Former executives lend expertise


January 07, 1991|By Ted Shelsby

William E. Kidd Jr. has made his mark in business.

He rose to merchandising manager of the U.S. operations of Coats & Clarke Inc., a worldwide producer of sewing machine thread, zippers and other products related to sewing, before retiring in 1973.

Like a lot of other retired executive, Mr. Kidd has accumulated a lot of business savvy over the years. He has lived through the Great Depression and has seen what a downturn in the economy, rising interest rates or a poor management decision can do to a company.

Mr. Kidd, 82, now shares his lifetime of business knowledge and experience with fledgling managers through a volunteer organization known as SCORE -- the Service Corps of Retired Executives.

He is one of about 75 retired executives who serve with the Baltimore chapter of SCORE, which was established by the U.S. Small Business Administration to help small-business people solve their operating problems and become better managers.

According to Mr. Kidd, who is chairman of the Baltimore chapter, the local outlet is one of the oldest in the country and one of the busiest. "We handle 750 calls a months," he said, "and half of them are from people looking to start their own business and want to know how to do it."

Mr. Kidd said the chapter offers expertise in more than 50 fields, including insurance, advertising, marketing, manufacturing, restaurant operation, hotel and motel operation, printing, etc. "It is very seldom that we have a request that we can't respond to," he said.

The list of businesses that have been helped by SCORE `D volunteers is just as diversified. "We've helped all kinds of businesses," he added. They include restaurants, gas stations, variety stores, hardware stores, clothing stores and florists.

In addition to its one-on-one counseling with business people, Mr. Kidd said the local chapter conducts monthly workshops where the retired executives can share their business knowledge with a younger generation.

About half of small businesses fail during their first two years of operation, said Mr. Kidd. "The problem is almost always management," he added. "They don't know how to manage people. They don't know how to manage their inventory."

Another mistake that many newcomers to the business make, he said, is to have too much of their money tied up in fixed assets. "They may have $3,000 to $4,000 tied up in a cash register and you don't make money off that." His advice: "Rent one, lease one, buy a used one until your business gets going."

Be very careful about advertising he said. "If you are opening a florist in Dundalk, don't advertise in The Sun, Afro-American or Jewish Times. Use a regional paper -- people are not going to drive all over town to go buy flowers. But if you're opening a restaurant in Dundalk, then you'll want everybody to know about your site."

Perhaps the most important first step for anyone considering going into business for themselves, he said, is to develop a business plan. "Going into business without a business plan is like committing commercial suicide.

B6 For additional information on SCORE, call 962-2233.

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