It’s a tough landscape out there for small business owners. They’ve got a whole host of challenges to overcome and some many tasks to do that it might seem as if they’ll never get the opportunity for a full night’s sleep again. It’s not all bad news, though.
When it comes to money, small business owners have some struggles, but they also have tools to help them figure out the finances. It’s difficult to manage cash flow where your clients aren’t paying their invoices promptly. On the other hand, keeping tabs on the bank account is much easier with online banking—a tool that more than 70 percent of small business owners use.
Entrepreneurs have lots of options when it comes to financial advice. While most seek the advice of an accountant or financial advisor, many network with other small business owners for help. The Internet provides a fast way to get a lot of information, too—42 percent of small business owners get online for financial advice.
Small businesses are looking forward to hiring—31 percent stated they’d be interviewing candidates during the next 12 months. Finding good people is a challenge, though. The number one concern of small business owners is finding employees who have the skills they need to do the job.
Training new people is not cheap. Costs average over $1,000 and it takes at least 40 hours to properly train an employee. And not all those employees are stellar. Some report stealing, cheating, and using or selling drugs.
When it comes to marketing, small business owners are ready to ramp it up—a full 47 percent will increase their marketing budget over the next 12 months. How should they spend their money? Studies suggest that they should add more signage, such as custom banners and yard signs—64 percent of customers reported that they couldn’t find a business due to its unclear or small signage.
While there are plenty of pitfalls and challenges on the small business landscape, owners will also find plenty of opportunity.
The Small Business Landscape: Pitfalls, Plans, & Perspectives
Small businesses make up 80% of the total number of businesses in the U.S. today. And for their owners, today’s economic environment presents a unique set of challenges and opportunities to build their business. Here we explore some of the pitfalls, plans and perspectives of current business owners to get an idea of how they succeed.
When asked their biggest challenge in managing cash flow, small business owners cited: 26% low profits and lack of business, 45% not getting paid on time by clients and customers, 9% not getting out invoices in a timely fashion.
Getting Paid: 72% of small business owners use online banking to help keep them organized. 40% make direct payments to help manage cash flow.
Where do you go for Financial Advice? 74% An accountant/bookkeeper, 68% A financial advisor, 65% Other small business owners, 58% Family/friends, 49% A banker, 42% Online, 42% A lawyer, 29% Nationally-recognized expert, and 26% Local non-profit or government organization such as the SBA.
Getting financial advice: 73% of small business owners say they need occasional financial advice or support.
Getting and Using Credit: 78% of small business owners who applied for a business loan during the last two years were approved. If you applied for a business loan within the last two or more years, were you approved? 78% Yes, 18% No, and 4% Don’t know.
72% of small business owners look to their bankers for advice about the benefits of an SBA loan or how to manage payroll.
Which of the above best describes how you use/manage your line of credit? 50% I have it, but I only use it in an emergency, 23% I am trying to pay down my balance so I have a portion available to use, 19% It is the primary source of cash flow for my business, 7% It is maxed out, and 1% Don’t know.
Choosing a Bank – Most Important Factors:
– 20% Convenient Location
– 18% Relationship Rewards
– 17% Access to Local Expertise
Hiring: 31% of small businesses plan to hire new employees within the next 12 months.
Training: Average training expenditures per learner $1,041, Average hours of training per employee 40.1 hours.
What is the number one challenge you face as you look to retain top talent?
22% Finding employees with the skills required for your business, 19% providing competition salaries, 19% finding employees with a good work ethic, 18% providing competitive health care and retirement benefits, and 12% providing the extra pers of larger companies, such as a bonus, flexible hours, and child care.
Benefits: 56% of small business owners polled offer a financial benefits package. 31% offer a 401(K) plan.
Risky Employees – A 2011 survey conducted by Hayes International showed that:
I have frequently associated with fellow employees who admitted they were stealing merchandise from the company. High Risk 18.4%/Low Risk 5.4%
I am not an honest person and might steal or cheat. High Risk 9.3%/Low Risk 1.7%
I could be tempted to steal from my employer. High Risk 26.7%/Low Risk 7.8%
I might help friends steal from my company. High Risk 14.6%/Low Risk 1.3%
I have stolen money within the past 3 years. High Risk 17.5%/Low Risk 5.2%
I have stolen merchandise within the past 3 years. High Risk 15.9%/Low Risk 4.5%
I would possibly use marijuana/illegal drugs in the future. High Risk 23.1%/Low Risk 6.5%
I have previously sold marijuana or other illegal drugs. High Risk 4.3%/Low Risk 0.9%
47% of business owners surveyed reported that they plan to amp up their marketing efforts over the next 12 months.
Effective Marketing Techniques – How effective do you find these techniques in marketing your business? Word of mouth and customer referrals 84%, Networking with other small business owners 55%, Direct mail or e-mail 46%, Advertising – print, broadcast, radio, etc. 43%, and Social media 42%.
Website and Traffic – Consumers find local businesses through: search engines 38%, specialty websites 17%, and social media 3%. Social Media: 75% of small businesses report that they plan to increase social media marketing over the next 12 months.
Signage: 64% of customers report that they have failed to find a store due to small or unclear signage. % of women who have driven by or failed to find a business due to small or unclear signage:
Ages 18-24: 55%, Ages 25-34: 52%, Ages 35-49: 42%, Ages 50-64: 46%, Age 65+: 50%
100,000 Shoppers Can’t Be Wrong: Signage Communication Evidence from The Brand Spark/Better Homes and Gardens American Shopper Survey. James Kellaris, Ph.D. University of Cincinnati. The National Signage Research & Education Conference 2001.