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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

About SBA and SCORE

Why the SBA and It’s SCORE Program Should Be Renamed.
by John S. Wren, MBA+

I’ve been interested in how businesses really start, especially the role of the Small Business Administration and it’s many offshoots, for decades.

I studied in the graduate business school at the University of Denver on-campus 1974-5. My research methods paper was a survey of the literature and an index to the advice available for people starting a small business. This was before Inc Magazine and before DU or, as far as I know any college, offered a class about startup or entrepreneurship.

 Where I learned the most about how small businesses start, aside from the 20+ years working with my father and his small business owner friends, was in my first job after graduate school. 

I had the very good fortune to be hired as Assistant-to-the-President of Outdoor Sports Industries by OSI’s founder and President Richard Olson. It was a chance to be the bosses son again.

One of the very best parts of  working with Mr. Olson (we met every week for breakfast to review the projects I was working on such as creating a newsletter for board members, the annual report and board meeting, creating a management training program for our top managers, etc.)  was the opportunity to meet and have conversations with people I’d probably never have had a chance to talk with otherwise and to learn some lessons from their direct experience.

Some of the people I got to learn from, aside from our own managers, especially the former owners of the small sporting goods companies OSI had purchased, included: former Governor of Colorado John Love, then President of Ideal Basic Industries, one of the top firms in the country at the time; Supreme Court Justice Byron White who played squash frequently with Mr. Olson;  Joe Coors;  Astronaut Wally Shira; and on and on.

It was a long list, and at the top of the list was Aksel Nielsen. He was a friend of Mr. Olson and Chancellor Maurice Mitchell who was on the OSI board with him.  Aksel Nielsen had been a close friend and financial adviser to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.[2]

Since working for OSI I’ve worked with hundreds of business founders as a consultant or as an employee, and that experience led me to start a workshop for people who wanted to start a new business in the early 90’s. Back then we called it The IDEA Association and it’s meetings were announced each week in the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, Westword, the Colorado Statesman, and the Denver Business Journal. 

 After meeting with a spiritual director at Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House in Sedalia, Colorado for years, I wrote a little booklet about startup. This is to me the key section:

The world needs your new business!

            To understand my system for starting your new business, it is necessary to first appreciate the nature of business in a capitalistic, free market economy.

            The world will always have government, big-business, and big-labor.

 Government for those things individuals cannot do for themselves. Big-business and big-labor because of certain efficiencies of scale. Unfortunately, the large scale of these three forms of bureaucratic operations leads to problems:

            1) Efficiency comes at the expense of intelligence and creativity. The large organization has a tendency to get better and better at doing what eventually is the wrong thing.

            2) Power corrupts. Governmental corruption is kept in check by our process of representative democracy. Big-business corruption is kept in check to the extent that the free market is allowed to operate. That is why big business hates competition.

            The worldview of the bureaucrat is necessarily different from that of the entrepreneur. The steps recommended here for starting a new business will not make sense to most bureaucrats.

            If you decide to work with a business mentor, it is important that you work with someone who subscribes to the following philosophy of business. This person almost always will be an independent business owner.

            Beware of seminars about how to start a new business; the most deadly advice for entrepreneurs comes from bureaucrats, public or private, active or retired.

From my little booklet on startup, “Daring Mighty Things— The Simplest Way to Start Your First (or Next) New Business” available on Amazon (click.) 

Tomorrow: Part II, Why the SBA and SCORE Should Be Renamed.

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