SCORE and Small Business Development Center Q and A

It’s time to share another forum conversation about SCORE and SBA

Commentator:

Illinois Institute of Technology

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I found the resources at SBA and SCORE to be wildly unhelpful when I was working on the transition from employee to business owner. But obviously it depends on what kind of business you’re starting. If I had looked to open a retail store or a light manufacturing business, it would have been more helpful.’

Commentator:

Much depends on shopping around. In SCORE, for example, I have been disappointed with my consultations in person. However:

1. 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.

2. they have brought in some good local resources to teach seminars – most were free.

Many small business development centers are run out of universities. Some are out of community colleges. I would say to put in your zip code and see what happens. For example, in my area:

  1. The person heading the Harper College branch is a marketing expert and has her own Internet business. I consult with her about marketing direction.
  2. 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.
  3. The person heading the Elgin Community College branch is a CPA. He’s good at tax and legal issues.
  4. The person heading the Walbonsee Community College branch is good at e-commerce.
  5. The Jewish Vocational Service (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!!!

Commentator:

I’ve had interactions with many of the local, government-sponsored entrepreneurship help organizations, ranging from business planning to entrepreneurship training, and have been uniformly disappointed. Even though there are people at the organizations that sometimes have useful ability, the bureaucracy makes it so that you aren’t likely to get enough of their time to get more than generic advice anyway. I realize that this varies from place to place, but I’d warn prospective entrepreneurs about expecting too much from this sort of organization.

My Response:

Illinois Institute of Technology

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You need to learn to “move in the shadows.” This means learning how to navigate the system. If I decide to get advice, some allow me to just schedule an appointment and call them. Then I can ask the questions I want. Others insist I see them in person. I learn the idiosyncrasies of each office and use it to my advantage.

On another front, an entrepreneur I call Jerry will be teaching some entrepreneur bootstrapping courses free, at the local Illinois Institute of Technology campus. I’ve signed up. But I know that 20 years ago, Jerry was making $150 K as a General Electric sales rep – before he became a successful entrepreneur. I also know he has connections with different government officials around the world. So I’m not only going there to take the course, but to get to know Jerry and duplicate his success.

Commentator:

SCORE is a well-kept secret for those seeking to learn small business from experts. In my experience, the people who teach in SCORE are retired business owners who have “learned the ropes” and are very willing to share what they know – at little or no cost, I might add. To find a local SCORE near you, point your browser to score.org and enter your zip code. One of the best uses of tax dollars that I have seen!

My Response:

SCORE usually works with the Small Business Development Centers. The Fox Valley chapter in Illinois has offices in the Small Business Development Centers of the College of DuPage and Walbonsee Community College. The Small Business Development Center website is Small Business Development Center and Score is SCORE.

Joan As Police Woman

Image by megathud via Flickr

Perhaps there is some concern by commentators that if people use the free services of these groups, there is no need for paid services. This is NOT true! In fact, at the Walbonsee center is a volunteer who services business clients.

1. If you come into the Walbonsee center and meet with her, she will discuss a business plan with you – but you do the work.

2. If you want her to do the work, she can meet with you via her private consulting business – for a fee.

The other is to digger deeper into offerings. The JVS (Jewish Vocational Services) in Chicago might first appear to be ONLY for Jewish people – this is not true. Their services are free for both Jewish and gentile alike.

Commentator:

You don’t need to have a formal business plan.

My Response:

Not everyone would agree with that. Let’s take the writing business. . If I go to Amazon and type in writing business, you will find books by Lucy Parker and Peter Bowerman – among others. Lucy believes in writing a business plan but Peter doesn’t.

For those interested in good writers about breaking into the writing or copywriting business, look for books by Peter Bowerman, Bob Bly, Steve Slaunwhite, Kelly James-Enger and Lucy Parker.

Second responder:

There are great ways to build your business plan online and most of them are actually free. The ones that I’ve seen so far are the following:

Biz Gym – great place to do business plans, elevator pitches, and financial models for free. Comprehensive enough for VC-chasing startups, but simple enough for entrepreneur moms and kids.

Plan Cruncher – simplifies your business plan into a one-page pdf. Needs a bit more polishing in my opinion.

Funding Road Map – very comprehensive business plan app. I’m probably not its target market, but it’s too much of an overkill for my needs.

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