David Stevens celebrates 30 years with the Kentucky SBDC

David Stevens accepting his State Star award from then SBA Administrator, Maria Contreras-Sweet.

March 1 is David Stevens’ 30th anniversary working with the Kentucky SBDC. In celebration of this milestone, we interviewed Stevens about his career with the Kentucky SBDC.
During his tenure Stevens has been the primary accountant, a consultant, and now Associate State Director of Finance. In this interview with Stevens we reflect on his time with the KSBDC, his career advice for others in the network, and what he is looking forward to now.
The State Office would like to congratulate David Stevens on 30 years with the network and thank him for not only his services, but his friendship and support.

Cunningham: What brought you to KSBDC and what was the network like when you started?

Stevens: I wanted to better put to use my accounting degree as a new graduate of the University of Kentucky. I saw an opportunity and I seized the moment.
There aren’t too many people who are in our program now that were here when I started. Tricia Hudson has a longer tenure than me by a few months.
I’ve been through four state directors now. I was hired by the first State Director, Jerry Owen, who retired within about two years after I started.
On my first day of work Jerry Owens was out of town and he left a stack of paperwork for me to read through. When I started reading federal regulations it was a little challenging to get my mind around, but it started building the bigger picture of what the KSBDC program is all about.
I read through the Funding proposal narratives, cooperative agreements, and so on. I read a lot the first couple of days before Jerry Owens returned. I replicated financial reports generated before me. We had a volunteer faculty person who would review my work for accuracy. This process taught me how to generate our reports.

Cunningham: Tell me about getting the State Star title in 2015.

Stevens: It was a great honor to be presented with the Sutton Landry State Star Title by then SBA administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet. It reminded me of the passing of our colleague Sutton Landry and that was very touching.
As the State Star, I got to tour Silicon Valley with the other state stars – two campuses of Facebook, the Intuit headquarters and the Google campus. It was all very interesting.
David Stevens teaching at the 2001 Young Entrepreneurs Camp.

Cunningham: Outside of the different directors, what are some of the big changes you have seen in the network over the years?

Stevens: We used to process payment requests using a typewriter and dot-matrix printers. We’ve evolved to using computers and I can remember when we first started using the computer, one of the things I wanted to do was start getting all of our data and reports into the new computer system. We were keeping all of our data on ledger sheets and were very driven by paper. The first computer systems we used were Quattro Pro and Lotus. Those were the spreadsheets at the time. I’m happy that we’ve worked our way up to Excel now.

Cunningham: What have been your toughest challenges working at KSBDC?

Stevens: It is always a challenge when we get ready for an SBA financial review. It is also a challenge on a timely basis to get the reports that are due out.

Cunningham: What are some of your proudest moments?

Stevens: In my tenure, I have consulted, I have directed and I have worked with clients who still have their businesses open today. Back when I was consulting, I had a client write me a nice thank you letter. He felt like I had saved him from investing in a business that would not have been fruitful. When we looked at what he was getting ready to jump into, it was clear that the market wasn’t going to sustain his venture. His business idea would not be able to replace the income that he was currently making, and his familial obligations did not leave much room for error. He decided to not pursue the opportunity, and was thankful for my council.

Cunningham: That seems like high praise as most clients are not happy to hear that their idea may not be sustainable.

Stevens: My style was to show clients the numbers, explain how cash flow worked, and let them decide instead of just telling them that their idea wouldn’t work.
That letter was definitely one of the highest compliments I received as a consultant.

Cunningham: What was your most rewarding experience with a client?

Stevens: I developed a great relationship with a client who is still in business today. We worked hard on creating his financial projections. It was very rewarding to find that his actual income was nearly dead on what we had forecasted for the business.
David Stevens entertaining colleagues at the 2003 East Kentucky Conference.

Cunningham: Do any other memories stand out from your time at KSBDC?

Stevens: I can remember during the flood of 97; KET asked us to talk about disaster loans. Three people who were interviewed Larry Turner from the College of Agriculture, a FEMA person and me talking about what SBA could do to help homeowners and businesses. The problem was I didn’t know everything that SBA had to offer. So I had 36 hours to study up to be sure that I presenting accurate information.
Stevens: I remember when Sutton Landry was awarded the SBDC State Star honor. At the time he was fighting cancer, and it was very touching to honor him while he was still with us. To this day the award is named after him.
Stevens: It has been an honor to be involved in the hiring of the last two State Directors, and several other people who work here now.
Stevens: The ASBDC Conference has always been a good training venue, but also a good social venue in the evening when you can network with your peers.
It is always a blessing and proud moment when we have positive results from our financial audits and reviews and the accreditation process, being recognized at the national level.
David Stevens accepting his ’20 years of service,’ acknowledgement from former
State Director Becky Naugle in 2009.

Cunningham: What are you looking forward to now?

Stevens: I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit of the strategic plan we’ve been working on. I’m hoping to see some additional funding coming our way so we can enhance our program statewide.

Cunningham: Professional advice for others in the network?

Take responsibility for your own professional development.
The Kentucky SBDC is proud of our employees and so very blessed to have had David Stevens serving in his role for 30 years.

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