The economic outlook continues to be less than cheerful even in the second quarter of 2013. Restrained bank lending, higher taxes, public sector layoffs, impact of troubles brewing in the Euro zone and higher costs of health insurance, have adversely affected business sentiments. Which is why the upbeat results of a survey by American Express OPEN of small businesses in the U.S, is both surprising and encouraging. The survey conducted on a nationally representative group of 993 small business owners and managers, reveals that they are optimistic about their business prospects and are gearing up for doing ‘more with less’. Here are the key positive trends on the small business community revealed by the survey.
Small business owners stay optimistic
More than half of owners (54%) were optimistic about their business prospects, with 50% planning to enhance their capital investments, over the next six months. Although, in the matter of cash flows business owners expressed concerns with 59% saying they were apprehensive of impact on business operations. Business owners may draw solace from the fact that cash flows are often impacted by factors external to the business, for instance customers taking longer to clear their dues.
Businesses focusing on improving employee productivity
While the overall bleak economic environment is affecting small business owner’s plans to hire more employees, there are still quite a few businesses (31%) that are planning to take on more people. What is more significant is the growing awareness that an enterprise is only as good as its people. Businesses are working towards improving the productivity of existing work force and in the process hope to increase employee salaries and business profits.
Use of social media stagnant, but businesses are using it more effectively
While the percentage of business owners using social media remained about the same (46%) as compared to the previous survey, what is significant is that small businesses are increasingly using social media with the objective of targeting new customers.
Business optimism translates to an overall ‘good feeling’
The survey goes on to conclude that a majority (92%) of small business owners are happy with their lives and this happiness largely stems from being entrepreneurs.
Continuing Support for Local Communities
Even more heart rendering is the trend that small business owners, despite tardy cash flows, continue to support local communities through donations to local causes and by being more participative in community projects. And, a vast majority of them (83%) also shopped for personal purchases from within the local community.
Optimism of the small business owners is certainly admirable in view of the gloom in the overall economic environment. As per Susan Sobbott, President of American Express OPEN “We should all draw inspiration from small businesses that remain steadfast optimists and loyal contributors to local communities and causes despite an economic environment that remains uncertain,”.
To end even on a more hopeful note it must be mentioned that the findings of the American Express OPEN survey discussed are not solitary. In a similar survey conducted by the U.S Bank across more than 3,000 small businesses, 67% felt that the financial health of their business was sound, with 29% reporting higher revenues over last year and 41% expecting higher revenues this year.