Corrections or additions?
These articles by Kathleen McGinn Spring were prepared for the
September 24, 2003 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Trenton’s Week: Getting the Baker Out of the Bakery
<169>Most people start a business because they are tired
of working for someone else," says Michael Pucciarelli
a partner in the Lawrence-based accounting firm, Bartolomei
The behavior that follows this decision is predictable, he finds,
and does not bode well for the long-term health of the new venture.
A key casualty often is the value of the business.
Pucciarelli talks about "Building Business Value" at a free
Trenton Small Business Week event on Monday, September 29, at the
Trenton Marriott at Lafayette Yard. The week — celebrating its
10th anniversary — includes a raft of other events, including
seminars and panels previewed below and others listed in U.S. 1’s
Business Meetings section, beginning on page 11. For information on
Small Business Week call 609-989-5232 or visit www.smallbizweek.com.
After giving up on a longtime dream of becoming an FBI agent,
fell into the business of helping small companies build value, and
says, "I loved it right away." A Lakewood native and graduate
of Montclair State (Class of 1981), he majored in accounting and
his CPA because a friend of his father’s told him that everyone else
was taking the J.D. route to the FBI. With white collar crime a big
issue at the time, the family friend assured him that a CPA would
have a better chance of making it into the elite agency.
The year he graduated, however, President Reagan froze federal hiring.
There would be no shot at the FBI, and Pucciarelli says, "I had
to do something." Forced to give accounting a try, he signed on
with a Lakewood firm, met with his first small business clients, and
realized that accounting was not just numbers. He saw that it could
also be about helping people who had invested their whole lives in
Hooked on advising small businesses, he joined two other CPAs in
Bartolomei Pucciarelli, now a 12-person firm with offices at 2155
Brunswick Pike. In 22 years of practice he has seen "mediocre
businesses, businesses that fail, and successful businesses."
The difference, he says, lies in how the entrepreneur sees his
If it is merely a job replacement, there will not be much success,
and certainly not much value to sell at the end of the day. Yet this
job replacement trap is alluring.
Business owners, he says, tend to be "entrepreneurs for five
managers for five minutes, and then they fall back into the technician
mode." He defines a "technician" as a person who spends
his time working at his craft, whether it be baking or consulting
on human resources issues. In starting a business, new entrepreneurs
have to break out of this comfort zone.
People have to be entrepreneurial in deciding to strike out on their
own, and they have to be managerial in finding a location, signing
leases, ordering letterhead, and nailing a shingle on the door.
After seeing the vision of a business and working at bringing it into
being, however, these new entrepreneurs tend to go right back to doing
whatever it was they did in their jobs, or whatever job-replacement
craft they have chosen.
Big mistake, says Pucciarelli. Work in the business, rather than on
it, and you will never have much of a business. That can be okay,
he hastens to add, if you realize that what you want is just X number
of dollars a week to support yourself. "Then, that’s your
Most struggling business owners he sees have a different, albeit
articulated, goal. They want their companies to grow, but are stuck.
A big part of his job is showing them how to stop working in the
and start working on the business by:
a one-person business, you need an organizational chart," he
"Your name may be in every box, but you need to have it."
That way, when it comes time to hire, and you put another name in
a box or two, you will know exactly what tasks your employee is taking
it" book goes hand-in-hand with the organizational chart.
of how to do each task are in the book. That way, says Pucciarelli,
"things get done the same way every time."
You may never franchise your business, but act as if that is your
goal. "When people buy a franchise," he says, "they’re
buying a business in a box." That is the appeal. That is where
the value lies. A stand-alone business that runs like clockwork on
a written plan has a similar value.
business to hire a bookkeeper, he generally sighs with relief, and
happily gets back to doing what he enjoys, thrilled to be free of
the accounting chores. Turning full attention on the bread is not
the way to go, however.
Just because an employee is now handling a task that you once had
to do, does not mean that the task is not still your responsibility.
You need to give the new hire a job description and then make sure
that he is doing the job.
a gathering of eight or ten of a client’s customers, and asks them
to talk about what the client is doing right, and about where he is
"At first, they just sit there. They think they don’t have
to say," he recounts. But once the ball starts rolling, "they
can’t shut their mouths," he says with a laugh.
The results often surprise the business owner, and this is one
that he badly needs. "Your customers’ perception is reality,"
hate to stop what they’re doing, but Pucciarelli advises that they
make time to attend seminars, workshops, and classes on how to build
up their businesses. In one recent seminar that he gave, he talked
about the importance of asking clients for referrals and for
Success in business, he says, is not about doing one thing well —
even perfectly — "it’s about doing 1,000 small things."
Asking for testimonials can be seen as one more distraction, or it
can be seen as an important way to win new business.
a baker," says Pucciarelli, "maybe you can team up with a
wedding planner. Maybe you can sell wedding cakes wholesale."
Taking the imperative one step further, he suggests that a time could
come when starting a wedding planning component to the business would
on day one. "Where do you want the business to be in 5 years,
10 years, 20 years?" ask Pucciarelli. "Do you want to sell
it, to pass it along to your kids?"
He has seen that the most successful entrepreneurs are those who start
out by thinking of how to get out. It flies against traditional
but the baker cannot be too attached to baking. The bakery that runs
like clockwork while its owner is out fishing is a bakery anyone can
buy, and that a great many people will want to buy — at a good
Few industries have had as many ups and downs as
What’s the state of the industry now? And what does the future hold?
What segments of biotechnology are hot now? All of these questions
are given lots of attention when the Biotechnology Council of New
Jersey and the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Association hold a joint
conference on Monday and Tuesday, September 29 and 30, at the Hyatt
Regency on the Hudson and the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City.
The cost is $825, but less for attendance at only the workshops or
the symposium. Complete details and registration forms are at
Information also is available at 609-581-8244.
The conference begins with a 7:30 a.m. registration on September 29.
That morning there is a choice of three concurrent workshops, on
biotechnology for the non-scientist, and fundamental business and
legal strategies for life science ventures.
The official opening, at 2:30 p.m., provides an industry overview
by a panel that will consider trends from the past, the present dire
straits that now keep CEOs and CFOs up at night, and what the experts
see in the future.
The keynote, at a 7 p.m. dinner, will be delivered by Irwin
chairman of Medarex.
Concurrent sessions on September 30, beginning at 9 a.m., include
a look at synergies to cure disease, advice on riding the wave of
biotech and pharma mergers and acquisitions, and a primer on meeting
new compensation and staffing challenges. Next, at 10:30 a.m., are
sessions on vying for biodefense research dollars, forging research
partnerships with universities, and ensuring the growth of
in the New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania corridor.
The day’s keynote, at a noon lunch, is delivered by Michel
president and CEO of ViroPharma.
On the afternoon of September 30, there are concurrent sessions on
navigating the FDA approval process, the emergence of specialty
companies, and creative ways to structure deals when cash is scarce.
The closing session, highlighting an issue on everyone’s mind, is
on mega financing, on how to raise capital from strategic partners
and the private and public markets in this economic climate.
There is a time to move on. That’s the message from
day-to-day management of the Urban Word Cafe and Conduit, restaurant
and music venues at the center of a nascent arts revival in Trenton.
"It was hard. It was like leaving my baby," says the
Yet leave he did, shuttering both venues, at least for the summer.
Pott, now a real estate broker with Segal Commercial Real Estate,
is moving toward bigger dreams.
Pott urges others to do the same, and is organizing a Trenton Small
Business Week seminar around the theme of starting over:
Your Investment," on Tuesday, September 30, at 5:30 p.m. at
located at 439 South Broad Street. The panel discussion, moderated
by Tom O’Neill
do you do when things don’t go the way you planned" and promises
entrepreneurs that "If you miss a market opportunity, success
is still in the cards."
Success has been pretty much of a constant for Pott, who at barely
30 years old, has been involved in turning a big chunk of unloved
Trenton real estate into not only a coffee house and a 500-seat music
club, but also into a number of retail stores and artists’ studios,
which remain open. Art and business were the twin foundations of his
childhood, and continue to be his passions.
His mother, Dr. Judith Pott, is a psychologist, but he describes her
first as an artist. "She’s been singing with the New Amsterdam
Singers for, well, 20 or 25 years," he says, "for as long
as I can remember." His brother, Sam Pott, is a jazz and ballet
dancer, who performs in San Francisco. His grandfather was an
and a painter. "My family is very artistic," he says, "I
was always encouraged to be involved in the arts."
At the same time, he was catching on to the benefits of marketplace
enterprise. "I was always the kid with the lemonade stand,"
he says. Growing up on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, he also
with sharing business ideas and burdens with others. "I had a
newspaper with a partner," he says. "It was called Colorful
News in Black and White." He liked making money right from the
start: "It was a way to buy baseball cards."
Leaving his businesses behind, Pott attended college at Oregon’s Reed
College (Class of 1995). The move put him in Portland during the
of the coffee house revolution. "Portland was an inspirational
place to live," he says. "There were all kinds of coffee
springing up. It rains all the time there," he says. "People
run around in slickers, jumping into espresso shops, talking with
friends until late at night." He enjoyed the joe, the talk, and
the poetry jams that were a coffee house feature.
"If I didn’t have family here, I’d still be there," he says.
But, with his family anchored in the New York area, Pott did come
back east, where he signed up with a teacher placement agency in
and started looking for an apartment. "I was used to cities, so
I looked for the nearest city," he says. That would be Trenton.
Since Trenton is not a hot topic in Manhattan, and certainly not in
Oregon, Pott says he was lucky that he had never "heard the
He went in fresh, and found an apartment in the historic Mill Hill
section, where a renovation movement was well under way. Walking
he bumped into David Henderson, who, along with John Hatch, had formed
the Atlantis Group to buy and restore houses in the neighborhood under
the name. Henderson and Hatch, architects with a keen interest in
urban revitalization, quickly became his friends.
That is where architecture, entrepreneuralism, urban enthusiasm,
spirit, and an interest in historic preservation and in the arts
to create the Urban Word and Conduit.
The trio, using savings and money from family and friends, and just
a little bit of cash from the public till, formed Trenton Makes. The
corporation purchased a string of Victorian structures, and opened
the Urban Word in 1999, and Conduit in 2001. New Jersey Monthly
the Urban Word as "a cutting-edge literary performance space that
serves up great food." Reviews of the coffee house were not always
so positive. There were complaints about high prices, slow service,
and uneven food. Regardless, Trenton residents rejoiced in the rebirth
the Urban Word seemed to signal.
A year or so after the Urban Word opened, Pott was quoted as saying,
"We wanted a cafe in our neighborhood, so we said `Let’s build
one.’" It is a sentiment well known to residents of Trenton’s
many excellent residential enclaves. Enjoying houses full of
architectural details and the camaraderie of close-knit neighborhoods,
they long for what Trenton does not yet offer much of: places to
eat, drink, and shop.
The Urban Word was warmly received, and Conduit, which opened just
after the terrorist attacks of September 11, followed. The partners
saw a place for a large, alternative music space in the
corridor between New York and Philadelphia. The Urban Word, sitting
right across the street from the Sovereign Bank Arena, would be
for the locals, and Conduit would draw visitors from a wide area.
In large part, the plan worked. Philadelphia’s Citypaper.net called
Conduit, "an enclave of the arts; an Esalen in Trenton."
Significantly, the arts/entertainment/dining complex was funded
privately. The partners, and their backers, were taking a big chance.
And were they just too early? Pott doesn’t think so. He sees Trenton
going only up. He points out that residential real estate prices are
way up. His partners, he says, have sold houses in Mill Hill for up
to $300,000, a figure that was unimaginable just a few years ago.
"Over the next few years," he says, "more private
will decide to come to Trenton, especially with commercial projects,
not just residential." But still Pott and his peers "were
pioneers. Someone has to do it."
Closing the Urban Word and Conduit did not have a lot to do with how
well they were doing financially. The main reason they were closed,
says Pott, is that running the complex was consuming, exhausting,
and ultimately, not what he wanted to do. In little more than six
years, he had gone from teaching at the Newgrange School to running
"It’s a question of what you want to spend your life doing,"
he says. "I had worked on that project for six years. We had grown
very fast, from three employees to 50 in three years. It was very
exhausting." Besides, he continues, "I’m an entrepreneurial
person. I like to get things started. The more it became an issue
of the day-to-day grind, the more it wanted to be something I wanted
Other factors were manageability, and of course, profitability. Urban
Word and Conduit would do better as separate entities, Pott says.
He expects that the two will open very soon, under new ownership,
as two different businesses. Meanwhile, he and his partners still
own the real estate.
But Pott is free of day-to-day management chores. "It was hard
at first," he says of the transition, "but the farther away
I get, the better I feel. I’m exposed to lots of other
Declining to provide details of any deals he is working on —
have no announcements yet" — Pott says he is looking around,
and looking to play "on a bigger playing field," but still
in or around the Trenton area, where he lives in a former auto service
garage that Hatch and Henderson renovated.
While his mother, brother, and grandfather turned him toward the arts,
his father, Dr. Nick Pott, a psychiatrist, taught him not to be afraid
of risks. "In another life, he would have been an explorer,"
Pott says of his father, who enjoys mountaineering and other
His advice to other entrepreneurs: "It’s not necessary to stay
with the original idea. Allow it to transform. You have to be willing
to give up a little in order to be able to move on. Stay in motion,
and continue to pursue your dreams."
For every $10,000 an employer pays a worker, more than
$1,000 is spent to have him rummage around for memos, files, reports,
and the like. The statistic comes from Grazina Crisman
expert and consultant. "You can say," she adds, "that
10 to 12 percent of the money employers pay is being wasted in
for things." In addition to the monetary toll of disorganization,
there is the mental toll. Is anything more frustrating than digging
through mountains of paper for background information on the client
who is due to arrive in two minutes?
Crisman soothes harried paper pushers with down-to-earth advice when
she speaks on "Elements of a Productive Business Day" at a
free Trenton Small Business Week event at 9:30 a.m., on Wednesday,
October 1, at the New Jersey State Library at 185 West State Street
After growing up in Queens and on Long Island, Crisman attended
(Class of 1974), where she studied math and business. She then earned
an MBA from St. Johns University. "What can I say," she
"I’ve always had a logical brain." She is sure that there
is a connection between logic and organization, and she exhibited
the latter at an early age. She never had to be told to pick up her
room, she recalls. It was always neat, and perfectly organized.
She spent the early years of her career as a computer programmer,
but disliked "sitting behind a desk," no matter how well
So she jumped to the vendor side of technology, working for a number
of companies, including Wang Laboratories, Oracle, and Logic Works.
"I was always around a sales environment," she says,
Crisman spent some 25 years in a corporate environment, where she
often heard "Give it to Grazina, she’ll never lose it." Why
did she leave big business to start her own business? "I came
from high tech," she answers. "We all know what happened to
high tech. In 10 years I was with three companies. Each one got bought
out. I was always on the end that got bought out. They gave me jobs,
but not the great ones."
Moving into an entrepreneurial life, making a living by helping
and businesspeople to get organized, Crisman says she never missed
a beat. "The skills are transferable," she quickly found.
She and her consulting firm, the Productivity Shoppe (609-987-9601),
share an office address, 212 Carnegie Center, with her husband, Doug,
who is the principal in Old Horses, a consulting firm that works with
"I’m doing it for the lifestyle," she says of the freedom
of owning a business. "If I went back, let’s put aside the
of getting a job, I would have had two to three weeks of
Now she often works through the weekend, but doesn’t mind. It’s
she says, when it’s your own business. "There are trade-offs,"
she continues. "High tech is well paid, but I’m nothing but
to be out. I didn’t want to deal with that rat race."
Now she is helping denizens of the paperless offices
that never quite went paperless to organize their days and their desk.
She starts most jobs by observing her clients at work. She asks: What
is your biggest frustration? Some people have just one, or a handful,
others, she says, "are disorganized on every level." Getting
organized isn’t all that hard, though, she insists, not even for the
most harried. Here’s how:
makes up for sloppy time management. Even if an office is impeccably
organized, its inhabitant may be horribly unproductive.
"You have to be in control of your time," Crisman insists.
"It’s the most important thing. If you don’t do it, you’re
around, constantly trying to restart."
is E-mail. It’s ironic, really. What is more efficient than shooting
out an E-mail to order a product, plan a group lunch, or keep in touch
with a client. But allowed free rein, E-mail is nothing short of a
"black hole," declares Crisman.
The problem comes when the habit — the obsession, really —
of reading E-mail as it arrives sets in. Letting a bell signal
mail is to signal an end to a productive day. "Whatever you’re
doing, you lose focus," says Crisman. Let the E-mail pile up,
is her advice. Schedule a time to read, delete, and answer the
and let them wait patiently in the meantime. Get on with your work,
and do not worry that an unattended E-mail will be your downfall.
"I have a news flash," says Crisman, "E-mail is not your
job. It allows you to get and disperse information better than ever.
People lose track. They think of it as their responsibility. The think
`E-mail is the job!’ They get sucked into it."
rest of the day’s tasks — both personal and business. Slot them
in, making sure to set priorities that will assure that the essential
tasks make it onto the schedule, and that meaningless distractions
get filtered out.
Crisman’s clients nearly always tell her that they are overworked.
"Overworked?" she exclaims. "They’re working until 10
p.m., but working on non-essential stuff."
"You need balance," she says. "You need a map. If you
have a map, things fall into place." Learn to ask "`Is this
interruption critical?’" If it isn’t, politely turn the visitor
or caller away, and get back to work — so that you can get home
in time to exercise, have a nice dinner, and spend time with family
find what you want, you’re creating stress," says Crisman. Getting
organized doesn’t mean stripping down to a minimalist environment,
she insists: "That’s not reality."
A simple way to create order is to arrange your desk in concentric
circles. Put the things you use all the time, perhaps the phone and
the keyboard, at the center. Arrange active projects around them,
and move second tier projects to the next circle.
As for the little notes on stickies, get rid of them. "It’s
clutter, clutter!" insists Crisman. "You can’t help but be
says Crisman. "Now I use a PDA; I needed to make the leap because
of what I do, but I don’t care if people use a calendar."
is common for businesspeople separate the two, keeping one calendar
for weddings, dentist and vet appointments, PTA meetings, and dinner
dates, and another for business appointments and deadlines. No good,
says Crisman, brushing aside privacy concerns. Commingling may not
be good when it comes to bank accounts, but in her view, it is the
way to go in scheduling. One life, one schedule.
Write it all down. In one place. Because, says Crisman, "the mind
plays tricks. We need to see it! Our lives are too complicated."
computer programs can do amazing things, but few people take the time
to learn more than the basics. When she was a corporate woman, Crisman
had Outlook, Microsoft’s E-mail and calendaring software loaded into
her computer, but says, "I only used 5 percent of it. I didn’t
have time to use it all."
Now, forcing herself to become well-versed, she says "I can’t
believe I ever did without it."
Being realistic, she says that not everyone has to know every trick
his productivity software can perform. "You don’t have to use
it all," she says. "Use 50 percent. It’s a huge change."
about is its ability to integrate all kinds of data. She makes such
a strong case for integration — whether through Outlook or any
rival software — that it is hard for even the most
to keep from getting excited by the possibilities. "When you put
in an appointment," she explains, "you have a place to write
in the history." The history of the client or customer could
personal details — the names of his twins — or business
such as the last time he placed an order. The contact’s phone, fax,
cell phone, and pager numbers sit together, along with his E-mail,
URL, and the names of his favorite cocktail, ski resort, and
Data put into a good productivity program can be sorted any number
of ways. You can, for example, see all the information on all the
people working on a particular project — or attending an upcoming
event. "Categories," says Crisman. "That’s the power.
Integrating is so important, so powerful. All of a sudden, you have
a few thousand names on your cell phone. You’re walking around with
Crisman uses her personal database for all kinds of things. "When
I walk into a bookstore," she says, "I already have the titles
in front of me."
But, she warns, it can take a little time to untangle life’s knots.
"You don’t flip the switch overnight," she says. "you
have to ease into the flow."
Corrections or additions?
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