A recent State of Small Business Report, which surveyed more than 1,000 small business leaders, suggests that small-business decisions makers are increasingly more optimistic about the state of the U.S. economy—47% feel better than they did 12 months ago—and the future of their businesses. But that optimism doesn’t mean small-business leaders are without concerns about their companies.
Here are four biggest concerns weighing on the minds of small-business owners and how they can to cope:
Almost half of companies with 11 to 100 employees cited growing revenue as their biggest business challenge.
When it comes to issues with revenue, businesses may want to compare the channel that is driving the most revenue to the channel where they are investing the most resources. For instance, nearly 60% of small businesses view their company website as an integral part of their business, yet more than half of businesses polled said less than 11% of annual revenue was generated online.
In 2013 the unemployment rate averaged 7.4% and was predicted to fall to 6.6% in 2014. Instead, unemployment fell to 5.8%. While unemployment rates fall and more jobs become available, employers are finding it challenging to find qualified talent. In fact, 56% of companies with between 101 and 499 employees said that hiring employees was a top business challenge, one that I expect to see businesses facing through 2020.
If you’re a business looking to cope with a more competitive job market, make sure your interviewing process, job descriptions, and path to promotions are clearly identified and align with your current business model. Your business can’t afford to ignore interviewing and onboarding practices if you want to attract top talent.
Businesses are still facing regulations this year, and survey data suggests that the Affordable Care Act is really coming into play in 2015 and 2016. Larger small businesses expressed concerns about both government regulations and employee health care.
In fact, 36% of companies with 51 to 100 employees and 36% of companies with 101 to 499 employees—essentially small businesses large enough to be impacted by the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment—said that government regulations were a top business challenge.
According to the IRS, the Shared Responsibility Payment applies "if at least one of its full-time employees receives a premium tax credit for purchasing individual coverage on one of the new Affordable Insurance Exchanges, also called a Health Insurance Marketplace." The payment will be calculated across a business’s entire payroll if the minimum level of coverage isn’t offered to employees.
Cash flow was a top concern for businesses with 11 to 50 employees, and every business surveyed said increasing profit was a top business challenge for 2015. In other words, the small businesses surveyed are all looking for ways to make their business as profitable and lean as possible, which means managing cash.
According to Gene Marks, who consulted on the 2015 State of Small Business Report and recently spoke with Maria Contreras-Sweet, head of the Small Business Administration, there’s a lot of capital out there for small businesses. Although banks are still giving out less loans overall, Marks encourages small businesses looking for additional capital to consider U.S. Small Business Administration loans, which have less restrictions and requirements.
What’s not keeping small business leaders up at night? Technology. In fact, only 22% of leaders polled said outdated technology was a top challenge for their business. However, in 2014, 54% of small business IT departments spent over $5,000—largely to maintain hardware infrastructure. Although it may not be a focus, should this pattern of IT spending continue, we expect technology to be an unexpected nightmare for some small businesses in 2015.
—Brian Sutter is the director of marketing at Wasp, responsible for the development and execution of the company’s marketing strategy. His role encompasses brand management, direct and channel marketing, public relations, advertising, and social media.