It’s no secret that being an entrepreneur requires hard work, and growing a small business can be challenging at times.
SCORE was previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, but is now recognized as SCORE, “Counselors to America’s Small Business.” The organization recognizes that success for small businesses lies in getting the right business support and for this reason, they offer free and confidential small business mentoring and low-cost workshop services for business owners and entrepreneurs looking to gain business advice or effectively scale their business.
SCORE has approximately 354 offices around the country and for the last 47 years, more than 13,000 working and retired business professionals have volunteered their time to provide knowledge and support for small businesses. The Vancouver chapter of SCORE is part of the national SCORE Association and serves Clark County through its offices in Vancouver, Longview and Hood River. All mentoring is completely free and all mentors bring real-world business experience to the table.
SCORE mentors come from all types of business backgrounds.
When asked about what kind of mentors work with SCORE, Bruce Jooste, marketing chair of the Vancouver chapter, said: “They are working and retired business owners, executives and managers who have been through the same challenges and decisions that many entrepreneurs are facing today on every aspect of business planning, startup, management and growth. SCORE business mentors offer valuable expertise in specific industries and all volunteers receive specialized training offered by the association.”
The Vancouver chapter has helped a significant amount of businesses and prospective entrepreneurs to date.
“Our client base consists of 505 ‘unique’ (new) clients, of which 96 percent were served with one-on-one (versus telephone or email assistance) volunteer mentoring,” Jooste said. “About 40 percent of our clients identify themselves as ‘in-business’ clients, while 60 percent seek our services to learn more about how to start a business.”
For the 2017 fiscal year, the Vancouver chapter provided workshops to nearly 275 attendees. Jooste explains that when compared to national SCORE statistics, the Vancouver chapter enjoys a high client session ‘follow-on’ rate, which means the mentors work closely to deepen the ongoing relationship that they have with clients. Right now, the chapter has a 93 percent Net Promoter Score, which is higher than the national SCORE average.
While mentoring is a huge part of the work that SCORE provides, seminars and workshops are equally important services that are offered. These are always available at minimal cost and Jooste said that many times they will be free, due to specific grants or outside financial commitments that help make the classes accessible. There are a wide range of topics covered, including general accounting practices, business planning and marketing, and commercial lending availability, to name a few.
SCORE is proud to work with clients in all stages of the business process, too.
“Clients seek our input with questions ranging from very general like, ‘What do I need to do to consider starting a business?’ to specific – in one case a SCORE mentor helped a client pinpoint a source of employee theft that threatened the continuation of the business,” Jooste said.
Looking ahead, Jooste shares that there will be several new workshop curriculums offered in 2018, and some additional local benefactors have recently committed to offering support in reaching Vancouver’s growing business community, including Pacific Continental Bank, Heritage Bank and Key Bank.
For more information on SCORE, visit http://scorevancouver.org/.