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Group hopes to SCORE with those wanting to start business

    Not everyone can start a business, and many of those who do frequently violate one of the three cardinal sins of entrepreneurship. They underestimate their competition; they fail to have adequate income to sustain themselves; or they don’t understand what they’re doing.
    Those and other challenges of being your own boss will be tackled next month during a series of workshops sponsored by the Southwestern Illinois Chapter of SCORE.
    The SCORE Simple Steps Series Workshops will be held in the multipurpose room at Hayner Public Library at 132 Alton Square Mall. The five-part series will be held every Monday in March, from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
    The session on March 2, called Start-Up Basics, is free. The cost of the remaining workshops is a total $125.
    The first workshop is intended to give participants enough information to let them know if they’ve got what it takes, said David Craig, a chapter vice president.
    “In the first one we are trying to dissuade the ‘tire kickers’. We share with them all the pitfalls, the things they might not have thought about and the work that is involved in going into business,” he said. “The next week, the herd is thinned out. We might have half as many people that are actually paying for the remaining part of the seminars.”
    The ensuing seminars are: Business Concept (March 9); Marketing Concepts (March 16); Financial Projections (March 23); and Funding Sources (March 30).
    “We bring in experts to talk about the financial considerations and putting together a three-year projection as to what the business should be bringing in and generating. In the fifth session we actually bring in a panel of bankers — active bankers, not retired — who speak to the clients as to what they and bankers look for before lending or approving a loan,” Craig said.
    Many people are romanticized by the prospect of ownership, but they fail to understand what they’re getting into.
    “Fortunately, we try to tether them, get them to sit down and do a business plan. You can tell the ones who will be successful; they actually do a business plan,” Craig said.
    Such a plan will help determine the business feasibility. SCORE execs, all schooled as businessmen, can provide the advice.
    “We share with them in the beginning that they’ll have to wear many hats,” Craig said. “If you’re not good at accounting, then you might want to take a course at a local college. That’s why SCORE’s around, to connect people with resources offering them skill sets they might not have.”
    While much has been made of the recession years driving people to start their own businesses, recent improvements to the economy have done the opposite. Not as many people are becoming SCORE entrepreneurs, he said.
    “Two years ago they were coming in droves. It has really leveled off,” he said. “Now, what it’s going to look like in two more years, is still to be determined.”
    This is the fifth year for the local chapter’s series, which is done twice a year, rotating among counties.
    “We rotate it between Jersey, Madison and St. Clair counties. What we’d love to do is get it out to the other 12 counties that we have responsibility for,” Craig said. “In time, we’ll have to clone some additional trainers in those counties so that they can initiate and maintain and sustain those programs.”
    Craig, who retired from AT&T after 30 years, now works as an inspirational trainer for Fred Pryor Seminars. That combination of experiences, he said, helps him serve as a volunteer mentor for aspiring entrepreneurs. Other mentors with an interest are welcome to contact SCORE.
    Series sponsors are: CJ Schlosser & Company CPAs, Carrollton Bank, CNB Bank, Liberty Bank, Bank of Edwardsville, Country Insurance, Illinois Business Journal and RiverBend Growth Association.
    Register by calling (618) 467-2280. For more information call (618) 830-9069.
Rundown of the workshop series:

    The SCORE Simple Steps Series provides five, two-hour workshops with action steps:
    – Start-up Basics (free), March 2: This introductory workshop focuses on the basics of testing your business idea and identifying the key factors that influence start-up success. You’ll get an overview of the skills and tools you need. You’ll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of owning a business, the most profitable form for your business, and the fundamentals of formation, organization, marketing, cash flow and funding sources.
    – Business Concept, March 9: Focuses on your business concept and step-by-step guidance in researching your idea, your market, and your competition. You’ll learn to target markets, describe your products and services and collect key competitive information to support your feasibility plan.
    – Marketing Plan, March 16: Provides you with an introduction to marketing communication methods and tools to maximize your customer reach. Covers pricing strategies, positioning, the difference between features and benefits, and different marketing strategies. You’ll learn to outline, test and exercise your marketing strategy.
    – Financial Projections, March 23: Helps you better understand financial concepts. Reviews sales and prices, financial risks and rewards, true start-up costs and ongoing operating expenses. Helps you set benchmarks for tracking progress and the organization of all your financial information. You’ll learn how to use SCORE’s  financial model to forecast sales revenue and build solid pro-forma financial forecasts.
    – Funding Sources and Next Steps, March 30: Information on how to finance a small business. Discussions include sources of funds, the six C’s of credit, banking relations, ratio analysis and monthly preparation and review of financial statements. A bank loan officer will give an inside view of how a banker assesses the merits of business plans and loan application.


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