By Dave Conley, SCORE Accredited Business Counselor, SCORE NE Mass
One of the important services that SCORE offers, at no fee, is that of act as an advisory board to successful small businesses. While SCORE usually counsels on a tactical basis, by addressing immediate issues facing new and existing businesses. SCORE also offers “advisory counseling”, which is confidential strategic counseling for successful small businesses.
The nature of “advisory counseling” is to provide services equivalent to an actual company advisory board. Counselors cannot legally serve on a company’s Board of Directors or advisory board, but can provide many of the same functions such as helping develop strategic direction. The benefit to small businesses is that the service is without fee and gives business owners access to the vast business experience and knowledge of SCORE counselors.
The process of “advisory counseling” is as follows:
Counselors meet with the client quarterly, or as needed. Continuity of the counseling team is very important, since knowledge of the business is essential to providing value as advisors. Therefore appointments are usually scheduled for two hours with 3-4 counselors who are very familiar with the business. An agenda prepared by the client with supporting documents (business plan, financials, marketing plans, open issues, etc.) is circulated in advance so that the counselors can be well prepared.
“Advisory counseling” is usually focused on the following areas:
Review of financials. Many small businesses are not really “on top of the numbers” even though they are successful. SCORE can provide an objective outside review of income and expenses and often can offer improvement in several areas.
Transition from being an entrepreneur to a manager. Many small business clients are so focused on daily operations that they neglect planning for growth and income improvement. SCORE can help with advice on delegation, targeted marketing efforts, and employee utilization and development.
Strategic planning. Very few small businesses can afford the time or expense of strategic planning. SCORE counselors can provide significant assistance in prioritizing plans and providing advice on strategic direction.
Evaluation of new business opportunities. Many small businesses have opportunities to acquire other businesses or develop new business lines and products. SCORE can help clients to analyze and prioritize these opportunities.
The following are three examples of “advisory counseling” actually provided to existing clients.
Company A: Company A is a very successful high tech company. The owner of the company wants to retire in the next 5 to 10 years. To do so, the client has to grow the business significantly. When the business has grown the client can either sell it or have it managed by a family member, while providing the client with an excellent retirement income. SCORE is guiding the client in the transition from entrepreneur to manager by discussing effective delegation, creating a transition plan, and planning how to make time for implementing an aggressive methodology to obtain new clients.
Company B: Company B is also a very successful high tech company. The client is concerned that the business has too great a concentration in one market segment. SCORE is working with the client to evaluate and prioritize new business diversification opportunities. The counselors are also helping the client delegate more, and improve his sales process.
Company C: Company C operates in a successful business niche. The client has significant concerns about the future success of the business in a changing economic environment. The client has many strategies on how to diversify his business. SCORE is helping the client focus on the two or three opportunities that have the most potential.
SCORE “advisory counseling” can be a great resource to successful businesses. Creating more awareness of “advisory counseling” can be a valuable asset to SCORE and many small businesses.