Business Vision: More Eye, Less I

How To Do Business With the State of NJ

Direct Mail Isn’t All Junk: Some of It is Profitable

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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

speaker for

that meeting.

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,

October

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

opportunity

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

networking

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

will enteratin.

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

South Trenton.

Here is a sampling of the two dozen workshops offered during Trenton

Small Business Week.

Top Of Page
Business Vision: More Eye, Less I

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

Library,

James Bartolomei of the business consulting firm Bartolomei

Pucciarelli LLC will head a free workshop entitled "Has Your

Business

Reached its Full Potential?" as part of the Trenton Small Business

Week. This seminar is designed for owners of small and mid-size

businesses,as

well as marketing and sales chiefs who are seeking to expand wisely.

There will be ample time for specific questions and problem solving.

Call 609-396-8801.

"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

Lawrenceville,

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:

Decreased owner dependency. "You’ve got to get the

`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.

Primarily,

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

contemplating

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.

Define your needs — and theirs. Three essential

elements

form all a business’ transactions: the client, the employees and

lastly,

the owner. Simply, to meet their needs, you’ve got to know them.

Bartolomei

recommends a surprisingly honest approach. "Invite your 12 top

clients to your offices in a semi-social atmosphere and hold a

roundtable

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

gathering.

"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

without

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

disappointments

will inevitably follow. The owner’s job at these ongoing meetings

is to share concern, hint at hope, and inject reality.

Create a vision. A joint vision preferably, including

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.

"but

on providing your clients the best possible buying experience."

Set systems in place. This extends far beyond delineating

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

problems.

Keep monitoring. Every aspect of the business process

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

unchecked

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.

Doubtless, while tracking the process, you will unearth the

individual who may not fit the regime, but whose success is

undeniable.

How does one break blanket rules without shattering the system?

Continual

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

consultant,

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

Top Of Page
How To Do Business With the State of NJ

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,

telecommunications,

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

than normal?

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

Madeline

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

Internet

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

disadvantaged

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.

"Small

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/."

Patrick Guidotti, director of New Jersey Commerce, Office of

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

referral

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

on-the-job

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

experience

in procuring small business loans. "Believe me," he says

"it

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

Business

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

888-239-1288.

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

Top Of Page
Direct Mail Isn’t All Junk: Some of It is Profitable

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

mailing

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

Arlene

Schragger, founder/owner of ads Public Relations & Marketing,

Debra

Polhill from the U.S. Postal Service, and Edward Cenkner,

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

609-396-8801.

Trenton Small Business Week provides a full daily calendar of

networking

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

choices.

"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

regional

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.

Defining your list. No owner can properly define mailing

list parameters until she herself has an exact idea of who wants her

product (not merely who currently is buying it.) Of course, your

current

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

zip codes.

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

putting

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."

Hit your target with the proper image. One of the dumbest,

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

proofread.

(Odds are those two ZZ’s in JacZZk are a typo.) And inquire about

the spelling on the follow up call.

Send a real message. First, broaden your perspective:

not every direct mail offer is a product pitch. You may be asking

for an appointment (perhaps to discuss insurance or financial

management),

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

written."

Considering this obvious impossibility, she finds laser script or

any presentation that appears different and more personal is

appreciated

by person sorting through his daily mail.

The goal is to hit your audience with an attractive front and

immediately

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."

Focus your intent. "It is easier to sell one book

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.

Follow up — continually. It takes at least seven

mailings

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

specific needs.

If your staff is too small to phone the entire list, and hiring

telemarketers

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.

Cut mailing costs. Is a bar coder worth the money? Is

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

Addressing

Services.

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

disallowed

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

tri-folded

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

campaign.

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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