Financial advisors often find themselves consulting to successful entrepreneurs about how to continue to grow their assets after the business has been sold or taken over through a carefully planned succession strategy. But developing a small business (defined here as having less than $50 million in annual revenues) is not so simple.
After the initial burst of business success and survival in the first three years, many small businesses encounter struggles that can leave them feeling isolated. What can assist a 30-year old consulting firm whose personal presence and paper products face a changing world of electronic presence and high travel costs by helping them with development of electronic products? What can encourage a small playground equipment manufacturer to move from $1 million to $2 then $5 million in annual revenues by helping her with facility expansion issues? What can help a successful cookie baker beat the competition through strategic partners, cause marketing and high tech kitchen equipment?
Small Business Development Centers can.
According to the Small Business Administration these SBDC's gave face-to-face help to more than 247,000 clients last year. A treasury of business answers lies waiting and ready to assist at 1,100 top colleges and universities across the United States, according to the SBA. These centers are funded by a combination of federal, state and local government monies as well as with private sector dollars.
Here are just few examples from the State of Wisconsin. The University of Wisconsin at Whitewater hosts a Small Business Development Center at www.uwwsbdc.com Its email is firstname.lastname@example.org This center is also affiliated with the Wisconsin Innovation Service Center, that "takes pride in an extremely high rate of client satisfaction...nearly 75% of clients have been referred by former clients and professionals. The Wisconsin Innovation Service Center charges an "affordable fee" to provide companies with enough information for improved product and market development decisions.
A few diverse examples of this university-related treasury of successes include these:
- A local gardener gained international attention for a unique gardening tool.
- An innovative drywall finishing product offers significant benefits over competition.
- A new product helps a honey producer grow.
- A business in the electrical equipment industry finds new customer segments.
- Investors and inventors find value in a flooring company start-up.
- An environmental product company breaks past the $15 million mark with a new product.
- An ornithology hobby becomes a successful business venture.
- An outdoor equipment manufacturer finds a potential acquisition.
- Customer purchase decisions and perceptions are revealed to a manufacturer.
- An automotive aftermarket tool gains distribution outlets across the U.S.
- A "hot" tool is offered to the propane and plumbing industries.
Part of the success of these entrepreneurs and a couple of hundred thousand others is due to the one-on-one relationship of these advisors with their entrepreneurial clients. Developing business plans, wading through loan applications, securing critical market research, exploring product design options, identifying a lasting competitive edge---these are typical of the services that SBDC's can provide to the entrepreneur.
These services are nothing to be sneezed at. In another state, South Carolina, the economic impact on the state's economy in 2005 alone was $86 million, resulting in a return on investment of $121.11 for every dollar of state funding, according to Regional Director Jill Burroughs as quoted in the Greenville News. Further explaining the power of the program, Burroughs said that breaks down to $45.7 million in capital formation, 1038 jobs created, nearly $25 million in wages paid, $869,000 in additional sales taxes and $15 million in contracts awarded to 381 businesses.
SBDC's are located in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, Samoa and the US Virgin Islands. If you conservatively cut the impact of South Carolina in half and multiplied by the 50 states, you would have a $2.1 BILLION impact.
This is a powerful treasury of real riches that spills over to the rest of the economy from the struggles of entrepreneurs who refused to let their dreams be defeated by the obstacles they encountered. They got help.
By Simone J. Nathan, author of “Going for Gold After 50: An Illustrated Guide to High Probability Investing,” and Managing Partner of GA50, Inc., founded to increase savings sensibility and add quality to longevity.