woman outside shop writing on chalkboard
As more businesses find funding and remain open with restrictions, sentiment on cash flow is rebounding, with 56% of small business owners being comfortable with their cash flow. — Getty Images/alvarez

Small businesses are showing signs of life as local communities and major cities across the United States gradually begin to loosen quarantine restrictions on both business and recreational activity. Nearly eight in 10 small businesses are either fully or partially open, with only 1% permanently closed, and over half are comfortable with their current cash flow situation.

Of the companies that reported temporary closure at the beginning of the pandemic, almost half have reopened.

A poll conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in partnership with MetLife found that small business sentiment is improving as owners prepare to adapt for life after quarantine. Only 43% report they are very concerned with the pandemic’s impact on their business, a 10-point drop from last month, and a 15-point drop from the month prior.

As more businesses find funding and remain open with restrictions, sentiment on cash flow is also rebounding. Fifty-six percent of small business owners surveyed are comfortable with their cash flow situation, up from last month’s low point of 48%.

Attitudes toward the future are also coming back, with half of small businesses expecting next year’s revenue to increase and only 19% expecting it to decrease, a 6-point drop from last month.

[Related: How Small Business Owners Are Reopening After COVID-19]

Small business owners practice cautious optimism

While attitudes are bouncing back, small business owners are still hesitant to expect a full return to normalcy. In fact, the survey found small business owners are predicting it may take longer for a normal business climate to resume.

Fifty-five percent of small business owners surveyed said it will take six months to a year for the U.S. business climate to return to normal, up from 50% last month and 46% from the month before.

As realities about the pandemic and its impact on small business set in, companies are preparing for all possibilities. Two-thirds of SMBs are concerned with having to close again, or stay closed, if there is a second wave of the virus.

However, the number of small businesses saying the U.S. economy is in very poor health is down 11 percentage points, from 29% last month to 18% this month. This drop is a return in attitude to that of early March, when 18% of SMBs also rated the health of the economy as very poor.

This month’s survey found that small businesses are making adaptations to the way they normally conduct business.

Small businesses keeping people safe with protective measures

Part of the pandemic response from small businesses has been to find unique funding opportunities, adjust product or service offerings, and practice social distancing guidelines. This month’s survey found that small businesses are making adaptations to the way they normally conduct business.

Nearly half of small businesses have either started, or plan to start, more frequent cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces, while 44% are holding employees accountable to self-monitor potential COVID-19 symptoms and stay home if they’re sick. Forty percent are either implementing, or planning to implement, protective gear for their staff, and 39% are requiring six feet of distance between customers and employees.

Despite these measures, 6 in 10 small business owners are still concerned about the threat of the virus to their customers and employees.

[Related: Ready to Reopen: A Playbook For Your Small Business]

Despite measured optimism, there is still concern for the future

As small business activity slowly resumes, and SMB owners take on protective measures to keep employees and customers safe, there is still general concern about the future, particularly regarding financial hardship.

  • 71% are concerned about financial hardships due to prolonged closures.
  • 67% are fearful of low business demand.
  • 66% are concerned with closures related to a second wave of the virus.
  • 62% are worried about putting their customers and employees at risk.

Concerns don’t stop at financial hardships and the safety of customers and employees for SMBs. The study also found that legal problems are also troubling business owners: One in three SMBs are concerned at the possibility of lawsuits related to the virus.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 05, 2020