3 Strikes and You're Out - Why I Gave Up on SCORE

by Pat Hammond on Wednesday, June 19, 2019

This post is for all the people who complain that I never write anything negative. 

Please note that as nobody was willing to let me quote them, this article is based solely on my own experience and observations.  I do know three people who found their SCORE experience to be helpful, but they all had the same mentor so I didn't feel as though it made much of a case for the local chapter. 

Since I believe it's wrong to complain without offering a solution, I will be posting a follow-up article next week with some suggestions for improving the SCORE experience for both the mentors and the clients. 

 

 

See the follow-up post 3 Suggestions to Help SCORE Hit it out of the Park

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I regret to say that I am no longer recommending SCORE as a resource for people looking for one-on-one mentoring to start or grow their business.

Between my own bad experiences, yes that is plural, and reports from many other people, I've come to the conclusion our local chapter, SCORE Merrimack Valley, is not a good fit as a business resource for most people. 

I don't know what the problem is. 

The national SCORE organization provides a large variety of useful information in the form of webinars, online classes, and downloads through their website, but somehow, the mentoring services offered through the local SCORE chapter are singularly lacking in usefulness. 

I know several individuals who work/volunteer with SCORE Merrimack Valley and they are friendly, knowledgeable people who genuinely want to help. But in spite of the available tools and their collective experience, the mentoring program continues to fall short.

I'm not sure if it's poor leadership, lack of organization, or lack of interest on the part of the mentors, but there have been too many complaints to ignore. 

In my own experience, I had three mentors over a nine-month period.  My first mentor was fixated on my blog instead of my business and was not at all helpful.  I'm not sure how long she was a mentor, but we only met twice before she quit the program. 

My second mentor was a very nice man who did understand what I was doing. He had a lot of business experience and asked the sort of questions I needed to hear to make better choices when it came to specific markets and services. Unfortunately, he quit after two meetings too. 

I never met the third mentor assigned to me as he only connected to through a third party and didn't seem interested in meeting with me at all.  

By that point, I was starting to think SCORE was a better fit for people who have never started a business and needed help with basics like planning and organization. 

It only took a few conversations with people who had gone to SCORE hoping to find help with writing a business plan to realize it was a bad assumption. They got the brush-off too.

Then there are the people I talked to within SCORE. 

No one was willing to go on record, but there was a general sense that the chapter wasn't doing the best job in allocating resources when it came to pairing mentors and clients.

There was also a fair amount of frustration with at least one mentor telling me there should be a better way to vet people to find out where they were on their business journey. That's my polite way of saying that some of the mentors don't want to have to deal with people who lack business experience.

Mentors don't sign up to be dream crushers

I get it.

These are people who volunteer to share their expertise with the hope of helping people succeed. And facing a never-ending stream of clients who don't have the experience to understand the basics of business is discouraging.

There is an easy fix for vetting clients and bringing inexperienced business owners up to speed on the basics of planning and starting a business, but that doesn't address the systemic issues with SCORE Merrimack Valley. 

I'm not a business newbie. Very few people in my circle are. We have expertise and experience and have gone to SCORE for help in the areas we're weak only to be left hanging. 

I understand they're volunteers, but my first mentor only met me twice in five months and never even addressed the problem I requested help with. My second mentor told me up front he wasn't staying with the organization and my third couldn't be bothered to introduce himself let alone meet with me.

I may be a serial entrepreneur rather than a retired executive, but I find it hard to believe that's any way to run a business. Even if that business is a volunteer organization. 

At this point, my best suggestion for anyone looking for help with a business question is to tap your network. 

You can't expect your connections to stand in as unpaid expert consultants, but if you develop strong relationships with a wide variety of business professionals many will be willing to answer questions and point you in the right direction. They won't be as invested in your success as a business mentor, but it is a quid pro quo world and most people will be happy to exchange their expertise for your knowledge or an introduction to your connections.