The U.S. Small Business Administration celebrated its 60th birthday July 30th. Today, even after six decades, the SBA is an active, engaged entity, particularly in the business of financing small businesses and providing a plethora of business resources, nearly free. As the SBA puts its landmark anniversary in the rear-view mirror, the organization awaits the nomination of a new director. Karen Mills is stepping down, effective the end of August. President Obama – with her resignation in hand since February – has yet to name her successor.

Ms. Mills’ replacement will be challenged with maintaining the organization’s primary functions – funding for America’s economic engine, small business, while dealing with partisan politics (within an agency that demands budget-neutrality), with confusion facing its constituents amidst the imminent Affordable Care Act, and with a reduction in government contracts awarded to small business well publicized recently.

Although its ancestry dates to the great depression, it was President Dwight Eisenhower who proposed the SBA amidst stabilizing economic times and entrepreneurial initiative. Sound familiar? Washington will be Washington, and the President will eventually name Ms. Mills’ successor. Meantime, how are you benefitting from this surprisingly accessible government agency and its myriad services?

U.S. Small Business AdministrationWhile the SBA’s main web site provides a unique portal to all that is the SBA and its services, we recommend visiting SBA Direct. Launched the final months of 2010, SBA Direct is a refined search menu within the SBA site itself. It features eight business categories within which most small businesses seek assistance. As the site promises, SBA Direct “brings the targeted resources you need to start, operate and grow your small business – directly to your desktop.” One click from the menu guides the user to information supporting each category, which feature:

  • Starting a business
  • Getting a loan
  • Government Contracts
  • Disaster Assistance
  • Online Training
  • Laws and regulations
  • Marketing your business
  • Importing and Exporting

After selecting from this menu, SBA Direct takes you to a bibliography of topical articles unique to your selection, but its real strength comes in refining your results by asking questions that fall under three categories: “Location,” “Tell Us About You,” and “Learn More About.” Each selection refines your results to meaningful information that relates to your geography, to your specific business and industry and then narrowing all of those selections to your personal preferences.

In short, SBA Direct molds a governmental behemoth – albeit an accessible and effective one – the SBA. into a defined menu of resources, and does so efficiently and simply.  And while the SBA has its warts – debt collection on outstanding loans for one – it still meets the intentions of its original charter. But don’t take our word for it, check it out either online or at one of many Small Business Administration local partners for further information on how the SBA counsels, mentors and trains the heart of America’s economy. And if you’ve used the SBA’s resources, we’d love to hear from you, good or bad, constructive or critical.