Fostering Small Business Success on the Entrepreneur’s Terms

By Ken Yancey, SCORE CEO

At few times in history has the small business marketplace been so important and dynamic. Confidence in large corporations is at an all time low; the unemployment rate is at its highest level since 1994. At the same time, people are actively seeking work situations that give them flexibility and a greater sense of ownership in the success of the company. The NBA continues to be an outstanding supporter of entrepreneurs; and SCORE—through its business counseling and resources, provide solutions that help the transformation in the marketplace.

The desire to start and grow a business has been, and continues to be, the “American Dream” for many people. Until recently, the entrepreneurial spirit was held by a relatively limited demographic. However, the modern workforce no longer resembles the workforce of 50, 20, or even 10, years ago. Women and minorities are entering the workforce in droves. Minorities are one of the fastest growing segments in the United States. In fact, U.S. Census projections predict that by 2060 the populations that were known as “minorities” will become the majority.

Another significant shift in the marketplace is the age and skills of the new business entrepreneurs. The nineties “dotcom” era provided a greenhouse for many younger, technically-knowledgeable entrepreneurs. Although many of the dotcoms suffered from inexperience at the helm of the companies, “dotcomers” learned from their experiences and are seeking ways to combine the essential profit making plans with the cutting edge, entrepreneurial spirit of the 1990’s. These people are beginning to retrench and will start new businesses in the near future.

This transformation reinforces the value of the entrepreneurial, small business marketplace in America’s economy. However, it also provides the greatest challenge. How do we, as the supporters of this marketplace, make ourselves valuable and ensure that these entrepreneurs have the tools they need available to them? How do we adequately provide for a growing and diverse marketplace?

The SCORE Association “Counselors to America’s Small Business” places a priority on ensuring that our services are useful and available in a manner to which meets the needs of the entrepreneur. Real-time is the only time these days. The days of “I’ll get back to you with the answer in a week” and “I’ll mail that to you” are over. Time is measured in seconds; and with some new small businesses, it is measured in nanoseconds. The Internet has become one of the most essential business tools. The virtual marketplace is a reality. Our customers expect our on-line presence to not only inform, but to educate and to serve as a business resource. SCORE addresses this need through Internet business counseling and an extensive resource-filled Web site. For the volunteers that prefer face-to-face mentoring, SCORE has over 10,500 volunteer counselors nationwide who provide small business counseling and workshops to local entrepreneurs.  

Organizations that support small businesses should cater to the dynamics of the marketplace by strategically using technology to reach the diverse customers and stakeholders. It is in times like these that SCORE and the NBA can make a significant impact on the small business marketplace.  SCORE has enjoyed our alliance with NBA and looks forward to a long and successful relationship supporting small businesses.