With the American Express OPEN Government Contracting Procurement & Networking Event approaching on March 31st, I wanted to talk with one of OPEN’s partners, SCORE, on what business owners should be doing to help move their businesses forward. Ken Yancey, CEO of SCORE, told me, “Now is a great time to find a mentor, whether it’s through SCORE or through your own circle or community. There are so many experienced entrepreneurs who have faced the same issues as you, so why not benefit from what they’ve learned?”
Tapping that experience is one of the benefits that SCORE offers through their one-to-one counseling in their 364 of regional offices, as well as through their speed coaching events across the country (see the 2010 speed coaching schedule). Last year, they held approximately 8,000 events that gave 130,000 business owners an opportunity to sit and talk about ideas and issues with a counselor, many of whom are very well established.
“Having a sounding board is really important,” Ken told me. “Most entrepreneurs don’t have a board of directors or other executives they can consult with. Our SCORE advisors serve that function and help them focus on a particular challenge and be better prepared to make decisions, whether it’s adding an outside sales person or buying a franchise. Plus, our advisors can be a great local resource, helping entrepreneurs identify new opportunities. Many have even helped business owners put together pseudo advisory boards.”
SCORE’s goal is to help one million small businesses grow by the year 2017, and they’re planning to reach that goal by working more closely with local partners, as well as looking for new ways to serve underserved communities, like inner city and rural areas. They’re also increasing their online counseling and workshops, adding to the 29 workshops and seminars they currently hold on a range of topics, from gaining access to capital, to targeting your competitors’ customers, to using new technologies like social media. “The seminars are designed to provide answers on timely topics we hear are important to business owners. But I also recommend attending one of the speed-coaching events. There’s so much energy and motivation that comes from having 300 to 400 business owners in one room.”
Ken also emphasized the range in experience of the attendees, from those who are considering starting a business to those who are considering expanding internationally. “Anyone can benefit from having an advisor or group of advisors to provide a sounding board for your ideas. Nobody has all the answers, and even if you do, it’s still good to get confirmation on them.”
If you have a story about the benefits of working with SCORE that you would like to share with OPEN Forum, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.