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SCORE Lancaster Counsels Dairy Farms

December 13, 2009

Editor’s Note: This is part of a monthly series of  articles and information from the Center for Dairy Excellence, a non-profit organization focused on strengthening Pennsylvania’s dairy industry.  For more information, visit the center’s Web site at

 LANCASTER, Pa. — Ten years ago, John Fleckenstein was a senior vice president of operations at Armstrong World Industries, a global leader in flooring, ceiling and cabinets. Before that, he had been president of a division of Emerson Electric, one of the world’s largest manufacturing companies.

So what’s someone like that doing on 100-cow dairy operations in Lancaster County? “I’m volunteering to serve as the facilitator of two dairyprofit teams,” he says. “I’m learning the language of dairy farming while helping them develop a disciplined approach to business management.”

Business is Business

Fleckenstein is a member of SCORE (formerly known as Service Corps of Retired Executives), a volunteer group associated with the U.S. government’s Small Business Adminstration. “SCORE has chapters all over the country, and mostly we are retired corporate executives and business owners,” he says. “Our goal is to help small businesses either get started or improve profitability.  We do that in two main ways — by providing consulting services and by offering low-cost business seminars.” 

SCORE Counselor John Fleckenstein

Fleckenstein is a SCORE Lancaster counselor and works with entrepreneurs from all different types of business. “I am working with one man who wants to start an ice cream business and another who wants to grow his shed making business. We know our way around business, and our approach is that the fundamental of any business is just people trying to make money. 

“One thing that intrigues SCORE volunteers about dairy farms is the sheer size and scale of them,” he says. “They are larger businesses than others that we generally work with so we find that interesting.”

 A Good Fit for SCORE

SCORE volunteers like Fleckenstein have made themselves available to serve as facilitators on farms enrolled in the Center for Dairy Excellence’s On-Farm Resource Team Program.

“At some point, the center’s executive director, John Frey, and one of our leaders realized that what we call a counselor is very similar to what the center calls a facilitator,” Fleckenstein says. “It was a great fit for us to get involved in the program.”

Another SCORE counselor, Dan Evans, is working with Fleckenstein on three different farms. “Our approach is that we always have back up,” Fleckenstein says. “Dan serves as the facilitator on one farm while I serve as facilitator on two other farms. If one of us is not there when the farm needs us, the other can back him up.”

They have been serving as facilitators for the last month and hope to offer what they know about business to the dairy farm.

“There is no doubt that the dairy image terminology takes some translation. Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand what our clients are trying to tell us about their business because they use different terminology,” he says. “However, when it comes down to it, it is all about setting priorities. I have never been in a factory or on a dairy farm where they weren’t trying to do too many things. The key is identifying your priorities and having people take accountability for those priorities.

“Any given dairy farm is faced with a vast number of investment alternatives for its scarce capital; it is all about capital management and we can help with that.”

More SCORE volunteers eager to help

 Fleckenstein is one of several SCORE counselors who are happy to work with dairy farms. Other farms interested in having a SCORE representative serve as the facilitator for their dairy profit, target profit or succession planning team can contact the Center for Dairy Excellence for more information.

Any dairy farm interested in establishing a dairy profit, target profit or succession planning team can receive funding of up to $1,500 in 2010 to cover the cost of paid team members and discovery-related expenses.

SCORE representatives have generously volunteered their services for profit teams, so there is no cost for their involvement.

The center offers other support for farms interested in taking a team approach to bringing better decision making, enhanced performance and improved profitability to their dairy businesses. For more information, visit the center’s Web site at  Click on “Producer,” then on “Learn More About Profit Teams.” Or call the center at 717-346-0849.

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