Organization Focus: SCORE

How often do you hear successful business owners saying they made it on their own?

More often than not, it’s the opposite. The guidance and assistance of investors, mentors, peers and others are often hailed as key factors of a business’ success.

Perhaps you’ve felt the urge to seek out mentoring on topics related to your business, but you didn’t know where to look.

Service Corps of Retired Executives, better known as SCORE, is a national organization with the sole purpose of providing free, accessible guidance and mentoring to business owners at any stage of growth.

SCORE is a nonprofit, mandated by public law, which operates as a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

With over 10,000 volunteers representing 62 industries across the country, finding a mentor through SCORE is not only possible, but simple.

“It’s the largest organization in the world that does what we do,” said David Dickson, South Dakota’s SCORE District Director.

How does it work?

Nationally, SCORE functions as a vast database of mentors willing to advise business owners or those looking to get into business.

At the district level, SCORE volunteers are available to meet with businesses face to face for a mentoring session. Some prefer to only meet once, but it’s Dickson’s belief that multiple sessions are always beneficial.

“We try to get a relationship going,” he said. “Statistics show that businesses that have assistance are more successful in the long term.”

The unique benefit of SCORE is the ability to connect with a mentor in your specific industry.

Currently, there are around 35 mentors within the state of South Dakota, but beginning a mentorship with SCORE opens business owners up to thousands of experienced mentors across the country.

Dickson, for example, has a background in manufacturing and business operations.

However, if someone in South Dakota came to him seeking guidance for their nuclear physics business, Dickson would be able to connect them with a SCORE mentor somewhere in the United States with that specialty.

“What we have, collectively, is tons of experience,” said Dickson. “We have literally decades worth of experience to bring to the table, and it’s all free of charge.”

How do I connect with a SCORE mentor in South Dakota?

Currently, SCORE’s presence in South Dakota consists of three primary chapters located in Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Yankton, and a branch location in Aberdeen.

However, South Dakota’s chapters are in the midst of a pilot program, initiated by Dickson and Brian Alwin, SCORE’s northwest regional vice president, that will allow numerous satellites to be created as a solution for rural areas.

“We’ve been trying to figure out how to do rural America better than we do,” said Dickson. “Most of the United States is rural, so we came up with a scenario where we’d have one state chapter and multiple, smaller satellites across the state.”

Previously, in order to form a chapter you would need at least 10 participants. The pilot program will allow satellites to form with just one or two participants—a more realistic goal in rural communities.

According to Dickson, much of the impetus for starting the pilot program was the desire for more face-to-face mentoring sessions.

“We do phone and email mentoring, but South Dakota is a pretty conservative state when it comes to that kind of thing, and most people I’ve met would rather have nose to nose discussions,” Dickson said.

As the satellites begin to form, people across the state will be able to benefit from those in-person meetings, regardless of whether they live in a larger city or a smaller town.

In addition to one-on-one mentorship opportunities, SCORE also offers periodic workshops to go over common training needs, such as accounting, writing a business plan, and human relations. Join SCORE’s email newsletter to stay informed of local workshop schedules.

Beyond local workshops, visiting SCORE online opens up a wide array of resources, from webinars to online classes, forums, and templates.

“The only thing we don’t do is write the business plan for you,” Dickson said.

Whether you’re looking for more general business planning assistance, seeking specific industry advice, or want to brush up your skills with online resources, SCORE has a variety of opportunities to fill your needs.

Honoring Stan Blume, a senior SCORE member in South Dakota.

Gathered for the SCORE leadership dinner at the National Leadership Conference.

“We’re interested in helping people fulfill their dreams,” Dickson said. “There are a lot of folks out there that want to go into business or want to buy a business, and don’t know what they’re looking for. Plus, you can’t beat the price.”

Two Things You Can Do This Week:

  • Search for mentors locally or by industry via SCORE’s “Find a Mentor” page.
  • Interested in becoming a mentor? Learn more about volunteering here.