America’s loves small businesses. This is because the small business is at the center of the American dream. Small businesses helped to build America as we know it today. The freedoms of this country have enabled entrepreneurs to find success as their own boss. More than that, though, such ventures have propelled many families to epic success, that carries on for generations.
The globalization and digitalization movement has inspired many other countries to invest in startups and small businesses. However, America has valued the small business owner, nearly since the country’s formation. Small businesses are America’s entrepreneurial pastime and the globalization movement has only advanced our perseverance. In fact, most businesses in the US are classified as being small to medium. According to the 2018 Small Business Profile, 47.5% of all Americans are employed by a small business.
This wealth of small business growth and prosperity encouraged the Federal Government to create a plethora of priceless entrepreneurial resources. Better yet, most of the information and subsequent resources available are either free or available at a low-cost. After all, nearly half of the American workforce putting food on the table via a small business. Therefore, it is economically sound to offer valuable information, aimed at keeping small businesses thriving.
Here is a guide to the available information, as well as direction to garnering the most value out each resource. Additionally, there is an included checklist that will help small business owners prepare for their SCORE or SBA meeting. As with most entrepreneurial opportunities, preparation is key. So, make sure to take note of the checklist, along with the other resources inherent in this guide.
What is SCORE? What does SCORE stand for?
SCORE has a prestigious goal. This organization is working toward helping one-million people by the year 2020. Throughout the pursuit of this goal, SCORE has become America’s premier resource for small business owners. SCORE has partnered with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to help aid the quality of their resources and their reach. Powered by the SBA, the nonprofit has secured itself firmly within the association’s education and training division. Originally SCORE was an acronym for Service Corps of Retired Executives, founded in 1964, now grown to a full-service business mentoring, education and training center backed by the US government, SBA Small Business Administration.
Plus, all the workshops, advice, and information provided through SCORE is free and confidential. SCORE volunteers have helped provide information to small business owners for over fifty years. Thus, it is imperative that the information about individual businesses is kept confidential.
Who is Volunteering for SCORE?
SCORE is comprised of the best kind of volunteers; true small business owners. These people are highly experienced business people who have succeeded in their entrepreneurial endeavors. Now, they are sharing their valuable experience with a new generation. Through workshops and even one-on-one entrepreneur mentorship, SCORE provides small business owners as counselors/advisors who have forged their own path and reaped the rewards – to show you how to do the same.
Individuals interested in volunteering at SCORE need to undergo an extensive Mentoring Methodology Training course to become SCORE- certified mentor. They are experts in the key elements of successful mentoring including listening, learning, assessing, analyzes and teaching.
Where to Find a SCORE Office for Business Seminars Near me?
There are over 300 SCORE offices throughout the United States. These offices encompass an array of resources and local businesspeople to help fellow entrepreneurs find their way. Finding your nearest SCORE chapter is easy. The chapters are accessible via zip code.
For example, the New Jersey chapter offers mentorship, local workshops and links to resources that are helpful in all industries. Additionally, there is also a Spanish workshop available in this chapter, available at many local offices. This is more proof of the dedication that SCORE has for helping every aspiring entrepreneur succeed.
Mentorship is the premier form of assistance for most small business owners seeking help from SCORE. This is a unique program that connects successful business people with new entrepreneurs. They can talk face to face or over video chat and they are there to answer all the new entrepreneur’s questions.
Therefore, take full advantage of this resource. Ask your Mentor for feedback both about what you and your business need to develop to move forward. Inquire as to what skills or knowledge the believe you lack. Do not be surprised if their answer is something you never thought of before. Their answers can be as varied as employee management, sales communication or anything in between.
If you are presenting a business plan, do not worry if your Mentor says it needs to be developed further. For instance, pricing strategies and advertising campaigns are often difficult for new businesspeople to get right the first time. Here are two of the most popular ways SCORE Mentors meet with new entrepreneurs:
· Counseling – Counseling is comprised of one on one meetings, usually in person. However, counseling sessions can take place online, through phone calls, or over emails. Yet, setting up a face to face is usually ideal.
· Online – If the online option is more convenient for the two of you, then that is the next best thing. Fortunately, face-to-face video technologies like Google Hangouts, Skype or FaceTime can connect you directly with an experienced SCORE mentor. The benefit of holding meetings online is that no matter where you are located, you can always connect.
Checklist to get the Most Out of Your SCORE Mentorship
- Come Prepared: Regardless of the platform on which meetings are held, come prepared with questions and information about your business. Also, make sure you can answer the following questions:
- What is your business model? B2B, B2C, Online, Retail, Service, etc.
- What is your business stage? Pre-launch, planning, a startup in the first two years, etc.
- Bring a copy of your business plan or at least, a one-page summary of your plans. To be even more proactive, send the copy ahead via email, along with your question. Of course, you do not want to send a 100-page business plan and expect the mentor to read it all. Your Mentor will read your executive summary (you included that, right?). The executive summary will be used for initial discussions while referencing any details within your plan.
- Have what you need help with written pointedly. Be exact.
For Example: Instead of telling your Mentor that you need help with sales, explain the details of your need. Tell them you need help making sales to local businesses who are building contractors, to sell your project estimating services. Thus, your questions are: Who do I contact? How can I find their names and phone numbers? Should I call or visit? What should I say?
This will prove far more useful information for you and will guide your mentor accordingly.
- Be ready to take notes. Bring a notepad and pen.
- Listen more and talk less: First, they are teaching you. Thus, this point is respectful. Second, you will learn more from listening. Take in everything they say. Even if you don’t agree with their advice at first, hear them out. See if their explanation and reasons for giving this advice makes sense. Do not be defensive. After all, they are helping you. If you do not understand, ask questions. In some cases, after leaving the meeting and reflecting on their advice, it might make more sense.
Also, do not feel as though you must defend your business plan. Simply listen to their advice, take what you like, and leave the rest. Always remember, they are trying to help you. You are learning from them because they are successful. Therefore, their advice has merit. It is your responsibility to listen and learn.
What Happens After Your Mentorship?
A good mentorship does not end with the session. Here are a few curtsies that go a long way in securing a good relationship with your Mentor:
- Send a Thank You – It is paramount that you send, or call, NOT email or text an appreciative thank you. A hard copy letter or a personal phone call, perhaps with a small token of your appreciation like a coffee gift card, will go a long way to building your mentor relationship. After all, they took time out of their busy schedule to help you succeed. The least you can do is send them a sincere thank you.
- Keep in Touch – Regularly touch base with your mentor to report back on the items you discussed, what you did, and the outcome. After all, they want to see you succeed. Part of showing your appreciation is by showing them how their lessons helped you reach your goal.
- Ongoing Meetings – It is important that there are more than one meeting and call. The best way to benefit from a mentorship is to set up regular sessions with your mentor. These sessions do not need to be lengthy, they only need to be consistent. One tactic for continuously setting up meetings is to secure the next appointment at the end of the current meeting. This ensures that life does not get in the way for both of you and you forget to meet again.
What happens if I don’t like my Mentor?
You and your Mentor are only human, after all. Sometimes, the person that you are set up with and yourself simply do not click. However, if you come to this conclusion after only the first meeting, it is imperative that you try at least once more session. This gives both you and the Mentor time to get into a rhythm and find common ground.
Yet, if the problems continue to persist, do not hesitate to contact your SCORE office director. That way, you can be set up a different mentor. When speaking to your office director, list the professional issues you have with the current mentor. Do NOT make this personal.
A good example of a legitimate issue would be if you are running a retail shop and your Mentor only has B2B experience. When explaining the need for a different Mentor, be as detailed as possible about your business. That way, it is far more likely your next mentor will be a perfect match.
Other SCORE Small Business Resources
While the mentorship is the flagship resource for many new entrepreneurs, there are many other resources available, aside from Mentors, through the SCORE program.
- Educational Workshops & Seminars– Throughout the different chapters, there is face to face classes available, to help entrepreneurs learn specific skill sets.
Workshops- Workshops often take place at local libraries and colleges throughout the chapter’s region. While there is an opportunity to learn, workshops are often more of a professional networking event. They cover specific skills and help propel the success of businesses, in a more hands-on and direct atmosphere.
- SCORE Courses On-Demand– In addition to face to face, local chapter courses, there are also courses always available online. Business Courses On-Demand tackle common issues that are aimed at helping entrepreneurs plan, start and succeed through their business including; building your brand with social media, growing with partners and investors and determining your company’s legal structure.
- SCORE Webinars – SCORE Webinars , both live and recorded, are another invaluable resource that technology provides SCORE entrepreneurs. These sessions teach entrepreneurs in real time, with a live webinar, or on their own time, in a pre-recorded session. There are always new topics being covered, so make sure to check back often. Current offerings include; one-page business plans simple and highly effective and how to outdo your competition by optimizing your online search listings.
- Special Events– There are always different events taking place throughout the different chapters, along with the digital platform. However, there are also special events, which are exclusive to SCORE. The next special event, the Virtual Conference is taking place on November 8, 2018. This conference offers a wealth of information to new and veteran small business owners. Plus, the conference is free due to paid sponsorships.
Library of Resources
There is also an expansive, digital Library of Resources filled with information for every stage of achieving business success. Information can be filtered by business stage and entrepreneur type. The topic the business owner wishes to learn and even the format through which they want the information is customizable. Here are a few of the available resources that can be accessed right now for free:
- Business Templates
There is even specialized information, catering to women, veterans, and minorities. Plus, the information received can be specifically targeted to filter through economically developed areas or urban areas.
The SCORE blog is another wealth of information, separate from the other resources mentioned, With SCORE having their finger on the pulse of small business nationwide, there is a plethora of timely information available. For updates delivered right to your email, you can also subscribe to the SCORE newsletter.
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