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It’s great news that Goldman Sachs and Mr. Buffett are initiating a program to help 10,000 small businesses. As I understand it, their initial projects involve funding community colleges to provide business and management education; providing mentoring and networking services to small businesses; and giving $300 million in grants and loans to small businesses.
Of the Goldman/Buffett initiatives, I believe that mentoring idea holds the most promise for success, particularly if the program involves volunteers who are active in the private sectors relevant to small businesses. With the use of today’s technology, a volunteer junior medical products banker from Goldman could consult (meet, share documents, brainstorm) with the CEO of a fledgling device maker in Topeka about early stage financing ideas (come to think of it, that activity may already be taking place if Goldman would take the CEO’s call and the device maker could afford Goldman’s fee).
It’s easy to come up with additional examples of active business people who could volunteer their specific functional or industry expertise (commercial lenders, labor lawyers, marketing professionals, venture capitalists, etc.) across the nation - from the comfort of their home or office, when it fits their schedule. Setting up a national mentoring and networking system could involve grants and volunteers from other firms (e.g., Cisco, Chase, Accenture, etc.) and would squarely address a key national small business issue – the professional expertise needed to foster small business success exists, but it is not evenly distributed geographically across the US. Goldman and Mr. Buffett are uniquely qualified to bring together the resources necessary to establish a national mentoring system.