Sandy Summers is the Assistant Director and Training Coordinator of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond. She discussed her experience with Louisiana businesses and the value of the LSBDC in a recent interview with LCIA.
Tell us about your history with the LSBDC.
I joined the LSBDC in 2000 as a graduate assistant while I was getting my MBA at Southeastern. There was a full-time position that opened while I was a grad assistant, and I decided to apply. I have been here ever since.
And before grad school?
I worked for a small bank in business lending. I worked on a "second chance” committee that reviewed loans that were declined to see if there was any potential to still work with the customer. Seeing the passion and raw hunger in these businesses inspired me to do what I could do help them get to the next level.
What does your typical workday look like?
Every day is new for me; there is no typical day. Our center receives new calls from businesses every day, and I talk to them to see how we can help them. I also plan events for businesses. The topics—including accounting, marketing, business planning, and others—are based on calls we receive and the needs of businesses. I plan and facilitate these events—they are a large part of my responsibility.
What services does your center offer?
In addition to events I mentioned before, we have two full-time consultants and a Center Director who meet one-on-one with businesses. Our consultants work with individuals who are starting new companies, and they work with established businesses who are looking to grow.
Can you talk about the value of having different LSBDC locations across the state?
There are eight centers throughout Louisiana with each center able to serve the industries in their area. Each center has its own skillset and specialties. For example, our sweet spot here at Southeastern is helping companies build a strong financial package.
What is the biggest opportunity for Louisiana businesses?
I believe there is an opportunity to increase sales through online commerce and through international trade. E-commerce is growing, and businesses who have been in business for a long time can adapt and grow their online sales.
And the biggest challenge?
It is hard to keep constant growth going past the status quo. I find many of the business owners I have met to be risk-takers and serial entrepreneurs, so sitting on the status quo isn’t something they typically do.
What is the best lesson in leadership you have learned?
Servant leadership. I should not behave like something is below me. It is important for me, as a leader, to keep the big picture in mind and keep teams moving in the same direction.
Since I was younger, I have learned servant leadership by watching other leaders including my parents, my sister, and my pastor. I recognized this as good leadership, but it wasn’t until I attended trainings on servant leadership that I could articulate it. It all clicked at these trainings, and it solidified my view about servant leadership.
What are your thoughts about building a professional network?
I want to offer some networking advice: first, don’t be afraid to approach people. Do your homework, and have an idea of what you want from this relationship. Second, find a group that works for you. There are many networking groups out there, and you should be comfortable.
What’s one book you would recommend to Louisiana business owners?
I recommend All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. My dad gave me this book before I started businesses school to keep me grounded. The soft skills in the book are invaluable when paired with solid business strategies.
Any last thoughts?
I want businesses to know that help is out there. You are not alone, and please, do not be afraid to ask for help.
Through eight locations throughout the state, the LSBDC offers high-quality technical assistance to existing and start-up small businesses, and to small business entrepreneurs in Louisiana at no cost to the client. Learn more and find a center near you on the LSBDC website.
In Resourceful, we introduce readers to individuals who spend their days working with Louisiana businesses. They include leaders of business organizations, associations, and other resources across the state.