Judy’s Comments

"Hiring" a summer intern can be a win-win experience.

"Hiring" a summer intern can be a win-win experience.

Garden State Woman just recruited Dana as a summer intern and fully expects it to be a win-win experience for her and for us. We have typically brought an intern aboard for a few months most summers. Almost without exception it worked out great for everyone.

Finding the right intern

There is no one way to find a quality summer intern. They can be spotted by inquiring at the various colleges in the area and by talking with people in your networks who may have young people they know who are looking to have a productive summer.

In our most recent case we ran an ad in mid April for a part time marketing person or intern on Craigs List. Dana responded along with a bunch of others. Without exception the other people answering our ad did a terrible job with their responses. This surprised us since usually we have good luck recruiting full and part time people on Craigs List (except for sales people, they are always the hardest to find).

Dana's response was short, to the point and flawless. She attached her resume indicating she was just completing her second year at Susquehanna University. She lives in Long Valley where Garden State Woman is located so our location was one appeal. Dana is a communications major and connecting with a multi-media company serving New Jersey women, like Garden State Woman, was a good fit for her professionally.

We had a phone call and arranged to meet in early May when Dana ended her classes for the year. The meeting went great and we all quickly agreed to start working together. Hopefully Dana will be with us until mid July when she leaves for a semester of studying abroad in Australia – good for her!

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When Planning Won't Cut It

Planning is something we are all told is critical to an organization's success. While that is certainly true, viable planning can not really happen if the fundamental strategy for the underlying business (or any type of organization) is flawed. Over the past many years of advising emerging and established companies I have often found that business leaders and investors are frustrated and feel stymied by the lack of a well thought through business plan. Too often the difficulty in coming up with a realistic business plan really reflects the lack of a core business strategy that will rapidly propel the business. If the strategic underpinnings of a company are flawed how can a realistic business plan be developed? It is impossible.

In recent months several organizations have engaged our firm (Bluestone+Killion) as strategic advisors to explore why their plans are not developing for raising new funds (attracting capital in this tough economy is really hard, virtually impossible), attracting the right people to the organization, developing, launching and selling new products and services, generating a profit, achieving a meaningful competitive edge and building win-win strategic alliances - one of the real keys to achieving success these days.

In almost all cases we have been finding basic flawed strategies. The businesses lack a clear competitive edge. Their products and services really are not break-throughs. They can not break into the target sales channels which are already clogged with similar offerings. The people in the organization are already discouraged by the lack of results so why will new talented people join the team. And, why should investors part with their hard earned capital to financially back a company without a winning strategy? Detailed, item by item planning won't change the basic issue. The current business model and strategy for the company just won't work regardless of the degree of planning that takes place.

The obvious solution is to step back and re-examine the key elements in the basic strategy of the business:

* who are the right investors for the business and why? What should they expect in return? What can they add besides just capital?

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Launching Your Own Company

In this day and age of market volatility none of us really know how long we will hang onto our jobs and our current careers. So, many are thinking of starting their own businesses. For those in this situation here are some key tips:

  1.  Be totally realistic. Do you have the courage and support system you will need to step off the ledge, leave your current employment behind and start your entrepreneurial career? It's a huge step!
  2. The support system you need includes your family's full endorsement and enough cash in the piggy bank to get you through and beyond the start-up stage. Remember, things always take longer and cost more than you think.
  3. Try to hang onto your current job and income stream and benefits as long as possible while you use non working, free time nights and weekends to plan and get your business going. Wear two hats for a while. The longer the better.
  4. Expect to fund your own start-up efforts personally. Maybe your family and a few friends will help but assume you are on your own for financially backstopping the launch. Unless you have some stellar track record starting and growing a previous new business why should anyone besides you back you in the beginning?
  5. If you try to raise outside funding for your start-up be realistic proposing what investors get for sharing the risk. I have seen too many viable new ventures never get off the ground because the founder had unrealistic expectations when fund raising.
  6. Put your plan on paper. Be aggressive with your expense estimates and conservative with your revenue and cash flow projections. That's just the way the world works. You always overspend and under-receive in a start up.
  7. If you don't know how to put together a realistic business plan then go find someone to help you. Make the plan monthly in year 1 and quarterly in year 2. Forget year 3. You will be lucky to get that far. Review and adjust your plan every month or two during year 1.
  8. Keep your start-up costs down. Why not start in your basement?
  9. Pick a business idea that you have total faith in and one that excites you. If you can not be passionate about your own new business idea forget about it. Without deep conviction and passion you have no shot of being successful.
  10. Pick good professional advisors right from the beginning. Make certain you have a CPA, a lawyer, a bank and an insurance agent to work with from day 1. And make it clear from the outset that you are on a tight budget and that they have to go light on their fees until you get going. Interview 2 or 3 candidates in each category until you find the good fits. This is your advisory team. They have to work together.
  11. Be prepared and look forward to personally selling. Your new venture is going to depend very heavily on your passion for selling whatever service or products your new company will produce. Unless you are prepared to be the lead salesperson in your Newco don't take any further steps. You will never get going successfully. You will burn through plenty of sales people as you launch and grow your business. You have to be ready to carry the selling burden.
  12. Spend lots of time recruiting your staff members. Making personnel hiring mistakes can be deadly. Use your personal network to find potential new team members for your organization. Get rid of poor performers quickly. Recruiting great performers is the only way you can succeed. Constantly be looking for real talent. When you find an exceptional person create opportunities to bring them aboard. Top notch people always pay for themselves.
  13. Rather than staffing up with employees outsource as much as you can with strategic alliances. Why not use a free-lance bookkeeper, independent sales reps, and a web development company? Get as close as you can to being a "virtual" company, particularly during the early stages.
  14. Develop ways to compensate all the people you hire including outside vendors with some incentive component. You want everyone on your team to have a bottom line incentive.
  15. Put yourself on the payroll early on in the start-up effort. Why should you work for free and pay all the others?
  16. Be prepared to re-invent yourself and your business model constantly. The world is changing too quickly. If you stand still you will get run over. A year from now your business will look totally different than the one you envisioned at the outset.
  17. Have talent on your team that is great using all the emerging internet tools, i.e.; web sites, Linked In, Facebook, Twitter and all the others that will emerge before you read this little piece. If you can't communicate about and drive your business via the Internet it will be toast before it ever gets off the ground.
  18. Make certain your business has multiple revenue streams and a widely diversified target customer base. You can not rely on a single product or single service for long term success. And you can't rely on a narrow market segment for your sales. If appropriate think globally instead of nationally or regionally.
  19. I have always found that start-up and emerging businesses need to raise less capital to support their plans than they think. Often creativity, the owner's sweat equity and high impact strategic people connections can replace a big chunk of the capital anticipated to fund the project. And, if you do actually have to raise funding think about getting it from "strategic" investors, i.e. ones who will benefit from your emerging company in addition to getting a return on any invested capital.

Garden State Woman plans to host networking events for those thinking about starting their own business and those who are already underway with their new ventures. Let us know if you are interested in attending. Contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. And please join Judy's Circle so that you can add your comments and advice for those starting their own new businesses

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Planning, the Key to Success

Joe Caso
Every business needs a plan. Some create a plan to use in their quest for financing. Banks require detailed financial information and lengthy narratives. The business plans that I require of all my business coaching/advisory clients to prepare are meant for internal guidance. I review them with each entity quarterly and we make whatever adjustments are necessary. They become our game plan for the year, as opposed to a once yearly report card, that is often relegated to the bottom of a desk drawer and seldom reviewed after preparation.

Most of the plans I help create are 4-6 pages in length. My oldest client's plan is 14 pages because they have become addicted to the details included and review and adjust their plan each quarter. They have become convinced that without that level of preparation they will not succeed in reaching the goals they have set.

The plan I am about to describe has seven sections, but some of my client add an eighth, which really serves as a summary of the actions steps to be taken. Others simply review the seven sections and create a "to do" list of all the agreed upon steps that the plan calls for.

The seven sections: Overview, Industry insights, Market analysis, Competitive analysis, Marketing plan, Operating plan and Financial plan.

Overview – This is where you get the opportunity to share your vision for your business and take the time to reduce your thoughts to writing. The direction you describe will be supported by the Marketing Plan, Operating Plan and Financial Plan and should be strongly influenced by the research and analysis that you have done while preparing Industry Insights, Market Analysis and Competitive Analysis.

Be mindful to keep your view of the year as realistic as you can. If you set proper and reasonable expectations you have a much better chance of success. Positioning the rabbit at an unreasonable place out in front of the dog is a prescription for disaster.

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FDU Business Venture Program Fall 2010

Gina Tedesco
Are YOU ready for fresh perspective? FDU's Business Ventures Program provides an opportunity for advanced MBA students to partner with local businesses to tackle complex issues and craft comprehensive strategic solutions.

For students, it's hands-on, practical and much larger than classroom theory and simulation. This is real life.

For businesses, it provides valuable entrepreneurial insight to strategically move your company to the next level.

Whether you are a company seeking assistance or students seeking real-world challenges, this is truly a unique learning experience for all. Visit our new website   and discover how to expand your horizons and gain perspective.

Professor Gina Tedesco
908-696-8884 (office)

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Brand and Trademark Protection

Obtaining federal trademark protection can be of great value to a company and its brands. A federal trademark registration affords important benefits and there are risks associated with not obtaining registration. Accordingly, a company should make it a serious priority.


A Company’s Brand and Trademarks
A brand is what consumers associate with a company. It brings to their minds the distinctive qualities of its goods or services. It also identifies a company as the source of those goods or services. Brand names, logos, slogans and tag lines are all source identifiers that function as trademarks and/or service marks (collectively “trademarks”). Competitors may look to capitalize on the goodwill a company has established in connection with its brand and trademarks by using the same or a confusingly similar trademark. A company can help prevent this by protecting its trademarks.


Trademark Protection
Trademark rights arise in part, from using a trademark in commerce in connection with the sale or provision of goods or services. These rights are known as “common law” trademark rights. Common law trademark rights can provide limited protection in the specific geographic territory in which the trademark is used even without registration. A company can obtain broader protection for its trademark within an entire state by registering the mark in the state in which it is using the trademark. State trademark protection may be beneficial to a company that is selling goods or providing services solely within a particular state. State trademark protection, however, is typically not as valuable when a company is selling goods or providing services across state lines. Obtaining federal trademark protection with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) affords broader protection and is generally the best option for a company selling products or providing services in interstate commerce.

 


Benefits of Federal Trademark Protection
There are many important benefits that a company gains from owning a federal trademark registration that are not available through state or common law trademarks rights.
A federal trademark registration:
• Gives others constructive nationwide notice of a company’s claim to its trademark. It excludes others from using the same or a confusingly similar trademark anywhere in the United States.
• Permits use of the “®” symbol with a company’s trademark, which signifies that it is federally registered.
• Constitutes clear evidence that a company’s trademark registration is valid and that it has exclusive rights to use its trademark in commerce.
• Allows a company the potential to obtain “treble” damages (three times its assessed damages), lost profits resulting from the infringing use of its trademark, and/or attorneys’ fees, should a company file an action in federal court for trademark infringement.
• Enables a company to obtain trademark “incontestable” status after five years of continuous use, which precludes others from attacking its trademark registration on certain grounds.
• Enables the USPTO to cite a company’s trademark registration against another party’s trademark application for the same or a confusingly similar trademark. This can lead to that party discontinuing its plans to use that mark.
• Strengthens a company’s legal position when asserting its rights against a party who is infringing its trademark. A party infringing a federally registered trademark would have less of a defense that its infringement was innocent.
• May increase the value of a company and its appeal to others contemplating a potential partnership, merger or acquisition.
• Allows a company to record its trademark registration with U.S. Customs to prevent the importation of infringing goods bearing the same or a confusingly similar trademark.
 

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Picking Partners

In my career I have been involved in several business partnerships. Three were based on a simple hand shake agreement. One of these hand shake partnerships covering ownership of a manufacturing company lasted over 10 years and worked the best. Another hand-shake arrangement in the venture capital and consumer publishing field also held up well over a several year period. Another hand-shake deal in the financial services industry was a real disaster that turned ugly and could have been much worse if law suits had started flying.

I have been involved in three written partnership agreements. Two were in the financial services industry. One of these lasted 10 years and is still going. Another one lasted 5 years and ended for health reasons of the other partner. And one written (potential) partnership in the consulting profession ended the day we were both supposed to sign and finalize the partnership agreement.

In short, I have had lots of experiences with starting and trying to sustain viable, successful business partnerships. It’s never easy. These are some of the things I have learned along the way:

• Think about whether or not you even want to have a partnership. Would you be better off going it alone? Or not moving ahead at all on the project you are planning with a partner? What’s the advantage of having a partnership? What does the other partner or partners bring to the party?

• Really know the person with whom you are thinking about “partnering”. Putting together a successful business partnership is no different and no easier than entering into marriage. And we all know that 50% of all current marriages will end in divorce. Understanding the potential partner will take significant time. Don’t rush into a partnership. There is always more time to decide. Better to avoid going ahead rather than getting stuck in a bad one.

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Evaluating your web site

Margot Teleki, a special friend of Garden State Woman, has developed and marketed major brands in many diverse markets. She totally understands marketing and communications and is currently developing her new firm (Copywrite Marketing) to help organizations develop  high impact websites. Margot recently took on the task of analyzing hospital web sites since that is one of her current undustry focuses. Following are her conclusions. The skeleton of her analysis can be useful to all of us with a web site that we expect to drive  our business. Read on........

THE HOSPITAL WEB MYSTIQUE

94% of Hospital Web Sites Tend To Confuse Visitors In One Way or Another According to a Recent Study Of “Best” Hospitals

“All I wanted was to visit a friend and it took 20 minutes to find the phone number on the hospital web site,” complains Lynn L. of Morristown.
“Who’s the head of orthopedics in our local teaching hospital?” asks Sharon W. in Atlantic Highlands. ”I couldn’t find her on their web site.”
Elizabeth W. of Cherry Hill complains, “I had to contact the doctor at Johns Hopkins who performed two back surgeries on me three years ago. Web instructions were to type in the doctor’s name, so I did.“A few seconds later, the autoresponder came back. No results, yet I know he’s still there.
“Intrigued, I tried looking up another Johns Hopkins doctor who has been chair of his department for years. Again, the autoresponder responded, ‘No results.’”

Evidently the computer connect wasn’t functioning, but how would the average person know that? How would the hospital know it unless they had tested the system beforehand? Another common blooper: videos, webcasts or podcasts in which sight and sound are out of sync. Or not working, period.
To confirm what visitors claim, we asked a couple of doctors their thoughts regarding hospital web sites.

• One replied with no words and an amused grin, “No comment.”
• Another said, “It’s hard to find what I’m looking for when I need it.”
• A third commented cautiously that he finds "most hospital web sites confusing and irrelevant."

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Bonus vs. Incentive Compensation

I never particularly liked the concept of paying people year-end bonuses. I found over the years that people tend to expect them as part of their basic compensation package. And, in many organizations, the basis of the bonus is often not clearly defined ahead of time. Too often bonuses depends on "how well the company does." Whatever that means?

Instead I think it makes more sense to find ways to provide people with clear incentives tied directly to their own performances as well as to the performances of the organization in total. For example, sales people can certainly be compensated with a base salary plus a commission based on their individual sales results. The commission portion of the total compensation should be substantial. But, since nearly all  people within an organization can have a personal impact on sales maybe all employees should be motivated with a commission based on the total revenues of the company. Other incentive programs can be developed and implemented depending on the nature of the business. For example, professionals like accountants and lawyers could receive incentive compensations based on new business they generate or the profitability of their engagements. Teachers could be provided incentives based on the standardized testing results of their students.  Retail buyers could be provided incentive compensation based on the total mark downs taken on their purchases.

Certainly everyone in an organization could be motivated with a percentage of the bottom line results of the company with clear bench marks established at the beginning of the year. Maybe incentives could be established on a quarter by quarter basis plus a year-end program.

In developing an incentive program that works think through ways to insure that the pay out of incentives help you retain the best employees. Too often I have seen organizations lose key people just after they received a substantial bonus or incentive payment. They hung around just long enough to get their "big pay out" and then left for greener pastures.

Developing an effective compensation system for all employees that is reviewed and tweaked periodically can be a major competitive weapon. Make certain you are paying enough attention to your system. No two organizations are exactly the same. The compensation system that works for you will need to be unique in ways that meet your core business objectives.

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Virtual Career Fair

Berkeley College, with four New Jersey locations in Newark, Woodbridge, Paramus and Woodland Park (formerly West Paterson), provides an innovative solution for organizations looking to recruit new talented interns or employees.  The college offers organizations an opportunity to post internship and employment opportunties periodically in a Virtual Career Fair. The next available online career fair runs from February 15 through March 1, 2010.

Organizations can sign up to participate and post information about internship and employment oppportunties they have to fill. The service provided by the College is free to posting organizations and is another service provided to Berkeley students and graduates. Many of the Berkeley students and alumni are first generation college students. Garden State Woman has found them to be bright and highly motivated. To learn more contact Rosemarie Berman, Director of Career Services, Berkeley College Online at 973-405-2111 Extension 6405 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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Bringing New People into The Organization

I have started and headed many organizations from significant non-profits to healthy, fast growing corporations. I have been brought into lead many turnaround situations. The biggest challenge in all of these organizations has been trying hard to find the right new people to bring on to the team. And I maintain that the same challenge is the one that keeps most CEOs and business owners awake at night.

 

Some of the things I have learned along the way are the following:

 

A large number of job applicants lie or embellish on their resumes so you can’t believe all you read in resumes. Lies are likely to be about what they previously earned and/or the responsibilities they previously had. One of the bigger examples of this in my experience was the high-level sales person I hired at the suggestion of a close friend who was related by marriage to the applicant. The new hire’s early performance was so horrible that after two or three weeks I had serious doubts about any of his qualifications. To start checking him out we called the prestigious New England University he claimed to have graduated from. You got it, not only had he not graduated, he had never even attended a class there. We let him go that afternoon.

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Planning Ownership & Value Transfer

Generally speaking there are only four paths a business owner can take to voluntarily leave his or her business:

• Transfer to an insider - such as key employees, partners etc.
• Transfer to heirs apparent
• Sell the assets to third parties
• Sell the stock to third parties

This article will focus on issues relevant to the transfer of ownership and value to heirs. Transferring to anyone, let alone family, is fraught with many perils. My experience is that a successful transfer is seldom reached (one in ten), an abysmal record.

Why should the best of intentions of a business owner to pass their business interest to their children succumb to such failures?

Traditional reasons for this failure are:

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Creating An Advisory Board

Think about creating an Advisory Board for your company. 

It can be a low risk, low cost way to get important input in your efforts to grow your business.

There are differences between a board of directors and a board of advisors, mainly, an advisory board can be more low key with the members having no basic responsibility for the success or failure of the company.

Advisory boards can be as large or as small as you like. They can meet as frequently as you wish assuming their schedules permit. Normally the advisors are hand-picked friends with specific expertise willing to help. In many cases the advisors serve without compensation, although meeting over dinner at a good restaurant is a perk that everyone usually appreciates. If you include people who have to travel for the meetings I think it only fair that you pick up their airfare and hotel for the overnight stay.

The role of the advisory board can range from acting as a sounding board for your own ideas and plans to being a source of important referrals and contacts.

In my case of managing an investment fund, I put together an advisory board of seven exceptional professionals with whom I generally meet twice a year for a couple of hours at a time. Following our meeting we sit as a group for dinner. This “team” provides solid perspective on my own efforts. Probably the biggest payback to them is getting to know each other so that they can help each other in the future with their own careers and companies.

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