Building a Culture at The University of Georgia SBDC
The attached Guiding Principles (Mission, Vision and Values) of the UGA SBDC help establish and reflect the organizational culture we are committed to building. The UGA SBDC can be a unique work environment, to the benefit of the public and our employees. We have all worked at other places and seen things that we did not like in terms of how those organizations were run. Here and now, we have the resources and the autonomy to make the UGA SBDC an effective, efficient and rewarding work environment for both our clients and ourselves. To do so, it is incumbent upon current and future members of the SBDC team to possess the discipline and integrity necessary to make the UGA SBDC a great place to work.
Client focus is our primary responsibility.
It is our responsibility to provide clients the information and educational advice that is in their best interests; not the best interest of ourselves, our funding sources or other stakeholders. If we act in the best interests of our clients, then we will always be in good standings. Yes, we need to operate consistently with our mission, values and our SBA and host institutions’ policies and rules; however, our ultimate obligation is to the public we serve.
Mutual trust and respect is essential.
We each play a unique role within our immediate offices and the organization as a whole. We need to have confidence in and respect for each other’s competencies, motivations, and integrity to carry out our individual roles. We want to have the confidence and trust that every person and every program within the UGA SBDC is delivering the kind of service of which we can all be proud. It is also necessary for us to be confident that where there is a problem, it will be identified and addressed with timeliness and professionalism consistent with our stated values. Our confidential internal surveys, center review process and various task forces and committees are all ways in which we not only have the opportunity to share openly and honestly, but also the obligation to hold one another accountable.
Accountability is our foundation.
We are all responsible for doing our own job, not someone else’s job. We each need to do the job we agreed to do first and foremost. However, as a team we depend on everyone doing their part for the entire organization to perform well. We need to be willing to responsibly and professionally share concerns throughout the organization when we have them and expect those concerns to be addressed – maybe not entirely to our liking, but at least to where we can see a reasonable response.
Professional growth is encouraged and expected.
Everyone has a responsibility to enhance their professional competencies and add to their skillsets, through external training programs, self-driven learning and performance improvement. As a small organization there is limited upward mobility, but we all still have the opportunity and obligation to improve ourselves and our contributions.
We value personal growth and balance.
On a personal level we all need to maintain a proper balance within our personal lives. Our institutions have generous leave policies, and as long as we are taking care of our responsibilities, then we should be able to be present for important family priorities. We understand that a healthy home life is critical for workplace success; thus, our personal lives should come first. If this environment, with all its flexibilities, cannot meet our personal needs, then it is not the right place for us.
We are a constant, never ending work in progress. Expectations from SBA, our hosts, our clients and the general public will always be changing. We will be the work place that we create. If we act from self-centeredness, inconsiderateness, or expediency, then we will become the kind of place we have complained about in other employment experiences. On the other hand, if we hold ourselves to a higher standard, communicate openly, honestly and with clarity, then we can truly be something special. It is up to us and us only.
To enhance the economic well-being of Georgians by providing a wide range of educational services for small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs.
To be recognized for excellence and championed by clients and stakeholders.
Be authentic: We value honesty and integrity above all else. These values will apply to everyone with whom we interact and to whom we are obliged. We aim to earn the respect of our clients and stakeholders and to be known as “trusted advisors.”
Deliver Quality: Our greatest assets are the competency, knowledge and professionalism of our workforce. With strict employment qualifications and internal training standards, the Georgia UGA SBDC Network earns the reputation of a “credible resource.”
Exude Passion: Life as an UGA SBDC Consultant is truly a calling, as it is our ambition to help others. We continue to challenge ourselves to bring innovative services to the market that will help our clients reach their goals. We seek personal growth and fulfillment in serving others and aiding in their success.
Make a Difference: The education we provide shows positive impacts at the business level and at the level of the state economy. As a public service, we must ensure that we are working to meet the needs of the Small Business market within the framework of our national origins as set by the U.S. Congress, as well as within our own mission, vision, and these values.
Established March, 2012
Application of Guiding Principles
“Expertise for Entrepreneurs”
We make certain that the culmination of all our efforts is focusing on our clients: Georgia’s entrepreneurs. As the sophistication of the marketplace increases, we refine our target markets so that we are serving those whom we can best help. We create new products and services that are suited to the needs of our clients. We hire, train, and monitor the performance of individuals so that they have the skills, knowledge, and motivation to deliver products and services in the most effective manner.
“Help Georgia Businesses Grow”
We have a thorough understanding of clients’ business needs and an obvious caring and passion to help them succeed. We treat clients, fellow employees, and stakeholders with the respect that earns trust and builds mutual benefit. We celebrate our clients’ successes and measure their growth in order to exhibit the valuable impact the UGA SBDC has on the national, state, and local economies.
“Public Service Faculty”
Through learning, discovery, and shared responsibility, we educate our clients how to become better business owners. We adhere to the professional tenets and operating principles of our university partners, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the Association of Small Business Development Centers. We recognize that our numerous roles (citizen, employee, family member, etc.) are inter-related and that proper perspective is needed to achieve the various goals of each role.
SBDC’s Role in Education
The SBDC is an educational extension program of the University of Georgia and our other host institutions. We are not a commercial business service provider. Our purpose is to provide training, education and information to business owners and prospective owners to help them strengthen their business management skills and knowledge. The original concept for the program was based on the saying “If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” In short, we educate and advise to help business owners move forward and make better decisions on their own.
Unlike commercial consulting firms, our primary purpose is not to perform business functions for owners, but rather to help them understand business concepts and processes which affect that business owner’s unique circumstances. While we may perform certain tasks as a means to demonstrate how they work and apply, the goal is to help the business owner obtain sufficient knowledge so he/she can go forward on his/her own. The area of need as expressed by the owner may not actually be the appropriate learning opportunity. An assessment of the overall business situation may indicate a different area of focus or a more remedial area of need. Due to this, consulting and educational assistance may relate to various subject areas and can be provided periodically over several years. However, the SBDC is not an ongoing resource for the regular operation of the business.
Clients have a responsibility to utilize our resources efficiently and in accordance with our mission. Clients who do not apply what we are trying to convey or will not work at learning the concepts and processes we introduce them to are not entitled to ongoing assistance.
Additionally, SBDCs can provide university students and faculty experiential learning opportunities through collaborative projects. The level of SBDC engagement runs the gamut from an occasional referral to a faculty member for a client that needs specialized expertise to student teams working with businesses to address a specific need such as development of a marketing plan. SBDC business consultants are sometimes tapped to make presentations to MBA students, judge business plan competitions and other educational activities in support of their academic institutions.
SBDC’s Role in Economic Development
Economic development is a broad term that is subject to interpretation and encompasses many business development and supporting activities (such as education and health care). For SBDC purposes we generally are referring to the creation, expansion and retention of locally owned businesses. SBA business size standards give us the ability to deal with the vast majority of business entities, but our focus is generally on firms with 50 employees or less.
Growing jobs, producing wealth, and enhancing investment are all elements commonly associated with economic development. While the SBDC primarily focuses on the knowledge development of individual business owners and the growth of individual businesses, the operating environment within host communities of our clients is also of interest, as it impacts the ability of entrepreneurs to succeed. Increasingly our stakeholders are viewing measures such as job creation and retention, business starts, capital acquisition, sales increases, and tax revenues generated as indicators of our ability to successfully achieve positive impact and return on stakeholder investment. Therefore, our interest in economic development is to not only help small businesses succeed but also to contribute to the local economy in a way that benefits the owner, the business, and the community the business serves.
SBDC’s Role in Advocacy and Legislative Relations
As a publicly funded organization, the SBDC has a responsibility to keep public officials informed of our activities and effectiveness. We want officials to have a sufficient understanding of what we do so they are confident in referring constituents to us for assistance, without us being inappropriately associated with any individual or political group. We also work to support efforts to enhance the state or local environment for small business success, as well as support official initiatives by state and federal agencies.
However, we are not an advocacy group in the sense that a chamber of commerce and the NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses) are. We do not lobby on legislative issues of interest to the business community. We do not make public statements in favor of or against legislative or regulatory issues. While we do talk with media or in public forums about the challenges encountered by small businesses or the general concerns they face, as a public educational program we must not engage in public policy debates. Likewise, we cannot allow the University of Georgia, or other host institutions, to appear to be taking positions on such issues or debates.