Consulting, Research and Business Services

Before you launch into your own business, there are dozens of details to be considered - from the momentous to the almost (but not quite) trivial.  Here is a checklist covering many items you need to take care of.

Preliminary Research

  • assess your strengths and weaknesses
  • establish business and personal goals
  • assess your financial resources
  • identify the financial risks
  • determine the start-up costs
  • decide on your business location
  • do market research
  • identify your customers
  • develop a marketing plan

Business Transactions

  • select a lawyer
  • decide on business organization-proprietorship, partnership, corporation
  • create your business-register your name, get incorporated
  • select an accountant
  • prepare a business plan
  • get financing
  • establish a line of credit
  • select an insurance agent
  • obtain business insurance

First Steps

  • design and order business cards
  • obtain a lease
  • get furniture and equipment
  • review local building codes
  • obtain a license or permit (if applicable)
  • send off for federal and state tax forms
  • apply for Employer Identification number (if applicable)
  • join a professional organization
  • line up suppliers if needed
  • set a starting date

 Business Plan

The most important reason to do a Business Plan is for you to become convinced that you can turn your idea or dream into a real functioning business. Until you have satisfied yourself that your plan "makes sense", you shouldn't even think of trying to sell anyone else. Once you're convinced you can make your idea work then you can show it to lenders and prospective investors. A Business Plan is not a "one-time" document just for obtaining investors or financing. You should consider it to be a "living document" which you will update and upgrade from time to time as information and circumstances change and as appropriate as you thus make changes in your business.

A Business Plan/Financial Plan is an absolute necessity in applying for a loan for a start-up business and is highly recommended in applying for a loan for an existing business.

How do you do it? It's not easy. And it's unlikely you can just sit down and produce a good plan in one sitting because a lot of trial and error and testing of ideas is involved. It will most likely evolve over a period of time.

How? Think about your business idea often and ask yourself these questions about every aspect of it. Who?, what?, where?, when?, why?, how?, how much?, how many?, how often? Write down the answers. Look for "holes". It's easy to list all kinds of ideas. Do you have the knowledge and resources to carry them out cost effectively? Are you "double counting" your resources, counting on them to do two different things at the same time?

Why do you want to pursue a particular part of your plan? Who will carry it out? When? Where? How much will it cost? How many sales will each marketing campaign generate? How does the cost to acquire a prospect, make a sale, or provide the product or service compare to your product or service pricing parameters?

Visualize some "typical days". What is being done? Why ? Who is doing it? Ask and answer these questions over and over until you are convinced you know how your business will function day-to-day. Now capture this knowledge in your plan and show how it will work financially. Make changes in your plan until you have a plan where all the elements fit together and work from a marketing, operational, and financial perspective.

There is no single prescribed format for a Business Plan. However, we believe many of you will find the format shown below to be helpful. You should feel free to adjust it to your unique circumstances.

A SCORE Counselor will be glad to assist you by reviewing your business plan draft(s) and giving you constructive comments. This can be accomplished in face to face meetings or by exchanging emails of sections of the plan as you write them. Use of a word processor such as Microsoft Word or Works is recommended.


Haven Art Group Finds Success with SCORE

Drawing on her experience as a paintings specialist at Sotheby’s of London, a supervisor of appraisers at Chubb Insurance and director of the art services division of American International Group, where she advised on the management and protection of private art collections worth from $10 million to $1.2 billion, Claire Marmion started her own business, Haven Art Group, in 2009. The purpose of the business is to provide art management services for high net worth individuals with major art collections and for internationally-known art collectors, as well as art claims services for major insurers.  Claire  refers to herself as “a curator for hire”.

In October 2008, Claire came to SCORE seeking help in getting her business off the ground.  As Claire said, “I first stumbled onto Score completely by accident through a friend’s recommendation.  It was one of the most brilliant discoveries of my first year in business—a bright glow while wading through the slow and sticky tar that is building and then running your own office for the first time.”

To learn more about Claire’s business, see her website at

Claire Marmion
My Successes

Since its founding, Haven Art Group has grown substantially, opening offices in New York and Chicago.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Her primary SCORE counselor has been Mitchell Morris, with whom Claire has been working on a monthly basis.  According to Claire, “Mitch and the SCORE team were absolutely vital in keeping me focused, in providing tips for maintaining discipline and solving problems in bite-sized chunks—a business partner to brainstorm ideas with.  And it’s not over yet.  I hope I shall be sapping their energy for many prosperous business deals to come.”

Precision Transmission Finds Success Implementing Advice From SCORE

It seems you’re never too old to listen to your mother—even when it comes to business. Brothers Paul and Leonard Roybal decided to launch a transmission shop in Santa Fe after growing up with the family’s service station, which their father ran until he passed away in 1991. Their mother, Yolanda, led the shop until she retired in 1998.

Paul and Leonard Roybal
My Location
Santa Fe NM
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

When Paul and Leonard wanted to reopen a transmission shop at the same location, they had to make their case to their own mother. "We had to present a business plan to our mother in competition with another business that wanted the location," Leonard says.

"She told us, go to SCORE and see if they feel it’s a viable business," he adds. "She wanted us to succeed, of course, and with SCORE’s help, she knew we could find out whether the business would work."

In fact, Yolanda herself had received advice from Santa Fe SCORE mentors after taking over the business in the early ‘90s. The Roybals worked with SCORE Mentor Bart Jacobs, a retail expert, to create a business plan and budget.

What's Great About My Mentor?

Working with SCORE Mentor Bart Jacobs, Paul and Leonard saw that they could implement new ideas to improve efficiency, enhance sales and reduce overhead. The realities of doing business demanded a new approach to marketing, inventory and many other areas of the business. With their vision for Precision Transmission, the brothers earned their mother’s confidence to open the business at the family’s location.

Precision Transmission now employs six people and has seen increasing sales and profitability. They estimate business has grown 80 to 100 percent since the ‘90s. Though business is booming, the brothers always find time for SCORE. The two keep meeting with mentors each month since opening their business. Though Bart acts as their primary mentor, he occasionally calls in other mentors as the business' needs change from human resources issues to cash management to financing.

How SCORE Helped

SCORE continues to provide valuable mentoring for whatever new issues may arise. "I don’t know any place where a small business like us can get advice like this," Leonard says. "We couldn’t afford this type of knowledge and we couldn’t have done it without SCORE."

"Imagine hiring a team of advisors like this," Paul adds.

Their biggest fan is still their mother. "It's just amazing to me what the boys did with the business," she says. "I'm just so proud of them."

Not all franchisers are created equal. Some are scrupulous, and others are not. Some give lots of training and support and are easy to work with, and others don’t. Some do not have problems with their network of franchisees and others have far too many.Before you get too excited and start thinking with your wallet instead of your head, find out the answers to these sorts of issues long before you sign any documents.

About the Author

Steve Strauss HeadshotSteven D. Strauss is a lawyer and writer and is one of the country's leading experts on small business as well as an international business speaker. The best-selling author of 17 books, his latest is the all-new 3rd ed. of The Small Business Bible. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success Powered by Greatland, visit his new website for the self-employed, TheSelfEmployed, follow him on Twitter, and "like" TheSelfEmployed on Facebook. You can e-mail Steve at: © Steven D. Strauss

Johnson Consulting Services Finds Success With SCORE Advice


After earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Drake University, Jill joined a consulting firm in her native Twin Cities in 1984 and—in another unusual move for someone only 24 years old—became active with Minneapolis SCORE.

“The chapter encouraged younger people to get involved and complement the expertise of the veteran counselors,” Jill explains.  “I started attending the small business workshops and got to know the volunteers very well.  I knew that someday I’d want to start my own firm, but figured that was several years in the future.”

The future arrived sooner than Jill expected.  Finding herself in a difficult work situation in 1987, she decided that the time had come to get started on her own business, Johnson Consulting Services.   Jill’s colleagues at SCORE immediately stepped up with advice and encouragement.

Jill J. Johnson
My Location
Minneapolis MN
United States
Year Company Formed
My Successes

In return for their wisdom and support of her mentors, Jill has helped in the Twin Cities and other Midwest SCORE chapters assist other aspiring entrepreneurs by contributing her own knowledge to workshops on marketing, new business planning and demographics.  She also helped SCORE leaders understand how to work with women entrepreneurs. 

Twenty-two years after those first tentative steps, Johnson Consulting Services is still going strong.  Jill has worked in 21 states and overseas, and consulted more than one billion dollars’ worth of business decisions.  She has earned numerous awards; been interviewed for stories in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Money magazine; and served two terms on the SBA’s National Advisory Council

And while businesses of all types and sizes look to Jill for answers and advice, she continues to learn from her friends and colleagues at SCORE.

What's Great About My Mentor?

“One volunteer counselor—Dick Bloom—called me every month for nearly a year to check in and ask how I was doing,” Jill says.  “That personal touch made a big difference.”

So did the volunteers’ expertise.  At every stage of her company’s evolution, they advised Jill on dealing with the realities of owning and building a business, from financial management to simply staying positive.

“The SCORE volunteers believed in me,” Jill says.  “They had made fortunes in business, and were confident that I would too.  That support helped carry me through those times when doubts started to creep in.”

How SCORE Helped

“More than half of my practice is in health care, which often involves people having to make difficult decisions about friends, loved ones and themselves,” she says.  “Working with SCORE has given me insight on how to age gracefully, and with vitality and relevancy.  It’s a blessing to see SCORE volunteers with so much to give still working to help new entrepreneurs and their community.  That’s a valuable lesson for everyone.”

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