes for a reason," says Cenkner. "Box mail gets sorted
and distributed. Street address mail only gets delivered."
Also, Cenkner warns, watch your indicia — that little mailing
square in the corner. The words "Bulk Rate" have been
by the Postal Service for two years, and the grace period for this
error comes swiftly upon us.
Cenkner’s list of tricks goes on. Printing the address on the piece
gleans a greater customer response than a glued on label. That
piece with the open (unfolded) end facing up takes one less wafer
tab than the same piece with the open end down. Accordion pieces are
clever, yet if they show no closed end, the Post Office will mail
them merrily (and expensively) all at regular first class rate.
Like any aspect of business, direct mailing has a score of tricks
and pitfalls that require advice. Yet to make mailing truly work,
it must be one integrated part of your own sales and marketing
And yes, currently your business may be moving along very well without
it. In fact, if you don’t look too closely, you may scarcely notice
the limp of lost customers.
— Bart Jackson
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