The characteristic American behavior called volunteerism got its start with Benjamin Franklin's Junto, and has been a source of comment by foreign visitors ever since. It's still a very active force.
With a long history of welcoming and assisting the poor, Philadelphia has always risked swamping the lifeboat by attracting more of them than it can handle.
Dislocations: Financial and Fundamental
The crash of 2007 was more than a bank panic. Thirty years of excessive borrowing had reached a point where something was certain to topple it. Alan Greenspan deplored "irrational exuberance" in 1996, but only in 2007 did everybody try to get out the door at the same time. The crash announced the switch to deleveraging, it did not cause it.
Right Angle Club 2008
A report, to the year 2008 shareholders of the Right Angle Club of Philadelphia, by the outgoing president, Neale Bringhurst...
Frank Pace, formerly Secretary of the Army, founded SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, in 1964. Philadelphia was one of the main founding chapters but tended to dwindle as business large and small dwindled after the bombing of West Philadelphia by the then-Mayor; former executives living in the suburbs lost interest. In December 2006, Mark Maguire took charge and gave SCORE a new direction. This former executive of Rohm and Haas is not related to the baseball home-run king, but at least his name is easy to remember.
The new sociology of center city demanded that more small businesses be started by minority residents, who have very little family and cultural experience in this sort of activity, which nevertheless is recognized as the main source of job creation in any area. It turns out that the main source of energy in the minority community is among minority women, who are particularly unfamiliar with the problems of small business. So, SCORE needs to dispel a number of misconceptions and unrealistic ambitions, and familiarize these budding entrepreneurs with the tax and regulatory headaches ahead of them, and teach them to be watchful of common traps and obstacles, learn to cope with fair competition, and how to recognize the signs of fraud before it happens to them.
The usual vehicle for teaching these elements of commercial life is to induce the writing of a detailed business plan, which executives can criticize for lack of realism or inadequate capitalization, suggesting ways to succeed in a field that experiences 50-60% failure in the best of circumstances. Some of this requires face-to-face discussions, lectures, and required reading. But much of it can be handled with weekly email consultations, a favorite tool of Philadelphia's SCORE chapter. Much of it can be addressed by referring the client to the proper agency or service business, or bank. SCORE has a strict ethical code for its volunteers, including a prohibition of becoming a vendor or participant in the business.
In addition to the changing nature of new small businessmen, there is a changing demographic of the volunteer executives who do the advising. Over 80% of them describe themselves as retired, but in fact, it is rare for one to be totally retired from all business activity. These guys really like to work, and a thirty-year vacation is not their goal in life. Just by acting as an example, they are establishing an important goal for the young businessmen and women who look to them for guidance. Work is how you accomplish something in life, and work, believe it or not -- is fun.
Originally published: Friday, April 04, 2008; most-recently modified: Wednesday, June 05, 2019