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New SBA Chief: Reimagining the Agency in a Time of Budget Cuts

Tidbits from former WWE CEO Linda McMahon at a Small Business Breakfast


Part of the America’s Entrepreneurs Special Report

Curious to smell what the new U.S. Small Business Administrator (SBA) Linda McMahon is cooking for America’s entrepreneurs, I went to hear her answer questions at this morning’s WCBS Newsradio 880 Small Business Breakfast in Parsippany, N.J.

The upshot: “What I want is to remarket and reposition the SBA” over the next year, said the former CEO and co-founder of WWE (once known as World Wrestling Entertainment). “SBA Reimagined is our phrase.” She’s renaming her team’s marketing leadership conference as the Spark Conference and will follow it up with an Ignition Tour.

The SBA Chief’s Listening Tours

McMahon — who said President Trump appointed her because she had built a business — told the audience that she and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin plan to cross the country on “listening tours.” The goal: to hear small business owners talk about what they want from regulatory reform and tax reform. “We want to aggregate as much information as we can, so the reforms take the right steps,” she said.

One thing I learned early on after going bankrupt and losing everything is stick to what you know.

— SBA Administrator Linda McMahon

McMahon also “wants to make the public aware of all our [SBA’s] counseling and mentoring opportunities,” such as its SCORE program where retired small business executives provide free advice. She calls these kinds of programs ways to offer “a little wind beneath the wings,” adding that they are “more valuable than access to capital in some cases.”

Budget Issues at the SBA

The question is: Will McMahon have the money to provide them?

The Trump administration has submitted a roughly 5 percent budget cut from the SBA’s meager $826.5 million funding for fiscal year 2018. Most of those cuts, according to Forbes “would come from the various counseling and entrepreneurial development programs that the SBA supports.” And, Forbes noted, the budget’s call to maintain $28 million in microloan financing and technical assistance (for very small, low-income businesses) actually “would represent a cut in lending by 20 percent from this year.”

When an audience member from the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship asked McMahon about potential SBA funding cutbacks for the agency’s 100 Women Business Centers, the SBA Administrator punted.

“Budgets are difficult, especially when there are expected budget reductions,” she said. “What we have been doing at SBA is to look at what programs are duplicative and looking at consolidating. If they’re not efficient and effective, we need to get rid of those programs to free up other funds.”

McMahon on Women Business Owners

Speaking about women business owners, McMahon said she believes they are often “not as confident in presenting themselves as their male counterparts.”

But, she added, female entrepreneurs “have great confidence in their ideas and their business acumen and about what they want to do.”

How Small Business Owners Are Feeling

The Small Business Breakfast’s audience members seemed especially chipper about how things were going at their ventures. About half the hands rose after WCBS small business reporter and breakfast host Joe Connolly asked whether their businesses were up. He then let some of them talk about why times have been  good for them lately. “This is more upbeat than we normally hear,” he said.

But a much smaller group said they’re currently hiring. That reflected today’s Labor Department’s announcement of just 138,000 new jobs added across America in May, which was lower than expected.

‘A Very Humbling Experience’

At the breakfast, McMahon scored points talking candidly about a tough time she and her husband (WWE co-founder Vince McMahon) faced during their entrepreneurial careers.

“One thing I learned early on after going bankrupt and losing everything is stick to what you know. We didn’t stick to what we knew, for a minute, and tried to get into a whole different business we knew nothing about. It didn’t work. We lost our home and my car was repossessed in the driveway. That’s a very humbling experience,” she said.

2 Tips from the SBA Administrator for Entrepreneurs:

Two more of McMahon’s tips for entrepreneurs from the breakfast:

“You have to deliver on your product or service and let people know you’re there and that you want to hear from your customers.”

“Having entrepreneurial spirit means you have to take a bit of risk. But please make sure you understand about cash-flow management. Not every week will be as good as the week before. Many weeks, Vince and I didn’t take paychecks, so other people could get paid.”

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Richard Eisenberg
By Richard Eisenberg
Richard Eisenberg is the Senior Web Editor of the Money & Security and Work & Purpose channels of Next Avenue and Managing Editor for the site. He is the author of How to Avoid a Mid-Life Financial Crisis and has been a personal finance editor at Money, Yahoo, Good Housekeeping, and CBS MoneyWatch.@richeis315

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