Keeping SCORE – 5 lessons from 300 mentors and 50 years

I am in Washington, DC, at the SCORE annual conference. SCORE is an organization of volunteers, all experienced business and non-profit leaders who volunteer their time to mentor others. There are 320 local chapters throughout the country in which about 11,000 men and women donate their time and experience to counsel aspiring business owners, startup companies and organizations.

This year marks SCORE’s 50th anniversary during which its members have counseled 10 million entrepeneurs, men and women like you who have a dream for making their mark in life. I took a guess at the numbers at estimate that if SCORE’s members were to charge for their services, it would add up to about $100 million dollars a year.

But they don’t charge. They do it for free.

I have spent three days in workshops, plenary sessions, and sitting across tables talking with dozens of people who have shared with me their stories about their local chapter, about the people they mentor, and about the challenges of meeting the needs of an ever-changing business climate. Here’s what I discovered:

1. The more things change the more they stay the same. Technology evolves and methods of doing business change but the principles that apply do not. People are still people and their aspirations, ambitions, issues, and challenges repeat themselves. Principles of sound business practice have remained constant throughout millennia. That should be reassuring.

2. You are not alone. Most of us tend to believe that what we face and must deal with is unique. The 320 people who attended and participated in this conference came from big cities and sparsely populated rural areas. In their locations they may have thought that the challenges they face are unique but they are not. I’ll say it again, people are still people and their aspirations, ambitions, issues, and challenges repeat themselves. Others, your peers and associates are going through them too.

3. You may not have caused the problem, but you are responsible for fixing it. That’s what leaders do. You fix things. You determine what is wrong, what has gone wrong, and how it went wrong. Then you know what to do next and possess the power to do what has to be done to fix it.

4. You have more resources than you might think. You learn from others and contribute to their effectiveness too. There are people who will help and there are mentors who will share their insight and experience to benefit you.

5. You have something to offer that will help someone else. This is not a zero sum game. We do not gain at the expense of others. Society builders are good citizens. They help each other. This may be a particularly American perspective and practice, but we tend to pursue dreams, realize many of them, and then give back. We bring others along, give them the tools they need to make it. We build to make things better for everyone.

See you on Monday when the “16 Qualities of a Superlative Leader” series resumes.


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