“It’s not what you look at that matters,
it’s what you see.”

—Henry David Thoreau

Renae Shields

Renae Shields

Renae Shields is the founder and CEO of Core Value Consulting, LLC, a consulting firm specializing in planning and operations, finance, marketing, and training for small businesses, nonprofits and government agencies. Renae acts as a coach and confidant to owners and managers – providing research, training, and planning.


Business planning and organizational development have been Renae’s focus since 1989 when she became partner and CFO in an economic development and land use planning firm that specialized in industrial startup and expansion programs.

Renae's career experience includes serving as a loan, grant, and equity fund program manager and economic development director for a nonprofit foundation; owner, CFO, and COO of three for-profit companies; and working as a consultant with the nonprofit division of a large consulting firm to nonprofits.

Renae has worked with the boards and staffs of several nonprofit and for-profit organizations to bring them through the organizational planning processes of strategic planning and business planning. In addition, she has worked on short and long-term projects specific to program evaluation, marketing, QuickBooks management, financial analysis, and training on specific applications. Renae frequently works with large nonprofit organizations, providing one-on-one technical assistance on business topics to their loan and program clients.


A summa cum laude graduate of Minnesota State University, Mankato, Renae created and implemented entrepreneurship curricula to initiate two high school entrepreneurship programs and an entrepreneurship program for at-risk youth. Her role as a high school business instructor included creating and directing programs in youth entrepreneurship, youth apprenticeship, and workforce development. As an adjunct faculty member of a technical college, she taught courses in entrepreneurship, ethics, documentation and written skills for supervisors, and time management.

Renae has been certified as an instructor for FastTrac® Entrepreneurship training programs through the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. She also developed and taught an entrepreneurship course for the Harold Anderson Entrepreneurial Center and has served as a facilitator in the Anderson Center’s Manager’s Forum Pilot Program.

Renae currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Center for Nonprofit Excellence and Social Innovation in St. Cloud, MN, has previously served on the Board of Directors of a nonprofit school in St. Paul, MN, as treasurer and member of the Board of Governors of a community group developing renewable energy in rural Minnesota, as a church trustee, and on advisory committees of several organizations.

A client list is available on request.

The spirit of teaching

The issues facing most small businesses and nonprofit organizations can be complex, but they are not insurmountable. Often, I am called to work with an organization because of problems that come to the manager’s immediate attention, such as not having enough money in the checkbook to meet current financial obligations. Frequently, in working with a client, I find that the true cause of the problem is hidden and must be uncovered.

I’ve been in your shoes as a business owner and manager, and I bring the spirit of teaching to every client. A wise instructor once told me, “A teacher is not there to throw logs in front of people. A teacher is there to reach out their hand and help people over the logs that are already in their way.” This is the philosophy by which I approach my work.

Most leaders want to learn how to do things better, but they want to learn in a constructive environment. My philosophy guides me in working with you to:

  • Ask pertinent questions specific to your organization
  • Help you to gain perspective and a develop a deeper understanding of the issues facing you
  • Develop solutions that will address your current problems
  • Use this challenge as an opportunity to deepen your understanding and ability to solve the issues that will face you in the future

My experience influences how I think about things

As the owner of three businesses, as a licensed business education instructor, as a commercial lender, and as the daughter of a small business owner, I bring a long history and knowledge of business issues to my work. From first-hand experience, I understand that everything is integrated with everything else – and how making a decision in one area of the operations of an organization may affect another aspect of that organization.

Everything is related to everything else

You have an organization to run. Whether you are a small business selling products or services, or a nonprofit serving your community, what you sell or how you serve should be your focus. Knowing every aspect of operations, accounting, or marketing is probably not what has helped you to become successful thus far, unless you own an accounting or marketing firm. But, in order to be successful, you do need to develop a good enough understanding of these aspects of business to make good decisions, and that is where I come in.

One of the principles that guides my work is the Pareto principle – also known as the 80/20 rule. The Pareto principle states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.* While the Pareto principle originated in economics, the 80/20 rule generally states that all things are not equal – that relatively few factors account for a major share of the problems experienced in an organization and that improvements in a few key areas will have much more of an impact than improvements in many other areas.

*Vilfredo Pareto was an Italian economist who observed in 1906 that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people. In 1941, management consultant Joseph M. Juran came across the work of Pareto and began to apply Pareto’s principle to quality issues in manufacturing. He found, for example, that 80% of a problem is caused by 20% of the causes).

Common-sense coaching

It takes a person who has real-life experience and common sense to assist you in making wise management decisions and determining what factors will help you achieve the biggest impact in your organization.

Let me share an example with you: A business owner needs to obtain a loan for a short-term cash flow problem, and while they have a sustainable business, they do not have a good working knowledge of balance sheets, income statements, and cash flow, and because of that, they are often at the mercy of the banker.

That business owner doesn’t need to understand the nuts and bolts of their QuickBooks accounting system, hear the theory of financial statements, or listen to the lingo of a textbook. But they should understand what the numbers on their own balance sheet mean, what ratios the bank is going to look at when it makes a lending decision, and whether their “short-term” cash flow problem is truly a short-term problem, or a red flag for a much larger problem.

Together with the business owner, I will sit down with their financial statements and walk them through the numbers in a very practical way. Together, we develop a cash flow that is based on solid assumptions and an understanding of the real forces at work in their business.

With knowledge comes power

The right kind of practical knowledge can give business owners or nonprofit leaders the confidence to move forward knowing they have made business decisions that are based on solid assumptions.

If a business owner develops this knowledge, they can ask for and negotiate a loan with terms that are truly appropriate for their business … and that will take them forward in a successful manner, rather than tie up all their collateral and handicap their future ability to grow.

Because I work with accounting software on a daily basis, because I understand financial statements in a practical way, and because I have been where you are, I can help you to be successful. The reward? You sleep better at night.