Never been tougher for businesses – SCORE can help

The US Small Business Administration sponsors an organization called SCORE, which stands for “Service Corp Of Retired Executives.” Our members meet with business operators and offer of many sorts.

Score members meet directly with you to review your business idea and help you to identify the problems and opportunities. We start by looking at your business plan. If you don’t have a written plan, we will help you develop one. If you plan on borrowing money from a bank, they will insist on seeing your business plan (and probably send you to SCORE to help you to develop one).

The business plan is meant to ensure that you consider all of the elements and challenges that will affect your business. Odds are that the plan will change as your business develops or as new elements enter into the picture, but your plan is like a road map. If you don’t have a plan or roadmap, and if you don’t review it regularly, the chances for success are much lower.

SCORE helps you assess your financial condition. Of course, one of the main reasons to be in business is to generate a profit or a return on the investment made in dollars and time. In order to sustain the business you must plan to eventually operate in the black.

Even if you are already in business. you may have questions. Is your product or service selling well? If not, is it because you are not getting the word out to your market about the benefits you offer, think advertising? Or, is it pricing? Pricing it too high may be a hindrance if people cannot see the value. On the other hand, pricing it too low may eat into your profits, or worse.

What about your costs? Many small businesses do not understand the true cost of their ventures, and if you are going to price your goods or services properly and make a profit, you must identify and understand the costs of doing business. Start-up company owners, or entrepreneurs, tend to pay themselves last and do not include their compensation in the cost calculations, but it needs to be accounted for, or you are really fooling yourself.

This is just a sample of the type of detail SCORE can explore with you. We start with a one-hour interview, usually with two SCORE counselors, in our office in West Tisbury. Based on the information we gather from you, we would make some suggestions of things for you to do or think about. Then we would schedule additional meetings. If needed, we will help you to identify people who understand your business or your market, and can help.

In addition to the free counseling, SCORE offers training classes in computer skills; bookkeeping software, and in basic business topics, all of which are taught at the high school; the schedule will be advertised in the paper, and the tuition is very reasonable.

The following Martha’s Vineyard SCORE counselors are available to assist you with your business idea, or to help you identify problems and opportunities in your current business:

Andrew Engelman, retired international industrialist; Robert Fokos, retired engineer with expertise in the printing equipment business; Bob Iadiccico, retired engineer and financial executive; Bill Skinner, retired industrial executive, involved in several startups; Bruce Slater, builder, shopping center developer, and health club developer and operator; and Norman Werthwein, retired chief financial officer and certified public accountant.

You can contact SCORE at 508-696-9687.