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Interview with Héctor Barreto, Administrator for the Small Business Administration of the US

[Sahnya Shulterbrandt]

Thanks to the courtesy of Sue L. Hensley Associate Administrator and Raúl Cisnero, Assistant Administrator.

[Spanish Version]

Héctor Barreto is purely a man of business, an entrepreneur. In his conversations he uses the business language. A great admirer of his father but very affectionate of his mother and sisters, which he mentions in his conversations as being apart of the pillars that constructed his solid and ample experience in business. Héctor hopes to pass on to his offspring’s the values and knowledge learned at home with his parents.

With each challenge he sees an opportunity to grow and that is the reason for his acceptance of the invitation by President George Bush to accompany him in a public administration position. His nomination was unanimously accepted. However, when I asked him about the challenges of going from the private sector to the public administration position, Héctor expressed that is very difficult to transmit the spirit of entrepreneurship to his coworkers, but the real challenge is that the SBA becomes a tool operating under the same administrative principles that he want to teach other entrepreneurs.


Q.: The President of the United States is conscious of the role of the Small Business and is he publicly has compromised to support them.  Which are the political strategies that have been implemented to empower this sector?

A.:  The SBA is supporting the Small Businesses three ways:

          I. Injection of Capital

Right now the SBA is offering 30% more loans to Small Businesses conducted by women an a 45% increase for those owned by Hispanics. This adds up to 1,000 million dollars.

        II. Training and Information

The SBA offers Technical Assistance, Training and Information to the Small Business. Since last year (2002) we have a site called [negocios.gov]. This site redirects directly to the Spanish Agency site.  There businesses can find very useful information also very important links.

At the very beginning we only had 25,000 visits per week.  A little later they increased to 50,000. September we received 250,000 visits.

We are also offering Spanish support to the Small Business through our toll free number 1 800 827-5722.

        III. Business Matchmaking

The third strategy, Business Matchmaking, consist of assistance to the Small Business in order to obtain contracts form the government and large companies from the private sector as well.

For more information about Business Matchmaking please [Click here]

Q.: A lot of Small Business owners are fearful of international business negotiations that the US government is signing. How much has NAFTA impacted and what are the risks with other negotiations like the business trade agreement signed with Chile and the ongoing CAFTA and Dominican Republic negotiations?

A.: The commercial negotiations are a great opportunity to the Small Business. 97% of all importations and exportations in the US are in the hands of Small Businesses.  More than 200,000 Small Businesses participate in this type of commerce. Hispanics Small Businesses only represent 30% of the pie, this is an opportunity to grow and expand.  Hispanic business is the best bridge to the commerce with Latin American. Now the trajectory in the line of commerce could be Sánchez-Sánchez-Smith, which is to say that the exporter or importer could be a Hispanic, not an Anglo.

Is an opportunity because like President Bush said the neighborhood is changing.  We have to generate more commerce with our neighbors, therefore these negotiations are important.  Our government is not going to engage in any negotiations that will hurt the Small Business Sector.  The two sides can win. An example of this, NAFTA has created millions of new jobs in the region.

CAFTA and other hemispheric negotiations are also important.

Q.: However, the phenomenon that took place in the Steel and Semiconductor Industry is repeating with similar characteristics in the Technology Industry.  Many Businesses are very afraid of the International Free Trade Agreements.

A.: The Agency has helped thousands and thousands of businesses in the Technology sector.  Names like INTEL, SUM Micromedia, Apple, American OnLine (AOL) have been supported financially and with other resources.  The Agency counts with a special Development Center in Silicon Valley for high technology businesses so that they can compete with any other country in the world.  It is very important to “Know what you do not know”.  That is why the SBA is a great partner for Small Business and we continue giving them support with:

  • More than 1,200 Development Centers in cities all around the country.

  • More than 660,000 Small Businesses in the US.

  • And, the Program SCORE with more than 11,000 volunteers, only last year they offer assistance to 400,000 Small Businesses.

Q.: it is important to have those Centers, but they do not speak Spanish

A.: The Agency is investing to resolve that.

Q.: What is the biggest business challenge?

A.: One of most frequent errors of Small Business is “not knowing that you don’t know”. Starting before you are ready.  It is necessary to have a projection of the recourses needed to meet the objective: Financial: Start Up, Cash Flow, Growth Capital; Human Resources: How many employees, what salaries.

We have to know where the strengths and weaknesses are. The advantages for the business are, the needs of the community, individual talents, and the competitive advantages (Price, quickness, service), then to be able to use those advantages.
We businessman don’t know that we don’t know.

Challenges to grow in your business, people learning at work. They learn from the problems. “Don’t know that they don’t know”. They do not know what the capital is, or which the contact is, where the opportunities are.  Learning from the problems of other businessman.  It is important to be realistic, sometimes they think they will have an income and not always is the case.  He did not know that the was an SBA.  The SBA can help you make a Business Plan, find financing and train you in different areas.

Q.: You started in business with your family, what do you think of family businesses?

A.: My Dad was a great teacher; he initiated me when I was 9 years old.  He gave me a lot of responsibilities and motivated me to do the things I had to do. With him, my mother and my sisters I learned important values.

Family businesses are one of the reasons this country is so successful.  The Hispanic community tends to have family businesses. There are twenty million Hispanic small businesses with more than 300 thousands millions dollars of sales, this figures are expected to duplicate in the next 5 years.  Hispanic small businesses grow faster than any other sector in the US.

Q.: What has meant to Héctor Barreto, the businessman, the jump from business to politics? Has the Cross Over been easy?

A.:  I still think like a businessman.  It aggravates me that things on the public sector move slowly.  They should be flexible, realistic and take risks.  They (the public sector) are not a business, but can act like one.  We are beginning to change things, but it is not only to begin, also need to grow.  To begin and to grow.

Q.: The Global Economy has been significantly impacted in the last years (2000 – 2003), specially the SMB’s.  What role has technology played with the small businesses?

A.: Technology has helped to overcome some of the challenges of the past.  The acquisition of information is easier today which makes them able to compete with larger businesses. The better the information, more efficiency possible.

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November 24, 2003
 

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