Score Some Free Advice

SCORE counselors are familiar with small business basics such as financing, taxes and business plans.


To reach SCORE:
(800) 634-0245
www.score.org

Trucker Richard Hale was sidelined when an ATV accident left him paralyzed. Though he found work through a Goodwill Industries program for the disabled, he really wanted to get back behind the wheel. Problem was, he couldn’t unload.

The Illinois Department of Rehabilitation helped him overcome the physical challenges of the work and referred him to SCORE – the Service Corps of Retired Executives – for business advice. Counselor Jim Rilott met with Hale in 1998. “When I heard his business idea, my initial reaction was, ‘How are we going to do this?'” Rilott says. “I was impressed with his determination and decided to get into this to see what we could accomplish.”

What they accomplished was buying a truck (after approaching 10 dealers), having it modified to accommodate Hale’s physical limitations, and getting him back on the road by 2000.

Hale is one of thousands of clients SCORE has helped. If you think counseling from an experienced business person would help you, start the process with a phone call or a visit to the SCORE website. You’ll be matched with the closest of nearly 400 SCORE chapters, through which you can arrange to meet with a counselor.

Online, you can pinpoint counselors by more than 600 fields of interest. The “transportation – trucking” field yields 11 counselors who have a specialty in that and other areas. For example, the bio for one of them, Carl Herring, lists “common carrier trucking company executive 15 years” among his varied experiences.

Most of the other 10 have only indirect association with trucking, but don’t let that put you off. Many of the issues most commonly raised with SCORE counselors are similar to those faced by owner-operators, such as cash flow, financing, taxes and writing a business plan. A counselor doesn’t have to know how to fill out a log book or shift into overdrive to guide you through such business basics.

For more direct questions, try e-mail. “About 1,100 counselors are available online to answer your questions and help solve your problems via www.score.org,” says SCORE spokeswoman Laura Graves.

If there are matters that can’t be answered by your accountant or the collective wisdom of your colleagues in the truck stop diner, consider tapping into the more than 10,000 retired and working SCORE volunteers. Their experience is invaluable. And the price is right.


GIMME FIVE

SCORE offers small-business seminars across the country and many good tips and articles on its website. The “Top 5 Business Tips” collection presents sets of five quickies on dozens of topics, some of which can be particularly helpful to owner-operators with their own authority. Here is a condensed version of the five tips on building and maintaining a sound business plan:

1. Think your business through step by step.

2.Include a complete financial and marketing plan.

3.Build your marketing strategy around your strengths and your customers’ desires.

4.Allow at least two hours every week for thinking and planning.

5.Establish an annual operating plan and update it monthly.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
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