by Pat Hammond on Wednesday, December 06, 2017
Are you dreaming about starting a business? Do have a business problem with your existing business? Or maybe things are going great and you're thinking about breaking into new markets and expanding your business. The good folks at Merrimack Valley SCORE want you to know that no matter where you are on your business journey they are here to help.
For anyone who isn't familiar with SCORE, it is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to "Foster vibrant small business communities through mentoring and education." 
It is also one of the oldest partner programs under the Small Business Administration (SBA) umbrella, and probably the most misunderstood, so I thought I'd take a minute and share a few things you should know about this fabulous, underused resource.
Let me start by saying forget everything you think you know about SCORE. Yes, it has been around forever, they offer free one-on-one business mentoring, and they are happy to help you with your business plan, but this is not your grandfather's SCORE.
Like any good business, today's SCORE has embraced technology and evolved to deliver the tools you need in a way that makes sense in today's world.
In addition to the standard business planning tools, SCORE's website offers dozens of on-demand workshops and classes on topics from email automation, sales and marketing, trademarks, taxes, and everything in between.
Merrimack Valley SCORE even has their own online assessment tool for existing small business owners.
Developed by local SCORE volunteer Gene Calvano, COMPASS is a small business assessment tool used exclusively by local SCORE chapters to build a profile of your business strengths and weaknesses to help you identify problem areas and SCORE's staff get a better understanding of your needs so they can put together the right team to tackle your business challenges.
50 years ago Merrimack Valley SCORE opened their doors to help fledgling business owners tap into the knowledge and skills of retired business executives. Back then, those retired executives were usually men. Today's SCORE not only reflects the diversity of the modern workplace, but it's no longer the exclusive domain of retirees. Yes, many of SCORE's volunteers are retired, but not all.
According to their website, "The key qualification SCORE mentors bring is a real-world business experience. They are working and retired business owners, executives and managers who have been through the same challenges and decisions that many entrepreneurs are facing today."
Unlike many of the self-described experts you find online, all SCORE mentors meet SCORE's standards for experience and are required to complete SCORE's mentor training program before they can work with clients. This ensures that your SCORE mentor, whether they're retired or not, has both the experience and ability to help you ask the right questions and find the answers you're looking for to build a business in today's market.
Today's SCORE harnesses the power of their national volunteer network to take a team approach to help you move your venture from startup to growth.
Basic business concepts like identifying target markets, accounting, and all the other nuts and bolts that keep your business dreams afloat hold constant no matter what industry you're in, but the way we reach our clients, the kinds of services we offer, and how we deliver them has changed substantially in the last 25 years and SCORE recognizes that.
You will still work one-on-one with an experienced business mentor, but it's highly likely that he or she will only be one part of your strategic business team.
Instead of one person helping you through every phase, your SCORE mentor can tap into the local and national specialists you need when you need them. Sometimes those people are SCORE volunteers from other chapters. Other times they're partners from the local business community. The two constants are that they are carefully vetted experts chosen to fit your needs and the service is free.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that SCORE only has programs for startups. While it's true they have many services to help you build a solid foundation for your new business, SCORE is just as ready to help you with business growth.
In fact, over 200 of the 964 clients served by Merrimack Valley SCORE last year were existing business owners. 
David Wood, Marketing Chair for Merrimack Valley SCORE says, "We're known more for startups, but about a quarter of our clients are existing businesses and we like working with these clients because the results are fairly quick."
Remember, these are experienced business people. As much as they enjoy helping new business owners avoid common pitfalls to get their business ideas off the ground, they love working with people who have already made it past the startup phase and are on hand to help you with next steps like refining your offering, expanding your market, and preparing to find funding.
And when you add in the assessment provided by Compass, Merrimack Valley SCORE can rapidly build the right team to fit your needs as an existing business so you can get the help you need, when you need it.
There is a reason you can't visit any business magazine website without seeing at least three articles about the importance of finding mentors or hiring a business coach.
The fact is no one person can know everything or have all the experience they need to face every business situation.
The Richard Bransons of the world know this and their solution is to hire the best experts they can find to offer suggestions and coach them through the rough spots.
That's not always an option for a local startup.
The good news is Merrimack Valley SCORE provides the professional mentoring and coaching services your business needs right here in New Hampshire.
For more information about finding a business mentor and the many other services offered by Merrimack Valley SCORE, please visit their website: merrimackvalley.score.org
1. To learn more about SCORE's mission please visit www.score.org/mission-vision-and-values