From the pages of

Knowing the SCORE helps businesses

Dispatch/Argus Photo By Gary Krambeck

Client, Allen Cagle, at left, of Moline talks to SCORE Counselor Merton Sachs of Moline at the Moline Chamber of Commerce. SCORE is the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

MOLINE -- Oh, the benefits of retirement. Golf. Gardening. Travel. Watching television. Attending meetings. Answering phone calls. Going to ribbon-cuttings. Sending e-mail.

Some of the activities sound more like things working people do, not the pasttimes of retired folks. Well, that's not necessarily so.

``Watching television and playing golf are nice activities, but there's got to be something else,'' said George Kovacs, who's retired from Deere & Co. where he used to work in marketing. ``This keeps the gray matter working.''

Mr. Kovacs and about 19 other men and women are members of the Moline chapter of SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives. They've elected to volunteer a few hours a week sharing their expertise with small-business owners and entrepreneurs who need advice on topics ranging from financing, advertising and purchasing, just to name a few.

``It keeps us current,'' said counselor and retired IBM sales manager Tom O'Brien. ``We don't want to become fossils.''

SCORE does a lot more than keep these retirees from becoming fossils.

Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10 until noon, a group of counselors meet at the Moline Chamber of Commerce and hold office hours. Business people with questions or problems can drop in and talk with the counselor most qualified to take care of a specific concern.

``Because of the variety of backgrounds that are available here, we can help almost everybody,'' Mr. Kovacs said.

The chapter also organizes evening seminars almost every month. There's even a speakers' bureau which assigns counselors to address meetings upon request. The counselors publish a newspaper column and are available for privately scheduled meetings.

All the counselors go through a training program and probationary period.

Penny Timmons, the owner and operator of Bridal Trousseaux in Moline, said the services SCORE gave her before she bought her business were invaluable.

``I really had my head in the clouds and my counselor brought me down and let all the air out and took me to step one,'' Mrs. Timmons said. SCORE helped her develop a business plan and outline how she would acquire funding and pay for expenses like rent and insurance.

Now that she's been in business more than a year, Mrs. Timmons says she has cash flow management and personnel questions she plans to bring to SCORE.

That pleases chapter members.

``We're here not only for people starting new businesses, but for businesses that have been established and are going through some growing pains,'' Mr. O'Brien said.

Perhaps one of SCORE's most important functions, the counselors agree, is to prevent some people from going into business.

After doing some research with SCORE, Mr. O'Brien said some entrepreneurs ``come to the conclusion that this probably isn't going to work. That's a success story because it keeps people from going through their whole life savings.''

Paul Meeden retired from Deere & Co. after 26 years in advertising. He said the questions he is most commonly asked as a counselor are finance-related.

``It's `Is there any free money?','' he said with a chuckle. The answer, he said, is simply, ``No.''

In addition to being a constructive activity, some SCORE counselors said participating has helped them continue learning.

``If it weren't for SCORE, I would never have learned how to use a computer,'' said Dick Stevenson, who's retired from Deere's purchasing and inventory control division. He's one of three Moline counselors who answer business questions through SCORE's on-line service.

The chamber's conference room bustles with activity during those weekday drop-in periods. Clients shuffle in and out. The phone rings. One of the cyber-counselors taps on the computer keyboard.

The 19-year old chapter must be doing something right. Last year, the Small Business Administration recognized it as SCORE Chapter of the Year. It beat out 379 other chapters for the honor.

-- By Marcy Norton (February 9, 1998)

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