Client Name: Marilyn Hoffman
Business Name: Museum Search & Reference
Business Website:
Industry: Executive search consulting, recruiting for museums
Location: Londonderry, NH
SBDC Advisor's Name: Julie Glosner & Hollis McGuire

Marilyn Hoffman, Owner of Museum Search and Reference loves art from all periods. In college, she majored in art history with her sights set on a career in museum work. 

Museum Search & Reference

“Museums do great work educating the public, entertaining the public and bringing people together,” says Marilyn. “It’s always exciting to see people in front of the art, especially children. It’s a very rewarding profession.” 

After college, Marilyn spent 25 years in the museum field with 18 as a respected museum director. She “retired” early to help her children navigate the high school years, becoming as she puts it, “a soccer mom.”  During that time, she was invited to help with searches for superintendents for New Hampshire Schools, and it was through that experience that Marilyn thought, “Oh…this is what I should do for museums since I have the network and expertise.”  

In 2004, Marilyn launched Museum Search and Reference, a recruitment firm that conducts searches for museum directors, chief curators, curators, deputy directors, and other museum leadership positions across the nation. With Marilyn’s strong network in that area, the business grew quickly, and now it is 19 years strong with a full staff of search consultants ready to assist museums with finding the right leaders to match their organization’s goals and aspirations.  

With 7,000 museums in the United States, a service like Museum Search and Reference is important to their long-term growth and stability. They all need a director, and as the older generation of leaders retires, it’s important to have a strong pool of professionals who can step in to continue this important work. “They need these key positions,” says Marilyn. “Usually these are the senior positions that are core to the museum, so even in bad times, they can’t really do without them. Our mission is to provide the best possible leaders for America's museums. We provide a true service to the field.” 

As the founder and principal of Museum Search and Reference, Marilyn turned to NH SBDC for help with succession planning. Prior to working with SBDC, Museum Search did not have a formal business plan or structure. Marilyn notes, “I was the only one signing checks. Everything was extremely informal.” And like many businesses, when COVID happened there was a sense of urgency to be prepared in case of illness or other issues, so that the business could continue even if Marilyn had to be out for some time.  

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Marilyn worked with SBDC Southern Regional Director Julie Glosner and business advisor Hollis McGuire. They provided advice and helped connect her to lawyers, accountants, and other experts in different areas of business. Through these connections and the SBDC’s FAME program (Financial Accelerator Marketing Expeditor & Legal), she was able to get some legal work done, have an organizational plan, and add a signer on her business account. Marilyn comments, “it's really a good feeling once you've done that. You could go away and take six months in Europe or something, and your business would still operate. Or the old proverbial, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, the business could carry on.”  

Along with all that, Marilyn and her husband needed to redo their will and estate plan, which had not yet included the business. Through this process, they took the steps needed to have a valuation of their business so they are prepared to sell if someone wanted to purchase it in the future.  

Once again, Julie and Hollis were helpful in guiding Marilyn through the process and recommending the right professionals to assist with these needs. These connections helped Marilyn with her business valuation, defining job roles, creating financial reports, and even making her business more connected digitally, all things that Julie and Hollis have advised will add to the value of her business and make it more attractive to a potential future buyer. “We’re just getting more sophisticated,” says Marilyn.  

Marilyn reflected that all these things were new for her. As a non-profit executive, she had a general knowledge of how to run a business but did not have the specifics of things like valuing a business, becoming an LLC, getting insurance, and more. “Julie and Hollis continue to be a tremendous help,” says Marilyn, who still checks in with her advising team every couple of months. As new challenges arise, Marilyn counts on the knowledge and expertise of Julie and Hollis to get her through. She concludes,

“They (Julie and Hollis) steer you to all the resources. They know about everything. Whatever it is I ask, they say ‘oh yes, we had a similar case,’ or ‘we know how to look into that.’ And, it’s all free! That’s the incredible thing. Ridiculously high quality, high caliber advice.”