Shane Beard wanted a career change so he sought guidance from his local SCORE chapter about purchasing a nearby franchise. Wanting to learn the ins and outs of business, Shane had several meetings with his SCORE mentor. With help from SCORE, Shane reworked a successful business plan that allowed him to make a successful career transition.

My Successes: 

After making the purchase and completing his management training, Shane took over the Naperville Fastsigns store on April 1, 1996. In his first 12 months, he boosted the store's sales by nearly 50 percent, and has enjoyed similar success every year since.

Marketing is the lifeblood of any business. By tracking his sales, Shane has found that he gets three times as many customers through referrals as from ads or direct mail pieces—not bad for a store that didn't have the best reputation for quality before Shane took over. "I've done everything possible to get my name and face out to potential customers, and improve the quality of our products and services," he says. "I've learned that if you've earned the respect of someone, he or she will sing your praises to other people. Burt is a genuine professional, and I like to think the feeling is mutual. I'm happy to return all the favors he's done for me by helping SCORE any way I can."

How SCORE Helped: 

Developing a winning business plan was just the beginning of Shane's relationship with SCORE. He went back frequently to attend seminars on insurance, management, and other business issues. "I was always impressed with the people they brought in to talk to us," he says. "After a great seminar on insurance, I asked the speaker for his card. He replied that he hadn't come to sell his services. He simply believed in SCORE, and wanted to pass along his knowledge to other business owners. That really says something about the caliber of people associated with SCORE."

Today, Shane regularly participates in the Naperville chapter's seminars, telling other prospective entrepreneurs what they can expect in the "real world." "A lot of my customers buy signs because they're starting a new business or giving their current company a fresh look," Beard explains. "I always tell them to call SCORE. They can help someone who's just starting out, or a business that's been around for awhile." he says. "I'm glad the story generated that kind of response because SCORE is a great, yet often overlooked resource. I'm always happy to talk them up."

What's Great About My Mentor?: 

Shane had created a business plan and first went to his local SCORE for help with his plan to get financing to purchase the franchise. The SCORE mentor "massaged" a few sections, then sent Shane back to the banks. He wasn't immediately successful—some lenders questioned whether Shane could revive a franchise that had not performed well in the past few years. On his fifth try, one bank said yes. "I am so glad the mentor made those changes to my plan," Shane says. "Along with helping me get the loan, that business plan served as my calling card for securing the other services I needed, like a lawyer and a contract accountant."