Small Businesses Optimistic About 2011: Survey

Cost-conscious companies are optimistic about business prospects-and hiring-in 2011, a Pex Card survey finds.

Owners of SMBs across the country are feeling optimistic, citing increased hiring and profit growth among key 2011 business predictions. This finding comes from the first semi-annual survey of business owners conducted nationally in November 2010 by Prepaid Expense Card Solutions, Inc., provider of The Pex Visa Prepaid Card for Business, issued by The Bancorp Bank, a corporate Visa Prepaid card solution for midmarket companies.
When asked whether their 2010 business performance has shaped up to be better or worse than their expectations at the outset of the year, 71 percent of respondents noted "much better" or "somewhat better than expected." Just 4 percent of business owners answered "worse than expected." Twenty-one percent said they'd been turned down for a bank loan or credit line in the past year, and 38 percent said that credit card companies had "unjustifiably" either lowered their card's credit limit or closed the account completely.
"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," said Toffer Grant, CEO and founder of Pex Card. "America was built on the backs of small and midsize 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."
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 percent of owners ranked this factor 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: "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.
Turning to 2011, respondents displayed an optimistic outlook about their business performance, with 34 percent of owners saying that 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." Perhaps unsurprisingly, based on owners' profit optimism, 59 percent said they planned to add to their employee count in 2011. Twenty-eight percent said they don't know yet, while 14 percent said "no."
The Obama Administration came under fire from small business owners. When asked whether the administration is doing enough to support small business owners, 60 percent of respondents said "no." "Yes" and "I don't know" were evenly ranked at 20 percent each. Questioned about what could be most helpful to America's small businesses, more than half of the owners (51%) said, "tax breaks," followed by "easier bank-lending practices" (31%) and "government stimulus" (13%).