What’s keeping you up at night?


The Michigan SBDC and SBAM are surveying business owners to collect information about small business concerns and what can be done to address them. ©Thinkstock.com

It’s been 25 years since a combination of partners did the last comprehensive assessment on the needs of Michigan’s small businesses.

The Michigan Small Business Development Center and Small Business Association of Michigan recently teamed up to launch a new survey designed to determine what Michigan’s small and mid-size businesses need to succeed in terms of accessing talent, tax policy, current obstacles to growth and commercialization/innovation.

“We are excited to gain insights and use them as we continue to work together to drive a resurgent Michigan economy,” said Keith Brophy, state director of the Michigan SBDC.

“Small business is the heart of a vibrant community and sustainable economy. It is vital we base our programs on direct feedback of the state’s small businesses to best align with needs and ultimately create the best results.”

The project was launched Feb. 10, with results on a first analysis expected by mid-April, said SBAM President and CEO Rob Fowler.

The survey, sent out via mail and email, will be analyzed using a number of different tabs, including geography, business type, business size, women- and minority-owned businesses and other factors, he said.

There are currently a little more than 400,000 small businesses in Michigan that have at least one employee in addition to the owner, he said. The survey already has been returned by about 600 respondents, Fowler said.

Michigan SBDC and SBAM have worked together on a number of projects, and this most recent comprehensive, upstream effort has been a “division of labor,” Fowler said, adding, “If we find gaps in our lanes, we’ll work together to find those things, as well.”

“Both of us have a sense that we serve small businesses regularly. We think we have a finger on the pulse of what’s going on,” he said. “Things have changed enough in the economy where we felt we had to get out and do a thorough assessment.”

The main question they keep returning to for small and mid-sized businesses is this: “What’s keeping you up at night?”

“Small business operations are expanding and thriving but, increasingly, they find they need assistance in managing growth and success,” Fowler said.

“This unique research collaboration with the Michigan SBDC will collect valuable information that will assist our organizations in providing the services and products that will help entrepreneurs thrive in the future.”

Fowler said that to do nothing with the results of the survey would be like a dentist looking inside someone’s mouth and saying, “Well, you’ve got a bad cavity. Now have a nice day.”

The hope is the survey results will allow SBAM and the Michigan SBDC to tailor programs and other resources to meet businesses’ practical needs. SBAM then will serve as the statewide engine that can deliver on those services. The two organizations are also hopeful there will be some clues on how to attract and retain talent.

“Symbolically and operationally, it’s important,” Fowler said. “We’ll do what we can to address the needs.”

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