There was a time not so long ago when owning a small business was a lonely affair. In those pre-Internet days, there were very few resources for an entrepreneur to get advice, learn new skills, or find a community.
Things are much different now; indeed, one of the great things about owning and running a small business today is that there is just so much help available, much of it free.
One of the best and one of my favorites is SCORE. SCORE is the country’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors and is committed to helping small businesses start, grow, and achieve their goals. It does s
o in several ways:
- SCORE has chapters of volunteer mentors throughout the country. Its more than 10,000 volunteers give small business owners free, confidential mentoring and training (both online and off) on virtually any subject – marketing, advertising, hiring, firing, business plans – you name it.
- SCORE offers workshops and webinars
- Its website is loaded with great articles, blogs, and other content.
I recently chatted with the new CEO of SCORE, Bridget Weston, to ask how it is helping entrepreneurs through this pandemic. She is a dynamic, resourceful and creative leader fully committed to helping small businesses.
Q: Hi Bridget. How has the pandemic changed what you are doing?
A: As you know, SCORE has been around since 1964 and for much of our existence, our mentoring was done live, in-person. If it can be said that there is a silver lining in this pandemic for us, it is that we were well prepared for this moment. We have increasingly been moving online and two years ago we created a virtual, on-screen mentoring process. Our training, tools, and system were all in place long before the coronavirus hit.
Q: How does it work?
A: Using either Skype or Zoom, our mentors and their clients can have a virtual coaching session. Being accessible to clients really matters and what makes that possible now is technology. And one of the great things about video mentoring is that our surveys find that it is just as effective as in-person sessions.
Q: Have you seen an increase in requests for mentoring since the pandemic began?
A: You bet, there has been a tremendous increase in demand the past few months. Initially, people needed help navigating the PPP. Now a lot of the questions are about sources of alternative funding and how to re-open safely. Other topics that we help with routinely are startups, business planning, finance, getting and keeping customers, and marketing and sales.
Q: Have you created, or do you have, any programs specifically for this crisis?
A: Yes, we have a few things. For starters, we have a Small Business Resilience Hub. The idea is that we know economic downturns bring unprecedented challenges. Our resilience hub offers training, resources and remote mentoring to help a small business not just survive but adapt and succeed.
There are several parts of the hub: Remote mentoring, resilience training, and a resource portal. As part of this, we offer real-time online mentoring each day. Business owners can find out more or sign up on our homepage.
Q: Could you tell us a bit more about SCORE’s work generally?
A: Sure. Last year we helped start 30,000 new businesses and create 100,000 jobs. In addition, 67% of our clients report that they increased their revenue as a result of working with us.
Q: Well, as you know, I love SCORE and what you do. Keep up the great work.
A: Thank you!
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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