A Strong Tradition of Keeping SCORE

Fran Duskiewicz

If you don’t already know, there’s a unique nonprofit group that specializes in helping businesses be more successful.

By Fran Duskiewicz

One of the more attractive aspects of our industry is the very real commitment to community involvement as continually shown by its companies, both large and small, and its various trade organizations and trade journals.

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Maybe that commitment stems from our being an integral part of everyday life in our communities and, possibly, some of it comes from the entrepreneurial spirit that created many c-store companies.

Entrepreneurs know they needed help to achieve success and they want to return that help in kind. That was certainly the case at Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes and the feeling remains with me to this day.

That’s why when I wanted to get back out and do something in the business community here in Naples, Fla., SCORE was such a perfect opportunity for me. I didn’t know it existed until I read an article in a regional weekly about an organization whose members were mentoring local entrepreneurs, helping them with start-ups, business plans, securing financing and working through business issues that they can’t solve alone.

Previously known as the Service Corps of Retired Executives, the nonprofit is now recognized as SCORE, or ‘Counselors to America’s Small Business.’ Headquartered in Herndon, Va., there are 364 chapters of SCORE throughout the U.S., with more than 3,000 volunteers. It is also a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The odds are there are offices near where many of our industry companies are headquartered. Services are provided free for those seeking assistance.

I’ve had a great time with the people I am counseling. Their businesses range from operating a horse farm with training, riding and housing facilities, to a fellow who is trying to find a niche selling his goods on Amazon, to a young man who wants to design and sell sportswear and someday own his own indoor soccer team. Their enthusiasm is contagious and it fires me up in wanting to help them succeed.

I worked side by side with an entrepreneur for 30 years. His mind never stopped. He saw challenges and opportunities on every corner. Early in our relationship I learned it was my job to listen and absorb the vision, then figure out how we could get done the things he wanted to do. It was supremely exciting and the excitement never stopped until nature forced it to stop.

We encouraged entrepreneurship among our management teams. We embraced that brand of thinking within our franchise community. Every time I wanted to tighten things up a bit, I was reminded that was not the way we did things at Nice N Easy. Entrepreneurial spirit was in our DNA. So was community involvement. So here I am working with a volunteer organization that assists entrepreneurs. It feels right. It IS right. I think John MacDougall, Nice N Easy founder, would be tickled, knowing what a control freak I am.

I’m writing this because I want people to know that SCORE exists and that you don’t need to be retired to get involved. There are more retired executives here in Naples than you can count. Not all of them are good at helping start-up businesses. It’s a different world from being a master of the universe, but it’s perfect for me, and I think it would be a good exercise for many reading this column.

New businesses spur the economy. Economic growth is great for the convenience industry. What could be more productive and rewarding than a successful c-store owner or executive helping a fledgling business get off the ground in their neighborhood and then mentoring them through their issues? Plus, who knows what sort of creative alliances might arise?

Look to see if SCORE has a chapter near you. Also, if you’re motivated to help, see how that can be accomplished. Somewhere along the line, someone gave you a chance to be successful. Pay it forward and you’ll reap the rewards.

Creativity and bold thinking is the essence of our industry, as is the willingness to take a chance on doing something with a high risk/reward factor. What a perfect opportunity to help our communities—more specifically our business communities.

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