Small Businesses Struggle With Shifts in Government Regulations

A Manta survey finds that 40 percent of small-business owners say they spend between one and five hours a week dealing with regulatory and compliance issues.

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Many small-business owners believe their business has been negatively impacted by recent national and local regulatory changes, according to a Manta survey of small businesses.

Nationally, tax regulations were cited by a third of small-business owners as the most confusing rules to understand.

This was closely followed by the Affordable Care Act (21 percent), new SEC crowdsourcing rules (15 percent) and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations (7 percent).

"These regulations can feel like a triple whammy for small-business owners: Significant changes to the Affordable Care Act, minimum wage and overtime regulations are all going into effect at the same time and creating a highly complex business environment," John Swanciger, CEO at Manta, told eWEEK. "Small-business owners must respond to the shifting regulatory environment with flexible solutions so that when the next development comes along, they can adapt."

He said adopting digital tools such as automated time-tracking and payroll solutions can help alleviate some of the employee management pain points.

"With minimum wage increases being phased in next year and the overtime regulatory changes going into effect in December 2016, small-business owners have time to install tools and learn how to use them," Swanciger explained.

He noted that in addition to payroll and time-keeping software, small-business owners should seek advice when developing new frameworks to comply with changing regulations, including online communities, local government parties and leaders and business coaches.

The survey found that 40 percent of owners say they spend between one and five hours a week dealing with regulatory issues, while 10 percent spend between six and 10 hours and 11 percent spend more than 10 hours a week.

"Hearing that more than half of small-business owners feel they do not receive enough warning ahead of regulatory changes was a big concern," Swanciger said. "Gaining a thorough understanding of the regulatory environment and what it means for your business is time-consuming in itself. For busy small-business owners, this time adds up and takes away from other priorities."

To better understand regulatory changes, more than a quarter of small-business owners (27 percent) turn to professional advisers, online small-business communities (22 percent) and the news (19 percent), but only about 11 percent said they turn to their local government for help.

Swanciger noted the Small Business Association (SBA) is a great resource for uncovering regulatory basics and finding appropriate contact information for government personnel and compliance officers, and also suggested joining online or local business organizations as another way small businesses can keep pace with regulatory changes specific to their region or industry.