VOL. 112 | NO. 63 | Friday, April 17, 1998
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
Whats the SCORE?
Service Corp of Retired Executives offer counseling
and business advice to potential entrepreneurs
By SUZANNE THOMPSON
The Daily News
A retired Navy admiral, a tax accountant and a marketing director may not appear to have much in common but they all have abilities needed by the volunteer network of the Service Corp of Retired Executives.
These retired professionals and others like them use their business skills to counsel prospective business owners on issues such as finance, marketing and planning.
SCORE volunteers provide free one-on-one counseling to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon. Retired executives usually volunteer once or twice a month for a morning of taking calls and counseling potential entrepreneurs.
In the past year, the Memphis SCORE office has counseled about 3,000 people, said Cliff Cochran, chairman of marketing for the local chapter, which was founded in 1975 and currently has about 35 volunteers.
The Memphis office is one of seven main offices and several additional satellite offices the non-profit organization operates across the state, said Richard Castilon, economic development officer with the Nashville office of the Small Business Administration, which partially funds SCORE.
SCORE also offers day-long seminars five times a year which consist of speakers with different areas of expertise, such as Dr. George Lucas, a marketing professor at the University of Memphis, and local certified public accountant Mickey Ison.
The purpose of the seminars, which cost $55 and provide SCOREs major source of income, is to help people who are considering starting a small business decide whether entrepreneurship is for them.
They also help dispel misconceptions about available funding for potential small business owners, who often mistakenly believe grants are offered for start-up businesses.
Susan M. Huletts first contact with SCORE was at one of their seminars more than a year ago.
Her counselor was Cochran, who worked for 40 years in marketing, advertising and public relations before he retired.
Hulett had been working as a nutritionist but wanted to start a home-based business.
She said Cochran helped her to direct her thoughts and consider issues such as target markets and overhead.
"Who are the people Im going to be servicing, and what are their needs," Hulett said.
I think thats something thats real important when people are starting a business. Everybodys got a lot of different ideas on what they want to do, but if theres no market, it doesnt do you any good."
Cochran has counseled at least 200 people during his seven years with SCORE and estimated about 25 percent of his counseling clients have gone on to start successful businesses.
He said not everyone who attends a SCORE seminar is ready to start a business for themselves.
"A lot of people who come to our seminars leave deciding they dont want to go into business," Cochran said. "Some people have no business trying to go into business."
Cochran said many people fail to realistically assess what is involved in running a business themselves.
They lack knowledge of how to write a business plan or do not have proper capital, he said.
In some cases, Cochran said, counselors try to discourage people from starting a business when it is obvious they dont have the ability to succeed.
"If we see theyre not going to make it, we try to discourage them," he said.
For example, Cochran remembered one man who had the idea of starting a business manufacturing double-occupancy coffins.
Cochran said he pointed out the manufacture of coffins costs millions and advised the man to try to sell his idea to an already established coffin manufacturer.
"I dont think they let him in the front door," Cochran said.