Merriam-Webster defines a corps as “an organized subdivision of the military establishment, a tactical unit consisting of two or more divisions and auxiliary arms and services,” and also as “a group of persons associated together or acting under common direction, especially, a body of persons having a common activity or occupation.” We are most familiar, of course, with corps entities like the Peace Corps and Marine Corps. While MTI has not yet developed a catchy motto like, “the toughest job you’ll ever love,” or “the few, the proud,” we will soon be launching our own corps, the Maine Entrepreneurial Resource Corps (MERC).
Working closely with Maine’s dreamers and doers, innovators and risk-takers, MTI is often asked if we can suggest or recommend a consultant or service provider to help startups address short term challenges and needs. And, while historically we have shied away from making specific recommendations due to several mitigating factors, we are now able to make such a service available.
MTI’s talented E-Resident team – – our small cadre of experienced former entrepreneurs and c-suite executives that work to advise and assist our portfolio companies – – has identified a specific need to provide targeted consulting services to startup companies to address critical project-specific skill deficiencies on their teams. Startup founders routinely struggle to identify competent and affordable professional resources to assist them in overcoming these challenges.
The Maine Entrepreneurial Resource Corps is contemplated as a database of vetted consultants within 20+ specific functional areas. The database will include a qualified list of Maine consultants, along with their backgrounds, fees, and available references. When MTI, or one of our partner organizations, identifies that a startup has a particular project need that has the potential to add significantly to its productivity and growth, MTI will determine eligibility and, if qualified, provide the client company with a list of 2 – 3 consultants from the database that might be a fit. The client company will then decide which consultant they want to use based on fit and cost.
Recognizing, again, that startups are typically challenged with coming up with the necessary funding to hire outside professional support, and also acknowledging that some consultants may avoid working with startup founders for the same reason, MERC will cover 50% of the cost of the engagement. A simple agreement will be executed between the client and contractor that outlines the project, scope, deliverables, cost, timing, and reporting. Once the project is complete, the client verifies the results, provides a performance rating on the consultant’s work, and then MTI disburses its funding. It’s a win-win for both the client and contractor because the client gets the project completed at an affordable cost and the contractor doesn’t have to wait for a big chunk of the project funding since MTI will commit to paying its portion within 14 days of project completion.
MTI envisions that MERC will offer the following types of support:
- Accounting – Setups, conversions, reporting
- Sales – Compensation plans, goal setting, hiring, and training, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Integration
- Corporate Governance – Building Boards, Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOP), Measuring Board effectiveness
- Legal – Conversion to C Corp, ESOP, Patent review
- Capital Formation – Capital raise programs and strategy
- Marketing- Public Relations (PR) Specialist by project, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Campaign development, writer
- Organizational Development – Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI) training, leadership, quality job training
- IT Assistance – CRM, Application Programming Interface (API) integration, scope of work for long term IT Contracts
A critical differentiator of MERC is the ability of MTI to introduce the client company to multiple potential consultants with a proven track record of success. To be eligible to enter the corps, consultants will need to have been in business for at least 2 years, will need a LinkedIn profile or website, and will have to provide at least 2 written references and a pricing schedule. A quality score, based on customer feedback from previous engagements, will be part of the package delivered to client companies.
We will continue to flesh out the MERC initiative in the coming weeks with a tentative plan to launch in the summer. We are very excited to be providing this much needed matching-making service and, like the Marines, we are hopeful that the “corps will glory in a tradition of service” to Maine startups. Ooh-Rah!
In closing, I want to provide a special shout-out to our E-Resident team, led by Matt Hoffner, for developing the MERC concept, conducting listening sessions with MTI partners to elicit feedback and incorporate refinements, and for providing much of the content included in this month’s blog.
Enjoy the last few days of February. Next week, March is upon us and our days will continue getting longer, lighter, and warmer!