America’s small business owners are considerably more upbeat about the financial performance of their businesses than they were a year ago, according to The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. Fifty-one percent of small business owners surveyed in June of this year anticipate their 2010 revenues will exceed their 2009 sales. A year ago, only 32 percent expected better financial performance in 2009 than the prior year.
The Institute’s analysis is based on a comprehensive study, The Guardian Life Index: What Matters Most to America’s Small Business Owners, which surveyed 1,200 small business owners with 2 - 99 employees across 12 key industry sectors, including: Accounting & Financial Services, Arts & Entertainment, Environmental, High-Tech, Hotels & Restaurants, Manufacturing, Personal Services, Professional & Technical Services, Real Estate, Retail & Wholesale Trade, Traditional / Discretionary Healthcare and Other. In 11 of these sectors, small businesses comprise 50 percent or more of U.S. gross domestic product; in one case, Environmental, they represent a fast-growing component of an emerging industry.
The Institute’s findings reveal that America’s small business owners outperformed their own revenue estimates for 2009. When asked to look back at their businesses’ actual performance in 2009, 39 percent reported a revenue increase over 2008. However at mid-2009, only 32 percent expected their businesses to outperform 2008.
“Many government officials and economists believe the nation’s recovery from the recession depends on small businesses; thus it’s heartening to see that small business owners have a positive outlook for 2010,” said Mark Wolf, Director, Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. “Our research indicates that small business owners are typically conservative in estimating the financial prospects for their companies, so this upbeat projection bodes well for the U.S. economy.”
In line with their promising financial prospects, 45 percent of small business owners say they plan to expand their business in the next 12 to 24 months. This finding is significantly higher than the 38 percent of small business owners who foresaw business expansion a year earlier.
Looking at individual sectors of the U.S. economy, the Guardian Life Index reports that owners of Environmental companies (65 percent) and Traditional / Discretionary Healthcare providers (60 percent) have the highest expectation that their 2010 revenues will exceed 2009. In contrast, Hotels and Restaurants (58 percent), Retail and Wholesale establishments (57 percent) and Accounting and Financial Services firms (57 percent) have the highest percentage of small business owners who anticipate the same or lower revenues in 2010 vs. 2009.
In at least one sense, bigger appears to be doing better. Owners of companies with 10 or more employees have consistently higher expectations for improved revenues in 2010 than their smaller counterparts. Forty-six percent of small business owners with two to nine employees anticipate increased revenues in 2010 over 2009. In contrast, owners of larger businesses have the following, higher expectations: 53 percent (10-24 employees), 57 percent (25-49 employees) and 57 percent (50-99 employees).
“In the difficult economic environment of the past two years, the smallest of small businesses have struggled the most to maintain or grow their businesses,” said John Krubski, futurist and research advisor to The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. “As companies reach a critical mass of 10 or more employees, they gain a level of stability and resourcefulness that helps them succeed, even in tough times.”
A detailed research monograph that further explains the findings is available at http://www.smallbizdom.com/research/research-monographs.html.