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Monday, December 4, 2023

Small Business Mentoring And Social Networking


A Mentor's 17-Year Comparative Review of The SCORE And MicroMentor Web Sites  

From 2006 to 2011, I supported SCORE as a volunteer counselor.  During some years I had several hundred clients. The web site was dynamic, fast, easily accessed and fairly simple. 

SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The web site operation is run from SCORE HQ in Herndon, Virginia.  Only U.S. Citizens are eligible to participate since it is heavily funded by SBA government tax dollars.  

SCORE management elected a complicated redesign of the site in 2011. The original design of the site was radically changed.  

I was part of the system conversion test team as a high volume mentor. I warned the conversion team that my tests were failing, I provided detailed data on necessary fixes. The site was rolled out in May of 2011 and crashed.  I moved on to MicroMentor to continue my volunteer work. 

I rejoined SCORE in March of 2019 principally to handle veteran cases referred to SCORE by the SBA.  I continued to conduct my Micromentor volunteer work.
To once again become a SCORE counselor,  I underwent a new member  background check and a two week training program.  I found the ability to see a client profile to whom I was not connected was gone.  SCORE management now screened mentor requests and decided which mentor should get them. 

Every exchange with an entrepreneur is required to be reported by the mentor. The number of hours expended and background provided to the entrepreneur on the content of a conversation is necessary.  A code of ethics training course on conflict interest is required every year for all mentors. 

30% of my clients now come through SCORE. These are mostly veterans and other small businesses who are pursuing small business federal government contracting and small business innovative research programs

MicroMentor is a "Two Way Street" meeting place for entrepreneurs to select a mentor and propose a mentoring relationship and vice versa. I have been a Mentor on MicroMentor for 11 years, joining the site when the SCORE web site crashed. 

MicroMentor is an extension of the world wide NGO, Mercy Corps . The MicroMentor web site operations are managed at MicroMentor facilities in Portland Oregon. 

Both mentor and entrepreneur can see each other's backgrounds and initiate the process. Thereafter, with no capacity for attachments and a perceived need for privacy by many,.the exchange generally moves to email and evolves in a manner the customer support organization does not see.

With the discontinuation of the Mentor Rating feature, MicroMentor site management gets little feedback from entrepreneurs on the quality of the help they have received unless they (the entrepreneur) make a point of commenting by contacting customer support, or  marketing and PR staffs contact individuals entrepreneurs. 

Thus, in its simplest form,  MicroMentor is a bulletin board of individuals who seek help and those who are willing to provide it if they so choose, while looking at each other's profiles.

The MicroMentor Q&A feature is a neat catalyst that promotes exchanges and offers the opportunity to exhibit entrepreneur problems, interests and challenges, as well as mentor knowledge and expertise. It fosters a healthy learning environment in itself by simple observation and allows a human interaction dynamic to occur.

Customer support and control of spamming has been superb. MicroMentor Q&A is a very under-rated feature of the site. 

MicroMentor is international. Participants throughout the world have varying outlooks and skills, based on their culture, customs, values and conditions. 
The natural dynamics of human interaction when a match occurs and when circumstances exist at the time for potential success is where mentoring succeeds. 

The system promotion, volume and reach are its greatest assets in creating the probability that positive mentoring dynamics will occur.  The ability of entrepreneurs and mentors to see one another's backgrounds and communicate directly is a major asset of the site. 

70 % of my client now come through MicroMentor. 40% of those are on the continent of Africa in multiple countries. 

Integrated Social Networking 

The vast majority of my cases over the last 16 years have come to me at both SCORE and MicroMentor from social networking on the Web. LinkedIn, in particular, is a vast reservoir of clients and referrals.

3 out of 5 MIcroMentor clients with whom I work already have a profile on LinkedIn when I begin working with them. If they do not, I suggest they create one. In my view,  a LinkedIn individual and company profile is a vital part of any small company marketing plan, since it is the largest professional business web site in the world and it is FREE.

My two blogs, "Rose Covered Glasses" and "Smalltofeds" generate mentorship users as well by referral. Both blogs are free to me  on Google except for a $10 dollar annual fee to own the "Smalltofeds" domain name. That fee has not changed in 15 years.

Were I to recommend any topic for Mentor and Entrepreneur  training, I would suggest social networking guidance. It has been, and will continue to be, the wave of the future. Why Social Network To Promote Your Small Business?

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