For more than a decade, the University of Houston-Victoria School of Business Administration and the Small Business Development Center have had an ongoing partnership combining academic business research with the practical side of running a business.
One of the SBDC’s main goals is helping new businesses start and existing businesses expand through a combination of consulting and training. Under the umbrella of the UHV business school, the SBDC also provides outreach on behalf of the school.
David Summers, a UHV associate professor of entrepreneurship, is the person who bridges the gap between the academic side of the business school and the practical side of business the UHV SBDC deals with daily.
“One of my passions is entrepreneurship and its role in economic development,” he said. “This falls squarely with the UHV SBDC because that is their primary role.”
Summers has been at UHV since 2002 and has worked with the UHV SBDC just as long. He was the primary developer of the Master of Science in Economic Development and Entrepreneurship degree offered by the UHV School of Business Administration. Several of the UHV SBDC business advisers are graduates of the program.
His role behind the scenes at the SBDC is to bring academic research to the business advisers to help them be more effective and efficient with customers. Sometimes this involves a round table discussion where the business advisors talk about what they see going on in the business world and Summers discusses the research he has read and his experience, SBDC Director Joe Humphreys said.
“The business advisers are the ones in the field,” Summers said. “So it’s not my job to direct what they do with their customers but to integrate academic research into how they can better help their customers succeed.”
A recent research project involved how to improve the lifespan and odds of success for a startup business. Summers met with the SBDC advisers in June to discuss using the business model as the first step with a new customer.
Traditionally, the first step to starting a business was creating a business plan to direct how the business would operate. Now research shows conceptualizing how a business will work into a business model is often a better first step.
Summers’ research found several business models that are now incorporated into the master’s degree program content. He said the meeting with the SBDC advisers trained them on different business model tools they can use when it is appropriate for their clients.
“This isn’t a new concept but something that is being more widely used now,” Summers said. “It gets the business owners thinking about what they want their business to be before thinking about how they want it to run. And there’s a good chance that not all businesses even need a business plan.”
Humphreys said he’s already seen an increase in the advisers using the business model method to help businesses in the startup or expansion phases.
Summers also helps the SBDC by researching the realities of how entrepreneurship impacts rural communities. He shares his research on what small businesses in rural communities can expect, what types of businesses succeed and what characteristics those businesses have.
“Because our SBDC mainly serves rural counties, we deal with small businesses that face the challenge that there aren’t as many potential shoppers and money spenders as urban areas,” Humphreys said. “It is often a numbers game with small businesses and can be a big challenge for them. So any advice from Dr. Summers on how we can help these businesses succeed is greatly appreciated.”
Summers also provides outreach in various roles on behalf of the UHV SBDC. He often gives presentations to chambers of commerce groups. He is involved with the Texas Economic Development Council and Rural Innovators, as well as working with other SBDCs around the state. Summers and Kacey Butler, a UHV SBDC business adviser, recently participated in a panel discussion at the Texas Rural Challenge conference in San Marcos.
“It is fun working with Dr. Summers because he understands business, and he understands what we do at the SBDC,” Humphreys said. “When he is out there talking to people around the state, he is a great advocate for UHV and the SBDC. One of our goals at the SBDC is outreach, and he does a great job spreading the word for us.”
Summers agreed that the partnership is a good fit.
“I enjoy working with the SBDC because I love to take research and make it practical,” he said.
Most of the UHV SBDC services are free to area small business owners. The center serves Aransas, Bee, Calhoun, DeWitt, Gonzales, Goliad, Jackson, Karnes, Lavaca, Refugio and Victoria counties. For more information about the SBDC, call 361-485-4485, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit sbdc.uhv.edu.