Business

Linda McMahon, from WWE to now heading the SBA: ‘I’ve walked in their shoes’

U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon and HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson share a laugh at the cafe bar at Versailles Cuban restaurant in Miami. After the gathering with Carson, she headed to the SBA offices to meet with small businesses.
U.S. Small Business Administrator Linda McMahon and HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson share a laugh at the cafe bar at Versailles Cuban restaurant in Miami. After the gathering with Carson, she headed to the SBA offices to meet with small businesses. cmguerrero@elnuevoherald.com

Linda McMahon, 55 days into her job as the new chief of the U.S. Small Business Administration, spent 24 hours in Miami on Thursday, in the first of a number of city visits she intends to make.

The co-founder and former CEO of wrestling entertainment giant WWE said the Cabinet position is in her wheelhouse.

“My husband and I built our business from the ground up, starting with sharing a desk in the basement, and at one point we went bankrupt and lost everything ... I like to tell small business owners and entrepreneurs I get it, I have your back on this, I understand about regulation, I understand how taxes are taxing, I understand what it is like not to be able to borrow money when you need it.”

She said when she talks about and to small businesses, she is using every skill she learned scaling WWE: How to start and grow a company, how to manage people and processes, how to expand into new markets and how to go international. “I’ve walked in their shoes. I don’t talk about things I don’t know about.”

McMahon said she will first be examining all existing SBA programs, such as its flagship 7(a) loan program and its export programs, and making sure they are the best they can be before launching new programs. She also said she wants to update the website and expand marketing and outreach.

Her goals for the SBA: “Some of them are the obvious. We want to create more jobs, we want to qualify more lenders and expand lending markets. But also I want a very different SBA – it’s not your father’s SBA. I want to modernize it and reposition it so when people think about jobs, they think about how the Small Business Administration would really be helpful.”

During the short visit, she attended a housing briefing with HUD Secretary Ben Carson and local mayors, lunched at Versailles and met with the district SBA office staff and small businesses.

One of the small businesses she met early in the day was Freebee, a local startup that provides free city transportation via golf cart-like vehicles and said she enjoyed hearing the co-founders’ story. “They had worked very closely with SBDC [Small Business Development Center] and it was terrific to hear them talk about how the technical assistance and the counseling was as important as money. You hear those stories and you know that SBA services in so many different ways.”

Later in the afternoon, McMahon held a roundtable discussion for local small businesses and organizations to talk about what SBA does right, what needs to improve and what needs to be jettisoned.

“We’ve seen over the past few years a decline in startups,” she said. “But what you are starting to see now is a bit more confidence. More entrepreneurs are looking to come back to start businesses, and that is where SBA is perfectly positioned to be helping more people to realize their dreams.”

Nancy Dahlberg: @ndahlberg

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