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SCORE: Local professionals offer business advice


SCORE is a national organization and resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The National organization has a network of over 300 chapters and in excess of 11,000 volunteers. Each volunteer is a current business owner or a retired business owner and has been screened for experience and trained in mentoring skills. These volunteers offer confidential advice through one-on-one mentoring with a client at no charge, and educational workshops on starting and operating a business.

The Tuolumne County Chapter, also serving Calaveras County, is part of this network and has a staff of seven mentors, men and women, experienced current and past business owners and has been active for almost 20 years. These volunteers are committed to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their owner’s goals.

As an aid in achieving the owner’s goals, the Tuolumne County SCORE Chapter will offer a series of articles on topics related to starting or expanding a business. The volunteers will write articles that will share their experience after years of building their businesses and suggesting how the readers might do the same.

Here are some of the planned topics:

• The National organization has made a substantial investment to create video presentations on specific topics on starting and operating a business. The planned article will show how to use this site, suggest videos for focusing the aspiring entrepreneur or videos for making that successful plan for the business.

• Websites are critical to business in today’s marketplace. They will legitimize your business, show the range of products and services offered and perhaps help with pricing and ordering. This article will introduce the options available to create a site, manage the data and expand the marketing presentation.

• Purchasing an existing business may sound like a fast way to get into ownership. The purchase is more than acquiring the inventory and the location. The buyer is also acquiring the goodwill or not so goodwill of the current owners. This article will explore valuing the business and negotiating the price. The other side of the purchase is, once the seller hands over the key to the front door, the buyer must have a plan, well before the grand opening, of what needs to done on that first day.

• Another article will look at raising capital. The article will discuss where to go for the money and the cost. Once the business is opened, there is the need for continued budget planning not simply to meet current expenses but for costs for new products or inventory, better marketing or additional employees. There will be an article that will help create that new fiscal year budget.

The articles will include “war stories” from the counselors on their past experiences, how lack of simple planning can destroy a dream, and loss of capital. For example, a few years ago, as a private consultant, I was asked by a startup business for help in sourcing the manufacturing of their product in Asia. The only functional products were two working prototypes, and there were no assembly drawings of the product. The investor in several months had spent considerable funds on marketing, sales staff, trade shows, tooling and inventory. I encouraged the manufacturing staff to document the assembly and test process. On my visits I noticed a continuing high reject rate because the product had failed final test, which was a test stand design to simulate a customer situation. I did some investigation and found that the product simply failed final inspection because it was not designed to function in the investor’s target market. A simple step not taken in the timeline of planning the business — prove the product before major investment — had caused substantial financial loss. My phone call to inform the investor of my findings was one of the scariest calls I have ever made.

I recently read an article dealing with the commonality between a small business owner and an entrepreneur. Both, the author wrote, in addition of technical skills, had to have vision to see where the business should be in the near future, high energy level to handle all the tasks necessary to open and operate a business, self-confidence, tolerance for failure and skills in time management and finance. He concluded that some of these traits and skills are acquired by experience, but also by education acquired by study, research and seeking advice.

It is certainly the mission of SCORE through its volunteers to be part of that advice stream.

It is the aim of the coming articles to stimulate the thinking on planning for that business. It is also understood that a single column will not cover all the necessary steps to success, but a start in clarity and a path to where the small business owner can go to get more help and encouragement.

Contact SCORE at www.tuolumnecounty.score.org and click on “Get Started, Request a Meeting”.

Contact Edward Mintline at mintline.score@hotmail.com.