Mid-February is a great time to review your Bucket List. It is also a time to look at where you’ll volunteer your time, in 2014. Consider your volunteer position as your new career and a way to use your career skills to further the mission of the organization. Today, I am going to highlight a Williamsburg organization called SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives).
SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. Funding and assistance comes from the federal Small Business Administration and The Williamsburg Chamber of Commerce. SCORE is responsible for 8 business-training seminars a year and offers initial consultations and even ongoing meetings to small-business start ups, for free. The mission of the organization is to overcome the percentage of small businesses that fail in the first five years (60%!) by giving them mentors to work with, upfront, before leases are signed and major business-expenses occur. Besides a New Business Start-Up Planning Guide, the counselors are assigned by expertise and skill set to help people in businesses that are floundering and need some assistance or people who wish to start a business and need some direction. SCORE Volunteers are “experts,” Paul Luchsinger of Williamsburg SCORE says, in many fields. “We are owners that have succeeded, failed, bought and sold, or we have served on executive boards of corporations. It is our turn to give back and help someone with THEIR dream. Very often we co-counsel so that we can bring more skills to the table and assist new-business start-ups with their business plan, tweaking systems that are already in place, or helping people network with proper entities to make them successful, faster.”
I asked Luchsinger how the coaching processes works and he responds, “Sometimes I encourage. Sometimes I discourage. Occasionally, I will be mentoring someone and he hasn’t completely thought his plan out; he just has a dream. For instance, he loves to cook and wants to open a restaurant but has never worked in a restaurant. I ask plenty of questions helping him realize that he has no idea what the ins and outs of working in a kitchen are or what the health codes are or how many employees he will need to run this restaurant. We encourage him to find a part-time cooking position, plan his menus, find his vendors, before he ditches his full time job. When this restaurant finally opens, it will have a greater chance to be successful. My hope, always, is that I can intercept someone, at the right and critical time, so that I can be a sounding board that knows many answers and can be a cheerleader WHEN the plan is fully baked. In my opinion a dream or concept has got to be able to self-sustain and pay a new owner at least minimum wage to be deemed ‘successful.’ At every initial consultation we discuss the selling skill. I will ask a new client if they are good at selling and they say “no, this business doesn’t require selling.” That is wishful thinking – because of course he has to sell: his wife, investors, the bank, vendors, employees, and eventually customers. Any entrepreneur has to be a salesperson, on some level – and first they have to sell ME, and I am tough sell (he smiles).”
Luchsinger gives a modest amount of time to SCORE: one monthly meeting with the other counselors and the consultations, themselves, that are set between his clients and himself at mutually convenient times. They meet at coffee shops, at the Chamber of Commerce, or even over the phone. Commitments are not confining and the SCORE volunteers can control the number of hours they work.
Why does Luchsinger feel like this is the ideal volunteer opportunity for him? Although he had many successes in his career years, he got his PHD in “losing” and now he can payback all the very talented people that helped him bounce back from his loss to avoid future mistakes. SCORE is Luchsinger’s chance to make the dreams of next generation come true!
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Williamsburg has become a Mecca for retirees over the past dozen years because of its history, charm, vacation amenities, proximity to major cities and airports, and affordable cost of living. Check out www.retiringinwilliamsburg.com for information about the Williamsburg community, lifestyles available, and search for homes for sale.