Community Partner Highlight: Robinson Hernandez, Executive Director and Michael Kim, Senior Client Manager at NBAT
1.How long has your organization been in the business of helping small businesses?
The New Business Acceleration Team (NBAT) was established in 2010. NBAT coordinates and sequences multi-agency inspections and plan reviews for eating and drinking establishments throughout the five boroughs. NBAT was established during the recession when many businesses were opening and finding difficulties in navigating the regulatory environment in the City of New of York. The administration decided to create a program to make it easier for businesses to get all of these services under one roof. Consequently, NBAT offers coordinated agency consultations/inspections from the Department of Buildings, the New York City Fire Department, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. NBAT also reviews Department of Buildings and New York City Fire Department plan reviews.
2. What’s been your organization’s biggest hurdle in achieving its goals of aiding small businesses?
We have a number of metrics that we review to see if we are having a positive impact on the regulatory environment. We look at two factors:
The first is “time to open.” We compare restaurants that have not used our program to restaurants that have. We’ve found that as a result of businesses using the services we provide, as well as accessing our client managers, we’ve been able to decrease the time it takes a business to open by 2 ½ months. This is a considerable financial saving to the business.
The second metric we review is our ability to streamline our regulatory review. We’re helping existing businesses while addressing how we can streamline the process, so that in the long-term businesses can complete the process faster and easier. We work on modifying certain codes that exist throughout the different departments in order for us to make the process more streamlined. We’ve made certain legislative changes, but we find that this process can be time consuming and often challenging.
3. Describe any major accomplishments for your organization over the last year.
Our efforts to help businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy are a proud accomplishment. After Hurricane Sandy, the Mayor’s Office created the Restoration Business Association Team (RBAT), a program utilized to help businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy to rebuild and reopen. We are leveraging many of the resources that we have at NBAT, such as inspectors and client managers, and transferring them to the RBAT program. Now, instead of solely helping new food service businesses open, RBAT helps all business affected by Sandy, regardless of business sector. We’re proud to have been able to form this sister program, by creatively utilizing the resources of NBAT to assist businesses that have been devastated by the storm. We’ve reached out to over 850 businesses and connected about 160 businesses with over 230 different services to rebuild.
The Mayor also signed an Executive Order that waives fees for businesses recovering from Hurricane Sandy, which RBAT administers. Over 40 fees associated with 8 city agencies can be waived by completing a simple waiver form, found here, with more information found here.
An additional accomplishment is the creation of the Client Management team. Client managers serve as liaisons for businesses and will help coordinate all the different activities that are required to open a business. That has been a very successful program for us. Since the program’s establishment, we’ve helped 1,500 businesses open, which has generated over 20,000 jobs.
4. What are the key strategic goals for your organization over the next year?
We’re continually assessing the role that the agencies play in streamlining the processes, as well as making sure they continuously work to improve the overall customer experience. We’re also looking to embrace technology more to further expedite and enhance the customer experience.
We’ve also identified opportunities where we can improve the opening processes and the regulatory environment of the retail sector. We’ve taken on small pilot programs in helping these retail businesses and want to ensure that we meet this strategic goal in the coming years.
From a metrics perspective, we want continually adhere to the metrics goals we’ve set. For example, we aim to complete a certain amount of inspections on a weekly basis and want to continuously meet those standards.
5. What should a small business entrepreneur know about your organization?
They should know that we are available to assist them throughout the process, whether they’re in the conceptual phase or they’ve signed their lease. We are a free City service, with client managers available to explain the processes and connect business owners with the tools and resources they need to get their doors open faster. We help save a business about 2 ½ in opening, and that just helps the business owner – it means 2 ½ months of additional revenue, of rent saved, of employees working in New York City.
We also have strong partnership with other city agencies and have knowledge of their programs so we can refer businesses to other beneficial city services, so businesses receive a strong and all-encompassing city experience.
Lastly, we have a dynamic team that is committed to helping businesses open faster. We are creative, proactive and understanding. Businesses should know that there is a friendly face who wants to help you open your business. Businesses who call NBAT for assistance will always reach a client manager on the other line.
6. Where can they get more information about NBAT?
7. Discuss how a partnership with NYBDC can help your organization achieve its mission.
It makes sense to partner with NYBDC. We feel there is a natural synergy between what NYBDC is accomplishing by providing the capital a business needs to start and NBAT, who can help businesses after they’ve received financing to provide assistance navigating the regulatory environment. We’re both striving to open more successful businesses in New York City and look forward to working together towards that goal.