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
to solicit and judge ideas for new, high-growth technology businesses.
One early-stage technology company doing business in New Jersey,
New York or Delaware will receive an offer for a $250,000 investment
in its business. For details and to submit executive summaries, visit
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.
Businesses are busting out all over. Propelled, at least
in part, by serial lay-offs, all kinds of people are discovering their
"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
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,
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
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
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
"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.
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
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
there is some basic advice that applies to all:
that is repeated so often. But like the advice to floss or to
or to drive defensively, it is often ignored. "The major
says Haness, "is that people do not plan what they are going to
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.
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
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
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
and one that is not leading to profitability after 18 months needs
to be revised right away.
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
and enjoying lengthy vacations — all with no boss to say no. This,
he says, is not how it works.
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.
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
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
New Market Mondays will take place on the first business Monday of
each month. The dates are no accident. For one thing, business
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
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!"
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
handwriting identification expert, readily agrees that she is a
Smiling in an immaculate office mere feet from Route 1 North as
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
says Martin, relief in her voice. "I didn’t have to see the dead
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
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
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
"It was the fastest $25 I’d ever made," she says. And a career
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
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
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
"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
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
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
No matter, she says, no two people will create even a simple,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
Princeton borough and township residents harboring
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
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)
nonprofit. Residents will receive a tax deductible donation receipt
for the materials dropped off. In addition to the opportunity to
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
computer/ electronic drop-off and refurbishing program. Working
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
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
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
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
they have made for how to help themselves, their employees, and
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
Ivan Walks MD, chief health officer of the District of Columbia
during the September 11th and anthrax attack crises, will be the
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
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
of American Red Cross; Mark Braverman of Marsh Crisis
Howard Leadbetter, special agent of the FBI; and Allen
of Stark & Stark.
Workshop topics include homeland security, crisis communication, risk
management, public health and bioterrorism, human resources in
situations, emergency preparedness for employees and their families,
and disaster planning and management. The final topic: Lessons
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
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
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?
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