Words to the Wise

New Take on Networking

An Expert Exposes Forgeries

Computer Clean-Up

Red Cross Planning For the Unplanned

School Teachers:

Corrections or additions?

These articles were prepared for the September 3, 2003

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Win $250K to Jump Start Your Business

The Jumpstart NJ Angel Network is conducting a

competition

to solicit and judge ideas for new, high-growth technology businesses.

One early-stage technology company doing business in New Jersey,

Pennsylvania,

New York or Delaware will receive an offer for a $250,000 investment

in its business. For details and to submit executive summaries, visit

www.jumpstartnj.com

Deadline for submission is Friday, September 5. The competition and

the receipt of the $250,000 are subject to rules and conditions that

can be found on the website.

The Jumpstart New Jersey Angel Network is a network of angel investors

making investments in early-stage, technology-based companies. The

network is sponsored by Amper, Politziner & Mattia, Hale and Dorr

LLP, the New Jersey Technology Council and the EDA.

Top Of Page
Words to the Wise

For Start-Ups

Businesses are busting out all over. Propelled, at least

in part, by serial lay-offs, all kinds of people are discovering their

inner entrepreneur.

"Who are potential entrepreneurs?" asks business consultant

Joel Haness. "They are almost anyone who has an idea."

With a deep background in electronics and in consulting to electronics

companies, Haness finds himself working with start-ups of all sorts.

"I’m now dealing with someone who wants to buy and remodel HUD

homes," he says. "I had one guy who had a business in Europe,

and who now wants to import a product, and maybe manufacture it

here."

Two of his start-up clients are college roommates. After not seeing

each other for 20 years, the pair got together, discovered that they

shared a common interest in launching a home accessories store, and

are exploring doing so.

"It’s everything," says Haness, whose Palmyra-based consulting

business is called The October Group. "It’s restaurants,

consulting,

producing a food product." The ideas are coming from "a huge

variety of people."

Sadly, though, the idea isn’t everything when it comes of launching

a successful enterprise. Planning is required. Lots of careful

planning.

Haness provides tips on getting the planning going when he speaks

on "First Step: Starting and Planning a Small Business" on

Saturday, September 6, at the College of New Jersey’s Small Business

Development Center. Cost: $49. Call 609-989-5232 for more information.

Haness grew up in Brooklyn, entered the Navy right after high school,

and then obtained a bachelor’s degree in math from New York University

in 1952. While many crow about their colleges, Haness makes a point

of saying, "I’m so proud of my high school. I went to

Stuyvesant."

Even before he entered that New York City school, which is arguably

one of the best public schools in the land, Haness had found his

vocation.

"My father and I sat and built little radios," he recalls.

"Crystal sets." The pair then moved on to oscilloscopes and

then to television repair in the early days of that medium.

Interestingly,

however, his passion for tinkering with electronics does not extend

to computers. "It’s too software driven," he says. A lively,

gregarious man, he says he has absolutely no patience for writing

code.

Weaving in and out of the corporate world, Haness, who is retired

from RCA, now Lockheed Martin, has had consulting businesses along

the way. His current venture takes its name from the birthdays of

its three principals. "We were trying to think of what to name

it," he says. Discovering that they all were born in October,

they decided the month, generally one of the finest in the year, would

make for a good name.

In addition to private clients, Haness spends a good deal of time

working with entrepreneurs — and would-be entrepreneurs —

who find their way to the SBDC. While each of their ventures is

different,

there is some basic advice that applies to all:

You’ve just got to have a plan. It’s one of those things

that is repeated so often. But like the advice to floss or to

diversify

or to drive defensively, it is often ignored. "The major

problem,"

says Haness, "is that people do not plan what they are going to

do."

A business plan is a necessity. "Who are your customers?"

Haness asks. "Will your base grow?" Also, are you all alone

in your niche, or do you have competitors? If there are competitors,

it is vital to identify what you can do better than they can, whether

it be build a better mousetrap, build a cheaper mousetrap, or market

that mousetrap better than anyone on the planet.

You need to count your cash. "Do you have enough

money?"

asks Haness. Remember, you not only need to buy office supplies, but

you have to feed and clothe yourself, keep the lights on, and make

sure your children continue to sleep under a roof.

Finding said cash is not easy, he points out, especially for companies

not being set up to provide technology products or services. Venture

capital in New Jersey tends to flow to technology, he points out.

While that is good news for some, it is little comfort to would-be

shop owners and their ilk.

Credit cards and home equity are common sources of start-up cash,

and have funded many a business, but they are risky. Fall behind on

the payments and you will damage your credit, lose sleep, and possibly

even lose your home. As for federal loans, forget about it, says

Haness,

who points out that you generally have to be in business for three

years to qualify.

"There is some grant money for rehabbing HUD houses," he says,

"but it covers only materials, not your time, or the purchase

price."

Cash flow must create a profit. Some business owners turn

their new companies into just another job. They make enough to cover

expenses and to repay loans, but do not make a profit. That is no

good in Haness’ book. "One of the major things," he says,

"is that you must be making a profit, not just paying back a loan.

You’re taking a risk, you should be making a profit."

Break-even should occur at about 18 months. "If it happens before

that, you’re doing well," he says. "If it takes longer, you

should look at your business plan." Plans need to be revised

constantly,

and one that is not leading to profitability after 18 months needs

to be revised right away.

Hours will be long. "Prepare to work eight-day weeks,

18 hours a day," says Haness, and it doesn’t even sound like he

is kidding. Many people he counsels think that going into business

themselves means taking days off at random, knocking off in

mid-afternoon,

and enjoying lengthy vacations — all with no boss to say no. This,

he says, is not how it works.

For all of the above reasons, it is essential to get the

family’s

support before putting up a shingle — or getting a sign for the

pick-up truck. Everyone must be prepared for the first months of the

new business, which, yes, will be exciting, but which will almost

certainly be filled with uncertainty.

Top Of Page
New Take on Networking

Lorraine Allen has been to more than her share

of networking events. The regional director of the Small Business

Development Center at the College of New Jersey sounds a bit impatient

about the usual drill.

"You stand up. You say your name. You give your pitch," is

how she describes a typical networking gathering. A can-do person,

Allen wants to put a motor under the whole process. "There’s got

to be a better way," she says. Who can afford to waste so much

time on a slow dance?

Not Allen, and she has come up with a way to supercharge networking

events. She is calling it "New Market Monday," and the first

event takes place on Monday, September 8, at 8 a.m. at Panera in

Nassau

Park. Pre-registration is required and is an important part of the

concept, although Allen says, "I haven’t decided whether I’ll

turn away anyone at the door." The cost is $20. For more

information

call 609-989-5232.

New Market Mondays will take place on the first business Monday of

each month. The dates are no accident. For one thing, business

meetings

tend to cluster in the middle of the week, steering clear of the first

post-week-end day. Even Friday meetings are more common than Monday

meetings. But why not seize the day? Start out the week — and

the month — with a bang?

"It’s a trigger," says Allen. "It’s a way to jumpstart

the month’s sales."

Here is how New Market Monday works. When each attendee registers

he does so by putting down his very best offer on whatever it is he

sells. That is part one. "And we’re not talking about 10 percent

off," says Allen. "We’re talking about the best you can do.

You don’t want to give away the store, but this should be the best

offer you can make."

As part two of the registration process, each attendee must state

what it is that he wants to buy.

Allen collates the information and creates a list to pass out at the

meeting. Then, at the meeting, each person gets up, briefly describes

his services, and — with luck — reels in some buyers. While

doing so, he obtains goods or services that he needs at a good price.

"Maybe (an attendee) had not been considering purchasing your

goods," postulates Allen, "but now you’re at the top of the

list." This is so because of the excellent value offered.

She implies that sales made through New Market Monday might bring

in less cash than usual, but says that the benefit of good word of

mouth, and of a piece of business in hand with which to get the month

rolling, is a good trade-off.

Allen offers the SBDC’s services to any entrepreneur in need of

coaching

to make the most of the event. The organization is ready with advice

on pricing, presentation, and collateral materials.

"Come with a good piece of business," Allen urges. "Put

it on the table. Let’s do it now!"

Top Of Page
An Expert Exposes Forgeries

The white Mercedes station wagon in the driveway is

a little dusty, as befits a gumshoe’s vehicle. Its license plate reads

"QDI." Questioned Documents Incorporated. Inside, Renee

Martin,

handwriting identification expert, readily agrees that she is a

detective.

Smiling in an immaculate office mere feet from Route 1 North as

incessant

traffic zooms by, she expresses gratitude that her brand of sleuthing

does not involve violence or blood.

"But there was that one time," she says, turning pensive.

"The case involved a body with handwriting on it." The death

had been ruled a suicide, but the mother thought it was a homicide

and that the handwriting could prove her theory. "I only saw

pictures,"

says Martin, relief in her voice. "I didn’t have to see the dead

body."

There may not be enough blood, violence, or nuttiness for a Janet

Evanovich novel in the cases that land at a handwriting expert’s door,

but a surprisingly large range of dramas do come down to the slant

of a signature. As one of just four handwriting experts in the state,

Martin sees a good number of them.

She speaks on "Handwriting: What Does It Reveal?" on Tuesday,

September 9, at 7 p.m. at a meeting of the Hightstown and East Windsor

Business and Professional Women at Hickory Corner Library in East

Windsor. Call 609-426-4777 for more information.

Martin, a New York City native, has 50 years of experience in

handwriting

identification and analysis. Her company, which she moved from Nassau

Street to the Princeton Service Center complex at 3490 Route 1 North

four years ago, has been located in the Princeton area since 1966.

"I just fell into the field," she says of her work. "I

was into handwriting analysis, and someone came to me to ask if a

lunch check had been changed." She laughs at the memory. "It

was a check for $7.29. It seems impossible, but in those days two

men could have a good meal — with wine — for $7.29." So,

the insertion of a "2" in front of the tab was suspicious in

itself.

It was also a bad forgery job. Martin says she was able to tell in

an instant that the additional numeral had been penned in a different

hand.

"It was the fastest $25 I’d ever made," she says. And a career

was launched.

Most of Martin’s clients are attorneys, but she does get calls from

individuals. "It’s funny," she says, running current cases

through her mind, "I’ve had three individuals just recently."

She describes one current client as "a reverend." The

reverend,

now retired, was given a piece of property by his church. But his

successor, a man he himself had chosen, disputes the gift and is

accusing

him of forging the property transfer documents.

Another case involves a pre-nuptial agreement. Now that divorce is

replacing wedded bliss, the bride is denying that she signed the

pre-nup.

"She signed dozens of pieces of paper that day," says Martin.

She acknowledges signing all of the others, but says the John Hancock

on the pre-nup is not hers.

The third case has to do with an all-too-common situation. Brothers

are arguing over their deceased parent’s will. Specifically, recounts

Martin, "a gentleman is being shut out by his siblings. They

refuse

to give him his rights as co-executor. They forged a document saying

that their mother had given power of attorney to their father."

Disputing that the signature was that of his mother, the allegedly

wronged brother brought Martin samples of her writing, the types of

samples a son is likely to have. "There was a card or two,"

she says. The most recent samples were jottings on the back of family

photographs, recording dates and identities of those smiling into

the camera.

None of these cases are difficult, says Martin, despite the fact that

"no one ever signs his name the same way twice." It doesn’t

matter. Neither age, nor hurry, nor an elaborate plot can alter the

bones of a signature. The owner of each unique signature comes through

no matter what. Identifying features include beginning strokes, slant,

spacing, pressure, and pace.

"One case involved a man who signed his name as four circles,"

Martin recalls. "He even let people in his office use the

signature."

No matter, she says, no two people will create even a simple,

stripped-down

signature the same way.

A signature is as distinctive as a fingerprint, or at least it is

to the eyes of a trained professional.

Martin places an allegedly altered signature next to samples of the

person’s genuine signature, and closes out everything else for four

or five hours. After analyzing every facet of the handwriting, she

is able to definitively declare whether or not there has been a

forgery.

Generally, that is all it takes. Faced with a detailed report from

an established handwriting expert, disputants tend to settle. But

when the other side has retained an expert who comes to a different

conclusion, the case sometimes moves to court. This phase, says

Martin,

is what has caused many a handwriting expert to change careers. For

while any well-trained, experienced person can tell the difference

between a genuine signature and a forgery, few can hold firm in a

courtroom where the opposition’s case rests on discrediting the expert

witness and belittling her testimony.

Martin has no trouble dealing with cross examination, but she is

spending

less and less time in court. The reason? "Mediation," she

says. Within the past three years or so, the less confrontational

way of settling disputes has really taken off. Now, most of her cases

end short of the courtroom door.

There have been other changes in the profession as well. Most of what

Martin does now is handwriting identification. Her forays into

handwriting

analysis are confined mostly to meetings like this one. But there

was a time — not all that long ago — when companies routinely

turned to handwriting analysis to plumb the depths of prospective

hires’ minds and characters.

When Scanticon, now the Doral Forrestal, first came to Princeton,

says Martin, it recruited her to analyze the handwriting of those

it was considering hiring. Mental acuity, the ability to get along

with others, trustworthiness, honesty — all of this, and much

more, is on display every time anyone jots a note or signs a check.

While analyzing personality and character through handwriting is

rarely

done by employers anymore, at least not around here, Martin says that

other parts of the country are much more open to the practice.

"Outside of the northeast," she says, "handwriting

analysis

is used to aid lawyers in selecting potential jurors."

In these parts, the art has mainly been relegated to the level of

parlor trick. For those who study handwriting, though, it offers a

fascinating peak into the psyches of their fellows. Does Martin ever

analyze the handwriting of public figures? Of, maybe, someone like

George W. Bush?

"Oh, Bush!" she exclaims. It turns out that she has indeed

taken a look at his public signature, but does not want to say too

much about it. "Let’s just say this," she says, "I was

surprised. He’s quite a macho person, or that’s the way he wants other

people to see him."

More enthusiastic about the personas of politicians past, as expressed

in their handwriting, Martin says, "Now Washington and Jefferson

had very contemporary handwriting. They would fit right in today."

September 13

Top Of Page
Computer Clean-Up

Princeton borough and township residents harboring

outdated

and broken computers and peripherals will have a chance to free up

that storage space on Saturday, September 13. That’s the date for

the first Princeton Computer Recycling Day to be held from 10 a.m.

to 2 p.m. in the parking lot of the Community Park pool next to the

Princeton Township Municipal Complex on Witherspoon Street.

Organized by the Princeton Environmental Commission and the Trenton

Materials Exchange (TMEx), this special drop-off day is only for

residents

of Princeton borough and township. Residents may bring any type of

computer system and peripherals (printers, scanners, PIAs, drives,

etc.), working or broken, to be donated to TMEx, a 501(c)(3)

environmental

nonprofit. Residents will receive a tax deductible donation receipt

for the materials dropped off. In addition to the opportunity to

dispose

of these items in a convenient and environmentally appropriate way,

participants will also be helping others to obtain computer systems

they otherwise could not afford.

As part of a larger reuse and recycling center, TMEx operates a

year-round

computer/ electronic drop-off and refurbishing program. Working

computer

systems are refurbished and distributed at no cost to children, people

with disabilities, and older adults of limited means. Very dated and

broken equipment is sent to a licensed de-manufacturer for recycling

in an environmentally appropriate, safe manner. As part of this

special

collection, TMEx will donate 10 refurbished systems to children and

adults selected by the Princeton Environmental Commission.

Proof of residency will be required at the drop-off. Very large pieces

of equipment, such as plotters and copiers and drop-offs by

businesses,

cannot be accepted on this day. Businesses requiring disposal for

computers and related materials should contact TMEx directly. For

more information on the drop-off day or computer disposal call TMEx

at 609-278-0033.

September 17

Top Of Page
Red Cross Planning For the Unplanned

Computer viruses are a calamity, but as the old saying

goes, "Nothing is a problem that money can’t fix," and money

can fix almost any computer problem.

What money can’t fix are personal problems, and as the September 11

anniversary nears, businesses large and small are revisiting the

preparations

they have made for how to help themselves, their employees, and

employee

families through any future crisis or disaster.

The American Red Cross of Central New Jersey will stage a conference

and exhibition on this theme, "Helping Businesses Prepared for

the Unexpected." It is set for Wednesday, September 17, from 7:30

a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westin Hotel, Forrestal Village. Cost: $175

including breakfast and a reception. Call Lee Doherty at

609-951-8550.

Ivan Walks MD, chief health officer of the District of Columbia

during the September 11th and anthrax attack crises, will be the

keynote

speaker.

Also speaking are Sidney Caspersen director of the New Jersey

Office of Counter-Terrorism and Homeland Security, Clifton R. Lacy

MD, commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior

Services, Sharon Bryson deputy director of the Office of

Transportation

Disaster Assistance, National Transportation Safety Board; Elin

Gursky, senior fellow for biodefense and public health programs

of the ANSER Institute for Homeland Security; Gerald Anderson,

officer of the international security unit of the International

Services,

of American Red Cross; Mark Braverman of Marsh Crisis

Consulting;

Howard Leadbetter, special agent of the FBI; and Allen

Silk

of Stark & Stark.

Workshop topics include homeland security, crisis communication, risk

management, public health and bioterrorism, human resources in

disaster

situations, emergency preparedness for employees and their families,

and disaster planning and management. The final topic: Lessons

Learned.

Top Of Page
School Teachers:

Save Your Receipts!

The school bell is ringing — or will be soon. Before

the first child drags his backpack into the classroom it is a good

bet that his teacher has hit a number of stationery supply stores,

ordered cut outs of colored leaves online, and generally dipped into

her own dwindling end-of-summer checking balance to make her classroom

a colorful, inviting learning space.

For years, teachers have quietly been spending $200, $500, or more

a year not only on decorations, but also on basic supplies that could

be found nowhere in the school supply room. Now, the IRS is

acknowledging

the expense, and is even offering to help.

Starting with the 2002 tax return, teachers may subtract up to $250

of qualified expenses when figuring their adjusted gross income. The

tax break covers purchases of books, classroom supplies, and

computer-related

equipment, including software and services.

The new deduction is available to educators in both public and private

elementary and secondary schools who work at least 900 hours during

a school year as a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide.

Corrections or additions?


This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com

— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.

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