your very own (free) small business counsultant

scorelogoFor those that are thinking about starting your own business or if you are already on your way, getting one-on-one advice from a business professional is definitely a great idea. An even better idea is getting that advice for free(!!). Which is why if I have one secret to share it is: find a Score counselor to help you on your company’s journey.

So what is Score? Score is a non-profit based on helping entrepreneurs grow their dreams into reality – FOR FREE. Yep, while some people volunteer at animal shelters, other business-types donate their talent helping start-ups. I first used Score in Ann Arbor during college for Jess LC when I needed tax advice. Since I was already in business, my main objective when using Score counselors was to get specific, objective advice about matters in which I knew nada. This was an effective way to get very vague legal and tax advice without paying a professional.

When I came to Chicago I looked up Score here in the city to get some accounting advice. The first counselor I met with didn’t quite mesh. But I surprisingly got a follow up call to a survey I (honestly) filled out asking me to meet with another counselor. I agreed. And on my second visit I met my current mentor and “business coach” who I have worked with for over a year now. We meet once a month and he helps me keep my sights on the stars and my eye on the bottom line. And since I don’t have a boss or other go-to person for wisdom and strategy he helps me work through long term goals, pricing, and execution. Without our monthly meetings I think I would feel just a tiny bit more in the entrepreneurial dark.

So how can Score fit in your business? With 370 branches and over 11,200 volunteers, there is a good chance you can meet with someone near you in person. If not, they also have online counseling as well. I think there are three main ways to utilize this goldmine of professional wisdom:

  1. Help you start at ground zero: If you are just in the vision stages of starting a business, reaching out to a Score counselor will help you hone your ideas into actionable  steps. They can walk you through creating a business plan and help you avoid a lot of rookie mistakes. If you need capital or funding, they also have lots of resources at their branches.
  2. Help you over the next hurdle: If you are already doing well in your business but you are lacking expertise in a certain area like I was in accounting, legal, and taxes, meeting with someone in that specific field can fill your knowledge gap. This avenue may only last one or two visits.
  3. Help you develop over time: I think this is the best route to take no matter what level your company may be at- having another mentor, adviser, and confidant to help you grow and manage your company is always a good idea. Especially someone you respect, has industry experience, and doesn’t charge you money.

So hop over to their site and look up a location near you. When going into business it’s very easy to fall into the “you don’t know what you don’t know” trap and end up wasting a lot of time and money.

[Full disclosure: I was not asked to write about Score by anyone involved with the organization, I really, truly think this is a genuinely great idea for everyone who wants to follow their passion.]

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  1. I need to do this, so many small businesses have raved about this.
    I love the idea of this and that these people are there to help you score!

  2. Jess, SCORE is a great resource and so underutilized by many new entrepreneurs. Glad to see from the comments that others will benefit from their good word.

    I’m currently working on creating a “main street” business incubation model. SCORE and similar resources are a piece of the puzzle, but I’d be very interested to hear from you or others about what these organizations aren’t providing that would be very helpful to moving your businesses forward. Thanks!

  3. Jess

    @ PVE: Yay! Let me know how the Score meeting goes! I hope you get what you are looking for (and more) from the meeting.

    @ Rachel: Great! It is such a great starting point- you will definitely end up even more insipired.

    @ Jack: Nice! I am totally up for helping out. I can say for me the most useful resources I have found for my business are Score, Help A Reporter Out, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Toilet Paper Entrepeneur.

  4. Toni

    Hi Jess, I found your blog from Modish Biz Tips. Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Your jewelry line is beautiful and what you’ve done with it is very inspiring. I have contacted Score many times, through email, but haven’t clicked with anyone as I believe having a mentor would be extremely helpful. I work for myself and like you, have no go-to person to bounce ideas off of. A face to face is probably the next step. So nice to meet you and thank you again for everything.

  5. Abster

    I agree!! I know some SCORE counselors who volunteer there. The Small Business Development Centers provide similar services and much more to help start-up and existing businesses grow. They are a terrific resource for small businesses providing both counseling (at no cost) and a variety of training classes on very relevant topics. If you live in Missouri (as I do), the state website is if you want to find a center near you.

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