V. CENTER STAFFING AND EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS
A. EMPLOYMENT STANDARDS
The purpose of these staffing and employment standards policies are (a) to prevent the actions of any employee, volunteer or independent contractor of the Colorado Small Business Development Center Network from constituting a conflict of interest, and (b) to clarify the conditions and actions that constitute a conflict of interest.
All SBDC staff, volunteers and contractors who provide counseling to clients, must sign a Conflict of Interest Agreement and have completed the 4 training modules (Code of Conduct, Starting a Business, Consulting Techniques, Assistance Programs). Module 5 (Recordkeeping and Financial Analysis) is recommended but not required. See Appendix C-1 for the Conflict of Interest Policy form. The SBDC Center Director is responsible for ensuring that each person operating from his/her office follows the policies on conflict of interest. The counselors and staff forms are to be kept at the center and will be checked when annual program reviews are conducted by the State Director. The SBDC Center Directors are responsible for their staff and consultants signing the Conflict of Interest form when they begin employment and re-initialing the forms each January. The Lead Center is responsible for ensuring that the Center Directors re-initial the Conflict of Interest form yearly.
All staff and associated personnel (including volunteers, consultants, students, etc.) for the program are expected to conduct themselves both at work and in the community in such a manner as to reflect creditably on themselves, their host institution and the Colorado SBDC Network.
SBDCs may not make loans, service loans, or make credit decisions regarding the award of loans. Unless authorized by the SBA Administrator, an SBDC may not advocate, recommend approval or otherwise attempt in any manner to influence SBA to provide financial assistance to any of its clients.
To avoid conflict of interest or the appearance of such, SBDC staff should not serve on loan committees or be in a decision-making role. Staff may serve on the board of directors of a non-client company, but once the business becomes an SBDC client, the staff member must resign from the board. While SBDC staff may attend meetings with clients and lenders to assist clients in preparing financial packages, staff may not in any way take a direct role in representing a client in loan negotiations.
Conflict of Interest
A situation in which regard for private interest or gain or the appearance of private interest or gain leads or has the potential to lead to a disregard for the needs of the Colorado SBDC or the rights of its clients.
A business, individual(s), or legal entity with which the Colorado SBDC has entered into an agreement to provide any or all of the SBDC available services.
Small Business Development Center Services
SBDC services include, but are not limited to: Colorado SBDC related counseling, training, market research for clients, referrals to other agencies, provision of printed, copied or electronic media information, or other services the SBDC may commonly and routinely perform for its clients.
Employee of the Colorado Small Business Development Centers
Any person employed by or on behalf of the Colorado SBDC for counseling, training or other services. This includes the Center Director, counselors, support staff, faculty and students.
CSBDC follows the same guidelines as the Code of Federal Regulations whereas the SBDC programs are not allowed to accept any gifts for services rendered.
Standards of Conduct
Relationships with Clients
No employee of the Colorado SBDC Network shall:
Solicit, accept, or appear to solicit/accept any gift, loan, reward, promise of future employment, favor or service from any client;
Solicit, accept, or appear to solicit/accept any compensation or other monetary remuneration for counseling related services provided to a client while acting as an employee of the Colorado SBDC;
Recommend to a client the purchase of goods and/or services from a firm in which the employee has a material or financial interest;
Accept fees, commissions, gifts or favors from third parties who have supplied goods and/or services to SBDC clients;
Solicit or actually undertake the private engagement of his or her services by a customer at any time during the term of the customer relationship with the SBDC or for a period of twelve months thereafter;
Release information about any client’s relationship with the SBDC, nor any information about the business or personal matters of any client to any person or agency outside of the Colorado SBDC, the Colorado Office of Economic Development or the U.S. Small Business Administration without written permission of the client; or
Invest monies, personal services or property in the business of a current client of the SBDC.
With regard to “moonlighting,” owning a business consulting, teaching or other for profit activities outside the normal working and service delivery of the Small Business Development Center, all key employees of the Small Business Development Center must comply with the following standards:
Notify the Lead Center, in writing and in advance, regarding the proposed activity and any potential for conflicts of interest which may arise;
- Assure/Demonstrate that the outside activity does not interfere with the full performance of the employee’s SBDC responsibilities;
- Assure/Demonstrate that all such activities are not performed in any way during normal business hours of the SBDC;
- Assure/Demonstrate that his/her position with the SBDC is not used, or does not appear to be used, to arrange the eventual utilization of his or her service for private gain.
Outside Business Relationships
In the event the Colorado SBDC customer and employee/consultant should desire to enter into a business relationship contrary to these provisions, a written request from the Center Director must be submitted to the Colorado SBDC Network Lead Center. Written approval from the Colorado SBDC Lead Center must be obtained and extends for one year after a case has been closed and/or for one year after the termination of employment by an SBDC employee/consultant. Further, the request for private engagement of services must be initiated by the client and not by the current or former employee/consultant.
It is the policy of the Colorado SBDC that a director, counselor, manager, or any other employee of the SBDC will not practice nepotism. Exception must be pre-approved in writing by the Lead Center. Such exemptions will only be given if relevant skill sets and acceptable professional experience are present.
Penalties and Grievances
Generally, penalties for violation of any of these polices may include, but not be limited to, reprimand, suspension of employment and/or termination of employment. The determination of conditions required to constitute a conflict of interest situation will be made by the individual local administrator in consultation with the Colorado SBDC Network Lead Center based upon this policy and applicable employer policies of the host institution and state law.
Center Directors and counselors sponsored by and/or located at educational institutions are allowed to teach one non-SBDC sponsored small business related class during the normal business hours, only if it is a term negotiated with the Colorado SBDC Network Lead Center for their employment by the college/university. Staff may not receive additional compensation for classes taught during normal business hours.
Center Directors and staff not located at an education facility may not teach non-SBDC classes during normal business hours.
- SBDC staff may teach and receive compensation for classes taught outside of normal business hours. This includes staffs that are certified to teach the Leading Edge Training Program. All rules outlined in Section 4 (Outside Employment and Outside Business Relationships) must be followed.
- All information provided by a client in the course of consulting is strictly confidential.
Only staff that have completed and signed a Conflict of Interest Agreement may have access to client information. See Appendix C-1 for the Conflict of Interest Policy form. Client information may be given only to staff that have completed and signed this form. This includes staff at the Lead Center and the Small Business Administration. All employees, consultants, volunteers and students who work with Colorado SBDC clients must sign a Confidentiality Statement. See Appendix C-2 for the Confidentiality Statement Form. While there is no need to submit forms for your counselors and volunteers to the Lead Center, all of these forms should be kept on file at your center location.
This means that any mailings to SBDC clients in partnership with outside organizations must be done by the center. It is strictly forbidden to do mailings for the purpose of marketing or promoting private enterprises or to give out or sell mailing lists of SBDC clients.
When a center or its staff is approached, on a legal basis, to provide information about a client and/or a counseling relationship, centers should refuse to divulge such information citing the confidentiality agreement with the client. If the client provides written permission to release such information, the center/staff may do so. However, if written permission is not provided, the center/staff should continue to refuse to provide such information until an order is received from the court. At that time, the center/staff must notify the Lead Center in writing and follow the court order to provide the requested information. The center/staff should respectfully note for the official court record that providing the information is a violation of the confidentiality agreement as the client has not provided written permission for disclosure of the information and that the information is only being provided to comply with the order of the court.
Center Directors are responsible for the orientation of all center staff and satellite directors. Center IC training for new administrative staff is available, depending on Lead Center availability. One-on-one new Center Director orientation is conducted by Lead Center staff within thirty days of the first day of employment. Topics covered by the new Center Director training include:
The five Consultant Training Modules (Code of Conduct, Starting a Business, Consulting Techniques, Assistance Programs, Recordkeeping and Financial Analysis).
- Colorado SBDC Network structure and partner organizations including the Small Business Hotline, Minority Business Office, Procurement and Technical Assistance Office, Colorado Office of Economic Development, Colorado Workforce Centers, and additional host organizations.
- Current specialty grants and programs run by the whole network and/or specific local centers
- SBDC Network statewide website, sub-center websites, publications, and additional client outreach mechanisms
- The Association of Small Business Development Centers including accreditation, the National SBDC Information Clearinghouse and the SBDC list-serve.
- Consulting policies and forms including Conflict of Interest, Statement of Confidentiality, Client Rights and Responsibilities, Release of Information Statement, 641’s.
- Center IC overview including tracking client meetings, tracking and publishing trainings, automatic consulting and training client evaluations, bulk emails, balanced scorecard, client dashboard, client profile, and reportable events.
- Training Programs including sample training topics, the SBA disclosure statement, 888’s, the registration process, and training evaluations.
- Reporting Procedures including the calendar of due dates, impact reporting, and the edmis upload.
- Administrative responsibilities including the policies and procedures manual, director’s meetings, advisory boards, leave and out-of-state travel.
- The Planning Process including ASBDC accreditation, the strategic plan, strategic maps, work-plan updates, balanced scorecards, key performance indicators, and budget planning.
Center Directors are responsible for the orientation of all center staff and satellite directors. Center IC training for new administrative staff is available, depending on Lead Center availability.
It is the goal of the Colorado SBDC Network to continue its reputation of high quality counseling assistance by supporting its counselors in their professional development and growth. The Network is responsible for providing the Lead Center on topics for professional development at the State meetings and when feedback is requested. Such training could include:
- Information Specific to targeted industries such as clean-tech, bio-science, aerospace, information technology, retail, etc.
- Search Engine Optimization
- Financial Management
- Leadership, Management, and Communication
- E-Commerce for Small Businesses
- State/Federal Regulations for Start-Ups
- Technology Transfer Assistance
Center Directors are required to set aside a portion of their budget to attend the annual ASBDC conference for additional training. The exception to this standard is listed in Section 4(E) under ‘Meeting Attendance’. Each Center Director is required to obtain a minimum of 40 hours per year that is documented in Center IC and on the Balanced Scorecard/Workplan Updates.
Quality Assurance/Case Management
Center Directors must establish a system for ensuring the quality of counseling and service provided by any single counselor and/or combination of counselors, paid or volunteer. In addition, the Center Director must adhere to the established case management documentation by ensuring that all client meetings and correspondence are recorded in the SBDC Client Management System (Center IC). Centers must ensure that all paid and volunteer personnel have the necessary knowledge, professional capacity, and commitment necessary to properly assist small business firms before they are allowed to counsel independently. In order to meet Network goals, centers should receive an overall average of 90% satisfaction and above on client satisfaction evaluations.
Vacation/Leave of Absence
Centers must follow the policies of their host regarding vacation. Center Directors are expected to use reasonable judgment when scheduling vacation and should try to avoid being absent for scheduled Colorado SBDC Network meetings and periods when critical reports and reviews are due. If possible, vacations of center staff should be scheduled to avoid closing of the center due to lack of staff.
The Colorado SBDC Network is an equal opportunity employer. No center may discriminate in hiring or firing. Positions must be advertised and interviews must be handled in a fair and impartial manner.
Local center staffs are subject to the detailed hiring practices of the host institution. Hiring decisions of local center staff are the responsibility of the SBDC Center Director. Job descriptions and resumes of personnel must be maintained on file for all positions paid for with SBDC funds. Personnel and hiring records must be properly maintained as well. SBDC Center Directors are hired by the host and the State SBDC Director.
Termination of Employment
Center Directors may not be terminated without the participation and approval of the Lead Center. There must be just cause and documentation of the reasons for dismissal. Such reasons may include:
- Disregard or material violation of the regulations, policies and rules of the Colorado SBDC;
- Conduct reflecting a lack of business integrity or honesty;
- A conflict of interest causing a real or perceived detriment to a small business concern, a contractor, the SBDC or the SBA;
- Improper use of funds;
- Failure to consent to audits or examination or to maintain required records;
- Failure to suspend or terminate any key employee or contractor under their supervision for the reasons described above;
- Any other cause not specified which materially and adversely affects the operation or integrity of the local SBDC or the Colorado SBDC network; or
- Not meeting designated goals negotiated with the Lead Center.
Local Center Directors or any other key employees must be suspended or terminated promptly upon receipt of knowledge that such individual is engaging in or has engaged in conduct resulting in a criminal conviction or civil judgment which would cause the public to question the SBDC’s business integrity. Of course, this would be done only after taking into consideration such factors as magnitude, repetitiveness, harm caused, and remoteness of time of activity or activities underlying the conviction or judgment. Incidents of suspected conflict of interest must result in temporary suspension of employee/contractor involved until a judgment is made. Such cases must be reported, in writing, to the Lead Center for involvement in the final decisions.
If an employee, most particularly, the Center Director, desires to terminate his/her contractual relationship with the Colorado SBDC, that intention must be stated in writing and received and acknowledged by the Lead Center. For one year following termination, any subsequent private engagement of services of said employee must be initiated by the client(s) in question and not by the former SBDC employee.
B. CENTER STAFF
SBDC Center Director Standards
SBDC Center Directors are to be full-time and 60% of their time should be spent counseling clients. It is preferred that if SBDC Directors manage other programs in addition to the SBDC program or multiple SBDC locations, they should appoint/hire a full-time SBDC counselor and designate themselves as Executive Director. The creation of this position requires the approval of the Lead Center. The position will allow an Executive Director to concentrate time on marketing and overall management of the total program. An Executive Director must still be involved, in conjunction with the SBDC counselor, in the day-to-day operations of the local center. An Executive Director must also be involved in the counseling functions of the center, ensuring management of caseloads and other pertinent details. SBDC Directors operating under an Executive Director should note that their required percentage of counseling activity increases.
In developing a position description for a SBDC Center director, the inter-agency Agreement and Contract Agreement Statement or Work should be used on the basis for a rough outline of job duties and requirements. See Appendix B-3 for a sample Model Contract. Please note that while inter-agency agreements are very similar, they are slightly different due to the nature of being a State of Colorado entity
It is preferred that an SBDC Center Director have experience in small business ownership, management and/or counseling. A Director should have, at a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in business or related field and/or appropriate business experience, which demonstrates the knowledge and ability to:
- Direct, manage, and market a program to a geographically dispersed client base;
- Apply business management principles, practices, and techniques;
- Design small business educational programs;
- Identify problem areas with a small business;
- Develop diversified outreach assistance programs;
- Leverage outside public and private sector resources;
- Measure and evaluate impact of program delivery; and
- Relate to and work with area businesses and the professional community.
- Policies Affecting the Employment of an SBDC Center Director
- The decision process for hiring an SBDC Center Director must include the Colorado SBDC Lead Center or his/her designee. This includes approval of recruitment materials, pre-screening initial resume’s, and joint final approval with the host institution.
The SBDC Center Director will report to the Colorado SBDC State Director for performance purposes as well as appropriate authorities within the host institution. Within educational facilities, the SBDC Director should report directly to the Dean or higher of a relevant school or program (e.g. Business, Economic Development, Continuing Education, etc.) or be placed no more than two levels below the President of the educational institution or head of a host organization.
It is expected that the SBDC Center Director will be evaluated by the host organization with input from the Lead Center.
Salary and Benefits
If the SBDC is hosted by an educational institution, the salary of the SBDC Center Director should approximate the average annualized salary of a professorship or assistant professor in the school or department in which the SBDC is located. If the SBDC host is not an educational institution, the salary of the SBDC Center Director should approximate the average salary of a parallel position with the host institution or the private sector. In all cases, the host should consider the director’s longevity in the program, the number of satellite offices, and the individual’s background and experience.
Other Professional Staff
All professional staff should have appropriate qualifications and experience. Salaries should be comparable to similar positions in the host organizations. If similar skill sets do not exist in the organization, salaries should be comparable to those in the private sector.
It is preferable that business counselors have a Bachelor of Arts degree in business administration or another comparable field or equivalent experience. A Business Counselor should demonstrate skills and experience that include:
Excellent communication skills, including strong listening skills;
- Business ownership, consulting or management experience;
- Adult training and group education skills; and
- One-on-one counseling skills.
- Independent Consultants
- Each SBDC should set aside a portion of its budget for private sector consultants. They can provide services a client or set of clients require, but are not cost effective in which to train full-time staff. Centers may not pass the cost of this service on to the client. This is a federal requirement.
SBDCs must clearly define in writing the process that is used to select an Independent Consultant and must comply with the procedures of their host institution.
SBDCs must have a written contract between the SBDC and Fee Paid Consultants including LEADING EDGE Instructors. See section 11 for the LEADING EDGE guidelines for instructors. The contract must be provided to the Lead Center for approval if over $2,000 and or exceeding $5,000 in a three-year period. The contract must comply with state law and the policies of the host institution. If both parties agree to operate under an independent contract, the contract must:
Be signed by both the SBDC Center Director and the Independent Consultants with approval by Lead Center;
- Clearly disclose, in larger font, boldface or underline type, that: “The contractor shall perform its duties here under as an independent contractor and not as an employee. Neither the contractor nor any agent or employee of the contractor shall be or shall be deemed to be an agent or employee of the state. The Independent Consultant is not entitled to unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation insurance. The contractor is obligated to pay all federal and state income taxes on any moneys earned pursuant to the contract. The contractor shall also pay when due all required employment taxes and income tax withholding, and shall provide and keep in force worker’s compensation (and show proof of such insurance) and unemployment compensation insurance in the amounts required by law for all the contractor’s employees. The contractor shall be solely responsible for the acts of contractor, its employees and agents”.
- Vendor Offsets. Pursuant to CRS 24-30-202.4 (as amended), the state controller may withhold debts owed to state agencies under the vendor offset intercept system for: (a) unpaid child support debt or child support arrearages; (b) unpaid balance of tax, accrued interest, or other charges specified in Article 22, Title 39, CRS; (c) unpaid loans due to the student loan division of the department of higher education; (d) owed amounts required to be paid to the unemployment compensation fund; and (e) other unpaid debts owing to the state or any agency thereof, the amount of which is found to be owing as a result of final agency determination or reduced to judgment as certified by the controller.
In addition to contract language outlined above, the actual working relationship must be in compliance with CRS 8-40-202(2)(b), and CRS 8-70-115(1)(c). The following standards define an independent contractor. It is NOT necessary to include this language in the written contract.
Independent Consultants should:
Not have an executive working relationship with the SBDC;
- Work according to the specification of a specific contract;
- Be paid a fixed rate or contract rate for the completion of the project not an hourly rate or salary, unless host institution policies dictate otherwise;
- Not be terminated during the term of the contract period unless violating the terms of the contract;
- Obtain more than minimal training from the SBDC;
- Provide her/his own tools; except that materials and equipment may be supplied and no benefits should be provided;
- Not have their time of work performance dictated, except that a completion schedule and a range of negotiated and mutually agreeable work hours may be established.
- Use a trade name and all services are paid by check using the trade name and not to the personal name of the independent contractor.
- Not combine operations with the SBDC; operations are maintained separately and distinctly as two separate entities.
- Notify the center director immediately if an SBDC client indicates he or she wants to hire the independent consultant for work outside of the SBDC that the consultant will be paid for. The center director must write a letter to the state director indicating the situation and clearly record it in Center IC. That client is no longer eligible to come to the SBDC to see that specific consultant, although he or she may still meet with other SBDC consultants.
Working with Multiple SBDCs
Consultants and volunteers may contract to perform services at multiple SBDC sub-centers. Each sub-center is responsible for the paperwork, scheduling, session notes, and all other procedures for assisting clients at that particular location.
Centers are encouraged to develop a cadre of qualified volunteers to supplement staff including business firms, associates and SCORE/ACE (NOTE: SCORE/ACE cannot be used for match). Volunteers must adhere to the ethics and a Conflict of Interest Agreement must be signed. Center directors must provide a system for ensuring the quality of counseling and service provided by volunteers, as well as through the case management of clients assisted by volunteers. Centers must ensure that volunteers have the necessary knowledge, professional capacity, and commitment necessary to properly assist small business firms, when selected by the SBDC Center Director. See Appendix E-1 for a Volunteer Time & Effort Sheet. Read Section VIII, Budgets and Accounts for more information on claiming volunteer time as match.
Host Organization Resources
ASBDC certification standards require SBDCs to provide a plan for utilization of faculty, students, and other unique resources of the host or nearby educational institution. SBDCs are encouraged to include these resources as part of their service delivery plan. Where appropriate, services should be provided by faculty. For Restrictions on using faculty as match, please refer to Section VIII, Budgets and Accounts.
In non-educational host organizations, there should be a plan and documentation of the use of the unique resources available within the host organization. In addition, the plan and documentation should also include utilization of unique educational resources to assist in fulfilling the educational component of service delivery by the SBDC.
Where appropriate, a reasonable share of basic service may be provided by qualified students, including both undergraduate and graduate. However, undergraduate students MAY NOT counsel SBDC clients independently. Undergraduates may be utilized to support the center, including answering the phone, data entry and other administrative functions. Either the SBDC Center Director or a business counselor approved by the SBDC Center Director must be present during one-on-one counseling.
Graduate Students providing that the SBDC Center Director determines them capable of handling themselves in a professional manner, may independently meet with clients. However, the client’s primary counselor or the SBDC Center Director must supervise students to ensure clients are receiving quality assistance.
Undergraduate students cannot be used as match if they are enrolled in a class or organization internship program in which he/she receives credit. Interns and students must sign a Conflict of Interest Agreement and Confidentiality Statement before they are allowed access to ANY client information, including working with the Network’s Client Management System, Center IC. See Appendix C-1 & C-2 for the Conflict of Interest Policy form and Confidentiality Statement form. If a client is not comfortable with undergraduate student counseling, the center must provide an alternative counselor. Time spent by students in preparation for a client (e.g. research, counseling, etc.) should be entered into Center IC as a consulting session under ‘prep’ time.
Student Team/Classroom Projects
Recognizing the opportunity to leverage resources by using student team or classroom projects to provide in-depth research for small business clients, the Colorado SBDC encourages centers to make arrangements with local institutions of higher learning. The SBDC Center Director is responsible for ensuring quality of service and information provided by student teams.
Student teams or classroom projects conducted by undergraduates or graduate students must be fully supervised by faculty. The work of the team must also be reviewed by the SBDC Center Director or the client’s primary counselor to ensure quality, timely and useful information for the client. Undergraduate student teams or project members should not meet independently with the client without supervision of a faculty member or SBDC business counselor.
Teams or classroom projects time should be entered into Center IC as prep time. The SBDC must clearly label any match derived from faculty oversight. This can be considered in-kind match. Student research projects and hours spent by students CANNOT be used as match. SBDCs cannot reimburse faculty that is paid to teach a small business research course for their time spent on overseeing projects. SBDC Center Directors may use program income to reimburse student expenses that are reasonable and directly related to the project.
A center may also separate SBDC services from student team teaching projects and fill a matchmaker role. The center must state clearly to the client that the team project is not a part of the SBDC services and that the SBDC is not responsible for the quality of the project.