By: John Amundsen, Business Librarian
Did you know that entrepreneurs at all stages of operation, from ideation to execution, can schedule a free session with an experienced and certified mentor? SCORE, a 501c3 resource partner with the Small Business Administration offers a wide variety of programming and mentorship opportunities for small businesses of all types. Wilmette Public Library partners with Mark Lieberman, a SCORE-Certified Mentor with decades of experience in business to host mentorship sessions in-person at the library and via phone. We recently interviewed Mark to learn more about how SCORE can help local entrepreneurs. Want to schedule a mentorship session? Email Business Librarian John Amundsen (firstname.lastname@example.org) to be connected with Mark.
What is SCORE?
SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals. Since 1964, we have provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs.
SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Thanks to this generous support from the SBA and because of the selfless contributions of our more than 10,000 dedicated volunteers, we can deliver most of our offerings at no cost.
Why is mentoring so important?
Mentors have greater experience and provide a fresh perspective.
Mentors can see a problem through fresh lenses. Experience is the most valuable asset of everyone’s career, and mentors often know the ups and downs of the path ahead. They can act as your map and compass on your journey to success.
Mentors can help you find more opportunities for networking.
When it comes to business, networking is essential. Most mentors are in contact with a vast network of CEOs, CFOs, leaders and other key professionals in business. You can leverage your mentor to expand your network for creating potential opportunities.
Mentors can help making more decisive decisions.
As a business manager, sometimes you have to make quick decisions that determine the survival or death of your business. In such a situation, your mentor can help you make the right decision and minimize the consequences.
Mentors hone your management skills.
It’s hard to build a business, but it’s harder to maintain and drive it forward. It requires a set of management skills, including communication, planning, strategic thinking and problem-solving. A SCORE mentor can help you develop these skills.
Mentors provide an objective third eye.
Let’s face it. Creating and running a business is physically and emotionally hard. Sometimes you just want an unbiased someone to talk to. Sometimes the mentor will agree; sometimes, disagree; sometimes suggest you go back and think a little harder. Always, however, a Score mentor can provide that objective response you will need.
Who qualifies for Mentoring? Can entrepreneurs of all experience levels request an appointment?
Very definitely. We encourage all comers.
At SCORE, we accept all applicants regardless of age, color, or entrepreneurial background. However that isn’t the same as saying we handle them identically.
Typically, people with little or no prior background are unsure of how to start. They usually have some idea of what they want to sell or what service they can offer. Sometimes, they even have models of a product they want to bring to market.. However, they usually have no notion of how to make a business plan. They have either a marginal or non-existent marketing plan and little or no financial plan. The usual approach here is to convince them they can’t succeed without a plan. In these cases, we usually start them off with Simple Steps To Starting A Business , my favorite, or with Business Plan Model Canvas,the favorite of many other mentors.
If they are already in business, the first appointment is usually their explaining a particular problem. In that case, we cope with that problem first.
How many sessions can I sign up for?
The number of sessions you sign up for depends entirely on how long it takes to achieve your goals. There is no limit. Generally, we meet once every other week, but sometimes the frequency changes depending on urgency or some other set of circumstances. No matter how often you meet or what the frequency of those meetings, you will never receive a bill from any SCORE mentor. I personally have had some clients for years while I’ve had others for only a single session.
What should someone expect from a mentoring session?
As described in question 3 above, expectations depend on the situation. Usually, first time entrepreneurs should expect being directed to one of the two documents mentioned above. For them, the next several mentoring sessions revolve around getting those completed.
Experienced entrepreneurs, on the other hand, may require specialized knowledge that may not exist in the first mentor they meet. For example, if the client is offering in home health care, they may want a mentor with a medical background. Our chapter has over 60 members. We are a team. If needed, we’ll find someone with the specialized background the client requires.
How should one prepare for a mentoring session?
Try to be specific. This may be difficult in an initial mentoring session since you basically are meeting with a stranger. After that, successive sessions become easier since you will have had “homework” and you’ll know your expectations and those of the mentor.
Sometimes, the unexpected occurs. If so, after that first session, you should contact the mentor and either move the next session earlier or later. It all depends on what the surprise is.
What are the next steps post mentoring (i.e. some good ways to reflect and assess?)
Usually, we will assign some form of homework at the end of a session. That homework may require calling prospects or meeting with a lawyer or finding an accountant you trust. We will usually schedule a future appointment at the end of each mentoring session. When you leave a mentoring session, you should always feel like you have a distinct direction which you didn’t have when you arrived.