Is “caution” the new small biz buzzword?

It appears as if “caution may be the new buzzword, and direction, for US small businesses. As many struggle with such challenges as the continuing pandemic and the inability to fill millions of nationwide job openings, small and medium sized companies seem to be taking a more cautious approach to the future. In a recent survey performed by the US Chamber of Commerce and MetLife, it does appear as if caution might be the new normal The following data is taken directly from that recently published research:

  • The Q3 2021 MetLife and U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index (SBI) finds that small business owners are increasingly cautious when it comes to plans for hiring and investing. The poll taken July 16 – 30, 2021, and released this week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife also found that small business owners see generating revenue as their biggest post-pandemic challenge.
  • The survey shows that plans for future investment are plateauing. Almost half (48%) of small business owners say they plan to keep investments in their business the same over the next year, 11 percentage points more than earlier this year in Q1 (37%). Fewer (29%) plan to increase investment, a drop from 35% in Q1. Also, small business owners who plan to keep their current staffing levels over the next year (as opposed to hiring more) is at 62%, an increase from 52% last quarter.
  • At the same time, small business owners are optimistic about their current business health and recognize improvement in the overall economy. More than half (55%) of small business owners believe the health of their business is good, two-thirds (66%) believe their cash flow situation is good, and 58% expect their revenue to increase in the next year.

POLL: The biggest challenges facing small business owners coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • One in three (34%) say the U.S. economy is in good health—higher than any point since the pandemic began. However, even here business owners show caution as the improving views come from more businesses saying the economy is “somewhat good.” Just 7% say it is “very good.”
  • As small businesses look to put the pandemic behind them, their biggest challenge is generating revenue. Although 58% expect their revenue to increase in the next year, 34% cite revenue as their biggest challenge right now.
  • Inflation/higher costs are also proving tough to manage: 72% of small businesses said managing higher costs due to inflation is difficult. 73% said rising prices have had a significant impact on their business in the past year.
  • Supply chain challenges are another top concern. This quarter, 61% of small business owners say it is difficult for them to manage disruptions to their supply chains (80% for retail businesses). Sixty-two percent say their supply chain has been dramatically disrupted during the pandemic.
  • Additionally, some small business owners are struggling to find workers to fill open jobs. Half (50%) say it is difficult to recruit and hire enough employees to fill open positions and compete for talent with other small (53%) and large (57%) businesses in their area. While 11% of small businesses overall cite this concern, 18% of larger small businesses (20-499 employees) noted it.

-Written by Kevin Sawyer