SCORE Some Help With Your Business!

By Virginia Bridges The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

Every time I talk to a small-business owner who's facing a significant challenge or roadblock, I ask them if they've reached out to one of the varied and abundant free local, state and federal resources for help.

Sadly, many say no.

But to increase their chances for success and overcome challenges, owners should take the time to sort through the dozens of available resources to find the help and guidance they need.

Two of those key local resource outlets for entrepreneurs, the Small Business Administration and Raleigh SCORE, have new leaders owners can turn to.

I talked to the the incoming manager for the region at the SBA and outgoing chairman at SCORE, and they offered this advice.

Patrick Rodriguez, U.S. SBA area manager of a 21-county region that includes Wake and Orange, agrees that owners should tap into assistance opportunities in the area.

"Marshall all available resources," he said. "Entrepreneurs commonly invent, fund, market and sell their products all by themselves and miss out on the wealth of local business advisers who can assist at no cost."

Rodriguez is based at Wake Tech's western campus in Cary and serves as a resource for business owners, lenders and government contracting entities. He was recently appointed to the position, replacing Ivan Hankins, who retired.

Rodriguez moved to Wake Forest after working more than six years in the SBA Los Angeles district office as an economic development specialist, public information officer and veteran outreach coordinator.

He also suggests that business owners look to expand their business, create personal goals and learn to tell their story.

"A successfully told story can be transformative for the listener, opening minds and doors for you to enter," he said.

Harvey Smalheiser, a former senior tax executive, was recently appointed to the chair position at Raleigh SCORE, which provides mentors and workshops for owners who want to start or expand a business.

Before David Grant stepped down from that chair position, he said owners should ensure their financing is in order, considering both personal and business expenses.

They also need to work on marketing basics and do research to identify and then reach their target market, he said. Most importantly, he said, owners have to offer customer service.

Owners shouldn't spend time and money trying to get a new customer, and then lose them by not showing up on time or not doing what they said they would do, said Grant, who will continue volunteering as a Raleigh SCORE mentor and board member.

"I am still kind amazed by the companies I deal with that don't service a customer after they do a sale," Grant said.

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