|This article appears in the 2011 Annual Report presented at the State Capitol during the NBDC Annual Awards Ceremony.
Nebraska Business Development Center is Nebraska’s Premier Provider of Integrated Business Management Solutions
For 35 years the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) has been providing management and technical assistance to businesses in Nebraska.
It has been doing so in the belief that strong businesses mean good jobs and a high quality of life for all Nebraskans. It has been doing so with a high respect for business owners and with a strong commitment to helping good businesses become better. But, that tradition has not meant that NBDC has remained stagnant in its capacity or its resources. Instead, in its 35 years, NBDC has become the most advanced integrated business solutions provider to Nebraska businesses.
NBDC consulting solutions capacity has grown through advancement of its services as a small business development center, through the addition of services through its other federal programs (the procurement technical assistance center program, the manufacturing extension partnership, the pollution prevention program and others), and through its investment in assembling a highly qualified consulting staff.
Today, NBDC consists of four programs partially funded by federal grants and its professional education program. No other program of its kind has such a broad base. It includes the small business development center (SBDC) program of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the procurement technical assistance center (PTAC) program of the Defense Logistics Agency, the manufacturing extension partnership (MEP) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the pollution prevention resource information center (P2RIC) of the Environmental Protection Agency. In developing its resources, NBDC has also taken advantage of specific program funding from the Office of Naval Research, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
While these programs have specific objectives and regulations, NBDC has never been about requiring its business clients to understand the regulations of its federal partners. Instead, NBDC has sought to satisfy the needs of its business clients through whatever program or programs best fit. In doing so, NBDC has recently reorganized its approach to consulting and training services through three essential business management requirements: Financial Management Services, Business Development Services and Operational Management Services.
Financial Management Services is the original center of NBDC services and the one that is in most demand by our clients. It focuses on the principals of corporate finance. NBDC has consultants in Auburn, Chadron, Grand Island, Kearney, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha, Scottsbluff and Wayne engaged in this service. It is first a service of capital access. NBDC packages and places loans for small business start-ups, expansions and reorganizations. Many of these are SBA guaranteed or 504 loans and most of these are loans that are more complex than those typically packaged by bank loan officers. All are placed with banks and NBDC values its relationship with Nebraska’s commercial lenders. At the same time, some require participation by local economic development corporations, equity investment by business angel investors, use of community development block grants and other combinations of investment that require sophisticated assistance by NBDC consultants.
Cash flow forecasting is essential in determining appropriate capital needs in loan placement but it is also useful in restructuring and operational forecasting. NBDC provides this type of assistance to Nebraska businesses as well as analysis of capital investment requirements. NBDC manufacturing engineers in Omaha and Columbus provide expert guidance to manufacturers in determining appropriate levels of capital investment for maximizing profit.
Through its Kearney and Grand Island offices, NBDC has also developed a unique capacity among small business development centers in business valuation. When acquiring a business, selling a business or qualifying for a continuing operation loan for a business it is always essential that the business be valued as a going enterprise. NBDC’s qualified valuation specialists make appraisals that are accepted by SBA, banks and investors.
In addition to the valuation itself, NBDC can also provide succession plans that allow a going business to be sold (including transferring it to employees, family or other persons) in such a way as to preserve the business for its community. This is a significant need in rural communities which stand to lose essential services and amenities if local businesses die with the retirement of their owners.
Because of NBDC success in such transition assistance, NBDC business valuation and transition consultants have become in demand speakers at rural development training programs in Kansas, North Dakota, and other states as well as with the rural interest group at the conferences of the Association of Small Business Development Centers.
The financing of a business is only in anticipation of being prepared for sales. It is revenue that makes a business viable. NBDC business development services are provided as an aid to development of sales.
The core of NBDC business development services is its assistance to businesses in achieving sales to federal, state and local governments. NBDC has consistently achieved government contract placements of more than $100 million for its clients in each of the last five years. This success is possible because NBDC procurement counselors are the most highly trained of their colleagues in any of the procurement technical assistance centers funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency. NBDC provides its procurement technical assistance services through its offices in Auburn, Kearney, Lincoln, Omaha, and Wayne.
Procurement assistance is a specified and effective technical service. When businesses engage with NBDC in pursuing government contracting they learn how to plan for customer interest, how to position for sale, how to determine their true costs so as to make bids that are both competitive and profitable, and how to implement contract performance so as to assure future contracts. We call this “capture management” and it is a level of sales performance and customer service that is impressively effective in the private sector as well as the public sector.
Innovation in both products and processes is also a technique of business development. NBDC assistance has become essential to many businesses in innovation. The NBDC technology commercialization process has provided productive services for many Nebraska companies and researchers. This includes services in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and services in manufacturing core competency identification.
Small Business Innovation
Research program and its partner Small Business Technology Transfer program (SBIR/STTR) were developed in the early 1980s as part of the same movement that created the SBDC program. While some charlatans promote grant programs for small businesses, the SBIR/STTR program is virtually the only federal program that fulfills the promise. Yet, it is not a program that favors those businesses who do not have academic researchers to call upon or who do not understand scientific method as exploited by commercially feasible business models.
NBDC, through its assistance to Nebraska small businesses and university researchers, has driven Nebraska from 48th among the states in SBIR awards to 38th. That achievement is testimony to the relentless NBDC efforts to create business models for Nebraska technologies. NBDC works with researchers at Nebraska’s research institutions; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Creighton University, and the University of Nebraska at Omaha; to find ways to turn Nebraska’s innovative energy into businesses and jobs in Nebraska.
NBDC also endeavors to help Nebraska businesses improve market penetration and develop new markets through its market research program. This program includes an analysis of the core competencies of a business with an assessment of how those competencies can be applied to growing markets. NBDC market research reports assess a Nebraska business’s core market and its potential in that market. An NBDC market research report with qualified prospects (NBDC-MRRQP) includes identification of customers with a need for the product or service offered.
In addition to these consulting services; NBDC offers training programs for businesses through its Professional and Organizational Development (POD) program. Essential among these is its capture management program and its management of customer service programs.
NBDC operational services are grounded in its Lean Process Engineering implementation program. Lean Process is a process to take the waste out of production. NBDC has six highly qualified manufacturing process engineers with extensive experience in all aspects of Lean process and associated operational imperatives (including Six Sigma and ISO certification). These applications, it turns out, can be as effectively implemented in an office environment or in a cattle feed lot as they can on the factory floor.
Lean takes the waste out of process. Six Sigma takes the variation out of process. NBDC takes the unprofitability out of process. NBDC consultants are willing to engage the process of any business at any time to implement improvement. Kaizen events, value added process mapping, value stream mapping: all are in the NBDC repertoire.
NBDC operational management services also include essentials of human resource management, leadership development, project management training, and programs in wellbeing.
A growing essential for businesses is to develop sustainable operations. Sustainability is a key environmental objective but it also can be a profitability objective as the cost of energy rises. NBDC has environmental engineers who provide assistance to businesses in identifying promising targets for sustainability that include financial as well as social advantages.
NBDC consultants are deeply committed to meeting the needs of Nebraska businesses. More than once have NBDC engineers worked three shifts to implement a solution in one day at a Nebraska manufacturer. That kind of commitment is available to all Nebraska businesses.