September 2, 2014

New Chief of the SBA Says the Right Thing

Karen Mills, SBA AdministratorThe U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a new head:  Karen Mills was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on April 2, 2009.

She made this important statement about her priorities during her confirmation hearing:

Finally, we must – and I will – act as an advocate for small business across the administration. As Chair Landrieu and Ranking Member Snowe have suggested, I will coordinate with other Agencies, including Commerce, Labor and Energy, whose programs also affect small businesses.

This is exactly the kind of proactive advocacy small businesses need.

When the SBA is mentioned, usually it is in connection with SBA loans.  However, SBA loans touch a tiny  percentage of businesses.  In 2006 SBA loans accounted for just 4% of all small business credit volume, according to the Washington Post.   SBA loans simply are not very relevant to the majority of small businesses — those small businesses that everyone is so fond of saying are “the backbone of the U.S. economy.”

Then after Hurricane Katrina, a lot of the emphasis of the SBA was on disaster recovery assistance.  That too was laudable.  When you have a natural disaster, helping those in need is the right thing to do.  But again, the impact on the broader small business base was limited.

Karen Mills has a great opportunity here to bring to the SBA a more proactive, out-in-front leadership style that touches millions of small businesses, not just tens of thousands.

Some suggested priorities for an SBA Chief would be to:

  • help simplify government regulations and reduce growth-stifling bureaucracy,
  • give positive input to the IRS to help simplify tax issues for small businesses and work to be heard in Congress to minimize taxes so that businesses can instead hire and make capital purchases,
  • make government contracting for small businesses more than name-only,
  • invest further in key self-help resources for small businesspeople, such as increased support for Small Business Development Centers and excellent Web-based resources like Business.gov; and
  • work to make healthcare more affordable for small business owners and employees – the most important priority of all.

These are issues that touch millions of small business owners and their employees each day.

The choice of Karen Mills for this role was puzzling, given her background as a venture capitalist.  But if she focuses on being a proactive change agent, and views the world through the small business owner’s eyes rather than through a VC’s eyes, then she can do some real good for small businesses. Then she will be more relevant to small businesses than some of her predecessors.  I look forward to Karen Mills’ leadership of the SBA.

15 Comments ▼
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Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

15 Reactions

  1. Anita,
    I like the fact that the new SBA Chief is a woman. Women bring a different feel for things to the table, and in my experience, can be more open to trying new things out that will bring positive change to a situation.

    I wish her the best of luck!

    {Dear Karen, The franchise industry needs some help!}

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  2. Hi Anita,

    I believe the majority of small businesses view the SBA as an after-thought, if they think of it at all. It would be great to see this organization play a larger role in supporting small business. Best wishes to Ms. Mills in leading the SBA in this direction.

  3. Anita,

    I agree with your statement:

    “help simplify government regulations and reduce growth-stifling bureaucracy,”

    Did you check out OverLawyered.com?

  4. It’s not clear to me why her background as a venture capitalist might make her less qualified than others. In fact, her VC experience of assessing the potential of businesses and evaluating the obstacles they all face probably makes her MORE qualified.

    The real question you should ask is why she took the job. I don’t know her, but I suspect she did it because she wants to make a difference. She is now in the perfect position to do so.

    Let’s support her however we can… our small businesses can use a more effective SBA!

  5. Congratulations to Karen Mills and her laudable initiatives. But seeing is believing! (I just heard from a small business which was denied a SBA loan because of an arrest 10 years ago.)God bless America!

  6. Great!
    Hopefully she is able to create effective matches of prime contractors with small businesses. The SBA has all our info, why not provide automatic short lists to government buyers for each open bid out there…

  7. i do not think Anita said Mills was unqualified. here’s the problem with VC’s, they want to take risks on a handfull of cos. and do not care about the dry cleaners or mom and pop restaurants or marinas or web design firms. She’s not who i would have picked.

  8. Martha said “Hopefully she is able to create effective matches of prime contractors with small businesses.”

    A company I work with, mySBX, is working on doing just that. Lockheed is first large prime to use the network… and several others are in discussion phase.

  9. Finally, a breath of fresh air. I’m excited to see what else Ms Mills has in store for the SBA.

  10. Good luck to Karen. Let’s hope she can make improvements to better serve our needs.

  11. Amen to your points about reducing the red-tape and bureaucracy. Many small businesses are regulated right out of existence.

  12. Great to see a focus on helping small business beyond a SBA loan. While the loans are important, the SBDCs help over a million small businesses a year through a variety of great resources and tools. In other words, the SBDCs are an important front line that has their fingers on the pulse of small business and the issues they face to survive and thrive.

    The goals of ASBDC are much in alignment with my business, which is to help small business remain competitive in this complex and ever changing environment.

    It is for this reason that we were recently added to the ASDCNet small business technology Marketplace among only a few other best in class solutions. Our software optimizes inventory at peak financial performance, reacting to the ever changing business conditions.

    We turn inventory into a competitive advantage and look forward to supporting the SBDC by offering a special discount.

    http://sbdcnet.org/offers/phitch-oc-9.0.php

    http://sbdcnet.org/website-information/sbdcnets-small-business-technology-marketplace-to-feature-the-phitch-oc.php

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