A Conversation With: Girish Sud Chair of SCORE Lehigh Valley

Girish Sud


Girish Sud is a retired project management professional with extensive international experience in multi-million dollar projects in the cement and minerals industry. For the past four years he has been the chapter chair and a Certified Business Mentor at SCORE Lehigh Valley.

LVB: For those not familiar with SCORE of the Lehigh Valley, please tell me a little more about what the organization does

Sud: SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors who help current and aspiring entrepreneurs, through mentoring, and business educational services. There are over 250 chapters nationwide, operating as a non- profit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Lehigh Valley chapter, started in 1965, serves the Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, build, grow and expand a vibrant small business community. Our basic product is individual mentoring delivered by one of our 25 volunteer experts – all at no charge to the client.

In 2020 we worked with over 400 clients, held 2,200 mentoring sessions and 80 workshops on all aspects of starting, operating and even exiting a business.

LVB: Why did you get involved with SCORE?

Sud: I spent my corporate career spanning 43 years in the Lehigh Valley, including extensive worldwide travel for business. Upon retiring, I felt strongly that I had to find a way to share my knowledge and management expertise nearer to home, to help small businesses who do not have the resources of large corporations at their disposal. SCORE was the natural answer.

There is a profound satisfaction in the knowledge that you’ve personally helped others succeed – in knowing that with a little bit of time, encouragement and wisdom you may have changed the course of a life.  Being part of an organization that measures its success on our clients’ success, through mentoring, teaching, speaking and participating in community events, is personally enriching.

LVB: What are the areas where you see small businesses and startups needing the most help?

Sud: Entrepreneurs or small business owners often have a concept or idea but find it daunting to implement, don’t know how and where to get started and soon are caught up in a jumble of activities without much progress. Small businesses need help in establishing the viability of their idea, developing market strategies, writing a business plan, making financial projections and ultimately seeking funding. SCORE’s mentors offer a step-by-step plan, a roadmap to success whether starting out anew or managing an existing business.

LVB: Has the pandemic changed the dynamics of what these businesses need?

Sud: Yes. The indefinite and uncertain nature of the pandemic has created its own kind of stress, so it’s more important than ever for every business to reevaluate and redefine itself consistent with the realities of the changing marketplace. History has shown that following catastrophes and downturns there is a business resurgence coupled with incredible feats of creativity and ingenuity.

Understanding what and how customers will seek out, buy and pay for a product is of vital importance. Adjusting and adapting to these new requirements will be the difference between mere survival and successful growth.  As an example, every business today must have an online presence to send out clear, brief and accurate messages to consumers.  A business today, cannot afford not to be online.

Secondly cash flow is the lifeline – the oxygen of any business – so maintaining a positive cash flow takes away an all too common a stumbling block.

LVB: Heading into 2021, what do you see as the issues with which small businesses will need SCORE’S help?

Sud: The pandemic has not only changed human experiences, outlooks and behaviors but the crisis has brought about shifts in how and what consumers buy. SCORE is now focusing on helping small business owners engage and educate their customers even if it does not hit the bottom line today. Small businesses will need to get to know their customers all over again, overcome loss of revenue and relationships and load up on resources and planning to survive this new low in the future.

SCORE has established a special Resilience Hub to let small business owners connect with a mentor and help them navigate to specific COVID resources, discounts, grants, training materials and guides for industries.  We believe that the obstacles being experienced now are an opportunity to grow stronger, more agile and more successful than ever.


Three of the Biggest Family Business Conundrums, and How to Overcome Them

Family-owned businesses are part of our nation’s DNA and a testament to our entrepreneurial spirit. Take a look around the Lehigh Valley and you’ll see this spirit alive and well in the multitude of family businesses that thrive here.

Almost one in five of the 28.8 million small businesses in America are family-owned, according to SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. These companies help drive our economy: they employ 60% of the country’s workforce and generate 64% of America’s GDP. The human resources challenges these organizations face can have a huge impact on stakeholders across the board.

I’ve worked with many family-owned companies of all sizes across the U.S. and the globe. Here are some of the biggest problems I see them face:

Lack of structure, policies and procedures

Family co-workers know each other well. To avoid letting familiarity override common-sense business practices, clear policies and procedures are essential. These help reduce and alleviate confusion and conflicts. Additionally, roles and responsibilities should be clearly established between family members. This can save a lot of time, energy and money—not to mention hard feelings—between relatives. Be sure to consistently follow the rules you establish, and resist changing them on a whim. These actions can be an employee morale, productivity and retention killer.

Recruiting ineffectively from the outside

Family-owned businesses are often able to attract and retain key talent because of the reputation they have built for themselves as great places. They are often associated with strong values and positive, friendly work environments. Still, hiring can bring some unique challenges.

When you search for outside candidates, make sure all owners are on the same page about it. Be sure to have a clear and detailed job description, and set proper compensation and benefit levels. You should also remember to keep reasonable expectations for candidates and new hires.

Succession planning

Succession planning is an important part of long-term strategizing, and yet it is all too often left minimally addressed. Some eye-opening reporting by SCORE showed:

  • 47 percent of family business owners planning to retire within five years do not have a successor.
  • Only 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive from the first generation to the second.
  • Just 12 percent survive from the second to the third generation.

It is important to decide in advance what happens to your company when you retire, or if you unexpectedly step down. Is the next generation ready to take over? Do they want to? You should talk to them about all this, then plan accordingly.

If the business is staying in the family, make sure that the next owners are well prepared with knowledge of day-to-day management and the critical financial aspects of ownership. When several family members will be left the business together, things get more complex. A succession-planning consultant can provide assistance and an objective opinion. An estate-planning attorney can help with any regulations or estate taxes that may impact the next generation.

Lotte Bacho is vice president of administration at Kitchen Magic, and one of the founders’ three daughters. She and four other family members run the kitchen refacing and remodeling company, with operations in six states and headquarters in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

“The challenges we face are no different than any other company—recruiting, retention, training and benefits. Where we are different is that our HR functions must include dealing with quite a few family members,” she says. “It is most important to us all that the family remain strong and respect one another. We address that with a very clear set of core values, as well as differing but complimenting roles and responsibilities. To handle challenges and questions as we continue to usher in the third generation, we are establishing a strong family-business governance plan.”

As this year marks 40 years in business, Bacho feels quite blessed with how far they have come, as a business and a family.

Richard Lively is a partner and vice president of Bethlehem HR Consulting Services at RAI Resources, with Margo Trott Collins.