A facet of the Small Business Administration, SCORE provides support for new entrepreneurs to established businesses through their mentoring and other business development resources. SCORE’s free consultation services help businesses get started, help them grow and help them solve problems.
“The bulk of what we do is help startups with their business plans,” says Columbus SCORE Chapter Chair Mike Hadra. Experienced, business-savvy mentors provide a robust base of knowledge on almost any topic an entrepreneur needs help with to develop their plan.
“We have at any one time about 15 active mentors here in Columbus,” Hadra says. “We try to pair the best [mentor] we can with what the client really wants.” SCORE’s mentors all have significant business experience. Some come from the corporate world, others have been in senior management positions, with a small group that have started their own businesses, but they all know the ropes. Sometimes clients approach SCORE with specific problems or challenges, but mentors from various backgrounds and different industries are able to help with these specialized needs. For those just starting out, each mentor can provide support and basic knowledge.
One of the biggest obstacles SCORE faces is emphasizing the benefits of mentoring to new entrepreneurs. “Most business owners don’t really think that they need help so that’s our challenge,” Hadra says. “[We’re] selling the benefit of having somebody who’s got a lot of years of experience, maybe totally different experience, that can bring a fresh view.” Analyzing different perspectives makes an impact. An SBA study showed that businesses that had at least three hours of mentoring saw a growth in sales.
Entrenched in their ideas, some businesses have trouble seeing the bigger picture. Mentoring provides an opportunity to speak with a professional that’s been there and done that – one who can ask the why questions to really make an entrepreneur think. Sometimes a brainstorming discussion is all that’s needed for an a-ha moment.
SCORE also offers workshops for a nominal fee that discuss different aspects of business ownership. The Simple Steps to Starting a Business Workshop is a four-part series that covers what it takes to start a business, market research, marketing and financial reports. Other workshops cover more specific topics like social media, bringing products to market, personal credit and search engine optimization.
Outside of business plans, SCORE spends about 30 percent of their time supporting existing businesses. “In Columbus we’re trying to get more involved with existing businesses,” Hadra says. The organization plans to develop relationships with chambers of commerce to be an added support resource the chambers can offer. By becoming more ingrained in existing businesses, SCORE hopes to develop more long-term relationships with companies, serving almost as an advisory board.
For more information, visit columbusoh.score.org.