Starting a new business is risky enough, even when one is familiar with the industry or the line of business one is launching. It becomes much trickier when one launches a new business in a field where one possesses no expertise or experience. How about launching a business in two different areas simultaneously where one has no expertise or experience? Certifiably insane!
That’s where our company was in 2006. We had targeted two different lines of businesses where our start-up company would expand, one of them related to the field of building and architecture. We needed help from someone with an insider understanding of things. [An MBA goes only so far!]
I don’t recall how I discovered SCORE, but I do remember that I was not aware of this organization at that time. I finally contacted SCORE and was put in touch with David LaBau. Mr. LaBau was the founding partner of one of the largest regional architectural firms, and had retired from that firm about ten years previous to our meeting. [Mr. David LaBau passed away from this physical world in April 2010.]
With David’s help, we started looking at the business from various angles. After many meetings with industry insiders (arranged by David), we reached the conclusion that the business model for the construction sector was premature and not immediately feasible. We then focused all our energy on the textile sector. Mr. LaBau stayed actively involved in that process too.
Fast forward to June 2010. Our textile business had picked up, we had received Amazon’s Top Seller Award in 2009, and some of our products would now be ahead of some very well-known designer brand names (at least on the Amazon platform).
It was time now to launch another division within our company: this time it would be an automobile leasing company. Our marketing turned out to be more effective than the rest of our operation. We had barely applied for a leasing license (with the DMV), and were putting final touches to the business plan – when a prestigious university placed a purchase order with us to lease several vehicles.
We now needed large bank funding to float the automobile leasing business. We went back to SCORE. Dennis Weir was our mentor and consultant. He quickly brought in Mark Cutler and James Cirilli. [Jim Cirilli, at that time, was fighting cancer. His enthusiasm and vigor, though, never betrayed his struggle with the deadly disease. He left us physically in February 2012.]
Various other SCORE consultants also advised us. Keith McGlade, Joseph Waxman, and Joel Wolff are some names that come to mind. One cannot say enough about the spirit and sense of purpose with which our mentors approached the process. By the end of 2010, our leased vehicles were operating in the states of New York, New Jersey, and Virginia. Our company is now working on a business plan to enter another sector: retail automobile sales as a dealer.
For a startup operation, a single strategic misstep can be fatal (or debilitating, at the least). There is a reasonable statistical likelihood that our company would not have survived if it were not for the sophisticated advice, candid guidance, and unwavering support of so many SCORE counselors over the years. The amazing thing is all the priceless help comes without any fee – absolutely FREE.
Even with an MBA and reasonable business experience, I still found the advice of so many accomplished professionals to be absolutely indispensable. If launching a new business, I would always go back to SCORE … it would be unwise to do it any other way.