Performance in the COVID Era
Simply put, the pandemic has brought out the best in the SBDC and it’s been an honor to see how our team has assessed the situations and cared for businesses that are suffering. Our traditional roles as consultants have pivoted to match the needs of our customers while our team and services expanded to meet the challenges. Our statewide team has grown from 100 to 145 to meet demand and we are now offering a suite of implementation services including eCommerce, tax/accounting/finance, and legal services.
The demands created by the pandemic also revealed weaknesses in our aging technology platforms. I’m happy to say that we’ll be investing in core infrastructure that should set the Michigan SBDC up for success for decades to come while providing us with insights to help decision making and improve client experiences.
Small Business Trends
Boots on the ground information in the field has helped inform the “State of Small Business.” Some trends we are focusing on are:
- Underserved populations are requesting services at a higher rate than normal. (49% to 60%+) This has led the team to conclude that minority, women and veteran-owned businesses are being negatively affected by COVID at a higher rate than their non-minority counterparts.
- Broadband access is essential. The increase in remote work due to COVID has exacerbated the issue creating a divide between the haves and the have-nots.
- Increased demand for online learning. Demand for SBDC’s on-demand learning has skyrocketed creating a need for learning management and web upgrades.
- eCommerce has never been more important. Small businesses must be able and willing to sell their products and services online.
- Employee-driven desire for social good. Even in the worst of times, connecting employees to a purpose is a catalyst for happiness.
Flexibility / Employee Wellness
The pandemic has taught us that flexibility is essential. The team has proven that a virtual model works and our clients benefit from the services. As such, the SBDC has offered an infinite extension of the work-from-home policy for anyone with a pre-existing condition or health concern. We’ve also learned that we miss the opportunities to come together as a team, a network to collaborate and share best practices. We’ll soon be hosting our first virtual network conference, full of information sharing and educational opportunities.
The SBDC has received early indications that our 2021 state and federal funding will remain consistent with 2020 levels. It’s nice to be viewed as part of the solution to what ails small businesses.
As you see, this report is full of success stories. Thanks for your partnership in helping stories like these come to life – enjoy.
-J.D. Collins, State Director for the Michigan SBDC