How are small businesses across the country feeling about their financial futures? According to the latest Capital One Small Business Barometer, not too positive. The study asked small business owners about their opinion of the current economy and their financial and business projections for the next six months.
In the most recent survey, conducted at the end of 2012, small businesses’ concerns about the future had risen, with more than one-fourth (26 percent) of small businesses polled saying they believe economic conditions will decline over the next six months. That’s a 12-point increase from Q3 2012. In addition, more than one-fourth (27 percent) of small business owners said their company’s financial position was worse than a year ago, up 11 points from the same time in 2011 and up 4 points from Q3 2012.
Given these concerns, it’s not surprising that just one-fourth of small businesses say they plan to hire in the next six months. “Among the small businesses we’ve surveyed, we are still seeing significant caution about prospects for growth, as well as hesitancy about making investments,” said Jon Witter, President of Direct, Consumer and Small Business Banking at Capital One, in announcing the survey. “Looking ahead, confidence in the economic environment will be key.”
As to the overall economy, the outlook isn’t great. While 44 percent of the small businesses surveyed believe economic conditions are holding steady, that’s a drop of 7 points from the same time in 2011. Fewer than one- third (28 percent) expect economic conditions to improve in the next six months, and the same percentage expect conditions to get worse.
The national Small Business Outlook index, which ranks business prospects for the next six months on a scale of significantly worse (1) to significantly better (10), continued its downward trend throughout 2012, hitting 5.6 in the most recent survey. What factors matter most to small business owners’ outlooks? Price margins and profitability topped the list, followed by cash flow and fuel prices.
Small business owners are keeping a firm grip on their budgets, with just 13 percent planning to increase spending in the next six months—down from 20 percent who planned to increase spending at the end of 2011. In addition, the number planning to cut spending hit 25 percent—the highest it’s been in two years, and up 8 points from the Q3 2012 survey.
With limited plans to increase spending, it’s not surprising that more than two-thirds (68 percent) of entrepreneurs polled don’t plan to hire in the next six months, either.
How do these opinions relate to your own outlook, both for your business and for the economy as a whole?
Image by Flickr user Michael David Pedersen (Creative Commons)Google+