Small Business Staffing Levels Stable Despite Diminished Confidence

Small business owners are divided about what will pose the biggest challenge to their business in the next six months.

Despite lowered optimism about the U.S. economy, a majority of small business owners anticipate stable revenues and balanced staffing levels in the months ahead, according to a survey from TD Bank. An encouraging 66 percent of small businesses polled during a recent TD Bank survey said they expect to meet or exceed revenue projections in the upcoming quarter-a slight increase from the 57 percent that met or exceeded revenue projections during their most recent fiscal quarter.

Although two-thirds of American small businesses said they are not optimistic about the economy, TD Bank's survey-which polled 300 small business owners within the bank's Maine to Florida footprint-revealed that a majority (69 percent) expect to keep staffing levels the same over the next quarter, with 16 percent planning to add at least one position.

"American small business owners are a resilient group, and TD Bank's recent survey results are consistent with what we see each day in our communities from Maine to Florida," said Fred Graziano, head of regional commercial banking, government banking and small business for TD Bank. "Despite the economic obstacles they continue to face, these findings indicate that small business owners and employees continue to do what they can not just to make ends meet, but to exceed their business goals."

Aside from economic factors, TD Bank's survey also found that small business owners are divided about what will pose the biggest challenge to their business in the next six months. Rising health care and insurance costs (22 percent), declining sales (21 percent), retaining and growing their client base (21 percent), and cash flow concerns (19 percent) are their top worries. Fewer believe rising energy costs (10 percent) and pressure from larger competitors (7 percent) represent the greatest challenges.

Overall, small business owners remain committed to investing in their business. Nearly 75 percent expect to maintain or increase capital investments over the next quarter, and when asked to best describe their future plans for their business, 64 percent said they would look to stay afloat or significantly grow in the next five years. Only 11 percent plan to sell or shut down their business altogether.

TD Bank polled small business owners to understand their companies' current and anticipated financial health, as well as their thoughts on the overall economy and their future business plans. The research was conducted in August 2011 by ORC International, which surveyed companies with 50 or fewer employees and annual sales of no more than $5 million.