In December 2014, the National Federation of Independent Business released its latest Small Business Optimism survey, which revealed that small businesses are feeling the most positive about their business outlook than they have since the financial crisis. Among other issues, the survey asked small biggest owners about the biggest problems their company are currently facing. Here are some highlights contained in the report.

  • Optimism is at an all-time high: One of the main takeaways from this report was a huge surge in the percentage of small business owners who believe that the United States economy is improving steadily. This economic optimism is the highest that’s been seen since the financial crisis hit.
  • More and more businesses see taxes as their biggest problem: Overall, the percentage of small business owners who believe that “taxes” are the single most important problem their company faces it rising. Experts believe this is an excellent sign for overall small business health, given the history of small business problems captured by the survey over the past 20 years. Specifically, during the 1990s boom, the two biggest issues reported by small businesses were “taxes” and “labor quality.”
  • The problem of sales has fallen to second in rank for small businesses: This is particularly significant, as the financial crisis triggered a huge leap in the percentage of business owners who cited sales and a lack of customers as their biggest problem. In 2014, this issue has dropped dramatically for the majority of small business companies.
  • Labor quality is still seen as an issue but is not as prominent: Labor quality, which refers to the inability to find qualitied applicants, was ranked just below sales for 2014. This is another notable indicator, as it infers that small business owners are beginning to struggle more with filling customer needs via a high quality staff or team than they are with originating the sale to begin with.
  • Interest rates and finance remain of minimal concern to small business owners: With record-low interest rates remaining steady in 2014, this doesn’t come as a surprise. Small business owners continue to capitalize on the cost savings available in today’s financing world.

In the Small Business Optimism Survey, the “Selected Single Most Important Problem” was looked at on a continuum from January 1986 to November 2014. The four “problem” areas that were considered were taxes, sales, interest rates and finance, and labor quality.

Reference:

Weisenthal, Joe. More and More Small Businesses Say Taxes are Their Biggest Problem – and That’s a Good Sign; Bloomberg Business. December 9, 2014.

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