As we pass the halfway mark of 2018, there are numerous reports saying small business owners are optimistic. A few months ago I noted the Spring 2018 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report showed some of the highest levels of optimism among U.S. entrepreneurs since the survey began in 2012.
But small business owners had some concerns as well, primarily the cost of healthcare, higher interest rates and consumer spending.
So, what is the state of the U.S. small business economy these days? I put that question (and a few others) to Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA) last month, and a mega-successful entrepreneur in her own right.
Rieva Lesonsky: What’s the state of our small business economy these days?
Linda McMahon: There’s a feeling of optimism, confidence and enthusiasm among small business owners. They’re excited about the tax cuts, rollback of regulations and launch of association health plans (which will become more accessible on September 1st). [There’s more about association health plans here.]
Lesonsky: What’s the environment for getting a small biz loan now?
McMahon: With less regulation, it’s possible for the SBA, conventional lending banks, community banks and credit unions to go back to kind of lending they did. The SBA is guaranteeing more loans.
Lesonsky: You personally have long been involved with helping women entrepreneurs. What are some of the challenges we face in trying to level the playing field for fair and equal access to credit? (McMahon cofounded Women’s Leadership Live in 2016.)
McMahon: There are many women’s organizations giving support to women, to help them be more confident. And there are now 109 Women’s Business Centers (WBC) across the country, where women can get expert advice from women—and men—about what they need to do. Some of the greatest help women can get is to help them develop a good pitch.
The SBA, SCORE, the SBDCs (Small Business Development Centers) and WBCs are here to help women walk through the paces, and to advocate for them. And the SBIC [Small Business Investment Company, which is licensed by the SBA to invest in small businesses] is helping women get access to venture capital.
Lesonsky: What do we need to do in order to ensure that every small business owner has equal and fair access?
McMahon: We need to continue to break down barriers. Women are resilient and are starting more businesses. We need to help women get more loans and seed capital. We are thrilled to see more traditional lending coming from banks.
Lesonsky: You are a big believer in the value of technology and have said in previous interviews that small business entrepreneurs should embrace technology to remain competitive. I am always surprised by the fact nearly half of small businesses don’t have websites.
McMahon: I don’t know how you get started without having a website. It gives you a head up. Consumers are Googling to find out where businesses are and [what they do]. If you need to, go to your local SBDC or SCORE office to help you develop a website. It’s all free.
Lesonsky: How can we encourage more startups?
McMahon: We had a big recession and it takes recovery time to come back. But people are more confident and optimistic now, so more businesses will be starting.
I’m visiting all 68 SBA district offices to make sure the SBA is not the best kept secret in the country. [I met McMahon as she visited the Santa Ana (CA) district, her 49thtrip to a district since she began serving her term.] Small businesses should know about all the resources we have to help them start and grow. They should check us out at SBA.gov.
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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