Small businesses around the U.S. that may be struggling to develop a plan to utilize artificial intelligence (AI) tools in making their businesses more efficient and scalable can turn to the Small Business Administration’s SCORE program.
The SCORE program offers free mentorship services and workshops to small business owners and entrepreneurs around the country, and it will be offering a webinar for small businesses looking to implement AI next week. SCORE’s business mentors are volunteers with experience in entrepreneurship or other aspects of business operations.
A recent SCORE workshop found that while 70% of small business owners are aware of AI tools, only 40% are actively utilizing them in their business. Paul Ohlson, a small business owner and SCORE mentor with the program’s Fox Valley chapter, told FOX Business that most small businesses are still learning how AI tools work and haven’t yet incorporated them into their business processes.
"The ones who are implementing it, for the most part they’re just implementing the text-based or content-based AI tools like ChatGPT – there’s a bunch of tools like that – but the ones who will basically write content for them, like for their blog, their newsletter or their website," Ohlson said. "That’s how most of them are using it, although you do have some that are using some of the prospecting tools to help automate prospecting, that’s really helpful."
Ohlson said AI helps small businesses "do a lot of things without hiring a lot of people," which gives them the ability to scale in a more cost-effective manner.
He noted that AI tools exist to help small business owners analyze their finances, optimize their marketing and sales strategies, keep tabs on the competition and even draft contracts or other legal language. However, he cautioned that AI is imperfect and users should still check its work and consult an attorney to review any legal documents it helps produce.
For small businesses with just a few employees and sole proprietorships, AI can be a particularly useful tool to grow the business.
"So many businesses are sole proprietors, just one person running a business, and you take a lot of valuable time away from bringing in revenue when you have to focus on customer service or your paperwork or your finances or something like that," Ohlson said. "And so when you can bring in AI tools that will automate those things, that’s how it really helps you to scale."
"Technology scares a lot of business owners, so they just end up avoiding it. But when you have a resource like SCORE, which has professionals who can help walk you through these things, then use it. … There’s so much knowledge at SCORE, and as a SCORE mentor, I don’t have to know everything. Why? Because I have an army of other SCORE mentors all across the nation that I can contact and pull into a call with a client, and so you have every aspect of business knowledge at your fingertips when you work with SCORE," Ohlson said.
SCORE’s free webinar on "How to Effectively Use Artificial Intelligence in Your Business" will be held on July 25 at 1 p.m. EDT.
The webinar is expected to cover how AI functions and its potential applications, a six-step process for implementing AI tools in businesses, and actionable strategies for using AI in prospecting, negotiation and closing deals to drive business growth.
The SBA says that since SCORE’s founding in 1964, the service has helped more than 11 million entrepreneurs start, grow or successfully exit a business. SCORE has 10,000 expert volunteers providing mentoring, resources and education in all 50 U.S. states and its territories.