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Outstanding Veteran-Owned Small Business Owner: SCORE Awards

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. ( TheStreet) -- Joel Goldberg, founder and CEO of Aurico, an employment screening, background check and drug testing company, says being in the U.S. Navy provided him with many lessons to take to heart in the business world, but the most important was to "do it right" the first time around.

He started Aurico in 1991 in the spare bedroom of his home. Two decades later, the company, which now includes his son Ben as president, has 80 people on staff in a downtown Arlington Heights building.

>>SCORE Announces Winners of 2012 Small Business Awards

Winning SCORE's Outstanding Veteran-Owned Small Business award for 2012 (SCORE is a Small Business Administration partner organization designed to mentor entrepreneurs), Goldberg's company is the first of seven winners to be profiled by TheStreet.

A conversation with Goldberg follows:

Explain what Aurico does and the industry it serves:

Goldberg: We are in what's typically known as the background screening business, that is, for companies of all types that are looking to find out who they're potential employees are before they hire them. We also do drug testing and due diligence investigations for companies that want to check out other companies before they do business with them. Aurico works with all sectors of business, including manufacturing, the service industry and not-for-profit.

My background was within business all along -- operating seven automotive franchises for 16 years -- but I also had experience in U.S. Navy intelligence. I saw a big opportunity for high-quality service background screening. A lot of what I saw out there was not very thorough.

How has the company held up during the recession?

Goldberg: We experienced our first recession after 9/11. And we were heavily based in manufacturing. We realized that we needed to establish a much broader range of clients across all business sectors. So we sold our way through that recession and continued to grow our business across business segments. Because of that we did not get hurt by the most recent recession and continued to grow over the past couple of years by 30% a year.

What does it mean to be a veteran and business owner amid today's political rhetoric?

Goldberg: The place and time during which I served is very different from today's military. I was in service during the Vietnam era. During that period, much of the U.S. population had turned against the war and turned their backs on the military and U.S. servicemen and women. What's changed in today's political environment is that ex-military is now held in high esteem. It's very gratifying to know that, and we are starting to now designate ourselves as a veteran-owned business. We are glad to be able to hang that shingle now.

Given the debate over access to capital for small businesses, how have you financed your business?

Goldberg: I started the business in an extra bedroom in my home. I self-financed it. We have never really gone to a bank for a loan though we do have a line of credit. Today we're in a three story building and occupy almost the entire building.

What are your growth plans?

Goldberg: We expect to continue to grow about 30% a year and hope to double our size in the next three to four years. We are continuing to work with SCORE to put together our growth program.

When we first worked with SCORE I felt as if we needed to have a better understanding of the wall we were running into -- what to do to get to the next level. After working with SCORE for a couple of years, we had the right management, a growing sales department, and we really started to accelerate our growth. Now we're at that point where we need to broaden our vision and how we're going to take the company to the next level. We're working with the SCORE team to flesh that out.

What has been the biggest lesson you've learned so far as a business owner?

Goldberg: There are two constants in business. The first constant is that companies need to provide world class service and quality. You can't vary on that. The second constant is that change is inevitable and you need to be ready to make those changes and stay ahead of the curve. With that said the most valuable asset of my company is my people.

-- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors, reporters and analysts from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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