Another view of small business owners' thinking

Jake Turcotte/staff (AP photo)
Every indication is that we will be facing a prolonged period of high unemployment with a possibility of a double-dip downturn and significant inflation.

Forbes has just released a survey of small business owners that offers some interesting insights. "Small Business Outlook 2010" is a study issued by Forbes Insights, in association with CIT (the full study is available free online, but you do need to register to see it).
Here are highlights of this study with my comments:

  • "Declining revenues brought on by the 2009 recession have put additional pressure on small business cash flow, forcing many firms to make tough decisions around cutbacks."

Those entrepreneurs who have been able to make the hard decisions and get back to their bootstrapping roots have survived the first phase of the recession. While Wall Street seems to be trying to convince themselves that a recovery is around the corner, every indication is that we will be facing a prolonged period of high unemployment with a possibility of a double-dip downturn and significant inflation.

  • "Small business owners are feeling the impact of this economic pressure, working harder and longer than ever before. Still, there could be a payoff: many feel they are now smarter about running their businesses and are better leaders."

Good! They will need these skills to navigate the next several years, which will test them with many new challenges.

  • "While cautious about the general economy, most small business owners expect their 2010 revenues to grow. But coming out of the recession, they see the world changing and they will have to do business in new ways to succeed in a more competitive marketplace."

As I mentioned in my comments on the American Express OPEN survey released earlier this week, we need the optimism of entrepreneurs more than ever. We need them to have the confidence to put their collective heads down and forge ahead to rebuild our economy.

  • "Small business owners know the importance of planning and want to spend more time doing it, but they appear to have trouble putting those intentions into action. Many also seem to be unclear about how to focus their marketing and employee retention efforts."

This finding rings home with something I have been working on. I have become increasingly convinced that we have been focusing too much on the minutia of business plans and moved away from the critical art and science of business modeling. We need to focus more on how all the moving parts of our business fit together and how the dynamic nature of the marketplace in today's economy demand an ever evolving business model. I will be writing more on this in coming weeks, but want to thank my colleague and friend John Wark for challenging my thinking on all of this.

  • "Economic stimuli enacted by Washington have had little to no effect on small businesses, but they remain hopeful that recent proposals to raise SBA loan limits will provide some benefit in the coming year."

No kidding! Entrepreneurs understand that it is their efforts that stimulate economies, not massive government pork and waste.
Regarding more available debt? Be careful what you pray for ... this is not the time to be leveraging your business.

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