Washington SBDC’s Innovative Program Helps Navigate Stormy Economic Seas

SPOKANE, Wash. — Are your sales stable, lines of credit current and your staffing levels appropriate? How are your industry, customers and suppliers doing? Washington’s Small Business Development Centers’ network says it is essential in this time of economic uncertainty to take a hard look at your business by using its new self-assessment tool.

“Proactive business management is key to survival, but this is a skill many of today’s owners and managers have yet to learn,” said Carolyn Clark, SBDC statewide director and economics professor at Washington State University, the SBDC’s administrative home.

“We have developed an in-depth ‘Business Survivor’s Checklist’ with the Arizona SBDC to help evaluate an operation’s health. Owners can see immediately the areas of the business that need further scrutiny. If they need further assistance, the resources of the Washington SBDC network are available,” she said.

More than 7,500 Washington small businesses and individuals turn to the SBDC at its 29 statewide locations each year for confidential, no-charge counseling, as well as training that focuses on practical, real-life challenges and solutions. The SBDC has been part of the WSU College of Business and Economics since 1980, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration and local higher education and economic development institutions.

“The Business Survivor’s Checklist — which is available online and in hard copy — comes at a good time for many small businesses,” said Clark. “Some operations have perhaps only existed during the good times of the 1990’s, so any weaknesses in the companies may not have been obvious. The nation’s recent economic downturns plus the economic fallout from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have created an unpredictable future and no one knows how long this period of uncertainty will last.”

The SBDC checklist takes about a half hour to complete and poses a set of thought-providing questions aimed to raise red flags in owners’ minds. It asks questions about customer relationships, the competition, industry trends, vendor arrangements, employees, finances and security. Inserted into the text are boxes containing helpful action tips such as calling industry associations for information, offering early pay-off incentives to customers and revving up communications with vendors.

“The SBDC’s primary concern now is to prevent huge loss of value to individuals and communities by helping established entrepreneurs stay in business or, at worst, make a planned exit,” said Clark. “Now is the time when business owners and managers must, as a matter of urgency, evaluate their current situation, make tough decisions, and develop and implement strategies to keep their business on track. The SBDC has many resources to help them adapt to change. This checklist is our newest, innovative resource.”

The Business Survivor’s Checklist is available on the SBDC’s Web site at www.wsbdc.org, or a hard copy can be requested by calling the toll free hotline at 1-866/SBDC BIZ (723-2249).

NOTE TO EDITORS: Local flavor can be added to this release by checking insights from your nearest SBDC counselor. To find that person, go to the SBDC Web site at www.wsbdc.org.