For years, staffers at the National Commission on Entrepreneurship (NCOE) asked politicians: "What is your policy for promoting entrepreneurial development?" For years, they received answers like this: "I support a range of small-business initiatives."
Tired of generalities, the NCOE published a 31-page booklet titled "Entrepreneurship: A Candidate’s Guide." The first-of-its-kind publication provides political candidates with ideas for supporting entrepreneurial growth.
The NCOE is a project of the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri. NCOE staffers mailed the guide to more than 9,000 current and aspiring federal, state, and local politicians of both major parties.
By releasing the booklet at the peak of election season, NCOE hopes to give entrepreneurs a political voice.
"They have few advocates for politics and policies that impact them," says Daniel Villanueva, an NCOE commissioner and chairman of Bastion Capital in Los Angeles. "Most entrepreneurs are too busy to be politically active when they start up, because they are focused on growth."
The NCOE hopes to destroy what it perceives as a common myth among politicians – that small businesses and entrepreneurial companies are exactly the same. The NCOE guide defines the vast majority of small firms as "lifestyle businesses" that welcome fast growth, but for which it’s not the primary concern. These enterprises focus mostly on providing employment and income for family members.
Entrepreneurs are different. According to the booklet, they often "lead small companies that are based on an innovation and are designed to grow quickly – at an annual rate of 15 to 20 percent." Innovation need not be based on technology, the publication states, offering Starbucks as an example. Entrepreneurial firms account for 5 percent to 15 percent of all U.S. businesses, the NCOE claims, but they created two-thirds of new jobs during the 1990s.
The NCOE guide also gives CEOs a checklist of business friendly government initiatives. Among its recommendations:
•Support government programs that lend money to new businesses. The booklet cites venture capital funds sponsored by Connecticut and Oklahoma as examples. Capital is especially important for minorities, who own about 14.5 percent of all businesses in the United States but receive only 1.5 percent of traditional venture capital, according to the NCOE.
•Improve the workforce. Hiring and retaining talented employees is difficult for entrepreneurs in both good and bad economies, the guide states, so school systems should be encouraged to offer classes in entrepreneurship.
•Re-invent government. Licensing procedures and applications should be simplified and regulations streamlined, with as much information as possible put online.
•Help establish local networking groups. "Networks are the single most critical factor for a strong entrepreneurial region," the booklet advises. "They are links to potential sources of capital, new employees, strategic alliance partners, and service providers."
•Encourage entrepreneurs through local awards, events, and publicity. Recognition is especially important in communities dominated by declining industries, the guide states.
To download a copy of the guide and other information, visit the NCOE Web site at www.ncoe.org.
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