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Take advantage of small-business counseling

  • Published Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011, at 12:08 a.m.

Starting in 1976, many small-business entrepreneurs in Wichita got their kick-start from a small group of retired executives who gave free advice on all aspects of how to start a business.

That's when the Wichita chapter of Score (Service Corps of Retired Executives) was launched to support Wichita and the surrounding communities with free business mentoring and counseling and low-cost workshops. This year, Score Wichita celebrates its 35th year of service.

Nationally, since 1964, Score's seasoned business experts have provided the highest level of business mentoring services to help entrepreneurs create and grow their businesses.

"Score is the leading source of ongoing small business mentoring, training workshops and online expert resources in the U.S.," says W. Kenneth Yancey, Score chief executive.

Score is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration. Congress, through the SBA, provides Score with funding to help operate Score chapters. Score also raises funds in the community to help cover the expense of running a local office.

In today's economic climate, coupled with layoffs and the uncertain future of the job market, many are flirting with the idea of starting and building their own business. They want to capitalize on their learned and practiced skills acquired over the years during strong economies.

Of course, for almost everyone this is a daunting endeavor, especially if you need capital and have limited funds, and you have little or no business management experience.

Here's where Score comes in. The Wichita Score chapter has volunteers from all kinds of business. Some are still running their own businesses, while others have retired, either from their own businesses, or from the corporate world.

There are experts from small and large companies, representing all industries, who have experience in operations, banking, marketing, accounting, law, insurance, and other business disciplines.

Counselors work one-on-one, in person or online. All of these business topics are also included in a low-cost workshop, which comes with a binder of business forms, procedures and great reference material.

In the past year about 800 new and existing small businesses have received free counseling from Score volunteers in Wichita. These businesses include manufacturing, retail, the service industry and others.

Budding entrepreneurs were counseled free of charge on business plans and financing, accounting, marketing, insurance, taxes and law. They were also coached on pitfalls to avoid in certain business start-ups, and how best to proceed in selecting a partner or finding good employees.

Here are some of the services offered by Score:

* Face-to-face business counseling in a personalized mentoring environment.

* Workshop every two months from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday. The cost is $45 per person prepaid; $50 at the door. Also, workshops on specific topics for business groups in Wichita.

* Team counseling, where several counselors with skills in various disciplines will help you deal with broader business issues.

* Score's website — www.score.org — has a wealth of information and links to help entrepreneurs.

* Online business counseling through the website. Click on "Mentoring" and enter keywords about a business topic or problem.

You can meet with Score just once or on a long-term basis. If you have a simple business question or just want an explanation of how a cash flow statement works, Score can provide you with answers.

You get the best value from Score, however, if you set up a series of meetings to talk about a business problem or opportunity.

Contact Score at 316-269-6273, 271 W. Third St., Suite 2500, Wichita, KS 67202.

John Madden is a Score counselor, international speaker, corporate trainer, and author of "Leap, Don't Sleep." You can reach him at 316-689-6932 or at www.leapdontsleep.com.

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