The best business advice I've ever received has always come from experienced business owners and seasoned entrepreneurs.
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Long ago, when I was a management consultant at Arthur Andersen and before I had started doing any startups, I would stop by the SBA office and visit the local SCORE office. As an aspiring entrepreneur, I found this to be an excellent resource to learn about what it takes to start a business.
I credit some part of my strong passion for entrepreneurship to the enjoyable sessions I had with a few SCORE counselors in their Chicago office decades ago.
Right now, some of you may be saying: What's SCORE?
If you are a new entrepreneur and have not heard of SCORE, you are missing out on an amazing resource. You can get full details at the SCORE Website, but let me tell you a few things about SCORE.
SCORE originally stood for "Service Core of Retired Entrepreneurs", but, today, the operating name is simply SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business" -- that branding is much more self-explanatory in defining what SCORE does for America's entrepreneurs.
Basically, SCORE will help any small business owner or aspiring business owner to create or grow a successful small business.
They don't offer money, but they do offer wisdom. That wisdom comes from the many, many tireless and talented SCORE volunteers.
To be precise, there are over 11,200 SCORE volunteers working out of 370 SCORE offices nationwide. SCORE volunteers are working and retired executives and business owners who donate their time and expertise as business counselors. SCORE's volunteer experts have skills in strategy, management, finance, budgeting, planning, marketing, manufacturing, import/export and other key areas of business.
Walk into a SCORE office and you can talk to a SCORE volunteer about whatever challenges you are facing as an entrepreneur. All SCORE counseling sessions are FREE.
Some free small business advice is not worth all that much, but, in my experience, that's never the case with SCORE advice. Each SCORE volunteer has "been there, done that" – offering advice that derives from their own rich personal histories.
Seriously, they can help you with just about anything -- cutting costs, getting capital, streamlining operations and finding new customers.
Believe it or not, they've been helping small businesses since 1964. To date, they have helped over 8 million entrepreneurs and small business owners.
That's 8 million entrepreneurs who have received face-to-face small business counseling from a SCORE volunteer. Industry estimates are that 20,000 new businesses are launched every year with assistance from SCORE counselors.
Many more entrepreneurs get help from SCORE in growing their existing businesses. Indeed, in 2008, 357,637 business owners (new and existing) met with SCORE counselors. In total, SCORE volunteers donated over 1.3 million hours worth of volunteer time to help the American business economy.
That's a massive economic engine that doesn't get anywhere near the credit it deserves. If you are a SCORE counselor and nobody has thanked you recently for your amazing work, I'm here to say "THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!" Speaking on behalf of the entire nation, we really appreciate what you've done for America's small business owners.
Some of you might ask: If the consulting sessions are free, who's paying the bill? SCORE is a nonprofit association, headquartered in Herndon, VA and Washington, DC. They are funded by donations and corporate sponsorships, like any other nonprofit. They also are a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
One thing about SCORE is that they never rest on their laurels. For example, on the SCORE website, they just introduced an online mentoring area, where you can ask SCORE experts questions, and they'll get back to you with the answers. There are a ton of great online resources, including online workshops on a wide variety of topics.
Each month, there are new initiatives coming from SCORE. It is a very vibrant and dynamic organization.
The bottomline is that SCORE is an amazing FREE resource for entrepreneurs. Small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs can get valuable advice by visiting with their local SCORE Counselors.
Remember, the SCORE counselor will only advise you. They won't do the work for you. But, if you are a good listener, you can get some amazing tips on how to solve your business challenges.
You'll find that each SCORE counselor's recommendations can save you time and money and help you avoid unnecessary headaches…or even unnecessary business failure.
Call 1-800/634-0245 for the SCORE chapter nearest you or visit the SCORE website to find a SCORE office near you. It's really easy. You just enter your zipcode, and the website tells you where to go and whom to call.
By the way, if you are a talented entrepreneur or business advisor looking for a great way to help others, you should most definitely consider volunteering for SCORE. Details on volunteering are also available at the main SCORE website.
And, if you are already a SCORE volunteer, again thank you. Small businesses will get us out of this current economic mess, and they certainly could not do it nearly as fast or nearly as well without the great work of the many, many SCORE volunteers behind them.