Small businesses are the backbone of America. But with difficult economic times and varied financial pressures, small businesses hurt the most. This is undoubtedly true for the PVF industry in recent months. I spoke with small business advisor to AMEX Alice Bredin to get her thoughts on a recent survey done by AMEX highlighting the personal and financial toll small business owners sacrifice on a daily basis.
Danielle Galian: It's remarkable how much business owners are placing a lot of financial efforts into their own businesses and how the sacrifices are taking a toll. How was the idea initiated to study this phenomenon about small businesses?
Alice Bredin: The methodology for this survey has been going on for so long, in a slightly different form, for almost a dozen years. We did something called the "Small Business Monitor" and then we decided it would make more sense to do that more frequently, so we shifted to the "Small Business Growth Pulse." We used to touch base with them twice a year. But so much changes within that amount of time we decided to be in touch even more frequently. This is a survey of 1001 small business owners or managers of companies with $250K or more in annual revenues and fewer than 100 employees conducted online. American Express OPEN is really committed to being in touch with small business owners and that's really what's behind the program.
DG: How do you go about finding these small businesses?
AB: It's a pretty standard process through research. A research company did the anonymous survey conducted with very standard methods.
DG: In terms of trends, what have you seen and foresee for small business owners?
AB: Nothing's simple. We used to do a different kind of survey so it's difficult to speak on the past but in terms of what's happening for the future, there has been a somewhat challenging time economically for small business owners. And now I think we're seeing a different mindset in the part of the business owners. Many business owners are planning on hiring and that's always a sign of economic solid footing. Because business owners typically won't hire unless they really have the orders in hand to justify it. That's particularly so in recent times of a challenging economic environment. So the fact that small business owners are thinking about hiring is a really good sign.
DG: The study says cash flow is a concern and 64% of small business owners expected cash flow issues. Our readership in the PVF industry is currently dealing with a downturn in oil prices. Can you speak to these concerns?
AB: The state of cash flow varies from company to company. So this is really the national average based on interviews with small business owners from across the country in a variety of industries. Nationwide right now we're seeing a slight easing in cash flow concerns. Small companies are particularly hard when it comes to the issue of layoffs, for example, because the owners typically work so closely with their teams that there is a huge emotional component on both sides when a layoff has to occur. Even in economic good times we see cash flow concerns on the part of small business owners, too. Cash flow is always a concern. Either you're growing and you have a big staff and then you have huge overhead or you're shrinking with a small staff. If business is not concerned about cash, they should be worried. Expanding business, shrinking business, healthy business, struggling business, if you're not thinking about cash flow you're in deep trouble. You should be thinking about it, planning, worrying, rechecking, monitoring like you have an infant.
Danielle Galian: With more than two thirds of small business owners contributing their personal finances, according to the study, what kind of toll is that taking on those business owners?
AB: There are many ups and downs in small companies, and business owners are really committed to keeping things going. And businesses, no matter how healthy, require infusions of capital to weather cash flow shortages, or to take advantage of opportunities that are time sensitive. Businesses need infusions of cash. So it kind of stands to reason that business owners, if they have the money available, would put their personal funds in because so they can access them really quickly and there is no interest involved. The business really needs to stand on its own. When putting in personal funds into the business, it's not really standing on its own.
Danielle Galian: Within the survey, were any startups involved in the survey?
AB: Probably not too many of them were startups. Startups have a whole other type of profile. They have other types of opportunities and challenges.
Danielle Galian: In your experience, have you seen companies investing in startups while keeping their established company?
AB: Generally, businesses have enough on their plate just to run their company. Most businesses are just keeping their head above water with one company at a time. A recent article in the New York Times discussed recent business school grads buying startup companies as a way to get their feet into the entrepreneurial world. True entrepreneurs can be serial entrepreneurs because they like to start stuff. The classic entrepreneurial personality is that they get bored and want to move on. There are those serial entrepreneurs that start a company and then move on to something else. But that is a certain type.
For more information on this study, visit http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160203005246/en for more.