After earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Drake University, Jill joined a consulting firm in her native Twin Cities in 1984 and—in another unusual move for someone only 24 years old—became active with Minneapolis SCORE.
“The chapter encouraged younger people to get involved and complement the expertise of the veteran counselors,” Jill explains. “I started attending the small business workshops and got to know the volunteers very well. I knew that someday I’d want to start my own firm, but figured that was several years in the future.”
The future arrived sooner than Jill expected. Finding herself in a difficult work situation in 1987, she decided that the time had come to get started on her own business, Johnson Consulting Services. Jill’s colleagues at SCORE immediately stepped up with advice and encouragement.
“More than half of my practice is in health care, which often involves people having to make difficult decisions about friends, loved ones and themselves,” she says. “Working with SCORE has given me insight on how to age gracefully, and with vitality and relevancy. It’s a blessing to see SCORE volunteers with so much to give still working to help new entrepreneurs and their community. That’s a valuable lesson for everyone.”
In return for their wisdom and support of her mentors, Jill has helped in the Twin Cities and other Midwest SCORE chapters assist other aspiring entrepreneurs by contributing her own knowledge to workshops on marketing, new business planning and demographics. She also helped SCORE leaders understand how to work with women entrepreneurs.
Twenty-two years after those first tentative steps, Johnson Consulting Services is still going strong. Jill has worked in 21 states and overseas, and consulted more than one billion dollars’ worth of business decisions. She has earned numerous awards; been interviewed for stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Money magazine; and served two terms on the SBA’s National Advisory Council
And while businesses of all types and sizes look to Jill for answers and advice, she continues to learn from her friends and colleagues at SCORE.
“One volunteer counselor—Dick Bloom—called me every month for nearly a year to check in and ask how I was doing,” Jill says. “That personal touch made a big difference.”
So did the volunteers’ expertise. At every stage of her company’s evolution, they advised Jill on dealing with the realities of owning and building a business, from financial management to simply staying positive.
“The SCORE volunteers believed in me,” Jill says. “They had made fortunes in business, and were confident that I would too. That support helped carry me through those times when doubts started to creep in.”