Pacific Coast Foam Succeeds By Using Advice From SCORE Mentor
Starting a new business can be an intimidating prospect for anyone. But for Jerry Mooney, the sweaty palms didn't come until he was faced with saving his one-year old foam products company.
The story began in 1989, when Jerry left the Navy and joined a San Diego building supply firm. He began by applying protective coatings to Styrofoam architectural products, which are used for window molding, arches, columns and other building details. Thanks to his drive and organizational skills, Jerry was managing the coating department within a couple of years.
Before long, Jerry felt it was time to transfer his experience with foam products into his own business. In October 1995, he launched Pacific Coast Foam (PCF) in a 6,500 square-foot industrial space. Jerry and a helper cut foam, while his wife, Heather, a part-time teacher, helped with the administrative tasks. For someone with no experience in business start-ups, Jerry felt pretty good about PCF's fast start. But as the company's responsibilities grew, Jerry felt increasingly overwhelmed. Sales were increasing, but profits were non-existent.
Then Jerry remembered some advice a family friend had given him months earlier about SCORE. "I didn't think I needed them when I was getting started," he recalls. "I had this image of some stodgy old men telling me what to do. I was kind of scared when I finally did call SCORE, but the prospect of losing my business was even more frightening."
Four years after that first nervous call to SCORE, Mooney's dreams for Pacific Coast Foam have come true. The company sales topped $2 million in 1999 and continues to grow. Operating from a 15,000 square-foot facility, PCF has acquired several other small companies and opened a branch plant in San Marcos to improve service to customers in northern San Diego County. Jerry also created a spin-off company, PCF INSIDE, to develop and manufacture interior architectural products.
PCF's products are now found in homes and businesses throughout Southern California. The company has also created structures for local Native American tribes, built stage sets for TV stations and local theaters and even fabricated a full-scale foam helicopter and F-18 aircraft for the Marine Corps. The company publishes a newsletter, has a Web site, provides professionally designed image brochures and serves a host of regular customers, including the building supply company that gave Jerry his first job.
SCORE Volunteer Mentors Charlie Badewitz and Dick Kern made an appointment to visit PCF and spent an hour observing the company's operations. Jerry feared the worst when it came time for them to leave, but he was surprised at what they said. "Charlie and Dick spotted a lot of problems, but they also saw that the company had a lot of potential," he says. "They offered some constructive criticism, but didn't force anything. It was all up to me whether to take their recommendations or not."
Jerry then made what he calls "one of the best business decisions of my life" and began using SCORE's advice. Working primarily with Charlie, a former electronics firm president, he clarified his business plan, learned how to make and read spreadsheets, and used computer software to create profit plans, set prices and develop a reference guide for manufacturing operations. SCORE also taught him simple formulas for calculating profitable selling prices (not "what the market will bear"), shop/job scheduling and setting achievable goals. SCORE-sponsored seminars gave Jerry valuable insights into business management and strategic thinking for entrepreneurs.
"Charlie also set up visits with other companies, where I could see how they did things and relate their issues to my business," Jerry adds. "I would also join him at meetings with other business owners and join in working through their problems."
But while he's pleased with his success, Jerry still keeps in touch with Charlie and SCORE when he needs to make a key decision or just to talk shop. He has also continued his "professional development" by participating in various courses on business plans and management techniques.
"At our annual holiday party, I always review what we did during the previous year and how we did it," Jerry says. "Needless to say, SCORE gets mentioned a lot."
“SCORE is like having a big brother. When you’re on your own, you’re reluctant to make changes. Once my relationship with Charlie got rolling, I became more courageous and willing to challenge things.” says Jerry.