One of the great benefits of a coworking space is being able to bounce ideas off of others and get feedback from other members who share a natural connection through the space. But sometimes, you need a seasoned advisor who really understands specific business challenges you’re facing, and who has likely had a similar experience themselves. Therefore, we’re excited to share that we’ve recently launched a new relationship with SCORE, to bring free business advice to COCO members! Every Tuesday at COCO Downtown, we’ll have 50-minute COCO member slots available at 10 am, 11 am and 12 pm. Experienced business mentors provide advice on every aspect of business and can help COCO members sort through business challenges that can lead to better business decisions. Reserve an appointment here.
This is the first blog post in a series we’re launching related to the work we’re doing with SCORE. Let’s get to know the advisors! I sat down with Greg Lincoln for this Q&A.
Tell us a little bit about yourself. What’s your background?
I’m both a corporate guy and entrepreneur. My corporate career focused on marketing and advertising. Starting on Madison Avenue. That led to jobs at Tandy Corp and Pillsbury, which brought me to Minneapolis. I’ve been working the gig economy since I was a teenager. A couple of examples are running a small catering company and, separately, a food concession on Wall Street. I stepped out of the corporate world to start my own gig, a small marketing and advertising agency. Ran that for 20 years, before joining SCORE. Now, I moonlight as a sports announcer.
Sports announcer? Tell us more!
I’m a game day announcer for football, baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse and softball. Mostly at the high school level. With some college and semi-pro also. I call regular season, post season playoffs, some state tournament games and hand full of global webcasts. This is the ‘work’ assignment that gives me the most joy. SCORE is a close second!
Can you give us a brief overview of how the SCORE small business advising works?
SCORE (which stands for Service Corp of Retired Executives) is a nonprofit agency working under the umbrella of the Small Business Administration. We are 350 chapters across the country staffed by about 12,000 volunteers. The Minneapolis chapter of SCORE was the first in the country. Today we are about 90 volunteers offering education and mentoring services. We use the terms advising, coaching, counseling and mentoring interchangeably. Our advising work focuses on helping entrepreneurs and small businesses with whatever challenges they face. Often we are asked about how to start up a business, or how to grow a business, or legal challenges, or marketing issues. We meet face to face, or email or via video conferencing. Our services and methods respond to our client’s needs. Currently with COCO members we are meeting face-to face at Downtown Minneapolis. Our greatest benefit is vast business experience and our objectivity to member challenges. It’s important to understand we are advisors, not consultants. Every SCORE advisor is certified and bound by our code of ethics. One of the most important elements of that is confidentiality.
How did you first get involved with SCORE small business coaching and why?
The work that SCORE does is very similar to what I do at my agency, working with many start-ups and emerging growth companies. The SCORE clientele, work and services are very familiar and comfortable for me – a natural extension of my career.
What are some of the business topics that you advise COCO members on?
They are as diverse as our clients. We’ve helped retail bakeries and women’s apparel boutiques get off the ground. Engineers sometimes come to us with an idea that they need help on related to trademark and patent issues. Many need sales advice.
What general advice might you give to a small business owner or entrepreneur that is just getting started with their venture?
I like to emphasize four points. (1) Go for it! You’ll never succeed if you don’t try. That’s half the battle. (2) Do your homework. No one has all the skills needed to start a business. Use as many resources as you can find. SCORE is one. (3) Be prepared that the work will be far harder than you can imagine. Lonely, frustrating, discouraging. Persistence is key. (4) Success can be much more rewarding than you can imagine. Not only financially, but personally, creating something.
What general advice might you give a successful small business owner or entrepreneur in the growth phase of their business?
Two things. First, it’s all about sales! Most everything else is secondary. Resist the urge to over focus on operations or product/service offerings or staffing, or ‘getting it perfect’. The last point leads to my second thought. Listen carefully to your customers. They may need something different than what you are offering. Your clients will build your business by telling you what they need.
What’s the last great book you read that you’d recommend to an entrepreneur or business owner?
I recommend Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’. It’s a great model for analyzing business issues. Six Hats makes us look at problems and opportunities from six different perspectives…positive, negative, emotional, logical, etc.
Any personal or professional goals you’re working on for 2018?
My focus is balance for 2018. It’s always elusive and constantly needs attention, from my perspective. Also, to make our COCO partnership a positive and productive one for COCO, your members and SCORE.