Advice for Business Owners

Entrepreneurship is the lifeblood of the economy, and on Martha’s Vineyard that’s even more true than places where big factories or institutions create jobs. To make it here often means going it alone.

But the would-be Island small businessman need not be without guidance. The Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) lends advice and counsel free of charge. The Vineyard group is part of Cape Cod SCORE, which in turn is part of a 364-chapter organization with 13,000 volunteers “dedicated to educating entrepreneurs and helping small businesses to start, grow and succeed,” according to the group’s website,

Bob Iadicicco of Oak Bluffs is a longtime counselor and the organization’s education director for the Island. A retired electrical engineer who also worked as an administrator for law firms, Bob says SCORE has about seven counselors on-Island, and “some of these counselors have tremendous business experience, international experience.”

For someone with a great idea who wants to go from concept to cash, the process begins with a phone call or e-mail to SCORE to set up a meeting with counselors (508-696-9687, The counselors, who work in pairs based on their areas of expertise, listen to the pitch, give their opinions, and encourage the aspirational entrepreneur to write up a business plan – key to the process, since no bank will loan start-up funds without one. But even more, says Bob, “The business plan forces them to...solidify their own ideas, and write it down.”

After the initial business plan is reviewed and improved, the counselors critique the business plan a second time, sometimes soliciting opinions from a banker. Bob says Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank and Edgartown National Bank both work with SCORE, and sometimes refer loan applicants to the organization for help. Bob is also careful to note: “The applicant does all the work. We guide them, we help them, but they do all the work.”

Bob says that of every ten phone calls they receive, six or seven result in a meeting, three or four move on to writing a business plan, and only one or two end up in a business. But Bob sees value in that winnowing process. “I always count as successes those people who come to us with an idea...but then decide it’s not a great idea,” he says. “We keep them from going into debt. But we don’t often say, ‘This is not a good idea.’ We ask important questions and let them work it out.”

Bob rattles off a few Island businesses who’ve used SCORE to help get started and have grown into Island institutions: EduComp, Rainy Day, Eden Market and Garden Center, the Mansion House, just in Vineyard Haven alone.

Even after a business is up and running, the would-be capitalist is not left standing alone: Counselors can provide a continuing “sounding board” for all aspects of business.

SCORE also sponsors classes: a six-week class in “Successful Small Business Management” (the next one begins October 10), “Computers – Beyond the Basics” (March 11, 2013), and a class on Excel and QuickBooks, popular spreadsheet and bookkeeping software (November 20). The classes, which each cost $135, are held annually and “give people something they can use.” Bob says SCORE counselors find great satisfaction in helping the Vineyard business community. “We enjoy it, and we enjoy each other.”

Q: How has SCORE helped your business?

A: Warren Holmberg, owner of Leslie’s Drug Store in Vineyard Haven, consulted with the group eight years ago. “They are a fabulous organization,” he says. “Exceptional.” After working as a pharmacist at Leslie’s for thirteen years, Warren learned that owner Les Leland was going to sell the business. Warren decided he wanted to buy it but knew he needed help, “because I had absolutely no business knowledge aside from the day-to-day stuff.” The counselors helped him through the process of writing a plan, getting a loan, and negotiating the sale. Warren said he was particularly grateful for the help he received from the late Art Flathers, a long-time SCORE counselor. “They had the expertise, and they did an incredible job....They were instrumental in me getting comfortable and having a successful business.”