Local SCORE Chapter Makes Goal to Help Businesses Start and Grow


January 06, 2011
"SCORE which is an acronym for service core of retired executives is actually a misnomer," say Dick Ficke, chairperson for the local Chapter 641. "Only about one third of the 12,400 counselors, possessing 600 skill sets, in the 364 chapters around the country are actually retired. Others are active business people," he adds. The Valley chapter, founded in 1997, is no different with counselors bringing expertise in the areas of sales and marketing, start-up, financial planning, training, engineering, building construction, accounting, franchising, proposal and grant writing, patent law and licensing, to name a few.

SCORE services are free. The counselors are volunteers. It's a good thing counselors are volunteers, because SCORE is non-profit and relies on resources and financial support from the Small Business Administration, partnerships and donations from corporate patrons and funding from the SCORE Foundation. "Counselors posses personal skills, business experience and are people with a sharp business sense," says Ficke. "We see fifty to sixty clients a year."

"We all come from different perspectives," says John Bruni, a counselor with 37 years experience in the computer industry and enjoys helping business start-ups. "D.D. [D.D. Warren] is sales and marketing and the technology brochure, Lynne [Lynne Desrosiers] is bookkeeping, Mike [Michael Kline] is retail and Jim [Jim Hastings] is the finance guy. Once we see a client, we know our strengths and co-counsel," explains Bruni. Warren adds: "If our client wants to know the finance side, we bring in finance counsel, it's based on our lines of expertise."

Counselors ask important questions. "I look at everything as if it were me, 'Would I do this?,' and then give my advice," says Bruni. Planning is a big part. "I ask the client; 'Are you starting a business or just trying to give yourself a job?'," he adds. It is important to have a business plan, to know who is your competition, to plan your cash flow for the next nine months, to have an exit strategy," says Bruni. "Where is the money coming from, how much risk are you willing to take?" he asks. Bruni adds SCORE will help with a business plan, but they do not write it for the client.

SCORE works closely with two members who are principals on Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce and the Mt. Washington Valley Economic Council. SCORE is located at Technology Village in Conway in the same building as the Economic Council. "People can come to the economic council, use the library and the computers, it is open to the public," says Warren. "A lot of people come in and want to start a business and don't know who the competition is, they just know they want to do this. What are your prospects?" she asks. Both counselors say that in these economic times they are seeing more existing businesses that have some issues and need advice. "We see more start-up businesses when the economy is stronger," says Warren.

Big SCORE (national) has assisted these notable companies, Ben and Jerry's, FEDEX and Apple Computer, says Ficke. Locally, businesses, like The Met, Old Village Bakery, Close Knit Sisters, Maestro's and Rapid Insights have all worked with SCORE.

Here's how it works.

"We have a website and take e-mail requests. The request goes to administration, who will set up a match with a counselor who has twenty four hours to get in touch with client and arrange a meeting," says Ficke. The first session is begetting session, about an hour and then a follow up for a total of six or seven hours," he explains "There is the expectation that the client will do the work," he adds. Ficke echoes what Bruni says, SCORE does not write the client's business plan. This is up to the client.

There's lots of help out there, though. "We have business plan templates, you need a business plan, it will have you asking questions," says Ficke. You also need collateral and a good credit history. "If a client goes under, the bank isn't going to collect on the business plan," he says. "A business plan is like a resumé, it doesn't always get you the job, but can get you an interview," he adds.

Clients can take advantage of workshops, face-to-face meetings, how-to articles, and can hook up with other business people. There are monthly meetings when clients are brought in to take advantage of the interchange and dynamics between counselors, adds Ficke.

Each client is individual, information collected is confidential and client needs are different. "Sometimes people never come back, they may have received what they need in one meeting. Sometimes people come back to sell the business and need exit strategies," says Bruni.

And then some clients are talked out of going into business all together. "Eighty percent of the clients we see, we talk them out of going into business and say don't give up your day job," says Ficke.

Then, there are those that become successful. "Sometimes you have a niche business. You build a field and they will all come," says Ficke.

To learn more or request business counseling, visit: www.score641.org

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