IV. SBDC OPERATIONS
The SBDC accomplishes the goals of its mission by serving as a focal point for the coordination of federal, state, local, university and private resources to aid small businesses. Each year, the Cooperative Interagency Agreement or Contract Agreement establishes a “service area”. No SBDC competes with other service areas, as each serves a separate and distinct population, except in cases where a client chooses to seek services outside of his/her service area or when client needs exceed local center capabilities.
All centers are required to operate within the guidelines of the mission of the network. this includes all activities, other programs or grants operated under the SBDC organization, or its auspices. The Colorado SBDC mission is: to be an effective, efficient, highly regarded small business assistance network to integrate and further the vision of the SBDC. To carry out this mission, the Colorado SBDC has set the following goals:
- Create and retain jobs
- Increase revenue and profitability
- Increase capital investment/capital formation
- Increase business success rates
- Increase the number of government contracts to small businesses
- To be recognized as a key contributor to the economic development of the state
- Increase business starts
- Increase cluster industries
- Increase long-term clients hours
- Maintain high client satisfaction hours
A. STATEMENT OF WORK
Federal regulations required the SBDCs to provide prospective and existing small business persons and entities with counseling, training and specialized services concerning the formation, financing, management and operation of small businesses. The services offered should be periodically assessed through the network strategic planning process to keep pace with changing small business needs. To the extent possible, SBDCs should utilize other federal, state and local government programs assisting small businesses.
Federal regulations prohibit charging fees to clients for counseling services. However, centers may charge reasonable fees for services beyond the scope of normal counseling to recover the costs associated therein. Examples of acceptable services to charge for include copying services and market research surveys.
A customer is anyone who approaches the center for business assistance or information. This includes contacts via phone, mail, or e-mail.
Clients must meet SBA’s definition of a small business. SBA’s definition of a small business is complex, based upon sales, profits, type of business, and number of employees. For general purposes, the Colorado SBDC client population is defined as “potential entrepreneurs and businesses with less than 500 employees”. This is the reason the Colorado SBDC network is said to serve existing and prospective, small and medium-sized businesses.
To be a client, a customer of the SBDC must have received at least one hour of counseling and have a signed Form 641 Request for Counseling. See Appendix D-2 for SBA Form 641. This can be an electronic signature captured when the client fills out the electronic request for consulting (eRFC). Also refer to Section V. Counseling, A.1. Recording Counseling Hours. Centers are required to strive to make their client population reflect the demographics of their service area, particularly in the areas of race, ethnicity, sex and income. See the present year Program Announcement for definitions.
C. PROGRAM SCOPE
- The following program details on programmatic activities are taken from the Program Announcement from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Lead Center requires a sub-center strategic map update in December each year detailing program goals and objectives for the following year. See Appendix A-1 for a sample Strategic Map in the balanced scorecard approach.
Work plan updates, which detail the progress made by the center (including community initiatives, partnerships and special workshops) toward the goals outlined in the plan, are to be submitted on July 20th and January 31st of the next calendar year. The Lead Center will compile the work plan updates submitted by all centers to further the strategic planning process. Although the work plan updates are completed semi-annually, the balanced scorecard is updated daily within the SBDC client management system Center IC. The Lead Center sends out scorecards to subcenter Directors quarterly. Subcenter Directors update the lead center on center tracked metrics and local initiatives quarterly.
The Lead Center also requires the submission of an annual and semi-annual narrative from each center. This narrative is the compilation of center reportable events, organized by SBA issue areas such as Minority Business Development or International Trade. Reportable events are to be entered year-round to facilitate the development of a comprehensive narrative submission to the Lead Center. The Lead Center Program Coordinator is available for questions on these and any other reporting requirements. The narrative and the work plan help to define the scope of the Colorado SBDC Program.
Since 2012, The Colorado SBDC Network started using the Balanced Scorecard method which simplifies the Strategic Directives and Work-Plan Update process. See Section 10 of the Policy and Procedure Manual for a full description of the balanced scorecard.
SBDCs shall provide high quality, in-depth, one-on-one counseling to both existing and start-up small business owners. Sub-centers shall assist small businesses in solving problems concerning operations, manufacturing, engineering, technology exchange and development, personnel administration, marketing, sales, merchandising, finance, accounting, business strategy development, and other disciplines required for small business growth and expansion, innovation, increased productivity, management improvement and maintaining the industrial base. Refer to Section V. Counseling, A. Minimum Service Standard.
Access to Capital/Financial Packaging/Business Plans
- SBDCs are encouraged to provide counseling services that increase a small business’ access to capital such as business plan development, financial statement preparation and analysis, and cash flow preparation and analysis.
- SBDCs are encouraged to develop linkages with federal, state and local finance programs. SBDCs will support SBA loan programs. In cooperation with the SBA District Office, SBDCs will offer services to new SBA clients and assist delinquent SBA borrowers referred to them by the SBA and/or lenders with problem solving, business restructuring, cost analysis, market penetration and other areas as appropriate.
- SBDC staff may NOT create a business plan or a financial loan package for a client. Rather, they should assist clients to understand the process thoroughly so that they can do it for themselves. A SBDC may NOT advocate, recommend, approval or otherwise attempt in any manner to influence a lender to provide financial assistance to any of its clients. SBDCs may assist clients to write business plans, prepare financial statements, complete forms that are part of a loan application, and accompany an applicant appearing before a lender and/or the SBA. SBDCs must make every effort to ensure that clients are actively involved in the process and gain sufficient knowledge to represent their interests to the lending institution. It is the role of the SBDC to act as a resource partner in assisting clients who are seeking financing for their businesses. The SBDC may NOT, under any circumstances, act as a “broker” or “shop” bank or other financial institutions on behalf of their clients. Assisting clients with the preparation of an application for SBA financial assistance or other financial packages is considered “counseling” and these services shall be provided free of charge.
- SBDCs must inform clients that financial packaging assistance does NOT guarantee receipt of a loan. SBDC may NOT make loans, service loans, nor make credit decisions regarding the award of loans. The SBA expressly forbids SBDC employees from participating on loan committees or being a decision-maker in the loan committee process
Federal regulations require SBDCs to provide counseling and technology development assistance when necessary to help small businesses resolve or comply with environmental, energy, health, safety, labor, tax and other federal, state, and local regulations. Sub-centers are encouraged to utilize the resources of the Colorado SBDC Hotline in determining a client’s regulatory requirements.
SBDCs may NOT provide legal advice. However, they should provide information about basic business and tax laws. Clients needing more than basic information should be referred to professional legal services for private consulting. As with all referrals, at least three service options must be provided to the client. Legal advisory information shall NOT be provided to clients involved in litigation or other legal disputes. Legal information services shall NOT be used to represent any client in any action.
The Colorado SBDC and the Colorado International Trade Office (ITO) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding regarding export information, assistance, counseling and training. ITO will provide basic export information to SBDC sub-centers and will be available on an as-needed basis for export counseling and assistance. For additional International Trade information, contact the International Trade Office in OEDIT where a representative can assist either by e-mail or set up an appointment.
SBDCs are encouraged to assist in technology transfer, research and development, applied research, and coupling from existing sources to small businesses. Sub-centers should work with existing networks including Tech Transfer offices and incubators as a means to offer commercialized university-based research and development and introduce university-based engineers and scientists to small business technology firms. Centers should assist clients to explore the viability of developing shared production facilities. Sub-centers should assist client’s access information regarding Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant opportunities and other technology related grant opportunities and assist with the preparation of grant applications.
SBDCs are encouraged to provide services that offer basic information needed by small business concerns interested in government procurement opportunities. Sub-centers should work with existing state and federal resources and organizations such as the state PTAC program. Procurement services should include but should not necessarily be limited to the following:
- Information on the government procurement process
- Access to federal procurement information and BIDS for state procurement information
- Information regarding the various women and minority business certification programs including 8(a), state DBE certification and Minority Enterprise Inc. as well as other applicable government or private certification programs
Specialty Emphasis Initiatives
The SBA and the Lead Center make portions of the general population targeted for special SBDC assistance. Support for special emphasis initiatives will be negotiated each year as part of the proposal process and will be included in local contracts and the SBA Cooperative Agreement as appropriate. Examples of special emphasis initiatives include:
- Rural Development
- Centers will ensure that a full range of business development and technical assistance services are made available to small businesses located in the rural areas of their region. These services should be designed to increase small business participation in exporting, government procurement, tourism, access to credit, incubators, innovation and technology, and other small business programs.
- Veteran Business Ownership
- Centers shall ensure that all services are made available to veterans, and will support national and local veteran business initiatives. Sub-centers are encouraged to work with veterans’ organizations to increase the awareness of SBDC services. Each region shall provide Veteran-specific training for Veterans, retired Veterans, family members of Veterans and Colorado Guardsmen.
- Minority Business Development
- Centers must ensure that all SBDC services are made available to minority business owners and prospective minority entrepreneurs. SBDCs are encouraged to make special efforts to support SBA minority participation goals in counseling, training, procurement and lending. Sub-centers should work with the Minority Business Office and local minority business organizations to market SBDC services to the minority business community and to conduct targeted minority business training programs on such topics as certification as appropriate.
- Women’s Business Enterprise
- Centers shall ensure that all SBDC services are made available to women business owners and prospective female entrepreneurs. Sub-centers should support national and local initiatives for women business owners. SBDCs should reference local women’s business organizations and the Women’s Business Office at the Lead Center to increase awareness of SBDC programs and services. As appropriate, SBDCs should offer targeted women’s business training programs.
The sub-centers may apply for any grants/programs with prior approval from the Lead Center. Match cannot be double counted and a full accountability and compatibility analysis will be completed by the Lead Center.
Research projects performed under the auspices of the SBDC should have a direct benefit to the state and/or local small business community served by that SBDC. Research activities are not to be considered the primary focus of SBDC operations and should be undertaken only when a specific need exists with the small business community. SBDC sub-center Directors are responsible for ensuring that all research projects fall within the scope of the Colorado SBDC mission.
Sub-centers may coordinate and conduct research into technical and general business problems for which there are no ready solutions. Centers may also conduct in-depth surveys of local small business groups or associations in order to gain insight into the local economy and assess the needs of the small business community.
Centers will provide high quality training designed to improve the skills and knowledge of existing and prospective business owner/managers. Where appropriate, SBDCs are encouraged to utilize educational technology such as online business tutorials and live webinars. SBDCs may charge a reasonable fee to cover program costs associated with this training. These fees are considered program income and must follow the appropriate rules for expenditures. Refer to Section VIII Budgets and Accounts.
Centers are encouraged to enter into co-sponsored training arrangements with the private sector and/or other government organizations to extend outreach and productivity. For all co-sponsored training, the training file must clearly document the role and responsibility of the SBDC and all co-sponsors including how the receipts are distributed among the sponsors. Refer to Section VII Budgets and Accounts.
The following training topics are representative of the training programs that may be offered by SBDCs. This list is NOT comprehensive or all-inclusive. Sub-center Directors are encouraged to developing training programs to meet the needs or their local small business community.
- “Nuts & Bolts of 8(a) Certification”
- “How to do Business with the Federal Government”
- “Start Up Basics”
- “Small Business Management”
- “Cash Flow Financing”
- “Applied International Marketing and Management”
- “Pricing Proposals for the Government”
- “Basic Tax Facts”
- “LEADING EDGE Strategic Planning Series”
- “Starting Your Home-Based Business”
- “Marketing Your Small Business”
- “Social Media Marketing”
- “Quick Books for Small Business”
- “Legal Structures”
- “Business Model Workshop”
No Competition/Cooperation Rule
Centers must maintain working relationships and open communication with the financial and investment communities, legal associations, local and regional private consultants, and local and regional small business and economic development groups in order to address the various needs of the small business community. Centers should not duplicate quality services provided by other legitimate organizations and programs within their service area(s), but rather cooperate and cross-refer clients.
In accordance with ASBDC standards, there should be evidence of extensive networking, linkages, cooperation, and integration with the chambers of commerce, business and trade associations, economic development agencies and other organizations. Networking is encouraged to avoid duplication of effort and to foster broad development and delivery of small business assistance services. These events should be entered as Reportable Events in Center IC in order to ensure their inclusion in the Narrative Report sent to the Small Business Administration.
SBDCs shall not compete with the private sector and must make every effort to avoid the appearance of competition. Clients who are able to afford and locate services within the private sector should not receive services from the SBDC.
When an SBDC goes beyond its normal services in providing specialized assistance to a client, it may collect fees to offset these expenses. Fees may not be charged for Counseling Services. SBDCs are required to to utilize and compensate qualified small business vendors to provide these specialized services, where applicable and according to budgetary restraints.
Each director, counselor, and trainer must sign a conflict of interest form. This form states that there are not any conflicts with their counseling/training to the clients. Professional contract and volunteers must sign a specific form stating that the client receives so many hours of free counseling on behalf of the SBDC. The client can then choose to become a client of the contractor/volunteer or return to the SBDC for additional free counseling. All forms must be kept on file at the sub-center.
The Center Director must be 100% SBDC and can NOT have a consulting business outside the SBDC Network. The Center Director also must not split their time in any other capacity other than providing the direct services in regards to the mission of the SBDC. If the Center Director has a business on the side, they must disclose this information and the State Director will determine if there is a conflict of interest.
Representing the SBDC
All SBDC staff and, in particular, SBDC Sub-center Directors and Lead Center management staff, are asked to keep track of their public appearances representing the SBDC program listed in CenterIC as a reportable event. There is certain basic information that should always be conveyed when representing this program. These basic elements include:
- The local SBDC office is a member of the statewide Colorado SBDC Network
- Local SBDCs contract with the Office of Economic Development & International Trade to provide SBDC services to the community. SBA, OEDIT, the local host institution and a variety of state and local private sector sponsors provide SBDC sub-center funding.
- The Colorado SBDC Network is part of the national network of SBDCs in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands making it the national delivery system for counseling and training to small business operators.
Restrictions on Lobbying
In accordance with regulations outlined in 13 CFR Part 146 – New Restrictions on Lobbying, the Colorado SBDC Network through OEDIT certifies that no CSBDC funds are used to pay any person for influencing or attempting to influence an officer or employee of any agency, a Member of Congress, an office or employee of Congress, or an employee of a Member of Congress. All centers must abide by this restriction, as there are penalties associated with non-compliance with this requirement
D. PERFORMANCE MEASURES
Every sub-center and its host institution negotiate milestones annually with the Lead Center as part of the Colorado SBDC Network’s Proposal for Continuation to the SBA. The milestones provide a foundation on which to evaluate sub-center performance. Milestones may include (See Scope of Services in the sub-center Contract or Interagency Agreement for updated annual goals):
- Jobs created
- Jobs retained
- Business starts
- Capital formation
- Number of long-term clients
- Sales Increase
- Contracts Obtained
- Total Clients Counseled
- Training Attendees
Each center has pre-designed goals each calendar year. They must comply with the designed goals listed in the Balanced Scorecard or future funding could be in jeopardy.
All centers must follow the impact reporting guidelines when entering client impact to the client management system, Center IC. Centers must upload the proper verification form (supplied by the Lead Center). This impact form must state “through the assistance of the SBDC, have you…”. The form must be signed by the client. The Lead Center verifies the all of the impact listed in Center IC quarterly. The Lead Center will check the ‘verified’ box in Center IC after the impact has been validated.
E. PARTICIPATION REQUIREMENTS
To effectively strengthen and advance the network, the Lead Center strives to work with sub-centers to balance the needs of the SBA, OEDIT, sponsors and local SBDCs. To gain input from the local level, the following requirements have been set.
Sub-center Directors are required to attend the two scheduled statewide director’s meetings. Directors are also required to attend the one National Conference. The exception to the National Conference is only if a center is NOT performing; the determination is then up to the State Director. Monthly conference calls are required by exceptions can be made if scheduling conflicts. Other sub-center staff, especially counselors and trainers, are highly encouraged to attend meetings to benefit from the training and sharing of ideas with other sub-center staff if budgets permit. Directors will be polled to select the time and location of the meetings. The Lead Center will prepare the agenda for all meetings in consultations with Sub-Center Directors.
Sub-Center Directors are required to participate in their regional committee (Needs Assessment or Strategic Planning). Satellite directors, business counselors and trainers are encouraged to participate on sub-committees as time reasonably permits. Participation means attending all meetings/conference calls, assisting in the accomplishment of sub-committee goals, and communicating with other directors to ensure the accurate representation of the entire network. In addition, when needed, committees are formed to assist in the development of special projects initiated by the Lead Center and/or individual sub-centers.
See Appendix D-1 Colorado SBDC Network Committee Framework for the most current committees and committee structure.