Small business owners always have a lot to say. True to form, they were saying quite a bit around this time last year—and have been outspoken in the year since. In fact, it was during last year’s town hall kicking off Small Business Week, that SBA Administrator Karen Mills announced that the previous year had been a record for SBA, who had guaranteed $30 billion in loans to small business.
Although this was a big improvement over several years prior, small businesses were vocal about the continuing suffering due to the economic downturn. Their #1 concern was—and is—access to capital. Not only that, small business owners have been adamant that they as a group need to be educated on access to capital—both to understand what a huge responsibility getting a small business loan is and also to learn more about where to find reliable places for additional funding.
The other big concern hasn’t diminished in its intensity either: financing employee health care. The effects of the Affordable Health Care Act on small businesses are still largely unknown, although it seems that everyone has an opinion about how it all might play out. At a minimum, health care continues to be a source of financial stress for business owners, but it can also be a disruptive, confidence-shaking factor for employees, which makes everyone nervous.
Despite lingering concerns—then and now—MarketWatch reports that new data just out from PNC Financial Services Group Inc. indicates a continuing cautious optimism among small business owners. The PNC data showed a rise in small business optimism as related to sales, profits and housing prices. At the same time, many participants indicated they would delay hiring, probably not pursue a loan or line of credit and were unlikely to spend on capital investments. Even with flickers of optimism, the recovery has just been too slow for most, especially small businesses, which are heavily reliant on consumer spending and/or other small businesses for sales.
Small business owners are also outspoken about social media. Wsj.com reported earlier this year that six out of 10 small-business owners think social media tools are valuable for their business’s growth. LinkedIn led the pack (Nearly 40 percent picked it); YouTube and Facebook followed. That’s the good news. The social media downside for small businesses is apparently Twitter, which just hasn’t impressed many business owners as a great way to reach customers with its 140-character messaging format. Twitter says it is just beginning to really court small businesses and has increased efforts to demonstrate Twitter’s value to them.
Meanwhile, no one would be surprised to learn that thousands of small businesses owners take time out to participate in the political process and voice their opinions to lawmakers. For example, thinkprogress.com reported in February that a coalition of groups representing over 150,000 American businesses and $9.5 trillion in collective assets signed a letter praising President Obama for his strong stance on climate policy.
Another example (one of many): Small business owners pushed back hard against the Chamber of Commerce and others whom they say do not represent them by being anti-taxes. Again, they raised their voices through a joint letter supporting tax strategies to raise revenue. These business owners want spending cuts stopped in education, health care and infrastructure—all areas that are crucial to building a strong economy.
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