Score

SCORE Venango Branch – Nearly 1 year old

What is SCORE?

As published in the January Business Connector

SCORE is America’s premier source of free and confidential small business mentoring and advice service.  More than half a million entrepreneurs rely on SCORE each year for help with fulfilling their dream of starting or growing small businesses.  SCORE is made up of more than 13,000 working and retired business professionals who are committed to helping their communities thrive by providing small business owners with valuable guidance and insights, all at no cost to the client.

SCORE has 354 Chapters throughout the country and has been in existence since 1964. It is an offshoot of the Small Business Administration (SBA), the national organization that was created to support small business in America.  From its inception, the Venango / Clarion/ Forest County areas were served by the Erie Chapter of SCORE.  Because of the long distance to our closest Chapter, the local economy went under served for many years.  This was recognized by both the Erie Chapter and Deb Lutz of the Oil Region Alliance, who were familiar with SCORE and the possibilities it could bring to our region.  In January 2012, a Branch office was established in Oil City to serve the   local region.

Frank Hajduk , an Oil City native with extensive management experience, volunteered to become the Venango Branch Manager, and opened the local SCORE office on January 5th in the Oil Region Alliance Building at 217 Elm Street.  Since that time, they have recruited 3 additional counselors and have counseled over 30 people in the area.

Why the focus on Small Business?

So much of the discussion in the recent election focused on the economy and much of that discussion centered on small businesses.  Why?  Small businesses represent 99.7% of all employers in the United States.  More importantly, they represent 65% of all new jobs created, which is critical to growing an economy.  New jobs, and the products they produce, are what makes the Gross Domestic Product ( GDP) of the country grow.  The GDP in turn, is the     easiest way to measure the health of the economy of a country and the wellbeing of its citizens.  By the way, the SBA definition of small business varies with the type of business under discussion but ranges from annual revenue of less than $750,000 for farmers up to $35 million for large manufacturing firms, with total employment not exceeding 500.  So, small business isn’t so small!

Why is it important to the economy of our area?

From the above discussion, you can see that with few exceptions, our region is made up of small businesses.  They are not only the lifeblood of the country, but our region as well.  The goal of the Venango Branch of SCORE is to     nurture this valuable segment of our economy.

To get a further overview of SCORE, and the services that it offers, go to the website www.SCORE.org.  If you are   interested in counseling or becoming a score counselor, go to www.SCOREERIE.org and “request  a meeting” or     contact Frank Hajduk or Mary Cochran at the SCORE office in Oil City at (814)-677-3152.

SCORE Resources- Tools for Success

Written by Frank Hajduk
As published in the February Business Connector

In last month’s article, we discussed what SCORE is and why it is important to our local economy. SCORE is America’s premier source of free and confidential small business mentoring and advice, and we opened an office in Oil City in January of 2012.  This month, we will focus on one of the types of specific services that SCORE can provide you – the prospective or existing business owner.

One on One counseling

The primary resource that SCORE provides is one on one counseling.  This can be anything from how to get started to develop a business, to reading financial statements, to developing succession plans to pass along your business to your heirs or employees.  The goal of SCORE counselors is to become the mentors for   business owners throughout the entire lifecycle of the business.  We measure our success with clients by how many times the client requests our assistance and the duration of our relationship with clients.  In    order to build a long standing relationship with clients, a level of trust must be developed and that is done using two guiding principles.  First, the information shared between the counselor and client is confidential.  This allows the client to be certain that their strategies or sensitive issues are not shared within anyone   outside of the business.  Second, SCORE counselors do not seek or expect compensation for their work.  This prevents the relationship from becoming one where the counselor benefits financially from the information that is shared, so the best interest of the client is the only objective of the relationship.

To make this work, a distinction must be made at this point.  SCORE counselors are mentors, not consultants.  A mentor gives advice, shares their knowledge, but does not do the specific work for a client.  For example, a SCORE counselor will help the client evaluate their financial statements but will not create the financial statements for the client.  If someone is needed to create the financial statements, the client can do that themselves, assign it to their accountant, or hire a consultant to do it for them.  This relationship is really important in order to allow the counselor to be objective in giving advice to the client, both good and not so good.  Oftentimes, a business owner will not have anyone to turn to who they can trust to give them objective and knowledgeable feedback.  SCORE counselors fill that void.

To get a further overview of SCORE, and the services that it offers, go to the website www.SCORE.org.  If you are interested in counseling or becoming a score counselor, go to www.SCOREERIE.org and “request a meeting” or contact Frank Hajduk or Mary Cochran at the SCORE office in Oil City at 814-677-3152.

SCORE Resources – Online Counseling & the SCORE Website

As published in the March Business Connector

SCORE is America’s premier source of free and confidential small business mentoring and advice service, and in the last 2 newsletters we introduced the business community to SCORE – what it is and what it does. Last month we focused on the most important service that SCORE provides clients – one-on- one counseling.  This month we will focus on 2 other important services – Online Counseling and the SCORE website.

Online Counseling

Since January 2012, the Venango Region has had a SCORE Branch to provide one- on- one counseling for businesses in the local area.  Our four counselors can provide a wealth of business knowledge to the many issues that can arise in business.  What can you do when we don’t have the specific knowledge that is needed ?  That’s where the online counseling steps in.  SCORE has over 13,000 business professionals within its network all over the United States.  Within that group are people who have specialized knowledge in virtually every aspect of   business.  With SCORE’s online services they are only a click of the mouse away on your computer.  You can      access an online SCORE counselor by simply going to the SCORE website ( www.SCORE.org ) and request online counseling and find a specialist in the topic area of your interest.  They will respond to you directly via e-mail.  If they cannot help, they will suggest other sources to get your information – all for free.

Another option is to ask your primary counselor to help you by seeking out specialized knowledge – either online or bringing in a co-counselor to meet with you to resolve your problem.

SCORE Website

Finally, the SCORE website is a virtual library of business knowledge that is totally accessible to you at no cost.  There you can find Workshops, mentoring,  “ How- to “ topics, and Templates & Tools.  The Templates & Tools tab is particularly helpful.  There you will find everything from Business Plans to Financial Strategies to Legal and   Marketing templates to help you grow your business.

SCORE is here to help. To get a further overview of SCORE, and the services that it offers, go to the website www.SCORE.org.  If you are interested in receiving counseling or becoming a score counselor, go to www.SCOREERIE.org and  “request  a meeting” or contact Frank Hajduk or Mary Cochran at the SCORE office in Oil City at 814-677-3152.

Linking SCORE with other Local Resources

As published in the April Business Connector

So far, in our series on SCORE, we’ve covered what SCORE is and who we serve, and the resources available to people who use either SCORE counselors or the online services of the      organization.  This article will describe how SCORE interacts with other business related organizations in our area and how the client can maximize the use of these resources.

SBDC

Let’s begin our discussion with the Small Business Development Centers.  In our area, this organization resides in Clarion and is associated with Clarion University.  They offer specific   business training like First Step (a course on how to start a business), or using Quickbooks.  In addition, they will assist clients on specific tasks like the writing and researching a Business Plan.  They can tap into the resources of Clarion University for the research required to complete the business plan.  SCORE complements this effort by providing the long term business mentoring for the clients that would like to have an experienced person evaluate and live through a business plan.

Northwest Commission

The Northwest Commission is a Local Development Agency serving an 8 County area that includes Venango County.  For businesses, they can assist in Financing, Government Contracts, International Marketing, among other things.  They exist to grow the region economically and can provide specific needs to clients like locating a tax free site or matching loans for startups.  SCORE can work with clients to direct them to the correct service area of the Northwest Commission.  We are fortunate to have this regional organization located in Oil City.

Oil Region Alliance

The Oil Region Alliance exists to promote the heritage, recreation, and economic growth of the region to improve the quality of life for both businesses and the people living here.  Related to small businesses, they provide support from networking to the sale of properties that they own for economic development.  They are currently very active in developing the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, which will become an economic engine for small businesses that will grow along the trail.  SCORE can help entrepreneurs or existing business owners to become aware of what developments are taking place and how to fold them into a business strategy.

Venango Chamber

Besides promoting the businesses that belong to the Venango Chamber, the true value of this organization is the outstanding networking that it provides its members.  They help to build a sense of community by holding      mixers, special events, and hosting the Oil Heritage Festival.  Young business owners are given a forum to interface with each other in the FLEX group, developing the community leaders of the future.  SCORE is a chamber member and is there to offer mentoring services to all of the Chamber members.

We have many services in our area to develop and support small business.  SCORE is here to help. To get a       further overview of SCORE, and the services that it offers, go to the website www.SCORE.org.  If you are interested in receiving counseling or becoming a score counselor, go to www.SCOREERIE.org and “request  a         meeting” or contact Frank Hajduk or Mary Cochran at the SCORE office in Oil City at 814-677-3152.

Trail Towns – a natural fit for SCORE

As published in the May Business Connector

In our series of articles this year we’ve covered an overview of SCORE, the resources available from SCORE, and the organizations that interact with SCORE to help local businesses become successful.  This month we will move into something that is beginning to develop right in our area – Trail Towns.

What is a Trail Town ?

A trail town is a community that provides the goods and services to support the users of any trail system.  When a trail user passes through a community, first, they need safe passage, then adequate signage to direct them down the trail, then some means of identifying goods and services relevant to a trail user and where they are located.  A trail town is one which has taken this into account, and has maximized the positive experience for the user so that they will spend some time and money in the town, recommend it to their friends, and return to repeat the experience.  In other words, a trail town can be an economic engine for a small community.

How does SCORE fit into this concept ?

Generally, the types of businesses that are needed to support trail users are small businesses.  Bicycle shops, outfitters, sporting goods stores, restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, bed and breakfast lodging, recreational equipment rental companies, campgrounds, and taverns are typical in trail towns.  These are the types of businesses that SCORE specializes in.  When a new business in any of these categories develops plans to open, SCORE can be there to help them to have the best opportunity for success, from the development of the business plan, to marketing, to financial advice.  Many of the people who start these types of businesses have a great idea and enthusiasm, but need a little assistance with the things that will assure that the business will sustain itself over time.

Why are trail towns important in our area ?

Our area is unique in many ways.  We have significant outdoor resources that most of us take for granted but are very desirable and hard to get in larger cities.  We have fishing, hunting, hiking, biking, cross country skiing, boating, geocaching, beautiful scenery, two major river highways with the Allegheny and the Clarion, and what I like to call the “Recreational Interstate”.  A bike and hiking trail is well under way from Erie to Pittsburgh, and it links to trails that go all the way to Washington, DC.  This trail intersects the North Country Trail, which is a hiking trail like the Appalachian Trail, and it runs from North Dakota to New York.  These are becoming major recreational corridors, and they run right through our area.  We can take advantage of this privileged location by having the businesses in our area to support the trail traffic.

Is anything happening  now in our area ?

The missing links of the trail through this area are being completed, with the McClintock Trail between Oil City and Rouseville currently under construction.  In addition, the Oil Region Alliance is spearheading a Business Plan Contest to jump start the entrepreneurs to develop trail related businesses  and that effort kicks off on May 15th.

How do I find out more ?

Contact the Oil Region Alliance at 814-677-3152 for information on the trails and the Business Plan contest.  To get a further overview of SCORE, and the services that it offers, go to the website www.SCORE.org.  If you are interested in receiving counseling or becoming a SCORE counselor, go to www.SCOREERIE.org and “request  a meeting” or contact Frank Hajduk or Mary Cochran at the SCORE office in Oil City at 814-677-3152.