Small business owners focused on short-term challenges, survey finds

Small business owners are focused on staying afloat in the short-term, rather than planning for the long-term, a new survey has found.

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The survey, Truist’s annual Small Business Pulse Survey, found that following a year of inflation and economic uncertainty, small business owners are reporting higher levels of stress even as they remain optimistic about growth in 2024 and expect business conditions to improve.

“In recent years, our survey has shown the impact that economic uncertainty and high levels of stress can have on small business owners regionally and nationally, but it has also shown the resiliency of the small businesses that serve our communities each and every day,” Scott Stearsman, head of small business banking at Truist, said. “Running a small business is no small feat, which is why at Truist we’re focused on caring for our small business owners so they can continue doing what they do best.”

The report found that most small business owners are struggling with long-term strategy because of their short-term challenges. Only 35 percent reported having a formal growth plan in place, and of those, very few have shared their plan with anyone outside of the business. Just 32 percent said their plans have been shared with business advisors, like CPAs, bankers and lawyers.

Without formal plans in place, officials with Truist said, small business owners may not be addressing key areas where they need improvements, like prospecting and generating referrals. At the same time, small business owners said they felt unprepared to handle unexpected events. Only 42 percent said they were prepared to handle an economic downturn, and just 41 percent said they were prepared to handle a natural disaster.

“Running a business takes planning, research, funding and is a huge commitment of time,” Stearsman said. “When small business owners look to the future, having a trusted financial partner that understands their goals and business plan can help them through the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

Still, small businesses remained focused on financial concerns, like rising costs (43 percent), inflation (41 percent), economic uncertainty (31 percent) and finding new customers (31 percent).