Tuesday, February 05, 2013

What is SCORE? How can SCORE help your business?

I am a volunteer for SCORE, an organization that helps people who want to start a small business or who own a small business and hit a snag. SCORE even helps small business owners who are wildly successful and want to grow.

I'm not so sure SCORE does a good job explaining its mission on its own website:
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. We have been doing this for nearly fifty years.
This description seems confusing to me because SCORE is really about helping people. Many of these people don't yet have a small business, and this description suggests SCORE only works with businesses ready to launch. SCORE works with people who have questions about running a small business from starting the business to helping it grow.

SCORE is a non-profit arm of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and separate from the Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) you may see listed in your local business directory.  The SBDCs are also affiliated with the SBA. To make it even more confusing, SCORE is an out-of-date acronym for Service Corps of Retired Executives. The problem with this acronym is that today's mentors are a mixed group of retired and still working individuals.
SCORE provides mentorship, training, and troubleshooting to people who want to start or who own small businesses. According to the SBA:
The SCORE Association “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association comprised of 13,000+ volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories.
SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors advisors and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners. These services are offered at no fee, as a community service.
SCORE is the place you can call to ask almost all your business questions, like these:
  • I have some ideas. I don't know if they're any good.
  • Where do I start? What do I need?
  • What is a business plan?
  • I want to manufacture robots. Can I do that here?
  • I want to buy an existing business, but I can't read the financials.
  • I need help with my existing business.
SCORE will not have all the answers, but mentors are able to gather expert help and to point you to the organizations that offer specific types of guidance.

SCORE chapters have operating budgets, but do not loan money or provide any kind of financing for your small business.

The SBA does.

The SBA oversees many aspects of business development, and its website holds a wealth of information.Your local SBA office can help you with financing, but SBA officers will not simply write you a check because you think you have a good idea. For help, you can turn to your local SCORE chapter or your local SBDC.

Locally, SCORE gets phone calls for help with everything from discussing the feasibility of a certain type of business, to writing a business plan, to understanding the financial value of an existing business, to troubleshooting a cash flow problem.

Your SCORE mentor generally has expertise in one or two areas, but can connect you with an expert to solve a problem that you might have. For example, if you are trying to receive financing through an SBA program, and you need to improve your business plan or prepare a more detailed financial statement, a SCORE mentor can help with that.

Your SCORE mentor is available as you move through the process of starting or improving your business, and may point out other services that might be useful to you.

SCORE and your local SBDC provide many of the same services as far as mentoring goes, but SBDC is funded to help businesses navigate the local business environment. SBDC employees are paid, but their services are free to business owners and those thinking of starting a business. According to the SBA's website:
Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs) provide a wide array of technical assistance to small businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs supporting business performance and sustainability and enhancing the creation of new businesses entities.  These small businesses in turn foster local and regional economic development through job creation and retention as a result of the extensive one-on-one long-term counseling, training and specialized services they receive from the SBDCs.  The SBDCs are made up of a unique collaboration of SBA, state and local governments, and private sector funding resources.
In other words, this is the organization who can help you navigate legal and technical issues.

You can see that it's important for SBA, SCORE, and SBDCs to work together whenever possible, drawing on resources.

Do not worry about which organization you contact first.You'll be guided toward the resources that answer your question. The important step is making the first contact.

SCORE: www.SCORE.org
SBA: www.sba.gov
Association of Small Business Development Centers: http://www.asbdc-us.org


Want more details about how to sort out the SBA acronym soup? Try this article, SBA, SCORE, and SBDCs Explained - 3 Essential Local Resources for Small Business Owners.

1 comment:

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