We American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor recently conducted its semi-annual survey of small business owners. And it seems that small business concerns about the economy hit a 7-year high. The survey is thorough and brings to light details about what’s really going on inside the heads of small business owners.
Interestingly, the survey was taken in August, before the events of the last several weeks and the financial crisis.
I’m not at all surprised by the heightened concerns about the economy. I am on press lists for a wide variety of small busines surveys. One thing I have noticed among all of them is a lessening of optimism about the economy over the past 6 to 12 months. You’d have to be on another planet not to be aware of a weakening economy and have concerns as a business owner.
Still, we small business owners are a resilient bunch. Let’s take a look at some specific findings:
Biggest Challenge is the Economy — One third of small business owners are reporting that the biggest challenge they face right now is concerning the economy - the largest number in the seven-year history of the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor. Additionally, many report that they are willing to accept lower profits as opposed to raising prices during this time.
Dipping into Personal Funds to Augment Cash Flow — Not surprisingly, cash flow is an issue for some. Some 27% of businesses are resorting to tactics to improve their cash flow such as tapping into personal funds - Ouch.
Growth Still in the Cards — It’s refreshing, however, to see that a whopping 74% plan to grow their business over the next six months, which is on par with 75% reported in the fall of 2007.
Treating Existing Customers Right — And what’s the #1 management tactic for small business owners during the economic down-turn, you ask? Well, the bottom line is that they are striving to offer exceptional customer service as 86% report that as their single most important goal. This seems to be especially true with women business owners, as 96% report that they are likely to focus on customer service intensely over the next six months vs. 80% of men.
So, what does all this mean? To me, it means that even though anxiety may be rising, small business owners are ready and willing to do whatever it takes to navigate their businesses through the tough terrain. They still are positively included toward growth. They are planning, prepping, buckling down and taking action.
And they all seem to agree with the old adage, “that which does not kill you, only makes you stronger.”