Ken Yancey knows a thing or two about business.
And as chief executive officer of SCORE, a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses to start, grow, and succeed, he gets to put that experience to work on a daily basis.
The Texas native began working at SCORE in 1993, after learning about the organization while at another nonprofit. A banker by training and a longtime fan of small business, he was drawn to the organization’s mission.
“I love small business, I like small business owners,” says Mr. Yancey, who adds that the passion, drive, and enthusiasm among entrepreneurs and small-business owners is empowering.
For close to 50 years, SCORE has been providing education and mentoring services to small-business owners across the country. In fact, more than 10 million clients have relied on the services of the organization at no cost, or at a very low cost.
From one-on-one counseling by volunteers to a series of workshops and seminars, SCORE works to unite small-business owners with the tools necessary for their growth and success.
And with more than 12,000 volunteers and some 340 offices across the country, its services are widely available.
“SCORE exists at the intersection of two uniquely American concepts – volunteerism and entrepreneurship,” says Yancey, noting both the desire of volunteers to dedicate their time to helping clients and the desire of clients to reach for their goals and dreams. “That’s really where SCORE works.”
In the more than 10 years Yancey has been at the helm, he says, SCORE has seen growth in demand for its services as well as a shift in the type of clients seeking help.
“For a while, during the economic downturn, we saw more people who were accidental entrepreneurs,” he says. “They were starting businesses because they lost their jobs, or life circumstances dictated they had to do something other than their original chosen field.”
Of course, today’s small businesses are also much more aligned with social media and the Internet – meaning that SCORE's portfolio of educational topics has also expanded.
One of his favorite parts of his job, Yancy says, is working with the talented and dedicated volunteer mentors.
“Those volunteers – not only are they good, but they are making a difference, and it is a measurable difference,” he says.
Some are current or retired executives or other businesspeople; some are themselves entrepreneurs – 69 percent have small business or entrepreneurship in their backgrounds.
“They have made payrolls, and they have experienced the challenges, and certainly the joys, of entrepreneurship,” he says, emphasizing the links these volunteers can establish with the clients.
Another important element of SCORE’s work, Yancey says, is in educating new entrepreneurs.
“The people that we serve ... started a business to fulfill a dream and to achieve some goals,” he says. “And while they are highly intelligent and motivated, they often do not wear all the required hats that need to be worn to be a successful entrepreneur.”
That’s where the volunteer mentors come in.
“They help them with the aspects of business where they don’t have strengths,” Yancey says. “We help them to learn.”
SCORE mentors do not serve as business consultants, however, and do not make decisions for their clients.
The aspiring entrepreneur is "doing all the work,” he says. “What we are doing is providing that additional information, that additional expertise.”
It would seem that SCORE is on to something: Last year alone, SCORE helped clients start 38,000 new businesses that created more than 82,000
It’s no wonder why Yancey loves his job so much.
“It is easy to get up and come to work around here because of the mission,” he says. “Not only is it fantastic to work with and serve these entrepreneurs … but the volunteers are just amazing people.”
• For more information about SCORE, to volunteer, or to seek mentoring services, visit www.score.org.