Why should my country adopt the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) methodology?

Please visit the section Why Countries Should Adapt the SBDC Model?


I would like my country to adopt the SBDC methodology, what should I do?

Adopting the SBDC methodology involves commitment from the national government and other key micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) ecosystem stakeholders. Some recommendations include first discussing the SBDC methodology with your national agency charged with entrepreneurship or MSME development. Second, having discussions with other MSME assistance ecosystem partners such as universities and chambers of commerce. Third, contacting the UTSA Center for Global Development for further assistance once key stakeholders are interested in learning more about the SBDC model.


Can we adopt the SBDC methodology on our own?

The SBDC methodology is simple to understand but is extremely difficult to execute. It is not prescriptive and requires discipline and good decision-making since the SBDC methodology changes how people think, work, and interact. In addition, adopting the SBDC methodology involves dramatic shifts in human resource management, internal processes, the service mix, and many other changes. Therefore, it is crucial to receive competent and experienced guidance and assistance.

Over the past 20+ years, the UTSA Center for Global Development has developed a proprietary Five-Phase Approach to National SBDC Network Development. This method is proven to help countries create successful SBDC networks as quickly and efficiently as possible while avoiding costly mistakes. If a country is thinking about adopting the SBDC methodology and wants to succeed, please contact the UTSA Center for Global Development for more information.


I know someone that used to work at an SBDC, can they assist us?

Working in an SBDC or managing a center is entirely different from transferring the methodology to another national SBDC context. Adopting the SBDC methodology is similar to learning a martial art like karate or taekwondo. Suppose someone wants to learn a martial art. In that case, they must receive instruction from an experienced instructor or, even better, a karate or taekwondo master. One does not want to take lessons from someone who does not understand karate or taekwondo or has never taught someone before.

The UTSA Center for Global Development is a master at operating SBDC networks, delivering SBDC services, and has unparalleled experience transferring the methodology to different countries. Therefore, it is highly recommended that countries follow and complete all the activities outlined in the Five-Phase Approach to National SBDC Network Development. Each activity builds upon the other and helps countries structure, fund, operate, and administer successful SBDC networks. This process will accelerate the development of an SBDC network, increase the generation of economic impact, and avoid costly and sometimes program-killing mistakes.

Countries that do not follow the Five-Phase Approach to National SBDC Network Development will not understand the long-term implications of their decisions and will inevitably make mistakes. These mistakes will impede the development and economic impact production of a national SBDC network and require costly repairs. Please contact the UTSA Center for Global Development for more information.


The SBDCs are a U.S. based methodology and will not work in my country. How can I “tropicalize” the methodology?

There is only one SBDC methodology. A crucial part of the SBDC DNA is flexibility and adapting the center's operations and services based on the needs and context of the local market while considering the available resources. All SBDCs must adapt to their local marketplace, which can range from large metropolitan areas with an educated client base to rural centers with many clients who cannot read or write. There are centers in large cities, touristic zones, agricultural areas, jungles with large indigenous populations, and economically disadvantaged areas. All SBDCs operate using the same methodology. They are all "tropicalized" to their local market context because it is an inherent feature of the SBDC methodology.

Because SBDCs have flexibility and adaptability in their DNA, they will work in any country, region, or context. SBDCs are generating economic impact results all over the Americas and in every imaginable context. Because of this, the SBDC model is now a global model.


My country already has the XYZ program, how are the SBDCs superior?

There are very talented, bright, and motivated people operating successful MSME assistance programs in every country. However, in countries without SBDCs, these efforts tend to be fragmented, with the national government, local governments, higher education, NGOs, chambers of commerce, and the private sector operating their individual programs. In addition, these programs tend to be focused on activities rather than results and usually only serve a small number of businesses. Furthermore, these programs typically only help one client segment: start-ups, informal firms, established firms, exporters, technology firms, or specific industries. Finally, countries without SBDCs will generally have programs that do not produce a positive return on investment and are not sustainable over the long term.

The SBDC methodology solves all the problems mentioned above. As such, SBDCs reduce fragmentation, serve masses of clients that range from start-ups to high-growth gazelles, and generate results. As such, SBDCs can produce a positive return on investment for funding agencies, are sustainable over decades, and produce ever-increasing amounts of economic impact results for a country. Again, SBDCs are the only proven methodology for growing the national MSME sector in a measurable, efficient, and sustainable manner and on a scale that matters.


What is the difference between an SBDC and a business incubator?

Although the terms incubator, accelerator, and small business assistance centers are used differently and often interchangeably in many countries, there are usually significant differences for an SBDC. First, an incubator traditionally focuses on the entrepreneurial start-up phase of development, while an SBDC is concerned about the entire life cycle growth of an MSME which can span many years. Second, incubators usually work with a small number of entrepreneurs and dedicate significant amounts of time to each client. In contrast, SBDCs work with a massive number of MSMEs and are very efficient and strategic with their time investment for each client.

One way to look at the difference between an SBDC and a traditional incubator or accelerator is to compare a boutique store versus a hypermarket such as Walmart or Carrefour. SBDCs serve the masses and create significant results. On the other hand, incubators tend to operate on a much smaller basis and offer specialized services. That said, a healthy MSME ecosystem will include both incubators and SBDCs since they offer very different value propositions for clients and funding stakeholders. However, when deciding what type of store to own, a boutique versus a hypermarket, most people would select hypermarket due to its massive scale and results.


If my country adopts the SBDC methodology, what happens to the existing programs?

A crucial part of the Transfer Phase of National SBDC Network Development is that countries will be assisted by the UTSA Center for Global Development in evaluating their current MSME assistance ecosystem. An essential aspect of this activity is identifying the programs and services that deliver value to MSME clients, are already adapted to the national context, and that can be integrated into the SBDC methodology. This process aims to use what is working well and improve or adjust programs and services that are not maximizing value.

Many successful SBDCs operating throughout the world have previously utilized a different MSME assistance methodology and transitioned their operations to the SBDC methodology. Additionally, and in many countries, there are SBDCs hosted at chambers of commerce, NGOs, associations, institutions of higher education, and local/regional governments which are all operating as a unified national SBDC network and collectively producing massive results.