Plenty of Helpful Advice Available for Small-Business Owners
Starting a small business, or being a small-business owner, can be overwhelming and complex. Statistics show that 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, while 50% fail after five years.
Despite the grim numbers, only 22% of small-business owners had mentors when they started, according to a survey by Kabbage, Inc., a global financial services, technology, and data platform.
“A mentor is someone who offers objective advice; provides counsel from a fresh perspective; is willing to collaborate, listen, and learn; as well as helping you stay focused on your goals, your purpose, and what you’re working so hard to achieve,” says Amy Zimmerman, head of people operations at Kabbage.
Research has shown that small businesses that receive mentoring early in their development increase their survival chances, achieve higher revenues, and increase business growth.
Regional small-business owners, or entrepreneurs considering starting a small business, are fortunate to have organizations that will work with them. The resources include SCORE, the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Center, and the S. Dale High Leadership Center.
“Small-business owners and entrepreneurs have nothing to lose by asking to meet with a SCORE mentor. We offer our services for free,” says John Tile, chapter chair and president of SCORE Susquehanna, which serves five counties. “Why wouldn’t you want to get advice from experienced businesspeople?”
Tile recently retired with 42 years of experience in the defense industry. He held leadership positions in engineering, logistics, and program management.
He says SCORE can help small-business owners and entrepreneurs avoid common pitfalls, while saving them time, money, and frustrations.
“We help with startups, business strategy, planning, sustaining the business, growth, finances, marketing, and more. We can give references for banks, accountants, and lawyers,” Tile says.
Locally, more than 70 people from a variety of businesses volunteer as SCORE mentors. There is a need, however, for more mentors, according to Tile. A mentor can meet with a client face-to-face, by phone, or via email.
The client is under no obligation. The relationship may last as long as the client feels it’s necessary, whether it’s one meeting, six months, a year, or more. SCORE matches clients with a proper mentor, depending on what the client needs. All sessions are confidential.
To request a mentor, go to susquehanna.score.org. The site also lists free roundtable discussions, network opportunities, and workshops.
Another resource for small businesses is the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation. It is a not-for-profit county economic development organization that works with area businesses and the community at large to strengthen existing business and create an environment in which new companies can flourish.
“We are here to help in any way possible,” says president/CEO Susan Eberly. “That is often through sharing resources, such as site development, financing, workforce development, and general business services.”
LVEDC offers acquisition assistance, if a business owner is looking to lease or purchase. It keeps a database of available sites and buildings. The organization also offers low-interest financing. If a business isn’t eligible, Eberly guides the owners to lending facilities that could potentially assist them.
“I think our service of sharing resources as the most important product we offer,” says Eberly. “I often point small-business owners to the Small Business Development Center, the Chamber of Commerce, and SCORE.”
Eberly recommends small-business owners or potential owners work with LVEDC because the organization has a wealth of knowledge and access to plenty of resources.
“If we don’t have a tool to help them build their business, we will definitely work with them and lead them to a host of resources,” she says.
Recently, LVEDC helped facilitate a 10-week roundtable discussion on a variety of business topics, such as self-assessment, building customer relations, and defining your product/service. The discussions were designed to add valuable resource knowledge for growing businesses.
More established family-owned businesses with a minimum of 10-12 employees and annual revenue of $5 million to $75 million (the minimum is $3 million, if the company shows promise that it is scaling up quickly) are eligible to join the S. Dale High Leadership Center. Privately held companies also are eligible. Company membership is $2,200 per fiscal year, and most services are complimentary for members.
Members benefit from three core services, according to Lisa Rosenberger, membership development coordinator. They include awareness, which features planning tools and surveys on topics such as best practices and exit planning; education through year-round events, speaker series, and networking opportunities; and accountability via executive peer groups.
The Leadership Speaker series and the Executive Peer Groups are very popular, says Rosenberger. This year, 1,300 people had registered for the annual forum event before it had to be postponed because of the coronavirus. Speakers are scheduled throughout the year at three different locations.
The Executive Peer Groups meet six times a year. They have a strict agenda with business and personal updates. Members share their revenue numbers as well as losses and profits. And, one peer group member has his/her business review. The member is then able to discuss issues and receive feedback from his/her peers.
“We work with about 135 small, medium, and large companies,” says Rosenberger. “They see the value of being members of the S. Dale High Leadership Center. It’s a way they can get engaged, gain education, and be held accountable by their peers.”