By: Tom Barton
I have been blessed in my business career so I think it is only fair that I give back. I have thought that I should be doing something like working in a soup kitchen but decided that I can be more valuable to others if I volunteer in a capacity which utilizes my talents and experiences to help others.
There is an old saying that some attribute to the bible, but I have never been able to find it there: “If you give a man a fish, he can feed himself for a day. When you teach a man to fish, he can feed himself for a lifetime.”
Somebody suggested to me that helping somebody obtain a job so they can feed their family is the highest form of charity. Perhaps better than this is helping an entrepreneur to grow a company and hire more people who can then feed their families.
At SCORE, we help people start and grow businesses. It they are moderately successful they can feed and clothe their families. If super successful they will be supporting many families.
Each day volunteering at SCORE is an adventure. Some people have a great idea but no money and others have an idea but no relevant experience. Another wants to know how to buy a business and yet another wants to know how to transfer ownership of the business to his son. Often we have to figure out how to diplomatically tell people to keep their day job. I never know what challenge the client will present to me, except that more times than not it will be challenging. Even our repeat clients surprise me with new twists.
Recently a very discouraged lady came in complaining that her business had tapered off and she was afraid that she wouldn’t have money enough to pay her property taxes. When she left an hour later, she had a smile on her face. We had gotten her talking about her past successes, her talents, and started a process for her to rebuild her business using her prior clients as the building block.
Another man had been notified that the bank was getting ready to foreclose on his loan. We reviewed his operations and helped him create a turnaround plan. One step involved redesigning his financial statements and showing him how to use them to monitor his business on a daily basis. We coached him and his son on how to work together more effectively as well as helped him to organize himself. With these changes he saved his company.
One of the more common clients is an experienced businessperson who has had to leave a nice job at a large company. They can’t retire so they have to start a new business or buy a business. They are very apprehensive as they are going to have to invest their life savings in this new venture. Over a period of weeks we help them investigate business opportunities and work with them to figure out what they have to do to be successful.
Many of the clients assigned to me are scared stiff about running into problems with the IRS or are totally confused about whether their new business should be a sole proprietor or an LLC. I enjoy answering their tax questions and providing some guidance that will keep them out of the IRS dog house.
At the end of the day when I review the clients I worked with, I almost always have a feeling that “Today, I really helped somebody.”
Can you see yourself using your business skills to help people? SCORE may be the way that you can make your gift to our community.