Many people starting a business or taking a new position in business management are stuck searching the Internet for articles or YouTube for videos to learn the tricks of the trade. What new entrepreneurs need is someone to talk to about their unique situations, someone with expertise to bounce ideas and questions off of. That’s where SCORE comes in. SCORE, a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration, has provided mentors for entrepreneurs since 1964.
The Little Rock chapter of SCORE is lead by local businessman Tim Zimmerman. Zimmerman stumbled onto SCORE in 2015 via a TV commercial. Having already achieved success in his career as an executive (in the 80’s, he went from a delivery driver fresh out of high school to CEO of the company in a few short years), his interest in SCORE wasn’t driven by a need for help but by the desire to give back.
“I feel obliged to give back to the community,” Zimmerman says. “Sure, I give to charities, but I felt like I needed to give some sweat. I can put soup in a cup, but when I found SCORE I knew I’d found the thing I’d been looking for…” SCORE was the place Zimmerman finally felt his expertise was being fully utilized to serve others. He understands very well the value of the service he provides: “I wish I’d known about SCORE when I was 23 years old – it would have been a huge help.”
And so it is with many others. SCORE is a national network with more than 10,000 volunteers in 300 chapters across the country. Their website provides a wealth of online webinars, videos, and business templates, as well as access to their most important resource – mentors. Mentors can be found through their search engine using either locale or area of expertise. Need help starting a vending business? Type “vending” into the SCORE mentor search tool, and mentors with experience in that industry pop up.
Indeed, though most of the help Zimmerman provides is general business advice to folks in central Arkansas (oftentimes as simple as a ten minute phone call), currently his most extensive mentoring relationship is with a person in Missouri who found him on the SCORE website. He needed specific expertise, which Zimmerman was ideally suited for: “We talk every week. He told me the other day he wouldn’t have made it without me. Hearing that, I thought that’s why I do this.”
SCORE has a strict code of ethics, holding their mentors to a standard that ensures they do not gain professionally from any information or ideas heard from mentees. What the mentors do gain is the satisfaction of giving back. Zimmerman remembers: “Several years ago a man I respected told me that if you’re in business and successful, you owe it to the community to give back. I knew he was right, and it feels good to be doing just that.”