IBM is launching a program to provide no-cost education, coaching and other resources to help SMBs recover and thrive as the COVID-19 pandemic recedes, the company says.
The program, Reigniting Small Business from IBM, will offer live and on-demand tutorial sessions, including a webinar library, on topics such as human resources, accounting, funding, legal, and digital branding, marketing and customer relationship strategy. IBM volunteers and other industry professionals will also be available to coach individual entrepreneurs at no cost.
The small business effort is rather intriguing for IBM. After all, the company over the past two decades has sold off various assets that support small businesses. Key exits included the IBM PC company (sold to Lenovo in 2005) and the x86 server business (sold to Lenovo in 2014).
Fast forward to present day. IBM CEO Arvind Krishna, through organic R&D and acquisitions, is striving to pivot the enterprise technology provider toward multi-cloud software that drives business automation. Apparently, that pivot includes extending goodwill to the SMB market.
Reigniting Small Business from IBM Helps SMBs Post-Pandemic Recovery
IBM's SMB efforts include key partners. For instance:
- The Jones Day law firm is providing education on legal considerations, such as partnerships, bylaws, accessing pandemic recovery funding, advertising and protecting intellectual property.
- Huntington National Bank is providing webinars on payroll, access to capital and finance strategies, such as how to create strong loan applications without lengthy credit histories.
- Volunteers from IBM will provide recommendations on topics such as digital marketing strategy and help with recommendations to economic development organizations in the U.S. In addition, they will provide mentorship to small business owners via programs such as United Way of New York City's Together We Thrive: Black Business Network, a broad coalition of government, nonprofit, and corporate partners to support Black-owned businesses in New York City.
IBMers' community service will be coordinated by IBM Service Corps, a worldwide program that enables teams of employees to help communities with economic development, education, health, social services and sustainability.
Reigniting Small Business: Overcoming Challenges
IBM volunteers will be matched with entrepreneurs through a customized online portal. National nonprofits such as Forward Cities, which bring their knowledge in building more equitable entrepreneurial ecosystems, will recruit community partners to help ensure that business owners' needs are identified and addressed by IBM volunteers.
In a prepared statement about the effort, Justina Nixon-Saintil, IBM vice president and head of IBM's corporate social responsibility, said:
"Reigniting Small Business from IBM is a timely resource, especially for business owners from diverse communities. Many of these businesses already faced multiple challenges and were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They may have fewer connections and in-house resources, and less access to capital to run and scale successfully. That's why we're collaborating with experts and also tapping into IBMers' culture of skilled volunteerism, to help small businesses and our communities thrive."
Additional insights from Joe Panettieri.