En español | For three decades, David White earned his livelihood as a technician in a huge chemical plant. Working 12-hour shifts all those years, he dreamed of being his own boss.
"I never liked working in the chemical plant," said White, 57, of Bristol, Tenn. "I wanted my own business."
Taking early retirement a decade ago, White jumped at the chance. Today, he owns a thriving business, a Heaven's Best carpet-cleaning franchise.
White credits much of his success to expert business counseling from SCORE, a nationwide nonprofit association that pairs aspiring businessmen and -women with mentors, most of them retirees, who have extensive real-world experience. Close to 445,000 clients met with SCORE mentors or attended SCORE workshops in the past year.
White credits his mentor, Gary McGeough, with giving him lots of ideas "that a new businessperson needs to know" — pointers about negotiating the contract for his franchise, the facility location and the area of service, for instance.
McGeough, 63, had a long career in offshore oil exploration and aerospace, then spent 10 years running his own business installing Murphy beds in California. In 1998, he sold the business, retired to Tennessee and started volunteering at SCORE, where he has counseled hundreds of would-be entrepreneurs.
'Do what you say you'll do'
McGeough offers deceptively simple advice: "So many people don't do what they say they'll do. I learned that if you actually do what you say you'll do, you can be a success. That's what David's doing."
When White first approached SCORE for advice, he knew generally what he wanted in a business: something that would keep him not at a desk but up on his feet, moving. He liked the idea of having corporate support through a franchise. He chose carpet cleaning, even though he'd never cleaned a carpet, because it would keep him going to different locations.
He now works five days a week, roughly 9 to 5, cleaning carpets at homes, offices, colleges and even on boats and airplanes. He has one full-time and two part-time employees, but he still goes out himself on every job to check quality.
"It's been great," he said, although he concedes starting his own business wasn't easy, especially the first three years when he often worked nights.
White earns the highest compliment from his mentor, who says, "I use his services every chance I get."