SCORE – Counselors to America’s Small Business

If you’re not familiar with SCORE, you should definitely check out their website. SCORE “Counselors to America’s Small Business” is a nonprofit association dedicated to entrepreneur education and the formation, growth and success of small business nationwide. SCORE is a resource partner with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Founded in 1964, SCORE has 389 chapters in locations throughout the United States and its territories, with 10,500 volunteers nationwide. Both working and retired executives and business owners donate time and expertise as business counselors.

Some recent advice from SCORE newsletters that might be helpful:

Q: What are some key considerations for sustaining and growing an online business?

1. Watch Your Growth. Sometimes, small companies grow too fast. It’s best to have a measured growth plan.

2. Keep Upgrading in Mind. Always think about how you will upgrade your site, because it is something you will need to do as you grow.

3. Invest in Customer Service. This is key for any business.

4. Think about Next Steps. Do you have an exit strategy? Should you partner with other more popular Web sites? These types of things should always be on the minds of e-tailers.

Q: What are some common misperceptions or mistakes that aspiring online entrepreneurs make?

A: Some e-tailers may start their businesses with shoddy business plans and the idea that they can “get rich quick,” since the Internet is so popular these days. But these entrepreneurs are most likely the ones who will crash and burn. To avoid this scenario, use good balance-sheet math; have a revenue model, a clearly-defined exit strategy, and good communication with stakeholders; sell merchandise at the right price; understand the industry you are in; and perhaps most importantly, leave your ego at the door.

Q: How important is it for new business owners to work with a mentor like SCORE as they launch and manage an online business?

A: This is very important. SCORE offers what e-tailers need most – expert business counseling and advice from entrepreneurs who have been there in the trenches. SCORE’s Web site also offers many cool entrepreneurial tools to set the foundation for business success.

Q: Obviously, the future for e-tailing is very bright. What trends should owners be watching?

A: The Internet is really a global phenomenon. E-tailers should keep track of their customers and see how many hits are coming from overseas consumers or businesses. If it’s a substantial number, they should consider targeting these folks more directly, or perhaps launching a Web site in another language.

Q: What is the most important piece of practical advice you would give to someone interested in starting an online business?

A: Think of an online business as any business. Write a good business plan, grow methodically, and keep customers happy. Online retailing is a growing area and offers many great opportunities for hard-working, creative entrepreneurs. There is nothing stopping entrepreneurs of any age to test the online waters.

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