The sixth annual U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey found small business owners are more confident about the future of their businesses now than at any time in the six-year history of the survey. But despite optimism and plans to expand, few are actually seeking credit from lenders.
The survey monitors the optimism and outlooks of small business owners across the 25-state U.S. Bank footprint. Conducted by Market Probe via an online sample in January 2015, respondents ranged across 3,202 small business owners with less than $10 million in annual revenue.
When surveyed about the national economy, 18 percent of small business owners said they felt the economy was in recession in 2015, a marked decrease from 89 percent expressing the same sentiment in 2010. And a majority of respondents (67 percent) say the national economy is in recovery or expansion, which is up from 46 percent two years ago.
Such optimism has led to expansion plans, the study noted. Business owners who said they plan to add staff increased to 25 percent in 2015, up 5 percentage points from a year ago. And strong majorities said they felt their respective businesses were financially strong. Near term outlooks are sanguine enough so that 34 percent will seek to make a capital expenditure to expand operations next year.
Most are still not seeking credit, however, with 86 percent reporting they had not tried to borrow money for business purposes in the last six months. Of the remainder – those who did in fact seek loans – 65 percent said credit was easy to obtain, up 21 percent from the previous year.
"We are more than lenders – we are champions for small businesses, focused on helping convert their dreams and ideas into practical and prudent plans,” said John Elmore, vice chairman and head of branch channel and delivery at U.S. Bank. “Our role as bankers is to understand our small business clients’ opportunities and challenges as much as possible. They want us to relate to them in a simple, transparent way, and to be with them for the long haul – through the times of growth and contraction."
The study also found a strong awareness of mobile and social media as a business tool. Three quarters of respondents say they have integrated a mobile solution into their business strategy, with strategies tied to making connections, finding talent or marketing. Mobile usage includes accessing bank accounts, conducting transactions and depositing checks.