A Playbook for Jobs
As SBA Administrator and member of President Obama’s Cabinet and senior economic team, Karen Mills had a direct role in the federal government’s immediate response to the 2008 financial collapse, as well as the programs and tools deployed to spur economic recovery in the years following. An effective policy maker and leading economic thinker, Ms. Mills became known as one of the most passionate champions for small business in Washington. Now, she is using her experience to inspire and enlighten businesses with her “Playbook for Jobs,” a how-to guide for success based on three key factors: access to capital, a skilled work-force and innovation. Ms. Mills’ key insights will inspire audiences and help facilitate small businesses to once again drive the nation’s economic growth, innovation and competitiveness.
Small Business Lending, A Market Disrupted: Standing in the Middle of the Transformation of How America’s Small Businesses Finance their Growth
As a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School, Karen Mills recently released the definitive look at the credit gap for small business, and how technology may be changing the game. After a deep look at both the structural and cyclical problems facing bank lenders, she examined the emergence of new online lenders, dozens of new entrants who are providing small business customers with efficient web-based loan applications and quick decisions on approvals.
Technology is disrupting the small business lending market in ways that will likely leave the banking and finance industries forever transformed. Some say the lack of regulatory oversight makes this the equivalent of the Wild West and question whether it is good for small businesses? Who will be the winners and losers in the new marketplace? Can traditional banks be nimble enough to change?
From her time as SBA Administrator, where she oversaw a $100 billion loan portfolio, Ms. Mills offers unique perspectives on the current state of small business lending and its implications for the nation’s economic future.
Don’t Just Belong…Lead!
When Karen Mills graduated from Harvard Business School in 1975, it didn’t occur to her that she was stepping into a man’s world. She grew up in a manufacturing and entrepreneurial family, so she saw no reason why she shouldn’t be successful as an investor in and manager of small manufacturers in the male-dominated industry of private equity and venture capital. Now 40 years later, she shares powerful insights and experiences–from the “irrational no” to “make-it-happen” moments throughout her career in business, as a policy maker and a government official–that prove it’s no longer a matter of where women belong, it’s about how they lead.
Seeing Around the Corner: Anticipating and Navigating the Twists and Turns of Growing Your Business
As an investor, manager and business owner, Karen Mills developed a reputation for “seeing around the corner,” anticipating pitfalls and successfully navigate through them. From startups to established businesses, whether on the factory floor or at the board table, she has effectively managed challenges ranging from industry disruptions to the everyday operational and management stumbles. For Ms. Mills, the secret has been “reverse engineering success,” having a clear picture of where you are trying to go and then identifying the milestones necessary to get to “victory.”
As SBA Administrator, she was often asked what she thought the secrets to a successful business were, and whether you’re just starting out or have a few decades of business ownership behind you, you may be surprised at her common-sense advice and insights.
Opportunity and Optimism! Why the American Dream is Still Possible in Today’s Economy
Following in the footsteps of her entrepreneurial immigrant grandfathers, Karen Mills has had the opportunity to achieve her version of the American Dream and believes that’s still possible for future generations. While economic growth still lags in some areas, she points to innovations, disruptions and trends that are illuminating likely paths for the next chapter in nation’s economic future and important opportunities to drive prosperity and the prospects of working Americans.
Thanks to the quick application of new technologies, business is no longer bounded by physical walls and geographic limitations. Quite literally, in today’s “economies of unscale,” an entrepreneurial idea can accelerate into a global business and create jobs and opportunities in ways not possible just a decade ago. In Karen’s view, the American Dream is still very much achievable in an innovation-driven 21st Century.
Underpinning America’s Economy: Strategies for Strengthening America’s Supply Chain
The American economy is built on the nation’s supply chain, something Karen Mills has had to manage both from both sides. As an investor in and manager of auto-industry, construction and food suppliers, she’s navigated industry disruptions, including recessions and outsourcing decisions. Then as SBA Administrator she oversaw the nation’s small business supply chain with programs that facilitated more than $100 billion in contracts to small suppliers of goods and services to the federal government, and pushed policies and improvements to strengthen those opportunities.
In her view, the nation’s supply chain is the underpinning of the American economy, but in the post-Great Recession era the vitality of this economic foundation is not just a small business concern. Based on a career immersed in the dynamics of America’s supply chain, she offers keen insights into the strategies that can drive supply chain opportunities and on how corporations and government must step up as a partner to the millions of businesses who put the pieces of the American economy together.
Attention Banks: Programming Idea for regional events with your best small business customers
As the former head of the Small Business Administration (2009-2013), and as a vocal and active champion for small business and regional development, Karen Mills is an expert on issues affecting your best customers: pro-business deregulation, tax code changes, supply chain issues and, perhaps more importantly, access to capital. The difference, however, is that Mills is an authentic champion of small businesses as the true driver of the economy and savors the interaction with the audience in the Q&A that follows every keynote. That one-on-one feeling makes her appearance truly valuable for your clients. Banks approach us about securing Mills for a series of events, in each of their important regions, as a marketing event for prospective business customers, current customers and employees. She is impressive and motivating, and has worked on small business policy at the highest level.Learn more about Karen Mills' work on small business access to capital >>
Karen Mills Delivers Powerful “Leading in Uncertain Times” Lecture
Harvard Business School Senior Fellow and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration Karen Mills drew on her wealth of experience when she delivered a lecture at the famed “Lectures that Last” event. Addressing a packed house of students and faculty from all twelve of Harvard’s graduate and professional schools, Mills spoke about public entrepreneurship and ways for aspiring business leaders to simultaneously solve problems and promote social good. In her lecture, “Leading in Uncertain Times,” Mills empowered students to find a way to make a difference. “Find your values and find your balance, because it is up to each of you in your own way to be leaders in this demanding world,” Mills said. With years of experience working in the Obama administration, Mills is able to eloquently address both macro and micro issues when it comes to the economy and politics and has recently offered in-depth analysis on everything from fintech to how the new administration can help small business owners.Read Karen Mill’s full “Leading in Uncertain Times” Lecture >>
A Playbook for Innovation & Small Business Growth
An expert on national economic growth and competitiveness as well as helping small businesses thrive, KAREN MILLS recently spoke at Harvard's Ed Portal about the current state of access to bank loans for small businesses and the importance of building entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystems to grow the local economy. Mills offers important small business tactical insights such as access to capital, regional economic clusters, hiring skilled workers, boosting exports, and tapping into government and commercial supply chains. She was widely praised for doing this on a national level as chief administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and member of President Obama's National Economic Council.Read more >>
Karen Mills explains how online lenders are disrupting small business lending
KAREN MILLS, chief administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and member of the President's National Economic Council, shares her research findings for her Harvard Business School working paper, The State of Small Business Lending: Credit Access During the Recovery and How Technology May Change the Game, in an interview with Cascade, a publication of The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.Read More...
Read Karen Mills' latest column in Fortune.Read more...
"Today’s economy is driven by innovation, and when we talk about nations and their competitiveness, we are increasingly recognizing the importance of small businesses and entrepreneurs." - Karen MillsRead more...
Karen Gordon Mills served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration from 2009 until August 2013. She is currently a Senior Fellow at the Harvard Business School and at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School focusing on U.S. Competitiveness, entrepreneurship and innovation.
As SBA Administrator and a Cabinet member, Mills served on the President’s National Economic Council and was a key member of the White House economic team. At the SBA, she led a team of more than 3,000 employees and managed a loan guarantee portfolio of over $100 billion. Mills is credited with turning around the Agency, streamlining loan programs, shortening turnaround times, and reducing paperwork. These efforts resulted in record-breaking years for SBA lending and investments in growth capital. In addition, Mills helped small businesses create regional economic clusters, gain access to early stage capital, hire skilled workers, boost exports, and tap into government and commercial supply chains.
Prior to the SBA, Mills held leadership positions in the private sector, including as a partner in several private equity firms, and served on the boards of Scotts Miracle-Gro and Arrow Electronics. Most recently, she was president of MMP Group, which invested in businesses in consumer products, food, textiles, and industrial components. In 2007, Maine Governor John Baldacci appointed Mills to chair Maine’s Council on Competitiveness and the Economy, where she focused on regional development initiatives, including a regional economic cluster with Maine’s boatbuilding industry.
Mills earned an AB in economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, where she was a Baker Scholar. Additionally, she is a past vice chair of the Harvard Overseers, and is currently a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Harvard Corporation.