By Elizabeth Pou

Decisions, decisions. An aspiring small business owner will face dozens of them on the way to getting his or her enterprise started, and countless more once it’s up and running. Some solutions will seem rather obvious, while others may appear to have only “loselose” consequences. And still, others may require careful weighing of tradeoffs and compromises against both current circumstances and future scenarios.

Nobody can guarantee you’ll always make the best choice, but there are ways to make informed decisions that give you greater confidence in achieving a positive outcome. The best place to start is by finding a small business mentor to work with on a regular basis.

Asheville SCORE, the local chapter of an SBA-affiliated nationwide network of volunteer business executives and leaders, provides confidential counseling and advice to small business owners at no cost. You can meet with a SCORE volunteer mentor in person, or work with one entirely via email.

A small business mentor is someone who has done what you’re trying to do and tackled the same problems — likely several times. He or she is willing to translate that experience into advice and guidance simply for the sake of helping another entrepreneur succeed.

Sarah Benoit, owner of Creative Original, Inc. (www.AshevilleWebDesign.net ) and director of training at JB Media Group, LLC (www.JBMediaGroupLLC.com) says, “Over the years Asheville SCORE has been integral in my entrepreneurial success. The insights I’ve received have allowed me to grow professionally, have a broader perspective, and expand my vision for the future. The relationships and support system I have built are invaluable.”

Mentors also guide newcomers by asking questions and bringing up issues that may have been overlooked. Mentors also help them learn from their mistakes. Also, if a mentor doesn’t know the answer, chances are he or she knows someone else who does.

Mary Carol Koester, the artist-owner of Azalea Bindery, www.azaleabindery.com, who has worked with several Asheville SCORE mentors, says, “Running a small business has a high learning curve. SCORE introduced me to every aspect of business management.”

Elizabeth Pou, current chair of Asheville SCORE, says consulting with a SCORE mentor has never been more important.

“Our mentors bring a wide breadth of real world experience in all aspects of business, and are enthusiastic about helping small business owners” Pou says. “The quality of advice offered by SCORE has passed the test of being put into practice, and proven over and over again.”

Whether you use SCORE, or look to other sources of mentors such as Mountain Biz Works, the Support Center, A-B Tech, or other business service providers, there is simply no substitute for someone who can provide any level of assistance.