Whether you get your business information from the Internet, from networking
with other small business owners, from books or magazines, or indeed from
this very newsletter when it comes to business advice, consider the
source. This warning even applies to programs specifically designed to
assist start up and existing businesses.
you are looking to do business with the federal government for example, the
Small Business Administration (SBA.gov)
has some excellent information on the ins and outs of landing government
contracts. Years ago I got some great advice from a marketing dynamo and SBA
counselor named Diane Doherty. And if you need to borrow money to start your
business and can't get a bank loan, the SBA has several loan guarantee
programs designed to help small businesses secure funding.
there is the Service Corps of Retired
Executives otherwise known
as SCORE. SCORE offers free one-to-one and online advice and training to new
business owners. The over 10,500 volunteer counselors are working or retired
business owners, executives and corporate leaders looking for ways to share
their business experience with people who need it. You have to applaud the
fact that SCORE counselors take time out of their lives to help first time
all you have to do is read the long list of success stories at the SCORE
site (SCORE.org) to know this organization has helped a lot of people launch their
businesses. Take Michelle Violetto and Tanya Ehrlich. Four years ago, these
long-time friends launched Little Scoops, a 1950s-style ice cream dance
party service for kids. A few short years later,
Little Scoops was named as one of the"
Hot New Franchises for 2005" by Entrepreneur Magazine (LittleScoops.com).
Then there's Judith Moore, a lifetime baker,
who was on a quest to find the "perfect" chocolate chip cookie recipe. In
true bootstrapping form, Judith bartered with a guy who owned an advertising
agency to develop a brand identity for the
Charleston Cookie Company (CharlestonCookie.com)
in exchange for a years worth of free cookies. Next she next contacted Coast
SCORE in North Charleston, South Carolina, for advice on her business plan.
Judith's SCORE Counselor helped her focus her vision and to create a
spreadsheet and produce cash flow projections for three years of business.
Judith's SCORE counselor continues to advise
her on issues related to business structure, management and growth. For
Judith, working with a SCORE counselor has been a recipe for success. Judith
recently entered into a new partnership with Dean & Deluca, a retail and
catalog gourmet food company based in New York City.
are lots more inspiring stories like these. Unfortunately there are other
stories too, and not the good kind. Over the years, I and others in the
creative career change field have heard countless reports of aspiring
entrepreneurs being subjected to uninformed SCORE counselors trashing their
business idea and dashing their dreams. One workshop attendee even had a
SCORE counselor describe his business idea as, and I quote, "An exercise in
mental ...." well, you can probably
fill in the blank but suffice it to say it is not a word that would have
made it through the internet spam filter.
kind of undoubtedly well-meaning but none-the-less demoralizing, and in this
case, inappropriate, advice has caused more than one aspiring entrepreneur
to pack up their dreams and go home. It's the multitude of stories like this
that has prompted Barbara Sher to dub SCORE "scorn." If a client named Marcelle's story is an indication, the term is well-deserved.
you may recall from part one of this series, Marcelle spent $2,000 to
incorporate her one-woman business running empowerment workshops. In that
article I argued that given the low-liability factor of conducing self-help
seminars, that this money could have been better spent on marketing her
Around this same time Marcelle also sought advice from two local SCORE
representatives. The men she met with were nice enough. But when they
learned that Marcelle planned to aim her personal empowerment workshops at
women of color, the counselors flat out told her she couldn't do it arguing
that targeting a particular race would constitute discrimination.
not sure why I, or any other White woman, would show up at a personal
empowerment workshop that was advertised as being for women of color. But if
I did, and I was refused entrance to a public workshop, prohibited from
purchasing a book, or otherwise denied service based on my race then Marcelle would indeed be guilty of discrimination. But that's not what these
business advisors were saying. Instead they were claiming that Marcelle was
prohibited by law from targeting her business to a particular race or ethnic
about it folks. That's like insisting that someone starting a child care
center has to also serve senior citizens, or that a men's suit store has to
also stock women's suits, or that a manufacturer of hair care products for
African Americans would have to develop formulations for all hair textures.
To label as "discrimination" what anyone who has taken a "Marketing 101"
class knows as "niche marketing" is ludicrous at best and negligent at
Again, despite these and other anecdotal stories of bad advice, on the whole
SCORE as an organization does good work. In addition to individual
counseling by many qualified and helpful counselors, SCORE also offers a
very convenient email advice service called
Ask SCORE (EMC.SCORE.org).
The service allows you to ask confidential questions to counselors all over
the country 24/7. A simple keyword search led me to a long list of experts
on subjects ranging from import-export to kennels to food marketing to
it comes to working for yourself, it's always good to consult with those who
have been where you want to go. Again, I'm confident that the majority of
SCORE representatives are knowledgeable and helpful, especially to people
whose businesses require attaining financing and hiring employees.
Keep in mind that SCORE
stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives and not the Service Corps
of Retired Entrepreneurs. So when it comes to getting advice from
SCORE or anyone, my advice is this: If you find yourself feeling more
discouraged than enabled, thank the advice givers for their assistance and
move on. Even with this article when it comes to business advice, consider
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About the Author
"Profiting From Your Passions®" expert Valerie Young abandoned her corporate cubicle to become the Dreamer in Residence at ChangingCourse.com offering resources to help you discover your life mission and live it. Her career change tips have been cited in Kiplinger's, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today Weekend, Woman's Day, and elsewhere and on-line at MSN, CareerBuilder, and iVillage.com. An expert on the Impostor Syndrome, Valerie has spoken on the topic of How to Feel as Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are to such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Bristol-Meyers Squibb, Harvard, and American Women in Radio and Television.
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