Problems with Small Business Development Centers and SCORE?

Here’s a dialogue I’ll share about Small Business Development Centers and S.C.O.R.E. It takes place on a Google and/or Yahoo group I belong to. The names will be changed to protect the incident.

Image representing SCORE as depicted in CrunchBase
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I have been working with a Small Business Development coach at our local college. He knows quite a bit about business, taxes, etc., but nothing about copywriting, design, or the printing industry.

I am trying to launch a small local service part-time for a bit of extra income.

Nothing major: real estate brochures, business cards and letterheads, press releases, menus, direct mail, and such. I’ve got 14 years of in-house experience in copywriting, graphic design, and catalog management — though I have never been out in the sales force.

This coach is insisting that consulting with clients about their needs will simply end up as a pile of stolen ideas. He seems to think that when I take a proof copy by, the client will run off with it to cut me out of the loop.

I explained that I wouldn’t be creating anything without a signed contract, but he seems to think that I need to create a custom piece for each client and THEN try to sell it to them. He also thinks I’d be better off selling printing services and not creative and that I shouldn’t share the names of the printing companies that I use because clients should have to call me for any reprints.

I’m not interested in babysitting these projects long-term. I simply want to offer a creative service to small business owners that normally would not have access to quality at a reasonable price.

My coach seems to disagree with me on several important points. Am I missing something? Time to look for a different coach?

My response

The actor Sean Astin giving a talk at the Univ...
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Here’s my advice about Small Business Development Centers and S.C.O.R.E. Go to Americas Small Business Development Center Network and type in you zip code. There’s usually more than one center, in your zip code area.

Also check out S.C.O.R.E. by zip code at Service Corps of Retired Executives

Here’s the thing. The SBDC and SCORE are great organizations. But I find some counselors and centers better than others. So shop around – especially since the advice is free and courses are low-cost.

Somewhere on my blog I talk about LLC advice I received from both organizations (and different counselors, so search for LLC). One director accused me of seeking legal advice, since I asked for an attorney volunteer on staff to answer my LLC question. I was just seeking the best qualified consultant for the job – which you should also.

Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

Another response

I agree, but SCORE tends to have low standards for recruiting counselors, for the sake of maintaining a sufficient number of counselors and keeping the program going. I was a SCORE counselor at a time when, in retrospect, I lacked sufficient experience to be one. Often, I was asked for advice that I didn’t feel qualified to give, such as legal and tax structure matters.

SCORE has a tendency to fold within many small communities and the managers behind resurrecting a local chapter may get frustrated with trying to recruit the highest caliber. The most successful small business owners may not stick around during their retirement years. In XXX, the thought of resurrecting our chapter gets tossed around every few years, but always runs out of steam.

If you can find a great SCORE counselor with many years of experience, you just might have a gold mine. You can tell when you have a good counselor because of their in-depth curiosity about you and the inner workings of your business.

The quality of SBDC staff can vary drastically. The one in XXX has a high turnover rate and the people rarely know the answers to my questions, so I often call the XXX office. There’s a woman down there who’d rather give up her children than be unable to correctly answer my question.

Teachers, coaches, mentors, and counselors are people and no two are exactly alike and no one is right all the time. Keep looking until you find the resourceful folks you can depend on to move your business. They’re out there – they really are.

My response:

I do agree with XXX assessment of SCORE. The limited time I counseled with them in person was very unproductive. Having said that, they have brought in some good local resources to teach seminars – most were free.

I have found good advice from SCORE, if I use their online service. This way I can check their qualifications and pick someone to answer a question by email. I got excellent answers on my LLC questions.

I find diversity the best usage of Small Business Development Centers.

The person heading the Harper College branch is a marketing expert and has her own Internet business. I consult with her about marketing direction.

The person heading the College of DuPage branch used to be a geologist, then became a business consultant for many years. He’s good at business plans.

The person heading the Elgin Community College branch is a CPA. He’s good at tax and legal issues.

The Jewish Vocational Service is an excellent resource for those in the city of Chicago. They also teach a free entrepreneur course, based upon Core Four. I’ve also heard the same is true for the University of Illinois.

Shop around. It will be worth the effort.





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