Under Mills' leadership, the SBA took a holistic approach toward helping small businesses. She continually said it wasn't enough for the government to just guarantee loans for companies that could get them. Businesses that weren't strong enough to get financing needed counseling and education so they could succeed â¿¿ and create jobs to help the country recover from the recession.
"It turns out, if you give them the money without also some other tools, it is not as effective," Mills said in an April 2012 interview with The Associated Press. "We have data that shows that if you are a small business who has a long-term counselor, you get better sales, you get more longevity, you hire more people."
Under Mills, the SBA streamlined its loan process, eliminating many pages from its applications and shortening the amount of time it takes for a loan to be approved.
The SBA itself also grew significantly. The agency has 3,000 employees, up from 2,000 under the administration of President George W. Bush.Mills has had bipartisan support in Congress that started with a unanimous vote in the Senate to confirm her appointment. She also won praise from small business advocacy groups. "Small business lost a strong advocate today," John Arensmeyer, CEO of Small Business Majority, a lobbying group, said. "Her work to expand access to capital, encourage investment and promote job creation was critical for small businesses, especially during these difficult economic times." Mills, 59, knew a lot about the needs of small business before she came to the SBA, having spent decades working for and owning private equity firms that invested in and bought small companies. She was a founding partner of Solera Capital in New York in 1999. After she moved to Maine, where her husband Barry is president of Bowdoin College, she was president of MMP Group