In my last article I discussed the Benefits of the Small Business Association or SBA, an independent agency of the federal government to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of start up and established small businesses. In addition to financial assistance, contract opportunities and disaster assistance, the SBA also offers small business counseling and training through a variety of programs and resource partners. The SBA is the government’s source of information on small business and provides guarantees to lenders for small business loans. One of their primary resource partners, the Service Corps of Retired Executives or SCORE Association is dedicated to educating and assisting entrepreneurs in the formation, growth and success of their small business. As with the SBA many of the programs offered by SCORE are free or low charge, and can also help facilitate the process of getting a SBA-backed business loan.
Currently there are 364 chapters of SCORE operating in over 800 locations across the United States as well as in US Territories. The organization, which is headquartered in Herndon, Virginia and Washington DC, supports small businesses with both training and business counseling. Whether you are just starting out, or have been established for quite some time, SCORE can set you up with a personal business coach who can guide you along every step of your business.
ASKSCORE is an online program that was developed by SCORE to connect you with a personal mentor from Fortune 500 executives as well as successful entrepreneurs who can give you advice and help answer questions you may have concerning your business. They are available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. In addition, SCORE offers both online and onsite workshops for business owners on everything from just starting their businesses to marketing and managing the financial aspects of it.
Given that SCORE has membership of over 12,000 volunteers, they also have the ability to refer small business owners to someone within their industry who can offer a wide range of expertise in areas such as finance, branding and marketing. Some of these mentors may even be available to visit the company location to learn more about the business first hand. Jerry Rosenstrach, Marketing Counselor for Westchester NY chapter of SCORE had this to say.
The crux of my work with clients at SCORE is to get them to understand that being in business is a 24/7 operation and that they have to learn and embrace the concept of the “shameless promotion of their business.” It starts with creating an elevator speech so that when someone says to them, what do you do, they can provide the most compelling message that conveys who they are, what makes them stand out from their competition and why people should deal with them rather than anyone else. It points out convincingly that they understand what the client/prospect needs and it is offered in the consumer’s language. It means learning the all important concept of the meeting of the minds and focusing on how to achieve it.
People have only so much time to listen. The first five seconds of a person’s communication has to be so right on that the listener becomes convinced to listen to the next 25 seconds otherwise, they are gone. Same thing with direct mail, e mail and web sites. The message must come across immediately letting people know WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM. Get this message across at the outset and you have your foot in the door.
Suffice it to say, that getting a business off the ground and keeping it afloat, requires skills in a multitude of different areas. In order to assist small business owners in gaining the “know how” in these areas, SCORE created what they call the Small Business Podcast Series, where prominent business authorities offer their expertise and “secrets” to business success. The podcast series covers Franchising, Managing, Marketing, Networking, Organization, Getting Started, Success, Training and Volunteerism.
SCORE also offers a Template Gallery for common business tools such as Business Plans for both start up and established business, Balance Sheets, Financial Forecasting and Bank Loan requests. The SCORE website also features a series of Business Quizzes in areas such as Business Planning, E-Commerce, Finance, Human Resources, Leadership, Marketing & PR, Office Management, Sales and Customer Service and Training.
In summary… if you or someone you know is starting their own small business or has one already established, the SCORE Association has programs to help you get started and keep you business running. Remember, starting and running your own business can be a daunting and tedious task. But with desire, perseverance, and resources such as those offered by SCORE, take charge of your career, accomplish your professional goals and find success in your efforts toward living a life of financial freedom.