1. Contacting SCORE
1. A. Q: What do I have to do to get an appointment with SCORE?
A: To schedule a meeting, you must first register with SCORE. Click here to do this.
When everything is filled in, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “SUBMIT”. If you don’t click on SUBMIT, you won’t have completed the registration process and your data will be lost. Once you have registered, someone from SCORE will contact you in the next 2-4 days.
1.B. Q: Do you ever reject people who register? If you do, why do you reject them?
A: The one qualification for receiving Mentoring from SCORE is having an email address. If you don’t have an email account somewhere, SCORE won’t be able to contact you for meetings with a Mentor. This is because we want people to have a black-and-white message to refer to after receiving information from SCORE. Telephone messages tend to be misunderstood, lost, and sometimes unintelligible. For these reasons, SCORE does not rely on the telephone for its important communications.
1.C. Q: I don’t have my own computer and I know very little about email. Can I still get Mentoring from SCORE? If I don’t have an email, how will that work?
A: SCORE requires each client to have access to email. In Santa Barbara, the computer tutoring at the Central Library can probably help you establish an email account and show you the basics of email. Then you can use the computers available in almost any library branch to send and receive emails. The Continuing Education programs at the SCHOTT and Wade Centers often have classes on basic email. The schedules for these programs can usually be picked up at your local branch library.
1.D. Q: Does SCORE have an office where I can walk in and get help? If they don’t, how do they schedule meetings with people who need help? Where do they meet people who need help?
A: Santa Barbara SCORE does not have an office where you can walk in and get immediate help. Instead, SCORE relies on the online registration process to set up appointments for meetings with SCORE Mentors.
These meetings generally take place at a coffee shop or possibly at a commercial location that houses your business.
1.E. Q: How do I register for online Mentoring?
A: Get online and go to www.score.org (this is a different website from the one cited above for face-to-face mentoring). Near the bottom of the page, there are multiple headings. Find the “Get Started” heading and click on “Find a Mentor”. On the next page, under “Find an Email Mentor”, enter a keyword from the list below, and click on “Find an Email Mentor”. This will bring up a list of Mentors with skills and experience in the business area that you entered. You can further refine your search if the list is too long for you to wade through.
1.F. Q: What happens after I register?
A: You will be contacted by SCORE within 1 or 2 days, often both by email and by telephone. You’ll be asked to call a SCORE individual to go over a few questions. The purpose of these questions is to better define your needs so that SCORE assigns the right Mentor to you. After you have talked with this Intake person, they will go off and find an appropriate Mentor for you. Unless either you or the assigned Mentor is traveling, you should be in touch with your Mentor within about a week. He will set up an initial meeting with you to review your situation and suggest some immediate steps.
2. SCORE Mentoring
2.A. Q: Supposedly SCORE Mentoring is free. Do I have to pay for follow-on meetings?
A: No, follow-on meetings are also free. They’re free even if you met only once with a SCORE Mentor several years ago and now come back with more questions.
2.B. Q: If SCORE is free, how do you pay your Mentors?
A: Score doesn’t pay its Mentors. All Mentors are volunteers. SCORE operates on a lean budget, and expenses are kept very low. SCORE itself is an arm of the federal government’s Small Business Administration. Its funds are provided by Congress.
2.C. Q: You offer free Mentoring. Then, why do you charge for workshops?
A: Santa Barbara SCORE offers some workshops for free, usually during the day. However, workshops starting after 5:00 PM usually require the rental of a facility. The fees for these workshops go towards defraying the facility rental and associated costs.
2.D Q: How often can I meet with a SCORE Mentor?
A: SCORE has found that periodic meetings are most effective in working towards the results that you desire. Some Mentors meet every two to three weeks with you and then taper off as issues become resolved. If an emergency arises, most SCORE Mentors will agree to meet on a more frequent basis. The elapsed time between the meetings allows you time to pursue ideas and actions that the Mentor has suggested and to research different alternatives. You can ask for more frequent meetings, but they are usually not nearly as productive as those where some time elapsed between meetings.
2.E. Q: I don’t live in the area served by the Santa Barbara chapter of SCORE (Carpenteria through Lompoc/Buellton/Santa Ynez ). Can I have only telephone counseling?
A: At their initial client meeting, most SCORE Mentors prefer to have a face-to-face conversation at their initial meeting with a client. After that, if mutually agreed upon, your meetings can be conducted on the phone. If a trip to Santa Barbara is totally out of the question, you can sign up for online counseling or find another chapter closer to your home.
2.F. Q: If I have a partner, can I bring that person to my meetings with a SCORE Mentor?
A: You may bring anyone who would benefit from talking with a SCORE Mentor. However, be aware that the conversation may get into topics that you don’t want to be discussed in front of someone else. Of course, you can always schedule a separate conversation with a Mentor about those topics.
2.F. Q: What should I expect in my first meeting with a SCORE Mentor? What sort of help will I get by the end of the meeting?
A: You should expect a meeting to last anywhere from an hour to two hours. (The length of later meetings will depend upon the issues to be discussed.) The purpose of the first meeting is for the Mentor to get a better understanding of your specific business. The Mentor will start by asking you for more details about your business goals, your business situation, and the specific problems or issues that you think are most important now. Then, expect more questions from the Mentor which will help him better define your problems. During this discussion, he will probably ask whether you’ve already tried certain alternative courses of action to address your problems. He will probably suggest that you research certain topics or subjects in greater detail before your next meeting.
Finally, your Mentor will set up a second meeting with you at the end of the first meeting. So bring your schedule with you. Depending upon your mutual schedules, the next meeting will probably be within two to three weeks after your initial meeting.
2G. Q: I will need money to get my business going. Will SCORE give me a start-up grant or loan?
A: SCORE does not give grants or make loans. However, they will help you identify and explore other sources of getting start-up money.
3. About SCORE Mentors
3.A. Q: What sort of business knowledge and experience do SCORE Mentors have?
A: Many Mentors have started or run their own businesses. Others have worked in larger companies getting experience that is just not available in a smaller company. Generally, the experience of SCORE Mentors cuts across multiple business disciplines such as marketing, finance, management, sales, operations, and human resources.
3.B. Q: What happens if I register for help, but SCORE has no Mentors with the type of business that I need help with?
A: Over the years, SCORE has discovered that many businesses offer unique products and/or services. However, even unique businesses have certain characteristics in common. These include accounting, marketing, financing, management, and several other disciplines. Most of the principles in these fields are transferable to unique businesses. Thus SCORE Mentors may not know your unique product or service, but they probably know of a similar situation and can help you from that experience.
3.C. Q: My SCORE Mentor is going out of town for several weeks. What do I do if I need help during his absence?
A: If your Mentor has not already left town, ask him to give you the names and contact information of two other SCORE Mentors that you can call upon for help. (Ask for two in case one of those is also out of town.)
If your Mentor has already left town, send an email to email@example.com and ask for additional help. Identify who your regular Mentor is and indicate that they have left town. Be specific in the kind of help you are asking for during this interim period.
3.D. Q: I think that my SCORE Mentor doesn’t have enough experience in a certain area to adequately answer the questions that I have. Can I get a different Mentor? If so, how do I accomplish this?
A: You can always request a different Mentor. To accomplish this, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You should say who your current Mentor is, and the kind of help that you want from a new Mentor. However, you don’t have to give a reason for wanting a change. SCORE will assign a different Mentor within a week to ten days.
4. Specific Types of Mentoring Activities
4.A. Q: I need to develop a business plan (or for a marketing plan or a financial plan, etc.). Will my SCORE Mentor help me write this plan?
A: Generally, SCORE Mentors will not help you write your entire plan. They may contribute bits of text here and there, but writing the plan is your job. However, they can provide outlines of what a plan should contain and they will offer suggestions about what to include (or not include) in each section of the plan. They will review (often in great detail) what you’ve written and point out ways to improve what you’ve written. As long as you’re making progress in developing your plan, they’ll be willing to keep reviewing it until you agree that it’s ready to
4.B Q: I need to apply for a loan for my business. Will my SCORE Mentor help me prepare the loan application documents?
A: SCORE Mentors will help you advise you on how to gather and prepare the information that goes into a loan application. They will usually review and sometimes provide suggestions as to the best way to present your business and financial situation to a potential lender. However, they won’t fill out the application for you.
4.C Q: Does SCORE have Mentors that can help with legal advice or patents or intellectual property issues? If they don’t, what sort of help can I expect for these types of issues and questions?
A: SCORE Mentors will not give you advice or opinions in matters that require a licensed professional qualification, especially in the areas of law and taxation. If you need any detailed advice in these areas, they will suggest that you consult a local attorney or CPA who specializes in the area of your particular issue.
4.D. Q: I need to find an additional employee for my business. Will a SCORE Mentor interview candidates for me?
A: SCORE Mentors will help you prepare for interviewing job candidates, including identifying appropriate questions to ask and determining priorities in the skill mix that you want. This may extend to reviewing resumes of candidates or other candidate evaluation activities. A SCORE Mentor may or may not be willing to sit in on a job interview with you. However, SCORE Mentors will not decide on a candidate for you, because they feel the hiring decision should be that of the client.
4.E. Q: I’ve published a DBA ad in my local newspaper. Now, I’ve been told I need a business license. Can a SCORE Mentor tell me how to get a license?
A: At this time (November 2013), a business license for the City of Santa Barbara can be obtained at the Santa Barbara City Hall, 735 Anacapa Street in downtown Santa Barbara. The cities of Carpenteria and Goleta also require business licenses. If your business is located in an unincorporated county area, you’ll have to get a license from the County of Santa Barbara.
4.F. Q: I want to buy an existing business. Can SCORE help me evaluate a specific business and draft an offer?
A: SCORE has Mentors who can guide you through the process of evaluating a business. However, they won’t do the evaluation for you. Instead, they may suggest that you engage a professional business evaluation firm to determine the dollar value of the business since these firms do that all the time. The purchase and sale of a business normally involve a contract, so SCORE Mentors will probably suggest that you consult an attorney to draw up the actual offer. However, they may make suggestions about points you may want to include in your offer
to the seller.
4.G. Q: I have a business in Santa Barbara that I want to expand to a nearby town. What help will SCORE give me in deciding the best town and location therein to choose for my business and planning its expansion?
A: SCORE Mentors can help you find tools and data for evaluating different communities. They won’t choose a community for you but will help you assess the data available to you. They will also be able to suggest other criteria for choosing a community based upon your business and your resources.