Every business starts with a dream – a vision so real it can almost be touched. Failure occurs on that long and winding road that leads from vision to reality.
I was reminded of that in recent weeks as I began the SCORE business mentorship program. I enrolled with the goal of moving my adolescent business closer to the vision I had more than six years ago. By year-end, I expect to see tangible results.
I started by signing up for a series of SCORE workshops, each lasting two hours, that focus on business basics. I’ve gone to three so far, with two remaining. It’s not exactly business school, but it does require commitment, both in and out of class.
The first workshop, which was free, was an introductory session designed, it seemed, to weed out those who are less than fully committed to starting a business.
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Workshops 2-5, which together cost $150, will focus on topics such as business concepts, marketing, financial projections and funding sources. Although the SCORE mentorship program is free, the organization charges for these sessions to cover the costs of materials.
My class – about 12 people – has a good feel. Students represent a range in age, gender and ethnic diversity. Most are looking to start a first business. A few have limited experience and are looking to sharpen skills or even start a second business. Already, my classmates and I are starting to network and swap business cards.
As for growing a startup, how does one traverse that road that leads to success? One of our instructors may have explained it best.
Business is simply a game, he said. But to succeed at that game, he added, one must know and follow the basic rules that have been laid down over time and tested.
I view these workshops as a refresher course in those rules. In some of the sessions, of course – marketing and financial projections, in particular – I anticipate learning rules I never knew existed.
Although the workshops are designed for people just entering business, in some ways I feel I have an advantage over those who are just getting started. For me, the conversations are real, not theoretical. When an instructor talked recently about the importance of identifying a clearly defined target, I had six years of trial and error from which to draw and apply real-life applications.
When these sessions are done, I hope to be armed with a few new tools as I refocus on the original vision that still propels me each day. The good news is that, after years of walking, I don’t believe I’ve strayed too far from the path I set.
Glenn Burkins is editor and publisher of Qcitymetro.com, an online news site targeting Charlotte’s African-American community. He is a former Wall Street Journal reporter and Charlotte Observer business editor.