Are you interested in starting or expanding your small business in the Columbia Area? The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) offers free mentoring and educational training. In addition to live webinars/workshops, you will also find prerecorded webinars, a Business Learning Center and Start-up Road Map on its website https://midlands.score.org/. To get a better understanding of what SCORE does we spoke with SCORE Mentor, Barry Saunders.
1. Could you please tell us a little bit about SCORE and how you came to be a part of it?
Before retiring, I was the Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Sonoco Products Company, headquartered in Hartsville, SC. I’ve always enjoyed being involved in the community and after learning about SCORE, I was eager to be part of such a worthwhile organization where I could give back to our community while at the same time, using my business experience to hopefully have a meaningful impact on those that I mentor. SCORE is a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, dedicated to helping small businesses start, grow, and operate successfully through education and mentoring. The Midlands Chapter’s all volunteer mentors use their years of real-world practical business experience to assist clients address their business issues.
2. What services are free and which ones are not? Is everything still done virtually?
All mentoring services are provided free as are most educational opportunities, occasionally there is a small fee for some workshops. In terms of format, we certainly encourage in person meetings with our mentoring clients when practical but continue to use virtual sessions as well. We use virtual and in person formats for our educational programs.
3. What is the is the most important thing to take into consideration before starting a small business?
Making sure that you have done the due diligence necessary to fully assess the business opportunity you want to pursue. This would include really understanding your customer needs, your competitive advantage in serving those customers, and knowing how you will get access to the customers in the market segments you can effectively serve. This will lead to developing cash flow projections including all your revenues and expenses and when done with realistic assumptions, can help you ensure you are ready to move forward.
4. Are there certain types of businesses to stay away from because of current supply chain issues?
There are always many issues that have to be managed when running any business. Supply chain as well as inflation are both having a significant impact on many businesses today. I don’t think one should stay away from business opportunities because of these but rather be well prepared to address them where being able to do so could actually be a competitive advantage that will lead to even having a more successful business.
5. Are there places to get small business financing that don’t require perfect credit?
I don’t think any institution engaged in financing expects a potential borrower to have perfect credit but it is fair to say that certain lenders place a heavier focus on personal credit than others. It is worthwhile to look around at all types of lenders to understand their credit expectations early on in the process since some do understand the need to lend to a business with a less than perfect credit rating. All lenders are going to focus on the underlying business where they will expect to see a well-developed business plan and realistic cash flow projections which we can assist our clients in developing.
6. How much money do you have to have saved up before starting a small business? Can some businesses be started on a shoestring?
Unfortunately, there is not a magic number as to how much you should have saved before starting a business. It really depends on how much you are going to have to invest in the business and how much you will need to have to live on until your business is generating positive cash flow to the level you are counting on as a primary source of income. That is one reason very realistic cash flow projections are important so you can predict how long it will be before you are at that level. Fully appreciating the risk, you are taking in starting a new business is important for everyone but fair to say everyone’s risk tolerance is different.
7. What is the biggest mistake people make when starting a small business?
It really seems to be not doing enough due diligence as I mentioned earlier or basing your decision to move forward on unrealistic financial projections.
8. What is the best way to contact you about utilizing SCORE services?
The best way to gain access to SCORE services is to visit our website at www.midlands.score.org where you will find all of our educational opportunities and a link to request mentoring services.
9. Anything you would like to add?
I would like to mention that we are always looking for new mentors, in order that SCORE of the Midlands can continue to expand its support to small businesses. Mentoring is a great way of giving back to our community and is certainly rewarding personally to a mentor when having an impact on your clients. Anyone interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with SCORE should also visit our website at www.midlands.score.org.