A Peek Inside Your Banker’s Mind

Writing Winning Proposals

Holiday Gift: Warfare Classes

Traits of Successful Tech Managers

Corrections or additions?

This article was prepared for the December 5, 2001 edition of U.S.

1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Turning a Blue Christmas Into One of White

The holiday season. Even in more normal times the words

summon images of packages, groaning tables, and party goers dressed

to the nines. If anything flows more freely than the egg nog, it’s

the money. Does any other month hold the power to empty wallets so

fast? This year, shopping, taking in a Broadway show, and dining out

have become patriotic duties, and so the pressure mounts. Especially

on those among us who have lost their jobs.

"Unemployment is a growing problem in the community," says

Reverend Peggy Hodgkins, associate rector of Trinity Episcopal

Church in Princeton. Several of her parishioners have recently joined

the jobless ranks, and are finding it rough, she says, especially

with families.

On Tuesday, December 11, at 7:30 p.m. Hodgkins speaks on "Coping

with the Holidays When Unemployed" at a meeting of Jobseekers,

a support group that meets at Trinity church. The group meets on most

Tuesdays, and there is no charge. Call 609-924-2277.

Hodgkins, a career changer, came to Trinity Church in August. Before

studying for ordination at the Union Theological Seminary in New York,

she worked for NBC Sports, and then for NBC News. As a news

researcher,

she traveled to Japan and Korea with President Reagan, and to

Argentina

during the war in the Falklands.

Taking a break from work to raise her three children, now 12, 13,

and 15, she became involved in All Saints Church in Hoboken. That

church has an active urban ministry, and an emphasis on building

community.

"It inspired me to go in a whole new direction," says

Hodgkins,

who studied Russian at Middlebury.

Hodgkins’ first parish was Calvary Episcopal Church in Summit, where

she served for five years. She came to Trinity, a larger congregation,

for more responsibility, and an opportunity to work with Leslie

Smith, the rector. Normally, she says, an Episcopal priest’s career

path leads from associate rector to rector, but she chose not to try

for that top job because she wanted time with her children.

Her husband, Robin Hodgkins, owns Summit-based software company

Cogent, but doesn’t spend a whole lot of time there. "The company

runs itself," she says. "His real love is being a

paramedic."

He works as one at Morristown Hospital and at Overlook Hospital.

The Hodgkins family, busy with multiple jobs, is not personally

familiar

with unemployment. But during her time at home with her three

children,

Hodgkins she did find her self-esteem slipping. Identity is so often

tied up with work, she says. Finding new identities, especially at

the holidays, can be the best way for those out of the workforce to

keep their cheer relatively intact. And, in her opinion,

"shopper"

is one identity best shelved.

"Break away from the Christmas machine," is Hodgkins’ advice.

"Shopping is an American ritual," she says. "But it’s

not fulfilling, especially when you have no money."

Here is what she suggests instead:

Give to others. Find cans in the pantry to take to a soup

kitchen. Lend a hand at shelters, or youth organizations. Doing so,

says Hodgkins, will help those who have lost their jobs feel less

like victims. Turn the tables, be a helper. This involvement also

lends perspective. Says Hodgkins: "You may find out that losing

your job isn’t the worst thing in the world."

"It’s so important to have a sense of worth," she says.

"You

can have that by reaching out to those who have less."

Find caring groups. "Being in a community gives you

broader support," says Hodgkins. Involvement in a women’s group,

a church, a 12-step group, or an organization like Jobseekers offers

camaraderie, which breaks the isolation which often accompanies

joblessness.

Light a candle. Establishing rituals is a way to build

an identity that has nothing to do with work — or with shopping.

During December, when dusk falls early, create a symbol with light.

Build a fire each day, Hodgkins suggests, or light a candle.

"Simplify" is a useful strategy for the unemployed at

this over-wrought time of year. Those who can pull it off —

substituting

walks in the woods and volunteer time at the soup kitchen for jousting

matches in the mall parking lot — may look back to find the loss

of a job in December was a gift that gave years of more joyous holiday

seasons.

Top Of Page
A Peek Inside Your Banker’s Mind

Scuttlebutt has it that the vault doors have closed.

Banks, they say, are sitting on sacks of cash, frightened and

undecided.

But the facts heard from New Jersey’s frantic loan officers tell a

different story.

Last year, the Garden State’s 3,400 lending institutions pumped over

$12 billion into commercial enterprises. And this year, despite

bombings,

high-tech failures, and economic slow downs, that loan flow continues

scarcely abated.

But to whom? The question of "How to Get Your Banker to Say Yes

in These Tough Times?" is as a particularly apt topic for the

Venture Association of New Jersey’s (VANJ) December seminar. Jay

Trien of Morristown’s Trien, Rosenberg Accounting firm acts as

moderator for a panel including Robert Falese, executive vice

president of Commercial Bank Corp.; and Douglas Kennedy, vice

chair of Fleet Bank New Jersey. On Tuesday, December 11, at 11:30

a.m. at the Westin Hotel in Morristown they address the needs of the

middle market business ($10 million and over) and small market ($2

million). Cost: $45. Call 973-267-4200, ext. 193.

Trien, who founded the Venture Association of New Jersey 17 years

ago, calls it "a place where people who need checks meet people

who write checks." Within this energized hub, both start-up

entrepreneurs

and established businesspeople come not only to seek out potential

angels, but also to network, finding friendships, advice, and perhaps

a good supplier or two.

Fleet’s Kennedy is squarely optimistic, but warns businesses against

hoping for a return to previous markets. "Return is a relative

term," he says. "Will we soon go back to the days when

investors

would launch a loan on only a name and a business plan? Not likely.

But markets will strengthen."

For over a quarter century, Kennedy has built a formidable track

record

in making incisive market judgments. Starting his career in the cage,

as a teller for Bridgeport, Connecticut’s City Trust, he soon worked

his way into commercial loans, then up to Fortune 500 lending. Since

March, he has taken on the task of overseeing New Jersey operations

for Fleet Bank with its 450 branches.

Kennedy does not deny a growth slow down, but he defines it more

through

individual problems and new hurdles than a general cloudy overcast.

Probably the greatest problem is what Kennedy calls "hemorrhaging

portfolios." Equity has fallen and some firms’ assets swiftly

have lost value. Most businesses cannot claim as much collateral as

before. Landlords are noting that rents have fallen for the first

time since l985 and spaces are not being filled. With this comes the

prime rate dropping an unprecedented nine times within a single year.

Kennedy points to King Supermarkets, which recent froze their sell-off

deal. "Sellers are just not going to get previous values and this

inspires a `hold-on’ mentality," he says. Finally, banks, as well

as a host of other lenders, have gotten badly burned by the dot-com

collapse. Yet, here again, Kennedy offers measured hope. Start up

capital, he admits, will remain scarce for a good while. However,

high technology remains too valuable to be relegated to financial

banishment. "Technology increases productivity," says Kennedy.

"We need it. And further, technology breeds technology. New ideas

from solid companies will even now get funded."

With all these elements crunching commercial credit, both Trien and

Kennedy advise entrepreneurs to mentally put themselves in their

banker’s

Florsheims for a moment before making their next presentation.

Allow an exit. The primary problem with so many of the

dot-com firms was that they afforded their investors no exit other

than making the loan a write off. They had no assets. They had no

ability to move to another line. They just sank or swam on a single

product. Businesses that can show their bank a secondary product line,

or some other way of recouping their funds in the event of a business

failure will seem more attractive.

Develop a track record. "All sources of capital are

currently waiting," says Trien. "At this point they would

rather take a little less profit by coming in on the second stage

of investment, rather than bankrolling an idea outright."

Fleet and many other banks will ignore a current loss short term if

a firm can show a successful history in previous ventures.

Be prepared for higher costs. "There’s just as much

money," says Kennedy, "but it is going to cost you more."

Loan officers everywhere agree that commercial enterprises

particularly

are offering less on standard collateral.

Show a solid plan. This old time basic has gained mightily

in importance. Now, in addition to a wonderful idea with just bunches

of potential customers, the firm seeking to expand had best show

secondary

capital sources and a tight, low-overhead operation.

Expand into new areas. Banking, like every other business,

has trends and fashions. While high tech is now in disfavor,

biotechnology

and transport services are good candidates for funding.

Another industry that is doing well in New Jersey is banking

itself. New Jersey’s banks are growing. They have grown for the last

decade and they continue expanding now. Bank officials watched

consumers

hit the stores on Black Friday (the post-Thanksgiving shopping binge

day) and spend in record numbers. This is spending they can back.

The gambling mood is gone, but the lenders intend to keep themselves

strong by putting their cash into the basics.

— Bart Jackson

December 12

Top Of Page
Writing Winning Proposals

You can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket.

You can’t score the winning run if you don’t go up to bat. And you

can’t win a federal grant if you don’t submit an application.

So say Gail and Jim Greenwood of the Greenwood Consulting Group

Inc. They are among the nation’s leading experts on how to write

proposals

for the Small Business Innovation Research Grant program, the

government’s

largest R&D grants program targeted to the small business community.

SBIR grants can yield $100,000 for Phase I and $750,000 for Phase

II. Typically, entrepreneurs reap a seven percent profit on the first

two phases of this grant; for the really good money, the entrepreneur

must get to the Phase III stage.

The Greenwoods are coming to New Jersey to teach workshops on the

first steps in the SBIR grant process on Wednesday and Thursday,

December

12 and 13, at the Rutgers Fiber Optic Materials Research Center in

Piscataway. The topics will be Phase I proposal development and cost

proposal preparation. Cost: $60 per day or $95 for two days. Call

973-353-1923.

"The Greenwoods have presented SBIR/STTR workshops to thousands

of persons in approximately 41 states," says Randy Harmon,

director of the Technology Commercialization Center, part of the New

Jersey Small Business Development Center (NJSBDC) of Rutgers Graduate

School of Management. "Gail and Jim Greenwood have been active

in SBIR since the program’s inception, making firms aware of SBIR

and its opportunities, and teaching them how to write competitive

technical and cost proposals for SBIR funding. They have critiqued

hundreds of SBIR proposals for firms throughout the United

States."

The Greenwoods live in Sanibel Island, off the west coast of Florida,

but they spend most weekdays on the road, teaching and consulting.

The husband-wife team is under contract to the NJSBDC to convert

professional

business plan writers into a statewide network of 15 to 20 proposal

writing consultants.

"While we have successfully offered proposal writing services

in the past, we have had great difficulty maintaining a pool of

qualified

consultants," says Harmon. "We are building the training

program

for consultants out of three of the Greenwood Consulting Group’s

workshops,

so three of the training days will be public events," says Harmon.

"This will result in stronger business models and business plans

for the companies that develop and submit proposals and improve the

likelihood that the technology developed under SBIR will be

commercialized,"

says Harmon.

Under the best circumstances, only the perfectly polished grant

applications

will be submitted, but the Greenwoods are realists. Sometimes busy

entrepreneurs simply can’t put the time in to polish the application

to make a deadline. Should they submit the imperfect application,

using the rubric, "You can’t win if you don’t play?" Or should

they wait? Here are some guidelines:

What’s the downside? If you anticipate submitting on this

topic or to the same reviewers again, consider that your marginal

impression may leave a negative, possibly permanent, impression.

Could your time be spent better elsewhere? If it is a

choice between writing one terrific proposal or two so-so ones, choose

the one good effort.

Does it pass the snicker test. Ask an impartial person

for an honest opinion on your draft proposal. If they snicker or look

puzzled, perhaps your idea is not sufficiently credible to reflect

positively on you.

When is your next opportunity? A topic that the Department

of Defense asks for may appear only once, so you might want to submit

your "imperfect" proposal. Most agencies, including the

Department

of Agriculture, will accept proposals only once a year, so you may

not be able to afford to wait. In contrast, the National Institutes

of Health has three proposal due dates per year.

Is there a market for your innovation? "The world

is full of unmet needs," says Jim Greenwood. "Sometimes a

need goes unmet because no one can figure out how to make money in

return for meeting that need." Consider how many units would be

purchased, how many customers you would have, and what the customers

would be willing to pay. Also take into account the "barriers

to entry to the market.

Do you feel lucky? Maybe you have received very positive

feedback on your ideas from the person who wrote the topic proposal.

Or maybe your horoscope says now is a good time. Then go for it.

Top Of Page
Holiday Gift: Warfare Classes

If your high tech company does business — or would

like to do business with the military — you or your employee may

be able to attend free workshops taught by Drexel University faculty

in Camden. The workshops usually cost $300 per day but are free to

the end of December.

Funded by the government, in partnership with Drexel and the Sarnoff

Corporation, Project ACIN (Applied Communications and Information

Networking program) presents network-centric warfare workshops. In

other words, they focus on how new telecommunications networking

technologies

and applications will affect the way the soldiers and sailors fight

future wars.

For information call Pat Levecchia at 856-614-5450

(www.projectacin.com).

On the schedule:

Warfighter-centric Networking, Wednesday to Friday,

December

12 to 14. For computer savvy individuals with limited programming

experience — how to create application platforms and systems that

enable warfighters to conceive, discover, prototype, test and deploy

their own applications easily and at low cost.

Information Assurance and Networking Integrity, Thursday

and Friday, December 13 and 14. How to protect battlespace network

infrastructures and network-based applications from attacks.

Network Concepts and Applications, Monday to Friday,

December

17 to 21. For those with no formal education in computer science or

computer engineering.

Applications of Wireless in the 21st Century Battlespace,

Wednesday and Thursday, December 19 and 20. For users and planners

of battlespace information networks that will employ wireless

communication

systems.

ACIN tries to find technologies for military and commercial

applications that make information delivery faster, more secure, and

more flexible. It focuses on what will offer significant near-term

benefits to the DoD and has the potential for commercial development,

especially through new ventures. If any spinoff companies result,

they will be incubated at the University City Science Center’s Port

of Technology in Camden.

Top Of Page
Traits of Successful Tech Managers

People join companies but leave managers, and all too

often, technical supervisors lack managerial skills, according to

Blessing White, the global consulting firm that specializes in

personal

and corporate growth (www.blessingwhite.com).

Blessing White offers its Technical Leadership course on Wednesday

to Friday, December 12 to 14, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at its headquarters

on Orchard Road. Cost: $500. Participants need to register by December

7 in order to do the pre-class work. Call 973-726-8066.

The course is based on three years of research with 300 leaders in

19 technology companies and groups. Successful managers, this research

found, consistently used six motivational skills: maintaining and

enhancing self-esteem, focusing on specific behavior and impact,

asking

appropriate questions, using "active" listening, communicating

benefits, and setting goals and follow-up dates.

Specifically, they learned to do the following:

Delegate responsibility. Giving your employees

decision-making

authority and access to resources helps them achieve a higher level

of job satisfaction.

Solicit input. Ask for and respond to concerns, questions,

and suggestions.

Recognize diversity. The most effective coaches recognize

that everyone is different, and respond to the specific needs of each

employee.

Value employee ideas. You can encourage potential

innovators

by nurturing, facilitating, and protecting your employees creative

and worthwhile ideas.

Empathize. This conveys trust and is one of the most

effective

ways of helping team members become self-directing, responsible, and

independent.

Set goals. Managers are more effective when they set

overall

performance goals, and incorporate goal setting into their

communications

with team members. Team members will be more motivated to contribute

when they support a need or objective.

Participants will practice these skills in the context of real

situations.

Blessing White promises that they will receive feedback and coaching

from a professional facilitator as well as their peers, and leave

with focused action plans for project results.


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