The pandemic experienced in this past business year has caused disruption, uncertainty and in some cases paralysis.

I’m reminded of Thomas Paine's famous statement, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” We are not in a shooting war, but our business environment is revolutionary. Small Business owners are more in flux because they do not have the extensive professional staff of larger companies. I would submit that this is a good time to learn from others. There is a lot of free advice available from people who have extensive business experience and are willing to share that experience. Here is a list of local groups that you can contact.

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  • SCORE — Score is a National organization with over 300 Chapters and more than 10,000 mentors. There is a chapter in Northern Minnesota with five branches. I am part of the Brainerd Branch. In addition to mentoring, SCORE has many resources including webinars and templates. In many cases it is possible to contact mentors with specific experience in other chapters. There is no limitation on the time a mentor(s) can spend with a client. History has shown companies with more than three hours of mentoring report higher growth and profitability.

  • SBDC — Small Business Development Center. The local district covers several counties. On occasion SBDC and Score mentors have teamed together.

  • BLADEC Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corporation.

  • Chambers of Commerce.

  • VBOC — Veterans Business Outreach Center.

  • Women’s Busines Alliance Center.

  • SBA — Small Business Administration. Part of the Federal Government. SCORE, SBDC, VBOC and the Women’s Business Alliance Center are partners with the SBA.

There may be other nonprofits that are available to help small businesses other than those listed above. I’ve listed those that are in my network. A review of their websites will be informative.

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The organizations listed above provide consulting, training and information in all aspects of small business management and development, including (but not limited to): strategic planning, financial analysis and projections, market analysis, buying and selling a business, loan packaging, human resources, marketing plans and business planning. In addition, they have networks of other resources.

There is reluctance from many small business owners to open to others. At SCORE we sign an ethics agreement every year that mandates that we may not share any client information with anybody outside SCORE without your permission. I know for a fact some of the others listed above have the same restrictions on their members. You have a right to that confidentiality. Our ethics agreement can be shared with clients.

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Mentoring can be done either in person, by phone, video or email. Mentoring can be one-on-one, a team (not necessarily from the same organization) or an advisory council. SCORE has created roundtables where a group of non-competing business owners can get together to discuss problems or to have a speaker. The business owner sets the agenda of what’s to be discussed.

Small businesses are a key to the health of our economy. It is necessary for them to survive and thrive. To do this they can take advantage of talented resources on a continuing basis at no cost to help them to improve, grow and provide new jobs.

I encourage you to touch base with one or more of these nonprofits and make use of all the wonderful, free talent available to you.

Dick Jordan can be reached by email at Richard.jordan@scorevolunteer.org or 218-251-4413.