Friday, November 26, 2010

SCORE’s “CEO Forum” Peer Problem-Solving Environment Takes Businesses to a New Level

imageThis article was written by Larry Tucker, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

It was 2004, and Brian Pendarvis, CEO of Pendarvis Manufacturing in Anaheim found that the family business was growing almost too fast.  “It’s just my website and me” is how he describes his salesman-free marketing strategy.  The firm was founded by his father, Robert “Bud” Pendarvis in 1982, and Brian entered the business in 1985.  In the early days, Brian would joke to his brother that their father would call him into the office to do invoices, and there would be only two for the week!  But, by 2005, his father had pretty-much retired, the business had grown a lot and Brian needed help.  So he called on his brother, Robert, to move back from Colorado to help him run the firm.  This successful family relationship has helped Pendarvis Manufacturing reach $4 million in annual revenue.

Yet Brian realized that he still didn’t know what he didn’t know.   His total business “education” had been his experiences at Pendarvis Manufacturing, various SCORE seminars and a couple of adult education business classes. Recently Brian joined Orange County SCORE’s CEO Forum program.

CEO Forums are monthly meetings of 12 or so business owners facilitated by two SCORE counselors who use a proven process to help Forum members navigate their way through issues and problems to arrive at actionable solutions.

Brian asked his Forum members for ideas on how to successfully handle growth…how to move from a small “owner-operator” business to a larger business with key people in place to handle the daily operations.  “I have a lot of hats to wear. I needed to move from the ‘flying by the seat of my pants’ method to a process-driven business structure.”  Brian has used what he has learned in his CEO Forum sessions to guide the organization of his business, document internal processes and develop instructions to insure that he can “spend more time working on the business and less time working in the business.”

Elan Sudberg received some very different help from his CEO Forum.  Elan’s father started Alkemists Labs 12 years ago to conduct laboratory testing of natural products and herbal medicines.  His mother and sister work full-time for the organization, and his wife and brother work as contractors.  In the midst of the recent recession, Alkemists Labs needed more operating capital.  Elan had been unsuccessful in negotiating loans from his usual sources, a couple of the larger national banks.  His Forum encouraged him to look to local community banks, who are often more empathetic to local businesses.  One of the Forum members was Rick Ganulin, Chairman and CEO of Pacific Enterprise Bank.  Headquartered in Irvine, this bank is one of the leading lenders of SBA loans in Orange County.  Rick says, “From these CEO Forum sessions, I got to know Elan and was very confident in him as a person and in the strength of his organization.” Discussions that started at that CEO Forum led to an SBA loan for Alkemists Labs from Rick’s bank.

Elan’s other struggle was in trying to find the right head chemist.  His prior two hires for the position both failed.  This is a critical position for his firm.  “It’s like an arranged marriage,” he states, implying that he is entering a life-altering relationship without much knowledge about the other person.  Elan’s Forum worked with him on redesigning his application, asking better interview questions and properly checking references.  Using these new processes in their hiring activities, Alkemists Labs now has a successful head chemist.

Orange County SCORE’s CEO Forum Program serves all businesses in all industries with certain minimum revenue and employee requirements.  The heart of the program is the peer learning process that helps business owners creatively address members’ issues and concerns.  CEOs typically don’t have the opportunity to take advantage of these types of discussions with peers.  In addition, each quarter all the forums come together for a speaker presentation on a topic selected by the membership.  To learn more about this program, go to and click on the CEO Forum tab.