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SCORE to host open house for new, existing businesses

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local Park Rapids, 56470
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

SCORE, a significant but underutilized local resource, is taking "the show on the road," hosting an open house to introduce the free counseling services available to new and existing businesses.

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The open house, to be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 12 in Northwoods Bank's community room, is geared to start-up businesses and existing companies searching for ways to meet challenges or improve operations.

SCORE is comprised of a team of mentors, executive and corporate leaders - "everyone with a tremendous résumé" - willing to share wisdom and lessons learned with small business owners.

The average person brings skills and talent to a business, explained SCORE counselor Bob Berdahl, a retired engineer who worked in product development for Harley Davidson in Milwaukee.

"But usually the problem is money, tracking finances," he said. "We don't do the bookwork; we serve as the sounding board, the coach. We ask the questions."

Entrepreneurs determine the answers.

The "students" develop a business plan, compiling a mission statement in 30 words or less, defining goals and objectives and a philosophy.

The real value of a business plan is not having the finished product in hand, but in the process of researching and thinking about the business in a systematic way, the SCORE template explains.

Counseling can be on a one-time or long-term basis, depending on need. The services are free and confidential.

Counselors are chosen to meet the needs of the clients.

The Park Rapids counselors' range of expertise is extensive. The volunteers have experience in sales, marketing, restaurants, international business, mergers and acquisitions, production management, engineering, product development, project management, computer technology and data processing, banking, strategic management and human resources.

The business plan includes marketing strategies, emphasizing effective marketing is key to success. "And this begins with careful systematic research."

Students are asked to develop an operational plan - defining methods of production techniques and costs, quality control, customer service, inventory control and product development.

Business owners address day-to-day management, creating a chart showing "management hierarchy" and who is responsible for key functions.

A financial plan is also part of the homework, consisting of a 12-month and four-year (optional) profit and loss projection, cash flow forecasts, projected balance sheet and break-even calculation.

Final test: Drafting an executive summary, a succinct explanation of the business's fundamentals.

The SCORE office is located in room 101 of the Hubbard County Courthouse. Mark Hewitt, CEO and chairman of Northwoods Bank, leads the Park Rapids branch, succeeding Lou Schultz, who pens the "Business Cents" article (below).

Schultz, who assists companies worldwide with performance improvement, finds the program not only rewarding for clients, but gratifying for counselors.

"I believe people have a need to feel satisfaction that they are doing something worthwhile," he said. "I was raised on a farm in Nebraska and I noticed that when farmers retired and moved to town, they usually died within a year or two.  

"In my farmyard philosophy, I surmised they were missing something in their life. While on the farm they took great pride in the growth of their crops and livestock. After retirement they missed that sense of satisfaction. There are other ways of course, but helping people is very satisfying," the SCORE counselor said of his role as volunteer.

Current SCORE counselors, in addition to Schultz, Berdahl and Hewitt, include John Hasting, who brings a background of sales and marketing and financial, personnel and inventory management; restaurateur Fred Madsen; Tom Miller, sales and marketing, manufacturing, import and export, mergers and acquisitions; Jon Sams, general merchandise stores and manufacturing; Janine Weideman, insurance, pension healthcare and production management.

For more information on the U.S. Small Business Administration resource partner, head to www. score.org.

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