SCORE: The Small Business Mentorship Program Everybody Should Be Talking About

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How You Can Use SCORE to Navigate Your Small Business's Challenges

One of the biggest issues that business owners face is knowing where to turn for help. When you run a business, you're often faced with a wide variety of challenging issues and too little time to take care of them all. One minute you have employee issues. The next minute you're trying to solve problems with your marketing plan. You're negotiating contracts with vendors, looking for business financing, and trying to control costs so you keep a healthy margin. There's no time for one person to do it all.

One of the most valuable assets a business owner can have is a reliable mentor to help them through all of these challenges. Someone who has business expertise and experience facing common business issues can be invaluable in helping an entrepreneur navigate daily business challenges.

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Business owners have access to just this kind of mentor through a little-known program called SCORE, which stands for Service Core of Retired Executives. SCORE is made up of experienced business leaders who are no longer in the workforce and wish to volunteer their time, knowledge, and business savvy to help other business owners. SCORE is headquartered in Virginia but has hundreds of chapters around the United States.

Most score chapters offer information, counseling, and training through either group sessions or one-on-one mentor and relationships. Business owners can visit their local chapters SCORE website to find out when group sessions are being held. They can also submit an application for a mentor. They'll share basic information about their business and then the local chapter will match them up with an appropriate mentor.

score business services

SCORE has more than 11,000 volunteers. The organization is supported by the Small Business Administration, so SCORE is able to offer almost all of their services at no charge. SCORE says that in 2013 their volunteers helped launch more than 38,000 businesses, create more than 67,000 jobs, and train more than 120,000 business owners.

How you can use SCORE

There are several ways that you can benefit from SCORE. The organization has information on programs for every type of owner, regardless of whether you want time-intensive one-on-one mentoring or simply want to browse information on your own time and at your own leisure. The agency also offers information and training on a wide variety of topics. Just a few seconds of browsing SCORE's website shows articles and information on things like marketing, financing, employee management, and even selling a business. The website also has forums and an "Ask-A-Mentor" feature so that you can get information online in just a matter of minutes.

small business mentors

Most SCORE chapters offer group sessions that meet regularly over breakfast or lunch. These group sessions will have rotating topics on things like social media management, managing cash flow, franchising, and more.

They may also have mastermind groups that allow smaller groups of like-minded business owners to get together and discuss topics that are specific to their businesses or industries. These mastermind groups allow business owners who are in the same boat to share issues, ideas, and feedback in a constructive and confidential environment.

Perhaps the most popular service of SCORE is the one-on-one mentoring program. You can apply for one-on-one mentoring on the website of your lab local SCORE chapter. On your application, you'll likely need to submit some basic information about what your business does, what your target market is and some of the issues and challenges you would like to discuss. After reviewing your application, the local chapter will match you with a mentor whose skills and knowledge are a good fit for you and your business.

Many business owners who have worked with SCORE mentors report that the mentors are often happy to listen to your issues and provide feedback and suggestions in a nonjudgmental or authoritative way. They are there to help, not to give marching orders or explicit instruction. For many business owners, the mentor serves as a sounding board. A business owner may have few people in their lives who truly understand the issues and challenges that they face, so there is great value in spending time on a regular basis with someone who has navigated the same business problems.

How a SCORE mentor can help a business with financing

Even though SCORE is not a lender or investor, the agency can help significantly with obtaining financing. At the most basic level, SCORE helps a business owner better prepare themselves for a business loan application or an investment proposal. A mentor can guide a business owner through the development of a business plan, financial projections, and a compelling description of how the funds will be used to grow the business. All of those items are critical when a business pursues a loan or an equity investment.

A SCORE mentor could also help a business in a more direct way. Since most SCORE mentors are retired business executives, they usually have an extensive network throughout the local business community. The mentor may be able to direct the business owner to lenders, investors or even other businesses who may be interested in providing financing to the business.

score business financing

Many business owners who have used SCORE have reported that they didn't just get a mentor, but rather got access to an entire business network that they would have otherwise never had. Often, the difference between business success and failure depends on one's connections. You never know which connection will lead to substantially more business or capital to keep your business afloat. A SCORE mentor can help you make those connections and guide you throughout the business community.

Considering that SCORE is a free service, it has to be one of the most valuable tools at a small business owner's disposal. However, many business owners either don't know that SCORE exists or don't take advantage of its services. That could be a very serious mistake. Check out SCORE today. You could find the next great idea to fuel your business or even your next customer, lender, or investor.

Content Posted By Analia Gentile

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