It takes a small business owner to truly know one. So when Linda McMahon, Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Trump Administration, recently spoke to hundreds of women and small business owners from across the nation who were in attendance at the National Women’s Business Conference hosted by NAWBO and said, “I know first-hand the sleepless nights every woman business owner in this room and beyond has faced,” she truly meant it.
Back in 1982, Linda and her husband Vince were starting all over again on the heels of a bankruptcy. Vince had been working as an on-air announcer for his father’s small, regional wrestling business when the pair decided to buy it. “We had lost everything just a few years prior—our home was auctioned off and my car was repossessed out of the driveway,” she recalls. Together, Linda and Vince grew Capital Wrestling Corporation first nationally and then internationally. They took it public on NASDAQ and on the New York Stock Exchange in the late ‘90s. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), a name now synonymous with professional wrestling, was as Linda says, “an incredible American dream story.”
“Vince and I literally started out by sharing a desk and building our business market by market by market,” shares Linda. “We had to learn about managing cash flow and not having access to capital”—issues every small business owner then and now faces. In fact, she recalls her company’s first WrestleMania event (this year was number 33). They had no access to capital to do what they wanted in the pay-per-view or closed circuit marketplaces. They had to convince one of their banking partners to come on board with a line of credit for all the equipment required to pull off the event. Around 3 a.m. that morning, after watching all the event reports roll in from different parts of the country, Linda remembers walking in to Vince, who was up working on something else, and saying, “We have just broken even. We are not going to have to access the line of credit. We’re going to be able to do this with the proceeds from the event we just had.”
At that time, an organization like the SBA, which Linda now heads, would have been an incredible resource as the McMahons worked to grow their business. That’s why Linda was so honored when Donald Trump, who was president-elect at the time, approached her about taking her strong business acumen and decades of experience and putting it to work on behalf of America’s 30 million small business owners that contribute approximately $8.5 trillion to the economy (roughly half of the total $17 trillion GDP). “He said he wanted someone who had built a business and really understood what it was like to walk the walk and talk the talk of business building and growing,” says Linda, who at the time was involved in another business venture—Women’s Leadership Live—she co-founded with two other successful women to equip more women to be leaders and innovators in their respective industries.
Now, one of Linda’s greatest charges as SBA Administrator is to let America’s small business owners know how the SBA can help them to build and grow, through resources like:
- Help securing government contracts
- Disaster recovery
“I think one of the biggest things that is often overlooked with the SBA is all of the mentoring opportunities it offers not only at our district offices through folks like our lender relations specialists, but also through our resource partners like SCORE, Women’s Business Centers, Small Business Development Centers and Veteran’s Business Outreach Centers,” Linda says. “These different resource partners bring experts in the field of business to help entrepreneurs look at their businesses, develop a business plan if they don’t have one and look at how to access capital and then manage cash flow.” She adds that, “Undercapitalization and lack of understanding for how to manage cash flow are the two reasons why so many start-ups fail.”
Linda’s other major charge is to serve as the “voice” of small business in the Trump Administration, whether the issue is access to capital, tax reform, health care, skilled workforce, minimum wage or regulatory red tape. Currently, two major focuses are tax reduction and health care. She firmly supports the president’s tax reduction framework, which for a lot of small businesses that serve as pass-throughs for income, including Subchapter S Corporations, LLCs and Sole Proprietorships, the new legislation would cap their federal tax bracket at 25%, compared to as much as 39.6% that some pay. “That’s a big chunk of dough that comes out of their ability to reinvest,” says Linda. “I haven’t spoken to one small business owner, male or female, who has not said they would take any savings from taxes and reinvest it in their business to hire new people or get a new piece of equipment to grow.”
The small business owners Linda speaks with daily also say the high cost of health premiums are impacting their ability to grow. “They really want to provide health care to their employees, but they cannot afford the premiums,” she says. “They have raised co-payments, if they have ever asked employees to pay co-payments, and they’re now at the point where they just can’t comply and many of them will go out of business. It makes them feel bad.” That’s why Linda firmly supports the president’s health care reform proposal as well. “We have yet to see how this can get played out, but the goal is to provide good, affordable health care to every American.”
As Linda wrapped up her address to the women and small business owners in the ballroom at the NAWBO conference, she gave them this encouragement as they continue their pursuit of entrepreneurial growth: “Sure, you may fall—that’s the risk of climbing—but I believe you can fall forward.”