By Jeffrey Green (@epaymentsguy)
Small-business owner concerns about the economy are waning, and many more are feeling confident about their companies’ prospects and their own ability to meet long-term goals, including retirement planning, new research from American Express Co. suggests.
Cash-flow concerns, for example, are now at pre-recession levels, with at 49 percent of survey respondents now matching the fall 2007 percentage and down from a high of 66 percent in spring 2011, according to the Amex OPEN Small Business Monitor.
Amex releases the monitor each spring and fall based on a nationally representative sample of 1,150 small-business owners and managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees. Ebiquity Research conducted the latest anonymous phone survey for Amex between Feb. 24 and March 28, and the margin for error is +/- 3 percent.
In the latest survey, at 56 percent, fewer respondents said they were “stressed out” by the economy, as the percentage is down from a high of 70 percent in spring 2011. In addition, 72 percent said they were feeling confident in their ability to access the capital needed to grow their business, the highest percentage that responded so since the question first was included in the survey in 2002, Amex said in the latest monitor-findings announcement.
In terms of the economy, small-business owner optimism held steady with 54 percent reporting a positive outlook on business prospects, the same percentage as the spring 2013 survey. Moreover, fewer (13 percent versus 18 percent) said the economy has had a negative effect on their business and that their survival was in jeopardy.
As for growth, 72 percent planned to grow their business in the next six months, down only slightly from 74 percent last spring. And 55 percent (up from 50 percent), said they plan to make capital investments in the next six months.
“The recession’s silver lining is that small-business owners have become more adept at navigating an uncertain economy, gaining valuable experience and putting it into practice along the way,” Denise Pickett, Amex OPEN president, said in the release. “While they remain optimistic and confident in their ability to manage their businesses, entrepreneurs are realistic that challenges may arise and look beyond themselves – recognizing the importance of community and networking – understanding they do not have to go it alone.”
In terms of hiring, those respondents planning to hire rose slightly, to 35 percent from 31 percent a year earlier. Some 76 percent said they hire as needed when the business grows, compared with 14 percent who said they hire to grow the business.
For those hiring, a social media expert topped the most-sought-after position (12 percent, up from 9 percent a year earlier), surpassing accountant/bookkeeper, which fell to 11 percent from 14 percent of respondents. It followed then that 58 percent of respondents were using social media for their business, up from 46 percent who were last spring, and 43 percent said they planned to increase their company’s focus on social media over the next year.
As for their own futures, 54 percent of participating small-business owners said they were on track to save for the retirement they want, up considerably from 37 percent who said so a year ago. Moreover, fewer, at 65 percent compared with 73 percent, were worried about setting aside the $1.17 million average they said they need for the retirement they want.