Ken Yancey will cause the creation of one million new businesses within the next seven years if he gets his way. He is the chief executive officer of SCORE, an all-volunteer, nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. Yancey has been presenting his strategic plan with evangelistic zeal at SCORE’s 370 chapters nationwide.
The plan is bold. It is audacious; and it is a new way for the 11,200 SCORE members nationwide to interact with their communities, their spheres of influence, and their clients. The goal is to catalyze new business formation that in turn will bolster our nation’s workforce. That’s because pundits agree that small business creation begets the most jobs.
"Let me tell you what you can expect," Yancey said to the 100 volunteer mentors that came to hear his presentation at the SCORE Atlanta Chapter. SCORE has to double its number of volunteers, he told the attendees. The openings will be suitable for talented men and women with corporate or small-business experience. They must be willing to learn how to offer free mentoring, coaching and advice to start-up and fledgling businesses.
Some volunteers will be retired, while others will be currently employed or in business. But the common denominator is that they will be passionate about creating new jobs and helping their clients launch new businesses successfully. Some volunteers call it "giving back to the community." Others find that helping their clients win is as exhilarating as closing big deals.
In one instance, Union City, Ga.-based veterinarian Hannah Guishard transitioned from employment to becoming her own boss. "I was working at an animal hospital for someone who was not a veterinarian," Guishard says. "It didn’t make any sense not to be doing this for myself."
So Guishard contacted SCORE Atlanta and met with volunteer Ray Silva. He coached her through the process of opening her own clinic. Since starting Union City Veterinary Center and Emergency Clinic in 2000, the practice outpaced their most optimistic projections. "I was on cloud nine. I felt so good about myself and what I had done," Guishard says.
SCORE’s CEO Yancey says that SCORE’s clients are five to six times more likely to start their businesses than by going it alone.
The new strategic plan calls for an intake procedure to evaluate each client’s needs and customize a plan. That may mean attending a series of free and inexpensive workshops and being assigned counselors with the appropriate skills. Sometimes it entails face-to-face business counseling, phone coaching or case-specific online advice from volunteers nationwide.
SCORE Atlanta’s chair, Jeff Mesquita says, "As Ken (Yancey) pointed out, in two years from now one might not recognize our organization." Mesquita added that the "change" will help SCORE and its clients achieve goals beyond their expectations. "I will be calling on each (SCORE volunteer) in the near future to do something to get us to the next level of success." He explained that SCORE measures its success by the number of business clients it helps and their satisfaction.
For example, Alana Kelly visited the downtown Atlanta, Ga. SCORE office when she decided to open a flower shop and met with counselor Bill Atkinson. "Bill rattled off a list of questions that I couldn’t answer," she says. "Then he just smiled and said that it looks like you’ve got some homework to do."
Atkinson guided Kelly through the critical research needed to launch, Gitche Yah Yah Florist in 2006. "I couldn’t help but feel proud when these ‘tough’ counselors gave my business plan good reviews," Kelly says. "Without them, I’m not sure I would’ve followed through on this business," she says.
With job-creation and insecurity looming large on the minds of America’s unemployed, its underemployed and those that would rather be their own bosses, SCORE’s initiative to create one million new businesses will be part of the solution.
Jerry Chautin is a volunteer SCORE business counselor, business columnist and SBA’s 2006 national "Journalist of the Year" award winner. He is a former entrepreneur, commercial mortgage banker and business lender.