Small Business Development Center Interview
Recently, Earl Toms decided to return to college and finish a couple of courses. It has been a long time since I was in college. It has also been a long time since I had to study for that matter. I have been successful in my Real Estate career. There wasn’t a need to take the couple of classes needed to earn the degree. It is considered unfinished business. We all have that one thing in our lives that we wish we finished. My decision to complete my degree came a couple of years after the passing of my mother. The degree was always just a piece of paper to me. To my mother, it was ensuring her child would succeed in the professional arena. So, I’m finishing it.
In order to finish my degree, I am required to take a course on Entrepreneurship. An assignment for the class is to interview an organization that helps small businesses. To complete the assignment a blog post summarizing the interview is required. Since Earl Toms is about helping entrepreneurs, I thought why not bring this information to this community.
(Note to my professor – 2 birds, 1 stone. The Earl Toms community thanks you)
When I was preparing for this interview, I began asking myself what information I wished I had as a new business owner/entrepreneur. What would I have done differently if I knew more about business when I was starting out? This is the theme for this website in general. We pass on the lessons learned over the years along with the tools necessary to be successful in Real Estate.
I decided to interview the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Every mid-major to major MSA has an SBDC. It’s a free resource for small business. Hopefully, after reading this entry you will speak to your local center. They may be willing and able to help more than you could imagine.
The SBDC was founded after two professors saw a need for combining the resources of higher education, government, and the private sector to support the development of small businesses. William Flewellen, Jr. (Georgia) and Reed Powell (Cal State Polytechnic) both served on the SBA advisory board when they realized the lack of resources for start-ups and small business. They do not help people that need credit counseling. That was part of the answer I received when asking about the services offered. I didn’t understand why it was mentioned but I digress.
In order to qualify for advisory assistance with the SBDC your business needs to be considered small by SBA standards. If it meets this requirement you only need to register online to meet with an advisor. The advisor will conduct an initial needs assessment. If the advisor determines you are ready, they will assist you starting and growing your business. This is a free service if I haven’t mentioned it. If it is determined a person/business isn’t ready for assistance they will direct, you to an upcoming training event. This is also a free service.
If you are approved for advisory services you get use of many resources at the location that includes; meeting rooms, private offices, phone and internet services. You also receive individual time with your advisor to discuss your business. They give you the resources to grow and act as coaches/fans teaching you what it takes to become successful while being a fanbase cheering you on as you go.
This leads me to the question I asked that made me laugh. I didn’t mean to, but the answer was so direct it was impossible not to laugh. My question was, “How many people have you helped that ended up being successful?” Then came the answer I wasn’t prepared for, “Define successful. By helping an entrepreneur determine that cashing in life savings and getting a second mortgage on their primary residence is a bad idea, we consider that a success.” I would have to agree with the answer. It was the only time I got a straight answer that was to the point during the interview. I prefer direct conversation. It seems when the discussion turned to money and financial well-being it hit a sore spot. I imagine they see many people and companies that come to them after they started their business hoping they could get them out of the trouble they were in.
One question that wasn’t in my original notes to ask was about women-owned businesses. I recently read somewhere that women-owned businesses were not only on the rise but were starting a skyrocketing pace. Currently, the SBDC has about 40% of their clients being women-owned businesses. They are proactively pursuing female entrepreneurs and business owners. Their reasoning is simple. They are typically more detailed-oriented and take fewer substantial risks. Their success rate is approximately 60% higher than that of men.
In conclusion, I learned a lot about the SBDC. It is a valuable resource for start-ups and small businesses. It’s not a widely known resource though. I wish I would have known about it when I started my business. I can think of many mistakes I made along the way that likely could have been avoided if I knew the resource and assistance existed. The SBDC doesn’t discriminate against anyone. They will help every person in some form that reaches out to them for help. The only people/businesses they turn away are those that have been debarred from conducting business with the government.
Even though I have been in business for a long time I believe I may reach out to them for advisory in the future. We all have mentors or should have mentors but to have a voice that doesn’t have an emotional attachment would be beneficial in my opinion. I recommend every person that reads this entry reach out to the SBDC if they are a business owner or considering starting a business. Especially, Real Estate. It moves so quickly that it’s easy to be caught up in the moment and make a life altering mistake that could have easily been avoided. The SBDC will help you with the pace of your business. In Real Estate, that is vital to your success.