Most business owners – 77 percent – say the economy is worse today than it was five years ago, according to the National Small Business Association, and more than one-third – 34 percent – worry about the ongoing viability of their business.
“This large chunk of small businesses ought to serve as a caution against the assumption that the U.S. has turned a corner and the sense that ‘our work is done.’ The small-business community is still struggling,” said the NSBA in its 2010 Year-End Economic Report.
Even highly successful business owners are worried about survival, according to survey of millionaire investors conducted in May by Spectrem Group. Participants have a net worth of $1 million to $5 million, not including their primary residence.
Seventy percent of millionaire business owners are worried about maintaining their financial position and 67 percent are concerned about revenues from their business. More than 60 percent express concern about an increase in interest rates – an issue that worries 42 percent of millionaires as a whole.
Business owners expressed much more conservative investment attitudes with 65 percent stressing the importance of protecting their investments, compared to 47 percent of millionaires as a whole, Spectrem reports. One strategy for surviving the current economic climate is sending a spouse back to work. Eleven percent of millionaire business owners say their spouse has returned to work because of the economy.
Declines in consumer spending, health insurance costs, economic uncertainty and trouble obtaining credit are key financial concerns for entrepreneurs, the NSBA said. Top on the list of national concerns are the federal deficit, taxes, health care reform and regulations placing an undue burden on small businesses. Sixty-five percent of the nation’s small business owners expect the economy to remain flat through 2011.
Only 25 percent of small business owners have plans to increase their staffs in 2011, while 11 percent plan to cut jobs and 64 percent plan to keep staffing levels the same, the NSBA said. This trend has large implications for the U.S. economy as a whole since small businesses account for 99.7 percent of all employers and provide 50 percent of private sector jobs, according to the NSBA.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses has measured the second monthly decline in its small business confidence index which fell 0.7 points in April, following a sharp drop in March. The index now stands at 91.2, its lowest level since September.
“While it’s too early to say that a trend has emerged, a second consecutive month of decline in small-business optimism does very little to encourage further confidence in a strong economic recovery,” said NFIB Chief Economist Bill Dunkelberg. “Owners simply find no reason to be optimistic about the future and therefore they find no reason to pick up the pace of spending and hiring. It’s difficult to know exactly why the outlook for small firms is in decline; but it’s a safe bet that political and economic uncertainty—about the deficit, the threat of inflation, rising energy and health care costs—are at top of the mind for most small-business owners. Who is going to stay positive in this turbulent political environment?”