U.S. Small Business Owners Confident in their Business and the U.S. Economy

Staff Report

Monday, May 6th, 2019

The annual Small Business Pulse Survey from SunTrust reveals a strong small business community, with two-thirds of small business decision makers reporting strength in their local economy (68 percent) and the U.S. economy (65 percent). The positive outlook is bolstered by two-thirds of decision makers who report their business is strong (67 percent), that their company's financial well-being is equal to or greater than last year (85 percent), and that they have less work-related stress.

Though they feel positive about their business, only half of small business owners (49 percent) have a clearly stated plan for business growth. Among business owners who do have a growth plan, only one third (33 percent) have shared it with their external business partners and only one quarter (27 percent) have shared their plan with an advisor. This reluctance to create and share a plan is in contrast to the fastest-growing companies in the survey. Fast-growing companies are one-and-a-half times more likely to have a stated growth plan and twice as likely to share their plan.

"Small businesses are a cornerstone of successful communities so we should celebrate their optimism about the economy and their business," said Reggie Davis, head of Business Banking at SunTrust Bank. "By developing a growth plan and discussing it with partners and advisors, an entrepreneur can gather insights that inform decisions, increase their confidence, and create a positive impact on their business, employees and community."

The absence of a plan could be one reason cash shortfalls are common among small businesses. More than one third of small businesses (37 percent) experienced a cash shortfall in the past year, and 75 percent faced variations in their cash flow. Cash flow variations are often driven by seasonality (36 percent), expense fluctuations (28 percent), and the loss or gain of major customers (20 percent).

When faced with a shortfall, small business owners often balance business and personal financial solutions to keep their business on track:

36 percent use personal assets for a cash infusion

26 percent dip into their business cash reserves

26 percent tap a business line of credit

25 percent forgo their salary for the well-being of the business

19 percent take out a personal loan

Cash shortfalls may have significant impacts to the owner and business, including reduced productivity, damage to the owner's credit, slower production and distracted management.

"Monitoring cash flow is critical to the health of a small business and 30 percent of business owners report they need to improve in this area," said Davis. "By discussing a business owner's unique situation, our bankers are able to provide advice, and identify technology and banking solutions that can help a business enhance its cash flow and avoid a cash crisis."