July is Entrepreneurship Month for my column. To review, we kicked things off with a story about Montanna McMasters, a young entrepreneur in Weatherford who has started not one, not two, but three businesses. Last week, two of my neighbors – Russell Simpler of Smith Lawn & Tree and Dr. Michael W. Bell, a dentist based in Bedford - were gracious enough to share their stories of setting up and running their businesses.
As an aspiring entrepreneur, there are a thousand things to manage when you’re trying to start a business. At times, it can seem almost impossible to keep all the plates spinning on your own. But that’s the thing, you aren’t alone. Every aspiring entrepreneur has an enormous resource that they can use at any time, as many times as they want to help them wrap their arms around the Herculean task of starting a business. And best of all, it’s free.
It pays to keep SCORE
I’ve mentioned the SCORE organization many times over the years in this column because it is such a valuable resource to aspiring entrepreneurs. SCORE is a nonprofit association and a resource affiliate of the US Small Business Administration. Its mission is to help small businesses get off the ground, and grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. There are more than 320 SCORE offices across the country – several are in the DFW Metroplex – that offer free and confidential business mentoring and low or no-cost workshops. The mentors are working and retired professionals, executives, and managers who volunteer their time and share their real-world experience with aspiring entrepreneurs. I talked to two SCORE mentors, one happens to be my father, about their experience working with SCORE.
Father knows best
My dad, Mike Fadden, has been a SCORE mentor for seven years in Houston. He is a retired oil and gas executive and brings more than 40 years of experience in that industry to the table when he meets with aspiring entrepreneurs (or clients). I asked him what his clients’ biggest challenge is and hands down it was the business plan. “If you’re starting a business from scratch, you need a business plan. Many of our clients don’t know they need a business plan, or they have one, but it needs re-working. It’s also required by banks or investors for financing. Helping the client develop their business plan is perhaps the biggest part of a SCORE mentor’s job,” Fadden said. It’s also a reality check to make sure that your idea can be developed into a business and that it’s not just a hobby. “Let’s say you’ve always cooked great barbeque and have a sauce that all your friends love,” said Fadden. “So now you want to start a barbeque restaurant. You need to develop a business plan to be sure that it’s a viable business. A business plan that is supported by adequate market research and financial projections will show that.”
SCORE mentors come from all walks of life, so SCORE will do its best to match the client with a mentor who has the most closely matched experience. Speaking of experience, SCORE mentor candidates are all put through a rigorous training program that includes webinar classes and observing current mentors during sessions with clients before they can become a certified mentor. “The real key is that each mentor candidate has to sit in with eight different certified mentors with eight different clients to get exposure. Then they have to complete five more interactions with clients where they are the lead mentor while a certified mentor sits in with them,” Fadden said. All this training helps mentors develop the SLATE methodology, which is the core of the SCORE experience. “SLATE stands for stop and suspend judgment, listen and learn, assess and analyze, test ideas and teach with tools, and expectation setting and encouraging the dream. Using SLATE allows us to better understand the client’s mindset,” said Fadden.
While SCORE doesn’t provide grants, business loans, CPA services, or legal services, mentors can suggest outside resources for those issues. Clients have also been known to come back to SCORE for advice well after their businesses are up and running. “Some of my mentor colleagues have clients that come back to talk with them and receive guidance for more than 10 years,” said Fadden. “As mentors, we are excited to be part of helping people start businesses and make them successful. A lot of people helped me on the way up, so I wanted to give back with my background in business.”
Simple Steps for Starting a Business
Besides mentoring, SCORE mentors also give workshops throughout the year on various entrepreneurial topics. Tim Jacquet, a certified SCORE mentor who is a partner at an equipment leasing company here in DFW, will present “Simple Steps for Starting a Business”, a free workshop at the Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce on July 20 at 7 p.m. “It’ll be a two-hour core workshop that is based on our five-hour course that covers all the aspects of starting a business,” said Jacquet. “We will cover getting started, marketing, financials, starting your research and developing a business plan.” In his experience with these and other workshops, Jacquet has found that there’s a lot of misperception out there by people that want to start a business. “Lots of people jump into starting a business without planning. They don’t have a clear understanding about the financing and how the pieces fit together. They think they can get a $500,000 loan, which typically doesn’t happen without a backer,” Jacquet said. By the end of the workshop, he hopes that aspiring entrepreneurs have a good understanding of what it takes to start a business and have answers to some very important questions. “Have you established basic necessities to establish a legitimate business? Do you have contact information to get a loan? Do you have a business listing? Is your business visible on the web? That’s pretty big as bankers look at the web for reviews and a good presence when they consider financing. All of your business ducks must be in a row,” said Jacquet.
The Simple Steps for Starting a Business workshop is just one of many that SCORE Fort Worth puts on throughout the year. Other workshop topics include social media, using QuickBooks, search engine optimization, non-profit grant writing, and how to hire the right employees.
For more information on SCORE, visit www.score.org.
To register for the Simple Steps for Starting a Business workshop, visit https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07ee73jgf2ba28ab31&oseq=&c=&ch=