When Carlton Roy discovered the Small Business Institute, the vice-president of Durabla Pump Components, in Odessa, Tex., thought, Great, we're always looking for those freebies. After being chosen last year for a local SBI program (see "First-Class Export Help," [Article link]), he met with two M.B.A. students. They agreed to focus on exporting -- one of Durabla's objectives.

To get the most from the SBI, you should know that --

The students are not professional consultants. You can expect to meet with a team of two to six students about six times during the semester. They will deliver a comprehensive written report with recommendations and make an oral presentation at the end of the project.

They want your numbers. The SBI asks companies to share financial records so the students can analyze the problem and generate, say, a pro forma income statement. (Students can sign a confidentiality agreement.) But most schools will settle for whatever data you'll share.
You'll get back what you put in.
Durabla met with the students at its factory after hours to explain the valve manufacturer's business. The students' proposal pointed out that undeveloped countries were using old pumps that few companies still made valves for. Durabla does. Latin America was a suggested target market, and Durabla is now in Venezuela.

To locate SBI programs near you, call the Small Business Advancement National Center at 501-450-5377.

-- Susan Greco and Phaedra Hise.

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