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SCORE protege becomes the mentor

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That SCORE can help at several junctures is something for entrepreneurs to consider, Halverson notes. “A lot of people think SCORE is just there to help you get started, but they are there if you have a bad startup and you need help. They are there when issues arise throughout. Owning a small business is no easy road to walk. There is always something that comes up, and the mentors there have experienced so many different scenarios over the years that their advice is incredibly sound.”

Halverson, herself, became a SCORE counselor to repay a debt of gratitude. “I had such an awful start. It was just terrible. By all rights, I should have closed my doors three months after I opened, and I’m still here. I just decided that after 30 years in business, it was more than time for me to give back and help other startups. So, I’ve gone full circle with SCORE.”

One of the main beneficiaries is Martin, who has been better able to focus his startup venture. Since he has had a variety of experiences, it could be easy to get tugged in several directions, but he’s been able to avoid that thanks to Halverson’s guidance.

“SCORE is helping me define and refine those experiences so that I can get a clear message out of what I want to say to an audience,” he states, “and they are helping me take the right path into making the contacts that I would like to make. So, they are very good at packaging me so that I really can define who I am.”

Most of the time, SCORE counselors are helping people in their 20s who want to go into business for themselves. Martin’s situation is a bit different because even though he has something to offer, time isn’t exactly on his side, so Halverson’s help is invaluable even though she’s in a different line of work. “Our businesses are quite different, but the fundamental idea of how to make a business prosperous and successful are very much the same,” Martin explains. “She has a wonderful history of growing step by step and reinventing herself as she goes along the way, and that has really helped me tremendously.

“Her constant advice to me, and it’s good advice, is to take your time, take the proper steps in order, and don’t jump directly into the big leagues until you have mastered the process to climb up into it. So, she’s been very, very good at that.”

Martin’s nature is reflected in his first book, titled Play Hard – Have Fun: A Philosophy for Life. A second book, already titled Take the Stage: Leadership Lessons from the Theater, is being written as Martin works to build his business. Given his experience and his research, Martin doesn’t take issue with the notion that skills used in theatrical work are everyday business skills, as well.

“You cannot go into any organization and not find some kind of drama, so I’m taking the artificial drama of theater and having people relate to that experience,” Martin explains. “I talk about how that can influence what you do at work and how you handle a tough organizational challenge. In the theater, we have rehearsals, and my job as director is to encourage, to give criticism, to give notes to people about their performance. How can I do that effectively, without raising their anxiety level, and get the very best possible performance out of them?”

A little free advice

Halverson is one of 50 current or retired business operators that serve as business counselors for the Madison Chapter of SCORE, which is one of 350 nationwide. Their wisdom is provided free of charge, and the notion of getting free help from a business operator who has been through the ringer herself is something that Martin is grateful for.

“I was a little taken aback by it. I was surprised,” he acknowledges. “One of the things I love to do is research, so when I first heard about this, I did a lot of research about this organization to make sure it was legitimate. I did look into things like how much of a surprise am I going to get at the end of this in terms of how much it’s going to cost? And there wasn’t any.

“These are experienced businesspeople who want to share their business knowledge with neophytes like me,” he adds. “Now, I’ve been in a business, in a career, for a long time but not in this particular business that I’m just trying to start. So, yes, I said hallelujah! What a wonderful thing for experienced business people to do, to want to give back to the new people starting up.”

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