Survey Says! Small Business Owners Weigh In on Future Plans

survey results revealed

If there’s one thing that you can count on in modern life, it’s uncertainty. So then the question becomes how do you deal with it.

That’s what I was trying to get a feel for with the recent short survey question I posted. It seems like we are currently in a season that’s delivering more than the usual dose of uncertainty.

The presidential election looms and both parties are finding themselves essentially dealing with “insurgents” – candidates who are taking aim at party regulars almost as much as they are members of the opposing political party.

China, which seemed like an unstoppable economic freight train of growth, looks like it’s at least partly derailed. Janet Yellen over at the Fed is signaling that it might ease up on immediate interest rate hikes and it was almost yesterday when she said it was time to start making money more expensive.

Both you and I could probably write a book about all the elements – domestic and global – that are contributing to the uncertainty, but let’s leave that task to others and take the rest of our time together right now to quickly look at the results of my survey. The graphic below gives you all the individual data points and averages.

survey results

When the numbers are lumped together and averaged, the score leans a little to the pessimistic side. In other words, respondents said that they were generally delaying plans to expand or bring on new employees. Any average below 3 indicates a reluctance to invest in expansion. (Had every respondent said they were neutral on the issue, the average would be 3, so anything below that shows a trend toward a more negative attitude.)

Among the three areas where I questioned – hiring, capital investment and business expansion – 84 respondents indicated it was “very likely” that the current uncertainty would negatively impact plans. At the opposite end of the scale 66 respondents said that it was “very unlikely” that the current uncertainty would negatively impact plans.

If we eliminate those in the middle who are neutral about current conditions, here’s the score:

  • 94 respondents say it’s unlikely (either “very” or “somewhat”) that current conditions will negatively impact plans.
  • 151 respondents say it’s likely (either “very” or “somewhat”) that current conditions will negatively impact plans.

As I’m writing this, stock markets around the world are taking a beating and the price of gold is rising as investors look for a safe haven to park some money. My survey was totally unscientific, however I must say that I’ve seen similar results in a number of surveys recently.

If small business owners do stay out of the growth game in the near and medium term future, I believe the American economy will pay a hefty price.

No matter what your party affiliation is, I think this should make us focus more on candidates’ attitudes about, belief in and plans for small business. Frankly, if the next president is strong on creating a pro-small business taxation and regulation environment, he – or she – could awaken a sleeping giant.

(By the way, many respondents took the time to add a few personal comments and observations at the end of the survey. I found these to be extremely interesting, insightful and even inspiring. I’m going to publish a follow up essentially reproducing them all here, with just a couple of editorial comments of my own.)