For the Small Business Administration’s 54th annual Small Business Week, Entrepreneur sat down with Administrator Linda McMahon in New York City. The former WWE CEO spoke about her goals for the agency, developing policy around tax reform and the differences between the public and private sectors.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Which small-business stories that you have been exposed to this week have stood out to you?
Ember Industries. They are based in Texas and won the 2017 Phoenix Award for Outstanding Small Business Disaster Recovery.
They are a technology company and so they had their whole inventory and warehouse in one place. And one of the rivers overflowed and just kind of wiped them out. Mud all over the floor and everything else. So the stories of the people who work there and their devotion. They would come Saturdays and Sundays and help shovel out mud. They kept working and kept working.
And then there were some who couldn’t work, but the owners of the company continued to pay them even though they weren’t working. You know it’s a sacrifice to do that. But they made it special and that is the heart of an entrepreneur and a small-business owner, that they are so committed to the people who were there and vice versa.
What changes do you envision putting in place as administrator? What is your platform?
I think that the Small Business Administration absolutely has an obligation to make more people aware of small business. But in order to do that there has to be greater knowledge of SBA. And one of the things that I want to do, my vision for SBA is to raise that level of awareness all over the country. I think the thing that really makes SBA really grow and be a champion of small business are the resource programs.
We have Score, programs like SBIDC [in New York] and women-owned business centers, all of these [are staffed with] volunteers who meet with aspiring entrepreneurs or who meet with people who are already in business and want to scale, go to that next step. They counsel people.
I want to raise the profile and the level of SBA. I want to have a different marketing message and have it utilize social media more and more of the digital platforms because we’re behind in that.
Are there tax changes that you would like to see enacted this year?
The biggest thing that I hear from small businesses all over the country, many of them are as S-corps, not C-corps. They are LLC’s and sole proprietors. So typically they are just taxed, their business income comes in and they are taxed as ordinary revenue. They typically then pay higher rates for their business income than other businesses do. So it’s this 15 percent, should it be 15 percent or whatever that reduction is, everybody’s fingers are crossed that will be 15 percent.
What they tell me is [with less tax], “I’d hire more people and expand my business. I would spend more money on marketing to drive and grow my business.” You know when you have more money in your pocket you have ready access to capital that you don’t have to borrow.
Can you talk about the the differences or similarities in the skill sets that you rely upon in your roles as WWE CEO and SBA Administrator?
I don’t think the skill sets are very different. Because being the administrator of SBA is like being named the CEO of an enterprise that’s already up and running. And so when you come into any new job or enterprise like that it takes you a while to understand the overall mission of that organization, to understand how all of the parts of it work, and to then help with your own vision as to how you see it. It can be sometimes just different, but sometimes really different and better. And I think that’s my goal. Clearly, the things I learned being a CEO and being a manager are transferable anywhere.
The difference in being in government and being in the private sector are the government rules and regulations you know that you have to abide by. There’s a difference between setting a revenue goal for a private company and having to defend your budget for appropriations. So that’s a whole different bailiwick, and I have to learn the government side.