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Ms. Mills Goes to Washington

The SBA has few fans. Remember when Reagan challenged Congress to "fix it or kill it" in 1985? Many of the SBA's policies are hostile, particularly to women business owners. The SBA's failure to implement the Women's Procurement Program has cost women business owners at least $6 billion in lost contracts since 1994. Karen Mills, a rare woman venture capitalist and economist with leveraged buyout experience helming the SBA, signals significant change ("Changing Course," February/March 2009). I'm betting on Mills to re-prioritize. Her endorsement by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Me.), a longtime Women's Procurement Program proponent [who in turn is] endorsed by the National Association of Women Business Owners, is encouraging.

Kirsten Osolind, CEO, RE:Invention Marketing, Chicago

Karen Mills seems reasonably competent--but reasonably competent is not what we need. We need to transform the SBA into a microfinancing and venture capital lender. We need to get more than 250,000 loans and capital investments into the hands of American entrepreneurs with little or no paperwork. We have already tried to resuscitate the dinosaurs. It's time to feed the saplings.

John A. Bailo, Kent, Wash.

I am encouraged by the selection of Ms. Mills, a bright, educated, and seasoned administrator. I hope she recognizes that the SBA is asleep and needs to return to focusing on lending instead of on contracting programs for "socially and economically" disadvantaged entrepreneurs.

Donn Nemchick, Veterans Project Manager, Riverside Center for Innovation, Pittsburgh

Look on the Bright Side of Things

I got hooked on David J. Pollay's work after I read his book Beware of Garbage Trucks! ("The Pursuit of Happiness," February/March 2009). I am a manager at a small business, and since implementing some of David's techniques I have seen a dramatic increase in my team's engagement. In these tough economic times, it is more important than ever to ensure that our work environments are positive places for people to be. Thanks, BusinessWeek SmallBiz, for such a timely feature.

Screen name: Steve

I was working through a process improvement project with a county government several years ago and learned that the county had no meaningful employee performance recognition program. There had once been such a program, but it had been canceled following disagreements over how cash awards should be allocated. When I suggested that a paper certificate or plaque, given in a timely manner, was an effective morale booster, my recommendation was ignored. However, as I met with county employees, I saw five-year-old performance appreciation certificates still proudly displayed on office doors and cubicles. The money is not as important as consistent, timely recognition of great performance.

Paul Sherland

President, Rust Reviews LLC, Wharton, Tex.

Step Aside, Big Guys, and Give Us Some Room

Helping small business will do more for the economy than giving money to banks and large corporations ("What's in it For You?" February/March 2009). Big companies are laying people off because of greedy stockholders that only care about one year of losses. My last company had over $12.4 million in sales in its second year and employed more than 15 people. Give small businesspeople the money; let us run with it.

Screen name: Mark Andries

Supply, Demand, and Detroit

Thank you for the article "Bumpy Ride" (February/March 2009). It's good to see companies anticipating an economic expansion and getting into the right supply chains.

Hugo van Randwyck, London

The automotive parts slowdown didn't just begin. Successful small companies have long been moving their expertise to other, more stable industries. Defense spending, for instance, is still strong. Small parts businesses may also find new applications in medicine and aerospace, where more competitive suppliers would be welcomed.

Enough with the Detroit gloom and doom. Agility and flexible manufacturing are too often overlooked as small business assets.

Larry Spiers, TechSolve, Milford, Ohio

Please e-mail us at Letters may be edited for length and clarity

Return to the BusinessWeek SmallBiz April/May 2009 Table of Contents

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