The “I don’t know” zone is a tough place to be when the success of your small business falls squarely on your shoulders. A business mentor can help you find the answers you need, while also teaching you best practices and how to avoid common missteps.
SCORE, a nonprofit organization that connects 10,000 volunteer small-business mentors with small-business owners across the country, can offer the guidance owners are looking for. And it’s on a mission to help entrepreneurs grow and manage their businesses.
Wait, what is SCORE, exactly?
SCORE is a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration and has 300 chapters across the country offering free mentoring to more than 140,000 small-business owners a year. In 2016 alone, SCORE volunteers spent more than 2 million hours helping to create more than 55,000 small businesses and 130,000 full-time, part-time and contractor jobs.
And according to CEO Ken Yancey, SCORE set a goal in 2015 to help an additional 1 million entrepreneurs by 2020.
What does it offer?
SCORE’s mentorship program is available in person, via email, phone or video chat. Volunteers are working or retired business owners, executives and managers who have experience across dozens of industries.
“These mentors share their firsthand business experience and practical knowledge with our clients through meaningful, often long-term relationships,” Yancey says. “They help them to start new businesses or operate existing small businesses more efficiently and with greater success.”
Besides its free mentorship program, SCORE also offers free or low-cost small-business workshops and resources like templates for marketing and business plans.
“We are also using technology to reach small-business owners no matter where they live, or how busy their schedules may be,” Yancey says. “Our video mentoring services, virtual conferences and online educational tools ensure that we can meet clients wherever they are, and however they want to be served.”
How do I get help from SCORE?
You can search for a mentor on SCORE’s website based on industry, keyword, location or expertise. Over the following two weeks, the organization will attempt to reach you up to three times to connect you with a local mentor.
Once you’re matched, you’ll meet with your mentor to start brainstorming steps you can take to advance your business goals. If you don’t feel a good connection with your initial mentor, the organization will work with you to find a better fit.
Also, mentors are required to sign a code of ethics that requires them to keep your information confidential, so you can ask questions about anything and everything related to your business without worrying about copyright or intellectual property issues.
Can I be a SCORE volunteer?
If you feel like you have enough experience to help business newbies, you can fill out a volunteer application on the SCORE website. If approved, you’ll go through a training and onboarding process. You can also volunteer to lead a workshop and assist with community outreach, marketing or administrative roles.