What consulting firm helps more than 10,000 clients each year and has only 16 employees? SCORE. Founded in the idealistic days of l964, the Service Corps of Retired Executives was a concept reflecting its times. Enlist battle hardened business veterans to guide and mentor small struggling firms and would-be entrepreneurs. With nearly 11,000 volunteer business people working in 389 chapters nationwide, the ideal is still alive. But now the Princeton SCORE chapter is reaching even further.

Entrepreneurs and business owners with questions now gather in the Princeton Pubic Library on Wednesdays and Fridays, at 9:30 a.m., or on Tuesdays and Thursday, at 6 p.m., to meet with Princeton SCORE advisors. They learn how to transform dreams into written business plans, walk through the governmental paperwork, and get input on the viability of their products. Typically, once the fledgling firm has staggered through its first year, its owner leaves SCORE’s nest with a grateful handshake.

While this aid to launch is important, being up and running does not make a business trouble free. Companies that have expanded to large, impressive quarters with many employees still may have owners worried to distraction over how to make income meet outgo. In response to these larger firms, Princeton SCORE now offers a new counseling package to established companies with $1 million in annual revenue .

Six of Princeton SCORE’s 25 volunteer counselors, all of whom possess long and varied big-company experience, have developed this new consultancy package. Unlike typical SCORE assistance, the counselors will go to the company headquarters and meet with owners and senior management. They will offer an initial assessment followed by three or four follow-up visits before presenting their final findings.

Russ White, spokesperson for this new service, notes that the biggest complaint businesses face in this tough economy is simply getting the revenue stream flowing faster.

“The trouble often lies in an ineffective sales strategy, wrong marketing position, non-motivated employees — or sometimes it’s just a lousy product,” he says. “Often it just takes a fresh pair of eyes and ears from the outside.”

Thinking outside the box sounds simple, but for the business owner frantically putting out the daily fires, breaking the deeply grooved mindset is not easily achieved. Businesses of any size interested in SCORE counseling should visit www.princetonscore.org or call 609-393-0505.

White rates SCORE’s service as equal to that a for-profit consulting team would offer — and for which it would charge thousands of dollars. “I don’t say we are better, but we do as good a job, and if you don’t like our solutions, you’ve lost nothing but your time,” he says. “It’s no risk.” As a branch of the federal Small Business Administration, SCORE’s service is totally free and confidential.

Further, White adds, do not expect a legion of white haired elders. An increasing percentage of SCORE volunteers, both in Princeton and nationally, are far from retired. In fact, SCORE’s national director of volunteer services, Darlene Pollard, adamantly states that the old label, Service Core of Retired Executives, has been retired, the organization opting for simply SCORE. Pollard also notes that Princeton’s large-business on-site counseling is part of a small trend found in commercially expanding areas.

The six Princeton Score volunteers provide expertise in business strategy, finance, marketing, operational ideas, and human resources, with, as White puts it, “a little weakness in retail.”

White himself, having served as general manager for several McGraw Hill publications, including the $400 million “Dodge Reports,” has strong information management skills. His software experience goes all the way back to the early 1960s when “software” plates were fed into house-size computers.

As the retired North American treasurer of a $1.5 billion global corporation, Ray Lee operates as the team’s prime financial troubleshooter. During his 30 years in everything from mining to manufacturing, Lee handled major mergers, divestitures, and diversified accounting. On the human resource side, Jude Rich has held major positions with Johnson & Johnson, AT&T, and Sibson Consulting.

Michael Stangel’s varied marketing career has included stints as head of product placement strategies for such firms as McNeil Laboratories, Kraft Foods, and Purex. Also strong in sales/marketing, with an emphasis in supply chain operations, is Ben Koening. As Asian Pacific regional vice president of UPS, Koening lived in Singapore and helped grow that firm’s global network.

Bill Litchman brings the group’s telecommunications expertise, having helped grow several firms in the field from small domestic to large international corporations. The team is looking for more counselors, White says.

All of these men are part of the Princeton SCORE volunteers network, helping with small start-up businesses. Each is assigned one group meeting and an individual company in need of counseling.

“Probably one of the biggest favors we do is talking people out of going into business when either they or their product just aren’t going to make it,” says White.

SCORE of Princeton also meets twice monthly at the Hamilton Library; the Middlesex County Chamber, Monmouth Junction; and at the Trenton Business and Technology Center. See the above website for times and directions. One would be hard pressed to find more years of business experience in one room, and as White says, “you can’t beat the price.”

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