Small Businesses Look Forward to a Happier New Year

Owners of small- and mid-sized businesses in the United States are feeling optimistic, citing increased hiring and profit growth among key 2011 business predictions, according to a survey conducted nationally in November 2010 by Prepaid Expense Card Solutions, a provider of financial card solutions for small- and mid-sized businesses.

“What we noted in the survey’s results mirrors the anecdotal evidence we’ve gathered from conversations with our clients, specifically that 2010 has thus far been better than originally expected, and economic and business optimism is trending in a positive direction for 2011,” says Toffer Grant, CEO and founder of PEX Card. “America was built on the backs of small and mid-sized businesses. They are the engines that will power us back to a secure economic footing, which is why their opinions are a strong indicator of the financial future.”

The survey’s major findings include

A Review of 2010
When asked whether their 2010 business performance has shaped up to be better or worse relative to their expectations at the outset of the year, 71% of respondents noted “much better” or “somewhat better than expected.” Just 4% of business owners answered “worse than expected.”

Twenty-one percent of business owners said they’d been turned down for a bank loan or credit line in the past year, and 38% said that credit card companies had “unjustifiably” either lowered their card’s credit limit or closed the account completely.

Asked to rate on a 1-10 scale (with 10 being the most difficult) how hard it has been over the past year to maintain adequate cash flow for their businesses, 48% of owners ranked between 6-10, the “most difficult” end of the scale. Twenty-seven percent fell into the “least difficult” category, with rankings of 1-4.

The cash flow issue was again raised in response to the question of “as a small business owner, which issues keep you awake at night?” The majority of respondents (65%) noted “sufficient cash flow,” with “taxes” (31%), “volatile sales” (29%), and “debt” (25%) rounding out the top four answers.

Looking Ahead
Turning to 2011, respondents evidenced an optimistic outlook about their business performance, with 34% of owners saying they expected profits in the coming year to be “significantly better” than in 2010. Twenty-eight percent of respondents answered “slightly better” to the same question, and five percent noted “slightly worse.”

Not surprisingly, based on owners’ profit optimism, 59% said they planned to add to their employee count in 2011. Twenty-eight percent said they don’t know yet, while 14% said “no.”

The Obama Administration came under fire from small business owners. When asked if the administration is doing enough to support small business owners, 60% of respondents said “no.” “Yes” and “I don’t know” were evenly ranked at 20% each.

Questioned about what could be most helpful to America’s small businesses, more than half of owners (51%) say, “tax breaks,” followed by “easier bank lending practices” (31%) and “government stimulus” (13%).

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