Eight years ago, the Institute of Modern Procedures was in deep financial trouble with a $400,000 deficit.
Last year, the now-thriving data processing enterprise posted more than $5 million in revenues.
Much of this spectacular turnaround is attributable to help from the Small Business Administration and, more particularly, to the Service Corps of Retired Executives.
SCORE is a nationwide organization dedicated to helping small businesses. Its officers counsel and support enterprising new companies struggling to turn a profit, determining what kind of assistance they need, pointing to a course of action and helping them along the way.
IMP is a minority-owned business, owned jointly by President Ida Moore, who for 17 years was a data processing supervisor in the Air Force, Vice President Cindy Proctor, also an expert in data processing, and Secretary-Treasurer Robert Miller, a retired Army colonel.
Created in 1968 as a school for keypunch operators, it soon turned to data processing and programming, with the government as its primary contractor. The company struggled along, but by 1973 was running a $400,000 deficit. IMP then filed an application with the Small Business Administration under the 8(a) program, designed to give minority contractors an opportunity in negotiating contracts with government agencies.
Julius Davidson, now 84, was the counselor from SCORE assigned to the case. As chief fiscal officer of the Library of Congress for 17 years, Davidson had experience in financial management and contracting.
"The main problem, as in many small businesses, was not money," Davidson said, "but mismanagement, misunderstanding of what is allowed and a lack of practical experience and preparation."
Davidson started by getting IMP's monthly financial statement and tackling problems it showed, advising the company always to work with contracts and to be prompt in its payments, and organizing a system of operating procedures.
"They did not need help on technical matters, as they knew all about programming and data processing, but rather on the financial end," he said.
IMP's Miller agreed: "I did not know the first thing about a balance sheet; it was a horrendous job. But Davidson reviewed what we were doing and advised us on how to handle problems." He did not get into the day-to-day operations though, so as "to remain objective."
After three years, IMP was in the black. It is now, in Davidson's words, "a substantial business," with a net worth of $750,000. Some of its main contractors are the Navy, for which it inventories parts on new ships, the Department of Education, for which it handles all data entries in the basic education opportunity grant program, and the Department of Health and Human Services, whose payroll it handles every two weeks. IMP employs over 250 people, half of them from minorities, and has expanded to seven branch offices, from Baltimore to Alexandria.