Ken Yancey, the CEO of SCORE, has called his organization the ‘Peace Corps of entrepreneurs.’ Many others have called it America’s best-kept business secret.
Both descriptions fit.
SCORE (originally called the Services Corps of Retired Executives when it was founded in 1963) is a national non-profit organization of over 13,000 volunteer small business mentors. All of the mentors are either active or retired business executives or business owners and offer their mentoring services for free.
As of 2017, SCORE has worked with over eleven million entrepreneurs through its history.
The organization is headquartered in Virginia and has 300 chapters nationally.
Which means there’s almost certainly a chapter near you. And if not, SCORE offers mentoring via email and video as well.
SCORE is an independent non-profit, but it is supported by the Federal Government’s Small Business Administration.
Even though score is a bit of a hidden treasure, it operates on a large scale, helping lots of business owners each year. Each year, SCORE publishes the results of its work.
In 2017 alone, they helped 54,506 businesses get started.
How SCORE Mentoring Works
SCORE provides confidential, one-to-one mentoring for individual business owners. Even if you’ve owned your business for a while and are doing well, but are in need of advice on a certain topic, SCORE mentoring is available for you.
SCORE provides guidance on everything from starting up to growing and scaling to ongoing management.
The topics that mentoring covers include general business topics such as how to write a business plan, how to raise funding, how to handle bookkeeping and how to market effectively.
In addition, if you’re in need of industry-specific guidance, CEO Ken Yancey says SCORE will try to pair you with a mentor form your industry:
The assistance people get depends on their needs. We would hook a restaurateur up with one or more of our volunteers who had successful restaurant careers. Of course, we give general business advice as well. We often do that in our workshops.
You can also search for mentors by location, industry, keyword or expertise. If you’re not sure who would be the best fit as a mentor, SCORE will pair you based on the question or questions you’re looking to get answered.
Beyond there ‘been there, done that’ experience, all SCORE mentors today go through mentoring training, to make sure there educational skills are up-to-date and effective.
Incredibly, SCORE mentoring isn’t a one-and-done deal. Despite being free, you can have more than one one-hour mentoring session. And if for some reason your mentor isn’t a good fit. SCORE will work to set you up with a new mentor that is.
Who Are SCORE Mentors?
All SCORE mentors are either current or former business managers, executives or owners. SCORE requires this real-world experience.
So you’ll be getting advice from somebody who has actually faced the same challenges you have. If you go to SCORE’s website you’ll find the profiles of current mentors. These are professionally impressive people–the kind you’d work to access as a mentor if there weren’t volunteering at SCORE.
You can see two example profiles of mentors from the Austin chapter–Patrica Abbamonte and Russel M. Becker, below.
Beyond there business experience, SCORE mentors must complete Mentoring Methodology Training. This means you don’t end up with somebody who’d succeeded themselves but isn’t actually able to effectively advise you.
If you’re nervous about the prospect of bringing your ideas or challenges to be reviewed by somebody who has succeeded in business, SCORE addresses this through their mentor training.
It’s based on SLATE:
- Stop and Suspend Judgment
- Listen and Learn
- Assess and Analyze
- Test Ideas and Teach with Tools
- Expectation Setting and Encouraging the Dream
SCORE Resources Beyond Mentoring
In addition to mentoring, SCORE offer its regularly updated Small Business Success blog on a variety of topics, as well as low-cost workshops, both online and off, on a variety of topics.
Most of these workshops cost less than $50 if they are not free.
You’ll also find tools on the website such as guidelines on specific topics and templates of common business documents.
SCORE also runs the American Small Business Championship.
You’ll often hear successful entrepreneurs talk about the value they’ve received from a great mentor. SCORE offers access to highly qualified mentors for free. If you have questions about your business, you should seriously consider taking advantage of this great resource.