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Program offers free consulting for business owners

Posted September 8, 2009

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— Wake County has around 17,000 small businesses coping with slumping sales during the down economy. Many owners could benefit from industry advice, but consultants can be expensive. However, there is a place where business counseling is free.

Carl Hobson turned to Raleigh SCORE for free advice on his Wake Forest company.

“It is tough to be a businessman,” Hobson said.

Hobson, a former software engineer and National Guard soldier, started Triad Equipment in 2005. The company rents and sells mowers, blowers and trimmers to homeowners and contractors.

“It was deep water and I jumped right into it,” Hobson said of the venture.

Times got tougher in 2008 when rentals took a dive. Tenants who shared a building with Hobson also folded.

Despite the setbacks, Hobson wanted to expand his business but needed advice. Raleigh SCORE counselors were there to help.

“I'm a big fan of small business and entrepreneurship,” said Bill Zinno, a SCORE counselor.

Zinno, who has years of industry and corporate experience, began counseling for Raleigh SCORE after he retired. The non-profit group has 60 retired or working professionals who volunteer to counsel small businesses and start-ups throughout the Triangle.

Zinno met with Hobson every Friday for about 10 weeks.

“I told him what I was thinking about doing. He listened to that and helped me to identify risks associated with it,” Hobson said.

“When he had suggestions or ideas, typically I would offer alternatives,” Zinno said.

The free counseling is netting results for Hobson. Retail sales are up 60 percent, while repairs are up 80 percent.

“And this was a result of the plan Bill helped me with,” Hobson said.

Hobson said he will continue to tap Zinno's expertise through the spring.

“I'm going to bounce some plans off of him,” Hobson said.

Any small business owner or aspiring entrepreneur can meet with counselors from Raleigh SCORE at the Cameron Village library. They are there every Wednesday. Call 919-856-4739 for more information.


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