State of the Art Inc.

Success in business means growth in revenue, profit, and recognition. For small businesses, it also can bring new challenges, as Laura Goff and Ben Parham of Knoxville, TN discovered. In 1990 they began State of The Art, Inc. which designed, created, and installed custom stained glass windows and doors. By 2000 it had grown to the point that the management requirements began taking precedence over what they liked doing and at which they excelled. Some business responsibilities were being overlooked or not performed as well as they should be. It became clear that responsibilities needed to be defined and divided between them. But just how to do this was something for which they needed assistance.

They contacted SCORE and Counselor Chuck Christiansen began meeting with them to identify which tasks each partner was better at performing and if some might be outsourced. Managing as many as 13 full and part time employees, reducing turnover, and performing payroll tasks appeared to be an area needing attention. First, they decided to outsource the payroll function. Then with Chuck's assistance they created an employee manual that included basic training as well as employee responsibilities and expectations. These steps helped reduce their administrative duties and reduced employee turnover, allowing them to concentrate on their primary tasks.

Their business continued expanding, and within a few years they began to outgrow their space. However, they had a very attractive lease arrangement and did not really want to move their business. Again, they called on Chuck for guidance. Looking at their space arrangements and layout, they realized that a large portion was devoted to the retail portion of the business (materials purchased by hobbyists and space required for classes). Working with Chuck, they examined their records and found that the retail business had been in decline, was losing money, and consuming a large portion of their time. They decided to exit the retail business, which allowed them to reconfigure their floor plan so that a section of the building could be utilized for storage and not have to be heated and cooled. This immediately reduced utility costs, and allowed them to remain in their current location.

These tactics have allowed Laura and Ben to continue growing their business by fifteen to twenty percent annually. While their primary clientele has been churches within 100 miles of Knoxville, they realized that there are other opportunities for growth. They recently have began expanding their geographic coverage and targeting other client bases, and have asked Chuck for assistance and guidance in this new venture.

Quite often a business finds a solution to a problem area with the assistance of a SCORE Counselor, only to face another problem later. For almost 10 years, Laura and Ben have called on SCORE and Chuck to help them through several issues. And that's how a counselor becomes a mentor.