Taking the next steps to move my business forward

Sidney Bernstein, vice president of marketing for Charlotte SCORE.
Sidney Bernstein, vice president of marketing for Charlotte SCORE. Sidney Bernstein

When I was a boy, maybe 10 or 12 years old, I found myself caught in the woods one evening, just as darkness closed in, and I thought I saw a ghost.

I ran home to my father who said, in essence, that I should never run from my fears. “If you see something you don’t understand,” he said, “you should go to (it). You will find that it’s not what you think it is.”

To a large degree, I’ve lived my life by that advice – rushing toward things that challenged and even frightened me. Which is why I’ve chosen SCORE in my search for a business mentor.

You may recall from earlier columns that I committed in 2015 to get serious about my business. After six years of relentless head banging, it’s time for my small business to grow up. (I’ll continue to write about my journey in this ShopTalk column.)

In addition to SCORE, I also considered the Small Business Center at Central Piedmont Community College. Both offer wonderful services. But in the end, after talking with both, I felt that SCORE would challenge me more.

When I first spoke with Sidney Bernstein, vice president of marketing for Charlotte SCORE, he asked to see a business plan before we met. The one I wrote eight years ago was never updated and died in a computer crash, so off I went to compile something … anything … to prepare for our meeting. The exercise helped me see just how much my business strategy has evolved in six years. It also convinced me of the need to write a real business plan, not just some rush job.

When Bernstein and I finally met, he went like a heat-seeking missile to some of my biggest vulnerabilities – the need for financial analysis, financial projections and funding options. He said I’d have to enroll in a series of three-hour workshops that would give me an “absolute grasp” of what my business is all about.

“Our job is to help you find out what you don’t know,” he said.

On the down side, not all SCORE mentors have experience as small-business owners. Many earned their wings in large corporations, so I wonder how well they’ll relate to my small-time challenges.

Choosing SCORE was not an easy decision, and I would not hesitate to recommend the Small Business Center to anyone considering business ownership, or even someone with a few years behind them. I especially like that the Small Business Center is stocked with volunteers who have all worked as small-business owners.

For me, it was simply a gut call, another opportunity to face down some fears.

As for the ghost: I went back into the woods the next day and found that it was simply a piece of plastic sheeting flapping in the wind against a dead tree stump.

Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of, an online news site targeting Charlotte’s African-American community. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Charlotte Observer business editor.