Students in the MBA program at Georgian Court University and members of Ocean County SCORE have been brought together in a unique partnership under the auspices of Lakewood’s Department of Economic Development and the Lakewood Development Corporation/UEZ to help the growth and development of small local UEZ businesses. In a pilot program, The Small Business Development Consulting Program has joined graduate business students with Marty Aronow and Bruce Zaun of SCORE to assess the business practices of Creative Kids, a teachers’ resource and craft shop in Lakewood. In six weeks, the students with guidance from Score and Lakewood’s Department of Economic Development, are expected to analyze the business, and identify its challenges and opportunities for improvement.
According to Steven Reinman, the director of business development for Lakewood Township who created this program, this program benefits both the students and the business. The students are getting hands-on experience and the business is receiving a valuable review and plan outline. “In this six-week phase,” says Reinman, “the business gets a really thorough assessment of what it is doing right, what it is doing wrong, where it may not be capitalizing on opportunities, and what recommendations the business should implement, such as improved systems, procedures, or strategies.”
Reinman says, “After the analysis of the business, the plan calls for a professional for Phase II to perform the direct consulting work with the business owner. We have about five professionals from various areas who have experience working with businesses. Basically, they will consult with the business owner and help him understand how to actually implement the changes recommended by the students.”
Dubi Rabinowitz of Rabinowitz and Associates, New York City, has agreed to work gratis as a consultant during the pilot. Rabinowitz directed the reengineering process at B&H Photo during their dramatic growth phase, providing the guidance they needed to effect positive change in finance, marketing, and order management, among other areas.
Reinman says, “It takes talent to zero in on key success factors. He (Rabinowitz) goes into a company and almost immediately has a unique insight to what’s going on there.”
Typical fees can run anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 for an engagement. Reinman, however, is looking at somewhere between $7,000 to $15,000 per engagement for this type of service by involving the UEZ. He is hoping to amass enough for a 50/50 split on those fees, making it a matching grant to companies that are willing to do it.
Patricia Komsa, the director of Lakewood’s UEZ, emphasizes that this service will be offered only to designated UEZ businesses. “We are going to require UEZ businesses to apply for this program and provide proof of matching funds in order to take part in Phase II.”
Komsa says, “No matter what happens in New Jersey, economic development is not coming to a halt. Programs like this are important.”
Reinman says, “Instead of throwing money at questionable programs, this is something that will have a definite impact for a business owner who is serious about investing in his business. We want to get right in there and help.”
Both Reinman and Komsa agree, “Our objective is to ultimately help these companies grow so they can hire more people. We want to create economic growth and jobs, locally. That is our goal.”
Reinman says, “The prospects are bright for this program to be successful. There are companies in Lakewood who have encountered rapid growth or major challenges that are already paying significant fees to consultants just to figure out what’s what.
“Small businesses are the most underserved business segment in America,” says Reinman. “Not a lot of attention is paid to this segment by government programs. We see in Ocean County, for example, thousands of small businesses and there is no program like this one in place for them.
“By utilizing our resources, we can make a big difference in the business community. We have a resource like Georgian Court University. Dr. Leslie A. Korb, director of MBA program; Dean Joseph Monahan, dean of the business school; and Ruth Ann Burns, vice president of marketing of GCU who also serves on the board of the LDC (Lakewood Development Corporation) have been involved in The Small Business Development Consulting Program from the beginning. We also have a wonderful resource in SCORE provided through the SBA.”
The first phase of The Small Business Development Consulting Program is analysis. The second phase is implementation, and the third phase is follow-up. The Department of Economic Development, in cooperation with the UEZ, will be putting a monitoring and reporting program in place to track the program’s results over the long run.