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Steven Tannehill: The SBDC is filled with resources for your company

Posted: June 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2011 1:55 a.m.
 

As we struggle to work our way out of the aptly named Great Recession, one hears discussions about what California businesses need in order to improve their operating results, and whether those needs are better met somewhere else. A key responsibility of the Small Business Development Center, hosted by College of the Canyons, is to make sure that we have the proper resources in place to assist small businesses with those needs. 

In order to insure we are meeting that responsibility, the SBDC partnered with Small Business California to find out directly from small-business owners what their wants and needs are. 

Each year Small Business California conducts a statewide survey of small business owners, which many SBDC clients participate in. The results of the most recent survey contained some interesting revelations.

Answers to questions about the economy and the current business climate were uniformly pessimistic – which wasn’t much of a surprise. 

The economy was seen as poor or very poor by 79 percent of respondents; as was the business climate for small businesses. 

While there isn’t a lot the SBDC can do to directly tackle the overall business climate, our core focus of providing free technical assistance, low-cost training and other resources to small businesses can help improve a small company’s business climate.

An independent study found small businesses that received advice from an SBDC had four times the sales growth, and seven times the job growth of small businesses in general. 

Our 2010 results were consistent with this, with our clients reporting 274 jobs created and $15.7 million in sales growth, thanks in part to the assistance of our SBDC business advisors. 

We believe our major focus of providing small businesses with free and low-cost technical assistance and training plays an important role in helping small businesses deal with the challenges of the current economy.

It’s worth noting that while many respondents had an overall pessimistic view, only 28 percent of respondents felt the economy had gotten worse over the last three months.

A majority, or 72 percent, reported they felt that the economy was stable or improving, consistent with the macro view that the economy has turned a corner.

However, the Great Recession hole is so large that it’s going to take us a while to dig our way out of it.  

Further on in the survey, 13 issues affecting small businesses were listed and respondents were asked to rate them as a priority to be addressed. 

The issues listed included workers compensation, health care, state regulation, access to capital, taxes, energy costs, state infrastructure, public education and immigration.

Perhaps a little surprising was that the No. 1 issue concerning California small businesses after the economy was “the availability and rising cost of health care,” with 80 percent of respondents rating it a high or top priority. 

This is actually one of the issues we hear quite often from people starting or running a small business.

How do they provide affordable health insurance for themselves, their family and their workers when one is not part of a large group plan?

When coverage is obtained, it can be expensive with costs increasing significantly faster than inflation and faster than a business’s revenues are growing.

In response to this concern the SBDC maintains access to resources that can help businesses find solutions to their healthcare challenges. The SBDC recently sponsored a Health Insurance Solutions Conference, bringing together experts from across the health care spectrum to provide insight and answers for attendees. 

Other issues that were ranked as a top or high priority by small businesses were the quality of public education (74 percent), excessive regulation of small businesses (66 percent), repairing the state’s infrastructure (66 percent), access to capital (58 percent), reducing state taxes (58 percent) and immigration (52 percent). 

Respondents said only four issues were not a top or high priority — the cost of energy (49 percent), worker’s compensation system (45 percent), international trade (34 percent) and overtime regulations (24 percent).

The SBDC also includes experts that can help identify the best sources of capital for your firm and help you build your export business. 

Some of the items at the top of a small business’ concern list are more macro in nature. But it’s valuable for all of us as stakeholders in the California economy to recognize them as we work to make California the best place in the country to do business.

Steve Tannehill is the Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at College of the Canyons. Mr. Tannehill’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. For more information about the SBDC call (661) 362-5900, email us at sbdc@canyons.edu or visit our website at: www.cocsbdc.org

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