SERVICE CORPS OF RETIRED EXECUTIVES (SCORE)

The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) is a national non-profit organization that counsels business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. There are 389 SCORE chapters throughout the United States offering counseling services to small businesses in all areas at no charge to the client. There is no membership requirement to receive SCORE counseling—a phone call to make an appointment with a local SCORE chapter is sufficient to put the small business owner in touch with this valuable organization.

HISTORY SCORE was founded in 1964 specifically to provide business counseling to entrepreneurs. A national non-profit organization, SCORE is funded primarily by the U.S. Small Business Administration (founded in 1953). The group is made up of more than 13,000 active and retired business executives familiar with all areas of business management. This group donates their services, conducting one-to-one counseling, team counseling, and training sessions. It now provides assistance to an estimated 300,000 would-be entrepreneurs and business owners annually, and in 2000 it counseled 377,000 small businesses.

MISSION AND PROGRAMS According to SCORE, volunteers "serve as 'Counselors to America's Small Business.' " The volunteer members of the organization are "dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide."

SCORE counselors provide general business advice on all aspects of business formation and management. This service is provided free of charge and in confidential fashion. Counselors may assist in anything from investigating market potential for a product or service to providing guidance on cash flow management. They may provide insight into how to start or operate a business, how to buy a business or franchise, or how to sell a business. Volunteers also review business plans, often offering suggestions before the plans are submitted to a bank for financing consideration (in one survey of SCORE offices in 14 states, 27 percent of respondents indicated they delayed or canceled plans to start their own business after talking with a SCORE counselor, usually because the meetings illuminated shortcomings in training or strategy). Finally, individual SCORE offices offer free and confidential counseling and business advice via electronic mail on the Internet. According to the organization, these e-mail counseling sessions are its fastest growing service (SCORE offices conducted 75,000 such sessions in 2000).

SCORE also holds workshops throughout the country. Workshops and seminars on specialized areas of business training such as writing business plans, inventory control, advertising, financing and international trade are available at reduced cost (usually a nominal fee of $100 or so, to cover cost of facilities and materials). For more information on this and other SCORE services, the organization maintains a web site (www.score.org) detailing its offerings.

SCORE VOLUNTEERS SCORE volunteers (more than 13,000 in 2000) are usually between the ages of 60 and 70, but there is no age limit for a volunteer. Retired executives interested in joining SCORE fill out a formal application and usually supply a resume for consideration by their local chapter. There is a 90 day probation period during which performance is monitored. To insure quality, SCORE counselors are matched to cases according to the type of business or client seeking advice and the counselor's area of specialty. SCORE is not an employment service, however. Members may give advice, but may not accept positions with client companies, nor may they direct a business owner to individuals or firms which may provide employees. SCORE's main function is to provide free advice to small businesses.

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