Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with SCORE Chapter Chair Eshwar Noojibal

ESHWAR NOOJIBAIL is the chapter chair of SCORE Chicago which provides free business counseling and management consulting for people who already own a business or for those who are thinking about starting or buying a business. At the heart of SCORE are a group of experienced counselors who volunteer their time to help existing or budding entrepreneurs. The Chicago chapter has more than 25 locations in the greater Chicagoland area.

Eshwar has over 40 years of professional and business experiences in academic, manufacturing, environmental and construction industries, as a college professor, Chief Industrial Engineer, Production Control Manager, and as CEO. Most of the key experiences were in the area of corporate management; financing; specialty construction; marketing; new business start-ups; new product development and introduction; manufacturing; production management; warehousing and distribution systems; plant layouts; new plant start-ups. In 1980 he started a specialty contracting company specializing in process piping and Design Build Engineered Energy Management Systems. His education background includes, B.S, I.E, from University of Michigan, Physics and M.E. from universities in India, and M.S.I.E from Illinois Institute of Technology. He is a licensed Professional Engineer of Illinois and Certified Energy Manager, Member of American Association of Energy Engineers, American Production and Inventory Control Society, American Institute of Industrial engineers.

We recently caught up with Eshwar for one of our BizBrokerJournal interviews.

Eshwar, thank you for taking the time. Can you tell our audience how SCORE can help someone who is planning to purchase a business?
For an entrepreneur, buying a business is very exciting, yet it can be a daunting task. It is very easy to overlook the need for a detailed evaluation of the potential transaction. Often they think that they can avoid the necessary and arduous tasks, such as writing s business plan, going through the whole start up process, securing financing, etc. This is far from the reality. Of course, to some extent, buying an existing business shortens the new business start up time line. Yes, it has an advantage of having an existing organization in operation. That includes, customer base, supplier chain, may be even the bank relationship. More than anything, the lure of an existing cash flow stream blinds the entrepreneur rushing into completing the transaction as soon as possible. Here is where a SCORE counselor can be of an immense help. He doesn’t have the interests of broker, nor of the seller. His interest is solely on his client.

The counselor starts by helping the entrepreneur in evaluating his personal background including his experience, goals, and financial status. Then, the counselor would take the important steps of guiding his client through the detailed tasks of due diligence, market value, business plan formation, financing and deal consummation.

How can SCORE help an existing business owner improve their operation?
Every existing business wants to improve; there is no surprise in that. The question is what areas they need improving. More often than not, businesses have a difficult time determining what specific area (s) they need help. Needless to say, all businesses want to fatten their bottom line. How can they do this?

The SCORE counselor working closely with his client analyzes the entire business, starting from the owner to shipping clerk; from sales to delivery; from marketing to financing, from operation to personnel management. The goal is to treat the very decease, not just the symptom. The counselor knows that every segment of the business contributes to profit. Then, what particular areas the business should improve? How can they accomplish that? What are the alternate solutions? What resources the business needs? Can they afford to do that? What is the expected return on investment? These are some of the questions the counselor would help the business to address.

How has SCORE Chicago changed in the last few years to keep up with the changing business world?
SCORE counselors undergo serious and continuous education and training program to keep up with the ever changing and fluid business environment. There are technological changes to keep up; there are demographical shifts to observe; there are consumer behaviors to understand; there is a tightening credit market to contend with; and the new SCORE counselor is ready for all the changes and ready to counsel his client.

Counselors are experienced enough to know that fundamental business concepts have not changed; however they are keenly aware of the changes in demographics, geographics, psychographics and the buying behavior of the business clients. The businesses still have to determine the needs of their clients; they still have to provide value to them; still they have to be competitive; they still have to provide superb service to their clients; still they have to make the product or service available to the clients, at right time, at right place and at right price.

How does someone get started with SCORE Chicago?
One can get involved with SCORE Chicago in several ways. They can volunteer as a Counselor, and join the other 11,500 counselors nationwide providing services through 370 local chapters. Interested and qualified professionals, in business or just retired who sincerely believe in improving their communities by creating new jobs, can contact the local chapters on how to become a SCORE counselor.

One can support the SCORE mission by contributing to their cause as a donor by contacting the local or national chapter. SCORE generally is dependent upon the local donors for 25 to 30% of their operating budget. The rest of the resources are self generated by their chapters and a small grant from the Small Business Administration. Often, some of their clients also donate to SCORE as an appreciation for receiving substantial free counseling, consulting and mentoring services.

You can become a sponsor of SCORE activities. The sponsor generally supports workshops, or other services to be conducted at the sponsors’ premises. Or the sponsor just donates a fixed amount of money once a year supporting SCORE CAUSES.

You don’t have time? You can be a resource counselor for SCORE. You can provide your expertise that might be tapped by a SCORE counselor on as needed basis, including conducting advanced business topic workshops, or offering other services that SCORE clients might be seeking. SCORE depends on their workshops for over 50% of their funding requirements. SCORE Chicago conducts over 125 for fee workshops per year and another 130 free workshops all over Chicagoland.

Can you give us an example of some success story of someone who worked with SCORE Chicago?
Chicago School Supply—A Story of Growth
Michael Ockrim began selling school and office supplies, as well as furniture and equipment, to schools in the City of Chicago. His company, Chicago School Supply, LLC, sought to take advantage of a gap in the school supply market to fulfill the needs of Chicago schools. Michael came to SCORE in need of help in expanding his business
Three SCORE counselors, Gene Migely, Norm Letofsky, and Phil Hartung, worked with Michael to develop hiring, training and compensation plans and to deal with a multitude of business issues. They continued to meet with Michael every three months to review his progress and to advise on actions and plans.

Since it started, Chicago School Supply has added three sales representatives, an office manager and three e-commerce websites. In 2008 the company achieved over one million dollars in annual revenue, which represents a 180% growth, and the company continues to grow.

Michael had the following to say about the help he received from SCORE:
“As an entrepreneur, it is important to surround yourself with smart people that challenge your thoughts and business model. The SCORE coaches inspire critical thinking and provide excellent outside perspective. Oftentimes, as business owners, we become so consumed by our day-to-day corporate minutia that we fail to see the bigger picture or analyze the core competencies that have made us successful. Thank you SCORE for taking the time and effort to work with me and Chicago School Supply!”

As the new chapter chair for SCORE Chicago, what would you say to someone who is thinking about contacting SCORE Chicago for advice?
We, at SCORE offer our services to two distinct groups; 1) those who are already in business, and 2) those who are considering entering their own venture. As you can imagine, the advice is different for each of these groups.

The best way to determine if SCORE Chicago can help you is to visit our website http://www.scorechicago.org/ and to set up an initial consultation with a counselor.

In our experience, SCORE is a great resource that is available to anyone facing the challenges of owning, starting or buying a business. We appreciate Eshwar taking some time to share his thoughts and insights.

No comments: