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Steven Tannehill: What do businesses want anyway? Part I

Posted: April 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Steven Tannehill  Steven Tannehill 
Steven Tannehill 

This column is part one of a two-part column.

As we finally begin to work our way out of the aptly named Great Recession, one hears discussions about what California businesses need to improve their operating results, and whether those needs and wants are better met somewhere else (can you say Texas?).

A key responsibility of the Small Business Development Center, SBDC, a business consulting and training center hosted by College of the Canyons, is making sure that we have the proper resources in place to assist small businesses with their needs.

In order to insure we are meeting that responsibility, the SBDC partners with non-partisan small business advocacy groups like Small Business Majority and Small Business California, SB-Cal, to find out directly from small business owners what their wants and needs are.

SB-Cal conducts a state-wide survey of small businesses every year which many SBDC clients participate in. SB-Cal released the results of the most recent survey, and there were some interesting findings.

Answers to questions about the economy and the current business climate remain largely pessimistic; however they show an improvement from prior years. The economy was seen as poor or very poor by 55 percent of respondents (an improvement of 24 percent from the last time we reported on this); while the business climate for small businesses was seen as poor or very poor by 70 percent of respondents, a small improvement (9 percent) from the last time we reported on this topic.

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

An independent study found that SBDC advised small businesses had four times the sales growth and seven times the job growth of small businesses in general. Our 2012 results were consistent with this, with our clients reporting 937 jobs created or retained and $19MM in sales growth with the assistance of their SBDC Business Advisor.

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

It’s worth noting that while their overall view was pessimistic, only 24cpercent of respondents felt the economy had gotten worse over the last three months, with the majority (76 percent) reporting it was stable or improving, consistent with the macro view that the economy has turned the corner.

Further on in the survey, thirteen issues affecting small businesses were listed and respondents were asked to rate them as a priority to be addressed. The issues listed included workers comp, health care, state regulation, access to capital, taxes, energy costs, state infrastructure, public education and immigration.

In my next column, I’ll report on how they were ranked, and some thoughts on their implication for small business owners.

Steven Tannehill is the Executive Director of the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) hosted by College of the Canyons. For more information about the SBDC please visit or call (661) 362-5900. To make an appointment with an SBDC business advisor please email Our consulting services are provided at no cost to the small business community.



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