The Devils Over The Weekend: A Capsule of What’s Right and What’s Wrong with this Team

The past two games for the New Jersey Devils over the weekend really encapsulated what was right and wrong with this team. I will begin with the victory over the Panthers on Saturday, continue with the terrible loss yesterday to the arch rival Rangers, and conclude with where the team is headed going into next season.


Saturday versus the Panthers

The game at The Rock on Saturday afternoon against the Panthers contained many of the elements that the Devils lacked during their horrible losing streak. The Devils scored goals, moved the puck well, controlled the neutral zone, crashed the net, and created plays out of the forecheck.


The team got off to a slow start, as it has done frequently this season, but obviously they gained momentum as the game went on. They were aggressive on the ice which I thought was lacking during long stretches of this abbreviated season. I think they need that edge in order to win close games against good teams, and I was hoping they would carry that aggressive edge to MSG to play the Rangers.


The concerns I had coming out of the Florida game were the fact that the Panthers had abundant open ice space in the 1st period which lead to a number of scoring opportunities. At that time, I thought if the Devils repeat that against the Rangers, they would be in trouble (we see how that played out). The other issue I had with the game on Saturday was the way the Devils handled the puck in their own end of the ice. More than a few times, they were sloppy with the puck in those areas, which as we fellow hockey fans know, leads to turnovers in our own end and a scoring chance for the opponent.

Overall, I was happy they got the win at home and seemed to break out of the scoring drought.


Sunday versus the Rangers

After a disastrous 1st period at MSG, which included the Devils taking too many penalties, and making a number of mistakes against a Rangers team that needed the win, I thought they settled down in the 2nd period.

However, I must mention the terrible job done by the referees in this game, I have friends who are Rangers fans calling me today saying that the referees made some terrible calls in the game! The penalty on D’Agostini for holding the stick was a terrible call, as he is falling in a dazed state after that vicious hit he took on the boards. The officiating of the game was totally lopsided and completely influenced the outcome of this game.

The Devils did not forecheck well, and they over passed or over rotated the puck. They needed to put more shots on goal against Lundquist and they did not do so. Their spacing on the ice was a mess for large stretches of this game. In one sequence though, in the 2nd period, they were spaced out better and created some solid scoring chance, but could not convert them.

Brodeur was screened on 2 goals, and the other goal, the first goal by Callahan went in off the skate of Brodeur and into the net. The Pyatt goal was the result of a bad turnover by the Devils defense, which I was concerned about in the Florida game the day before, the way they were sloppy handling the puck in their end.

One of the bright spots for the Devils came right after that goal in the 2nd period, where Zajac just missed a goal on a great chance. That rush started on a great pass by Zidlicky to create that scoring opportunity.

In the 3rd period, the other Callahan goal was the back breaker. It came again after a series of bad penalties called by the referee, but also was a direct result of very good passing by the Rangers. The Devils also over pursued that play to a large degree, and Brodeur was out of position to prevent that goal.

In the end, the Loktionov goal was nice, but too little too late for New Jersey, and the Devils will miss playoffs after that magical run last season. The Devils just never got the pace in this game, and they could not create odd man rushes which really limited their ability to score on Lundquist.


Looking ahead to next season

Now, the Devils and Lou Lamoriello have to make some important roster decisions in the summer off season. First, the Patrick Elias situation will be the topic we will all blog about, whether or not he gets an offer or tests the market remains to be seen. I can think of nothing worse than Elias in a Rangers or Flyers or Bruins uniform. I think he has played well enough to warrant playing his whole career for the Devils.

Next, we have the Clarkson and Zubrus situations that will be the other sub plots of the summer. All I know is I do not want to see Clarkson playing for Toronto. I hope both he and Zubrus will be back.

Finally, the goaltending situation, I think Brodeur still has something left in the tank. This season showed that he may need more time off to stay fresh.  I believe the Devils need to cut ties with Hedburg and either acquire a goalie from outside the organization or look to promote one from within their system. Unfortunately, this is what we fellow Devils fans are writing about today, now that the playoff dreams are over.





The Importance of Demographic Research in Marketing Products and Services

The importance of utilizing demographic research to market your products or services cannot be understated. In the rapidly changing world we are living in currently, it is important for your business to constantly be looking for new ideas or innovations.


The ability to be successful in a product launch stems from the demographic research done in the early stages of product development. If this research is done thoroughly and correctly, then the product has a good chance at success. However, if the research is not done thoroughly and is not executed properly, your company has a much greater chance at launching a product or service which will fail in the marketplace.


I will draw upon my experience doing demographic marketing research for two different companies in my career. I will share advice on the design of the survey for the product test, and also what particular problem areas to avoid.


Demographics – An introduction

The demographic breakdown for research of products or services is divided into groups or categories as follows:

  • Kids
  • Tweens
  • Young Adults
  • 18 – 24
  • 24-36
  • Gen X
  • Baby Boomers
  • Senior Citizens (0ver 70 years old)


There is some cross over between the 24-36 and the Generation X category (people born between 1965 and 1980) ; and there is also the term Generation Y which can describe people without precise dates (born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s).


Each generation has particular attributes and opinions which drive their purchasing behavior which I will cover later in this article.


The Product Survey or Test – A critical aspect in this process

The product survey or test is critical to your success or failure in the area of demographic research.  The wording of the questions is very important, and should be geared toward your audience. A product survey for a kids’ product has to be written on their level in order to be understood properly.

The design and layout of the survey is also very important. You may decide to be very traditional in the layout of a product for senior citizens; yet bold and using bright colors and text for the product geared to Tweens or Young Adults.

The questions must be written with the design to elicit the response your company is seeking. If you are trying to get an opinion of how your product compares to the competition, then the questions need to reflect that end point. If your survey is to determine new options or ideas for product line extensions on an existing product line, then your survey must have some open ended questions to draw out those ideas.


In addition, the setting for your product test is very important as well. Your company will get different responses based on whether you have the test group come into your office, or if you hold the test at a neutral site. In my experience, the respondents will be generally more nervous in your offices than at a neutral location such as the supermarket, the mall, or a hotel conference room.


The same attribute goes for children, if you are testing a product geared toward children or teens, then conducting the test at their respective school versus your company offices or a hotel will give you much different responses. I have worked on numerous campaigns for products geared toward children and young adults and it is always a good general rule of thumb to conduct the test at their school, if possible.


The location of the tests can impact demographics as well. In the U.S. our tastes and opinions are also shaped by where we are from within this diverse nation. That was very true in the case of the Coca-Cola Company when they rolled out “New Coke” which was found to be very sweet in other parts of the country and eventually was a product launch disaster for one of the world’s largest companies.


Upon internal review of the product launch process, it was revealed that Coke only test marketed the product in the South particularly in the Dallas market, where Dr. Pepper is a very popular drink, and Southerners tend to like very sweet beverages. It did very well in those markets, but not in other parts of the country.


This is a good case study to show that if you are launching a nationwide product, or you are launching a regional product – it is always important to get several test markets involved. Then your company should closely analyze that data when it comes back to determine the correct course of action prior to the full launch.


In the event your company is conducting research for a product or service which is geared toward young people or teenagers; the use of social media to deliver the survey or product test should be utilized. Young people utilize social media for everything they do, and this would show that your company understands that and can deliver products which relate to these age groups.


Brief Summary of Key Attributes by Demographic Type


Here is a brief summary of the key attributes each demographic group seeks from the products or services they use in general terms:

  • Kids – to sell products to children you should have bright packaging and use characters and bright colors. You must also appeal to the parents since they make the purchasing decision. So your product marketing should also feature a benefit that parents will see as valuable.
  • Tweens – the product needs to be hip and new. It needs to be innovative and you have the knowledge that this group purchases products and services with their own money. They have a lot of disposable income made from summer or part –time jobs. Your product has to appeal to them at their level.
  • Young adults – the product has to have an “edge” the marketing has to reflect that perception. It has to provide something new in order to succeed.
  • The 18-24 demo – the product or service must deliver immediately. This demographic seeks immediate results, if the product does not feature any element of immediate benefit, it will not be successful. This also is the most coveted demographic for product sales, TV ratings etc…due to the high amounts of disposable income in this age group coupled with their tendency to spend that income more freely than the other groups.
  • The 24-36 demographic age group – the product or service must have a value added component. It should be innovative, but most importantly the delivery of value or perceived value is the most important component to their purchasing behaviors.
  • Generation X – very similar to previous group, this generation of American consumer wants a good value for the money they will spend on a product or service. The point of difference between this set and the 18-24 demo is that the product also must be of high quality to have the best chance for success. The level of quality is not an issue at all with some of the other demographics, but in this group it needs to be a focal point of your marketing strategy.
  • Baby Boomers – this generation responds to two key factors: they are generally more cost conscious than the other demographic groups. So the price point of your product or service is a key issue with this group of consumers. The other key driver is nostalgia – if your product or service can provide them with a feeling or emotion from their younger days , it will have a greater opportunity for success.
  • Senior Citizens – this group is very traditional and prefers low cost products or services, so your company had better be flexible on price point here to compete. The marketing campaign would be very direct but also very “buttoned up” it should have more neutral color schemes and be very traditional in its approach in order to successfully market a product to this demographic of American consumer.



The Results – What is next?


In my past experience, once I received the results of the product survey or product testing, I moved the process into the next stage: data entry and data analysis.


I would first populate the data in an Excel spread sheet. I would also separate the popular ideas based on the results of the survey.


Next, I would determine the feasibility of these popular ideas. In the event that I had one or more ideas that were realistically feasible for potential new product line extensions or new product names; I would then determine the marketability of these names or concepts.


Then, I would look at the sample size of the product trial. If it was 100 people, I would then put together a proposal to gain approval for a test of 250 people. If it was a 500 person sample size audience, then I would seek an increase for the next round of tests to be 800 to 1,000 people.


I would also look at the way the test was conducted and if I received feedback on the survey from the members of the test sample group. If that feedback provided me with credible information about the execution of the test, I did then amend the format of the next round of tests accordingly.


Sometimes the popular ideas or trending data resulting from particularly large product trial tests would then help us to amend or develop a new marketing strategy than our original direction. This could even include changing the overall marketing plan for the company, so it is important to be nimble and capable of change to address changing market conditions.


I worked at a company that would do a product test on one type of product, and we would get ideas from the results for new concepts in other product lines based on consumer feedback.


It is also important to look at the current trends and analyze the feasibility of trying a new product in an innovative way to see if it works. For instance, Mountain Dew is a very popular drink with the 18-24 demographic could you take that type of citrus flavor and make a gum that tastes like Mountain Dew, or an energy supplement that tastes like Mountain Dew?

In the end, your company has to budget accordingly for promotional materials, test samples or products, and determine the venue and the staffing for the tests (convenience store, grocery store, movie theater, mall, school ..etc) but if you can pull together the right survey and the samples of product you  will be successful. The demographic research component of marketing products is essential to the success of your company. I hope you found this article useful in determining the future goals of your company in marketing new products or services.



Selected Poems from My Collection

Upon entering some poetry contests recently, I have received some great feedback on my work. When I started “Frank’s Forum”, one of the major themes was poetry. I recently published an article on Sonnet forms for young writers as the “jumping off” point for the poetry theme. Now I will provide a selection of my poetry which has received some great critical feedback in various forums and contests.

I hope you enjoy the poetry I have decided to share.


“Over The Bridge”

The sunlight pierces the water’s surface;
The river moves slowly to the Bay.
These days I think of my purpose;
I wonder if I will find my way.
The sun glares through my windshield
As I cross over the bridge in my car
I wonder how it’ll be when the traffic will yield
My car moves ahead, my thoughts are far
Away from here in another place.
I cross over the bridge into a new realm;
Where I can think in my own space
When things in life can totally overwhelm
I drive further, turn down a road.
To stop, rest, my thoughts to unload.




“Pushing Away”

I try to do it, but it’s hard;
To forget, to move ahead
To push away the memories, to discard;
They stick around my mind instead.

The memories of The Shore I knew;
Changed so dramatically by this storm.
The place where my sisters and I grew;
These special times so distant, so warm.

Replaced by images of destruction;
Whole towns, beach clubs, anything in its path.
I try to push these thoughts away, obstruction
Forces them back – memories of Sandy’s horrid wrath.

Maybe their will come a time, a day;
Where I can finally push this all away.




“A Perfect Sky”

A perfect sky so clear and blue
Makes me think of times with you.
Days we would spend in bliss;
Those days, now I truly miss.
Before our lives got tough;
But still today our love is enough.
To get through times we feel weak
And all of our prospects are bleak.
We will continue to make our way
Until we awake on a brighter day.
A day with a bright blue sky;
A day like this one and others gone by.
A day where our dreams come true;
I know I can get there with you.



Trapped between asleep and awake
Time I wish would forsake
As I lay here alone with a racing mind
The peace of sleep I wish to find
I drift along, the hour is late
Try to relax and to meditate
Nothing works. I continue to drift
I wish the anxiety would lift;
So I could get some much needed rest.
I wish their was someone to suggest;
What I could do to find peace.
To make my late night thoughts cease
The Sun is starting to rise
I rub my tired bloodshot eyes
No rest for me again this night
Tomorrow will be another fight




My eyes are heavy and tired;
But it’s still only mid-afternoon.
If I have coffee I’ll be wired
The evening will come soon.
My legs are heavy from the walk I took;
Through this small town on this Spring day.
Their were people everywhere you’d look
Out to enjoy it in their own way.
My heart is heavy from my own guilt;
Of all the things I’ve neglected.
In recent years, high walls I’ve built;
The needs of others I’ve deflected.
My mind is heavy with uncertainty;
How will I know which path to take?
I don’t know where to go or how to be
I reflect on bad choices I make.
My soul is heavy from regret;
Choices I should have made, one decision
Could have changed it all, would have set
Me on a new path, but I’m stuck in derision.
Heavy is the weight of a failed man
I have to develop a new plan.



“Beautiful Goodbye”

We stood in the driveway
As the car pulled in
I didn’t know what to say
I didn’t know how to begin
All I could do was sigh
Rushing around to get ready
I didn’t want to make you cry
We just held each other steady
We both knew the stakes
I had a job I needed to do
Right now my heart breaks
Because I have to leave you
Being apart is tough to learn
Each night, for you, I yearn



“As I Sit Here”

Birds fly by my window;
In the breeze I can see a flag blow.
It is quiet except for the hum of the AC;
To cool the space around me.
As I sit here, someone starves;
While another, a turkey he carves.
As I sit here, someone lives on the street;
While another has 30,000 square feet.
As I sit here comfortable and alone;
Somewhere villagers fear a predator drone.
As I sit here, afraid to fail;
Someone else is wrongly put in jail.
As I sit here in my clean clothes;
Dirty, ragged shirts are all someone else knows.
As I sit here and quietly pray;
Someone else was murdered today.
As I sit here watching baseballs’ star player get mobbed;
Someone else finds their home is robbed.
As I sit here pictures of my loving family shown;
Somewhere a veteran ponders suicide alone.
As I sit here trying to find my way
I realize I just wasted another day.
Birds fly by my window;
In the breeze I see a flag blow.



“Morning Mirror”

The glass doors of the art gallery;
Reflect my presence there.
The boats head toward the bowery;
Humidity and the smell of the sea fills the air.
The gallery space is quiet and dark;
I walk and stand by the river.
In the distance I hear a dog bark;
This time of the morning peace does deliver.
I’m able to think about the day ahead;
A bird flies quickly past me.
Most people are still in bed
The reflection of the bird I can see
Moving down the river in the distance.
It is such a calm, beautiful instance;
It is my morning mirror –
It helps me to see clearer.




“All I Saw”

As far as I could see
Piled high, deep, and wide
It goes on and on continually
On one side of the road to the other side
Rubble, wood, glass, a rocking chair
All that remains from the storm
It just seems all so unfair
I watch as the flies swarm
On a pile of moldy, spoiled food
Lives shattered and broken
The town is battered and crude
I see a neighbor, no words are spoken
We both know what’s at stake
All I saw that day, each day since
Is a town that all will forsake
A place where you’ll have to convince
Others to live there, to return
I wonder when we’ll learn
All I saw was garbage and sand
In a place that was once bright and grand.



”January Wind”

The nightfall brought cold air
I’m sitting inside where it’s warm
My wife worked late, which isn’t fair
Here in Central Jersey we’re bracing for a storm
I wait for her safe return
The January wind rattles the house
I check the oven, make sure dinner doesn’t burn
As I wait for the arrival of my spouse
The January wind gusts with power
Our love, I begin to contemplate
I hope she gets here within the hour
The time with her I appreciate
The door opens with great force
My wife enters shivering and windblown
I greet her with a look of remorse
I tell her I love her more than anything known
To mankind. She smiles through messy hair
I pour tea into her favorite cup
I tell her to sit in the kitchen chair
She says, “I love you too, go get the ketchup”
We laugh as the cold wind outside will blow
Right now our love is all we know



“Fridays Were Fun”

Remember back in high school;
Planning for Friday night was cool.
Whether a party, the movies, or a date
For Friday night I couldn’t wait.
In college too you would grind –
Through classes until Friday you’d find
The guys at a frat party or bar
Now those memories seem so far
Back in another time,
Now it seems so sublime.
Fridays were fun back then
Now, it’s like “remember when”
We went to the City for the night;
You met the guys watched a game or a fight.
Now Friday is just another day
We go about it in the same way.
We bring work home with us;
We don’t make plans or a big fuss.
Maybe that’s the way it goes;
Or maybe we’ll change, who knows?
I cherish the few hours with my wife;
We’ll see where Fridays take us in our life.



“Glory Be”

Glory be the Father, The Son
The Holy Spirit – Blessed Trinity
His love for us has just begun.
His love will live for infinity.
He created the Earth and the Moon
He created the glorious Heaven;
But nobody wants to get there soon.
Jesus took bread with no leaven
He blessed and broke it for all
He took the cup of wine – “My Blood”
He carried the cross, three times to fall.
His death, sorrow over the world did flood
Victory over sin and death, we believe
Eternal life through Christ we receive.



“Unfortunate Fame”

Where I grew up was a calm place;
Now you can’t see its’ face.
Fear was distant, very far
Then a hurricane came and made a scar;
On the entire length of Shore.
Which once was clean and pure
We now have unfortunate fame
And remain part of the media’s game
Many people I know got scared
Wondering how they or relatives fared
One thing I can discern
Is my wife and I will not return

The images are everywhere we look
Someone will write a book
Unfortunate fame for the wrong reasons.
We’ll move ahead through the seasons.


This was written after the Newtown school shooting tragedy – in light of the terrible events in Boston yesterday I felt compelled to share this poem:

“Will It End”

Will it end – this tragedy, this pain?
Just when I think it will
Something happens, so horrible, so shrill
I listen to others complain

Will it end? Children killed in school
By a deranged man for no reason
Right in the middle of the holiday season
Will it end? A husband drowns his wife in a pool

Will it end? This disrespect for life
Will the next generation bring change
The next wave of criminals is born
A world filled with chaos and strife
Will it end? Will it rearrange?
Will societal morals continue to be torn?



“Watching Birds Fly”

They move together across the sky;
In perfect unison, it’s a large flock.
I sit there watching birds fly
The overcast sky, the rain will sock
Them as they head where they’re going;
If they don’t get there first.
We’ve all watched birds without knowing.
All that flapping they should die of thirst!
Amazing animals, birds, resilient
Flying together so high in the sky
Some birds have colors so brilliant
I wonder where they go, watching birds fly.

My days have been busy, they fly by
My nights are hectic, trying to write
It’s good to slow things down, or at least try
I think of that while the birds pass from sight.



“Empty House”

I drive down the old familiar street
I pull my car over close to the curb
The house looked good, prim and neat
A typical home in an New Jersey suburb
The basketball hoop still up in the driveway
It was where I spent many a day
The house was empty and dark
My memories, warm and bright, the contrast stark
Though the owner will be back here in a while
I came here infrequently, think of the past
Back when you thought those days would last
I remember my sisters’ laugh, Moms’ smile
Now it’s gone, changed, life is different
I long for those days, wonder where they went



“All That Remains”

A few crates against a garage wall;
Some clothes in a blue suitcase.
My life feels like it took a big fall;
The weeks are like a frantic race.
All that remains after the flood
Is some crates, books, and our love.
We have that and our family, our blood;
That support and faith in God above.
All that remains is a desk and a dresser
Our home is gone – much of what’s in it gone too.
That doesn’t make me love you any lesser;
That doesn’t make our love any less true.
We have a few things in a basement
We have to live with your Mom & Dad.
Our best days still ahead, still unspent;
So smile for me, baby, don’t be sad.
All that remains after this disaster
Are days ahead filled with laughter.


I hope you enjoyed these poems and I will have more in the weeks and months to come. Thanks for taking the time to read my work.

Copyright Frank J. Maduri 2013 all rights reserved


Best Practices in Project Management

A small business, like any other business, needs to efficiently manage the projects they are working on for their respective customer base. Please allow me to preface this article by stating that the type of project management I will be focusing upon in this article is not Information Technology (I.T.) based project management.


This article will focus on marketing and business development project management, and I will draw upon my over 14 years of professional experience in these two areas to share best practices I have utilized in my career.


The key to effectively managing projects which develop business for your company is the ability to be nimble and flexible. The fast-paced business world changes rapidly, and your small business has to be able to adjust and adapt to this changing landscape in order to survive.


The first step – Project Entry


Every company whether it is large, medium, or a small business; each one has a system for managing their work. The entry of a project into this system is a critical first step in this process. In order to be efficient in turning out projects the entry process must be:

  1. Concise – the project synopsis must be short yet detailed and precise
  2. Action oriented – the project must clearly relate the action(s) needed
  3. Past work – the project should always reference related previous work in order to help efficiency and save precious work hours to maximize sales


In my experience, I always used the project synopsis to provide my colleagues with the most critical information. It was written as directly and clearly as possible to eliminate potential misunderstandings or ambiguity.  My projects were very action oriented and clearly demonstrated the action needed and by which individuals where needed to bring the project to a successful closure.


I also made it a habit to reference past projects and past work done either for that same customer, or for a related business objective. I would refer to the project number and the outcome of the project to assist my colleagues in providing a baseline for their work.


Workflow Organization


I found in my experience, the best way to organize your workflow on the projects within the system was via Excel. I would set up Excel spreadsheets for pending projects, new projects, and closed projects (usually backed up 4-6 weeks) and would track the status of each project by updating the Excel sheets with new information.


Then, at points where I was juggling several projects all within tight deadlines, I would print hard copies of the projects and the Excel sheets. I would separate them in piles in the categories I listed above, and file new information by attaching it to each project. I found that this method helped me to see the whole picture more clearly by having hard copies in front of me. It has to work for you and your respective business, but this method usually helped me to not miss an important detail or deadline.


Priority System – Why your business should have one

In several businesses which I have worked with in the past, a priority system was implemented to help with managing projects for business development. Some companies divided and categorized their customers as: “A”, “B”, or “C” with type “A” customers being the top priority for incoming projects. Other companies used a number system to rank their customers: 1,2,3,4. Obviously, group 1 would be the top priority customer category, and group 4 would be a low priority customer or low priority business opportunity.


In this system, when a project is entered, the priority for attention would go from the top accounts down to the “type B” or “type C” accounts. This enables a division of labor and resources which is clear to all those involved in your company to manage the projects in the system effectively.


In my experience, I had several points where I was managing projects for several top tier customer accounts, or “Type A” accounts and each project had a deadline in the same two or three day window. Those types of days are stressful and hectic, but in order to cut through the potential chaos, the priority system can still work.


In the case of having several top priority projects due all at once, then you must come together as a team and discuss the projects. The account manager, the project manager, the head of marketing and any other key personnel need to meet to weigh the business opportunity versus the cost of the project to your company. This is like a “sub level” to the priority system that will help to address multiple projects with tight deadlines. This type of team communication and communication with your customers can really help in those difficult days of growing pains for your small business.


The Weekly Report – simple yet effective


I have worked with a few different companies that did not have a weekly report as part of their project management function; until I arrived there and made the suggestion to implement one.

The weekly report for project management is a simple function yet a very effective component to your business operation. In setting one up, I would use a template and send the report out on Friday every week via email to all the key personnel appropriate within a given organization.

The report detailed all the projects which were scheduled to be due for completion during the following week. It listed: the project name, project number, the customer account name, the due date, current status, and action needed.

This report allowed all the key personnel, and myself to see the work we had ahead of us for the upcoming week, and allowed for any feedback or objections to be made known ahead of the project due date.

It is a simple function to implement into your business and I worked for two companies that found this report so helpful to their project management, that they implemented it across the board for their respective businesses.


Summing Up

In summary, the role of project management for your incoming business opportunities is very important to the health of your company. This article listed only some of the suggested ways you could improve project management within your business.


A small business with limited manpower will need to place an emphasis on project management best practices in order to efficiently respond to business opportunities. These tips will help to streamline your activity and help your business save time and money from wasting resources in an undefined project management environment.





The Knicks – Atlantic Division Champions

The New York Knicks clinched their first Atlantic Division title in 20 years last night with their exciting victory over the Washington Wizards at Madison Square Garden. I know I was elated being a life long fan of this team, and I can remember the last division title win ; it was a long time ago.

Carmelo Anthony continued his run as a scoring machine putting in another big scoring night, with 36 points. Both J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland added 17 points each off the bench, and the Knicks winning streak extends to 13 straight games.

When I think about where this team was after my blog post about the West Coast trip (and that was a debacle) the fact that they have not lost since they closed that road trip with a win at Utah, is remarkable. The injuries along the way should have derailed this Knicks team, and it has done nothing to slow down their march to the division title.

However, while I am excited at the Knicks playoff potential, I am not ready to jump into the camp of fans out there who believe this team can defeat the Miami Heat. The Knicks have to win a couple of series in the playoffs first before we can even address the Miami Heat matchup. While I will concede that Miami has some injuries and issues; the Knicks have injuries and issues as well at this point.



The key injuries to be concerned with as a Knicks fan at this point are: Kenyon Martin, Tyson Chandler, and Amare Stoudemire. The issue with Martin is the timing of the injury is very poor in that 2 – 4 weeks at this point in the season (only 5 games remaining) is a big problem. Those minutes are going to have to be filled by another bench player, and we have to hope he returns closer to 2 weeks than 4.

The Chandler injury is bad because you are dealing with the neck, which is always a touchy injury because neck injuries can be balky and take a long time to get back to normal. While nobody would question the toughness of Chandler, I would rather rest him now and have him at top form in the playoffs. I know some Knicks fans feel that we should remind Coach Woodson of that fact: it is not about winning 53 or 54 games, the goal has and will remain much bigger than regular season records. The Knicks are in this to win a NBA Championship for a fan base that has been waiting for 40 years in the largest city and media market in the league.


AMARE – will he return? – The two camps and my perspective


The Stoudemire injury has two distinct camps when you talk about the media and the fan base. The first camp believes that Stoudemire is not important to the team and its success and that he clogs up the offense when he is on the floor. The second camp believes that he is a valuable asset to the team when given a specific role and provides a much needed front court presence where the Knicks have a void at this point.

My personal feelings as a fan of this team for many years falls somewhere in between the two camps when it comes to Amare, but leans more towards the second camp. I feel Amare is a very talented player and can be lethal in the pick and roll against teams that struggle to defend against it. I will always have an affinity to Amare for being the first star caliber player to come to the Knicks and really put the team on its current course. The Knicks without Amare would not have swung the deal for Carmelo Anthony and would not be where they are in the standings today. I also love Amare’s style of play on the offensive end when he is in a groove. He provides something to the front court that is lacking without his presence in the lineup.


Well, Knicks fans, we have 5 games left before we start the playoffs, and the Knicks are in pretty good shape, now we have to hope for these injured players to return to the lineup. The Knicks at full strength are going to be a tough matchup for anyone in the playoffs. It is an exciting time to see if they can deliver on the expectations the media and fan base have for this team.

The New Jersey Devils and the Stretch Run to the Playoffs

The New Jersey Devils began this lockout abbreviated season with a very strong showing. Then, after the injury to goaltender Martin Brodeur (which I covered in a previous blog post) the team tumbled through a very tough stretch of losses.


When Brodeur finally returned to the lineup, the Devils got dealt another setback: their star forward, Ilya Kovalchuk, went down with an injury. So the team has been limping through some of their recent games, most recently losing a heartbreaker to Boston by a score of 1-0.


Missing the Playoffs?

The Devils currently sit in 9th place in the East and after 37 games they are 15-13-9 with 39 points. They are tied with their arch rival, the New York Rangers, who also have 39 points. The New York Islanders sit in 7th place with 40 points.


Meanwhile, right behind the Devils sit the Winnipeg Jets with 38 points and the rival Philadelphia Flyers with 37 points. So, it is a crowded group of teams vying for a few precious playoff positions as we hit the stretch run for the season. The Devils have 11 games remaining before the regular season ends on April 27th, and they have to start winning some games.


Now, I know that previous statement seems obvious to even casual sports fans, but it is easier said than done. The last games on this stretch are all important for the Devils, but the next 5 games are really critical. Here is their upcoming schedule:

vs. Toronto (home game)


vs. Boston (home)

vs. Ottawa (home)

@ Toronto


The fact that 3 of the next 5 games are at home will help the Devils, but they have struggled in every game recently, whether home or on the road. These games are going to be tough, Toronto has 44 points in 6th place currently and is playing well. Boston and Ottawa are both solid, playoff caliber type teams, with strong goaltending.


However, the silver lining here is how well the Devils played in their last game against Boston. They had some quality scoring chances and played on the road in a tough environment. So I take some hope from that game that they will get this turned around.


Outlook and Cause for Concern

The outlook is still good for this Devils team to make the playoffs, but they will need contributions from players such as Clarkson, Zajac, Carter, Gionta, and Salvador to get there. Hopefully, Kovalchuk can return to provide the leadership and scoring punch that  they will need in the intensity of the playoffs.


However, there is cause for concern for myself and other Devils fans. The run in the playoffs, if we make it, could be very short lived. In my opinion, the Devils are not able to match up well against Pittsburgh or Montreal in the first round of the playoffs. The Devils would have to win enough games to get to 6th place to obtain a more favorable playoff matchup with the Washington Capitals, who should hold on and win their division, the Southeast Division.  The matchup with the Capitals would be a legitimate opportunity for the Devils to advance in the playoffs.


One thing is certain: the Devils are running out of time to turn this season around and they need to take action quickly in order to be able to defend their Eastern Conference title in the playoffs this season.


How to Make Your Small Business Website More Accessible for Sales to the Federal Government

The potential for sales to the Federal Government could have a huge impact on a small business. This is particularly true for small disadvantaged businesses, minority owned, or women owned businesses which are all types of small businesses given special preference by the Federal Government.


However, if your small business does not have a website that is accessible and Federal Government “friendly”, then your company is not going to receive any government contracting or sales opportunities. In the current recessionary climate the federal government could be the lifeline by which your small business will continue to survive.


I will draw upon my experience working for a small business which had preferential status from the federal government, as well as in other roles where I have advised on marketing companies for federal government contracting opportunities. I will explain what the contracting officer is looking for in your web site and marketing approach. The website is a critical component to any potential federal government sales for your small business.


Web Site Design – a whole new way

In the past, the design of your website was not the “make or break” point for your small business, especially when dealing with the federal government, U.S. military, state government entity, or federal government contractor.  In those days, the relationships and the customer service your small business provided helped to close sales with those types of customers.

Then, about five years ago, small businesses were committing a section of their website to federal or state government contracting opportunities. The information usually pertained to listing NAICS codes and references to previous work done for other federal or military projects.


Now, as the internet has really defined and shaped how we do business, small businesses have learned that the federal government contracting opportunities are cultivated with a focused web presence. This could entail a whole separate web site for your small business to focus on federal, military, and state government contracting opportunities.


However, if you do not want to maintain a whole other website or your business has limited manpower and you need to focus your efforts on the projects themselves, an alternative approach does exist. In those cases, your business can simply add a whole new tab on your site from your landing page titled: Federal Government Customers or Federal/State Government Customers.


The Web Site Tab – what should it include?

The separate government customers tab on your web site should include the following: case studies, recent federal or state government project references, a section with your NAICS/DUNS/CAGE code numbers, and specific products or services directly relevant to federal government use.


In addition, if your company has a GSA Schedule contract, this should be strongly emphasized on the federal government web site tab. I recommend a separate text box with this information along the side of the page.


The case studies, white papers, or project reference testimonials should all have hyperlinks to the full documents as well as a summary paragraph in the federal government web site tab. These support documents should be highly relevant to government contracting work, if the case studies deal with smaller private business projects, then my advice is to not include them.


At the same time, if you have a white paper or case study which was commissioned by a large corporation or by a foreign government entity, those would be eligible to include for use in this tab because the federal government would most likely view those examples as having strong credibility.


Processing Orders via Credit Card – A “must” for federal government sales


A major component of the separate federal government sales tab for your small business is the capability to accept and process credit cards. The federal government does the great majority of their product or services purchasing through government issued credit or debit cards, either through American Express or MasterCard.


In my experience with federal government and state government contracting agents, the feedback I was given was that the most important aspect of the website was the references and the payment / ordering portal.


Your payment or ordering portal must be easy to use and streamlined in order to successfully attract government sales. If your small business or start up business is in tough financial shape and budgets are limited, you have two options to incorporate the credit card processing mechanism to your site.


The first option is to contact the bank where you have your business banking accounts open with, and inquire about whether they have a merchant services function to their banking operation. In the event they do provide this service, it is worth the 45 minutes or hour to meet with the appropriate person from that bank to discuss what types of merchant services they offer. Since they already do business with your company, they are usually very helpful in providing these services because it will ensure your mutual future success.


The second option would be to go very low cost and open a PayPal account in order to process these types of transactions. This internet based service is very easy to use and very reliable. It is a very secure service and has a great reputation so you could utilize this option in the short term, and then move into another merchant services arrangement once your cash position improves.


In the end, selling to the federal government, when executed correctly, can be a very lucrative pathway to grow your small business in troubled economic times. I also remind you that some federal or military sales opportunities involve contracts, and those types of sales will require your business to send in a capabilities statement. Please see my separate earlier blog post covering the capabilities statement for federal government contracting, and good luck to you and your business endeavors.