Candidates need to show they know small businesses are critical to economy: SCORE CEO

Ken Yancey would like to see the presidential candidates start talking small business. “It’s important that they recognize that small business owners are critical to our economy, particularly to job and wealth creation. It would be great if they could demonstrate a knowledge of that,” Yancey says. SCORE CEO Ken Yancey

Yancey is CEO of SCORE, a non-profit network of 13,000 seasoned business professionals who provide free mentoring to small business owners and entrepreneurs at 364 chapters across the U.S. In 2010, SCORE volunteers helped businesses to create 71,000 new jobs and 58,000 new businesses nationwide. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the Small Business Administration, Yancey notes that the cost to the taxpayer of SCORE's work was $117 per business and $98 per job.

Yahoo! Small Business Advisor spoke with Yancey about key election and congressional issues affecting small businesses right now.

Yahoo! Small Business Advisor: When asked to name the Republican Presidential candidate who would be best for supporting small business, 20 percent of respondents to a recent Yahoo! survey of small business owners said “none” and another 20 percent were undecided. What do you think any of the candidates could do to win over small business owners?

Ken Yancey: I don’t think anybody right now is really talking that much about small business. They could talk about some of the changes legislatively or otherwise that they would make to minimize the challenge of owning your own business. There are so many different things. Some of the things they’re talking about now probably have impact on small business owners, but they’re not highlighting that. There are a lot of big, complex business issues that these guys need to focus on, and it probably won’t occur till they start squaring off nominee-to-nominee rather than just within the party.

We’re all pleased that within Congress, the President’s office, and politics in general the term “small business” is used far more now than it was 10 years ago. We’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s a lot of progress to be made and there’s a lot of value that our country and our communities can benefit from. 

Yahoo!: Newt Gingrich in particular has focused on how regulations imposed by the Dodd-Frank bill are standing in the way of business growth. Do you agree?

Yancey: There’s a lot of legislation out there that has had a devastating impact on small business. We need an assessment of that impact and we need changes made where they can be. We’re holding a 15-person million-dollar business to the same standard that we might hold a 500-person hundred-million-dollar business. Those things just don’t equate.

Issues can be addressed differently in a smaller environment. There are financial issues with banks. There are issues that relate to environmental protection. There are safety rules from OSHA that make sense and certainly protect workers but are very, very difficult for small business owners to deploy given the way that the laws are written.

The SBA has an ombudsman now who is supposed to be representing small businesses on issues like that. The SBA’s Chief Counsel for Advocacy, Winslow Sargeant, is reviewing legislation and weighing in on its potential negative impact on small business in hopes that there will be less detrimental impact on small business from enacted legislation. Is it enough? Probably not. Is anybody really reviewing legislation on the books? Probably not. And let’s face it, even if they were, the likelihood that Congress could agree and make changes in a bipartisan manner right now is very suspect.

Yahoo!: Crowdfunding legislation has recently gotten bipartisan support in Congress. What’s your take on that?

Yancey: I think it’s important that this be enacted. This crowdfunding opportunity has come about as a result of the challenges that small business owners face in raising capital to start or expand their business. The purpose of the legislation is to change some of the SEC rules as they relate to an investor’s ability to invest in a business. You’d be shocked to know that the SEC manages and governs who can invest and how much they can invest in terms of real dollars as well as a percentage of their own net worth. This law changes those rules making it easier for qualified investors to invest in small companies.

The bill passed by the House says that an individual can’t invest more than $100,000 or 10 percent of his or her own net worth in a single company. But in these crowdfunding opportunities you’ll have investors who might put in $1,000 or $2,000, and you have companies that might only need $25,000 or $50,000 or $100,000. To provide access to that money in a way that holds the business accountable and could make an acceptable return to an investor makes all the sense in the world.

Today there are sites that offer free resources and information that allow people to participate in crowdfunded investing within the law, but it’s not as widely known or as simple and convenient as it will be once this legislation is passed.

Your readers would just Google “crowdfunding.” But be very careful. Make sure you know what and whom you’re dealing with. Look at the reviews and get some references. This is a big deal. Making a mistake in this area could be devastating, but for those who have done the homework there are some ways to get this done.

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