America’s Small Businesses Eyeing Expansion, Despite Concerns about the National Economy

Wednesday, May 24, 2017 - 8:00am

New Quarterly Index from the U.S. Chamber and MetLife Reveals the 360-Degree View from Main Street

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The inaugural MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index (Index), released today, found that nearly two-thirds of small business owners are expecting revenue growth and looking to hire despite harboring concerns about the health of the national economy. Based on telephone interviews with 1,000 small business owners and operators, the survey found that nearly a third plan to hire more employees and 60 percent expect revenue to increase in the year ahead. Comparatively, only 6 percent plan to reduce their staff size and 9 percent are forecasting a decrease in revenue.

“Our Index revealed that there is a huge potential for growth on Main Streets across the country. Not only are small businesses looking to add employees, but they’re optimistic about growing their revenue and investing back in their companies,” said Suzanne Clark, senior executive vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Strong economic growth is the key to unlocking the potential of America’s entrepreneurs. Now more than ever, it’s important for us to understand their perspectives so we can help them succeed and grow.”

The majority of respondents (61 percent) rated the health of their small business as good or very good, with confidence increasing with the size of the company. More than 40 percent graded their local economy positively. But only 33 percent believe the U.S. economy is in somewhat or very good health, with one quarter (25 percent) saying that the economy is in poor or somewhat poor health.

“Small businesses strengthen the fabric of our communities and are the backbone of the American economy, accounting for more than half of the nation’s economic output today,” added James W. Reid, executive vice president for Regional & Small Business Solutions at MetLife. “Our Index can elevate the voice of the small business owner, and, quarter after quarter, their voice will help everyone to work towards solutions that translate into small business success.”

This first edition of the Index produced an overall score of 60.6 (on a scale of 0 to 100), which indicates that 60.6 percent of small business owners currently have a positive outlook for their company and the environment in which they operate. The score takes into account small business owners’ responses to 10 questions spanning three topics: the current health of their business; their views on the economy and other external forces that impact their company; and their plans and expectations for the near future. Future quarterly scores will reflect movement and add depth to the research, including state-level analysis.

Additional Findings and the Voice of the Small Business Owner

Part of this new research effort includes gathering personal stories that illuminate the unique challenges facing today’s small businesses.

Staffing
Many small business owners reported struggling to find high quality candidates for their open jobs. One quarter (25 percent) described the quality of recruits applying for their positions as poor. In key sectors of the economy, only 27 percent of manufacturers and 26 percent of retailers reported getting good or very good recruits.

A day spa owner from South Carolina said:

“We are definitely hoping to add staff this year, but there is a huge skills gap in our area for the licensed spa professionals that I employ.”

Competition
Roughly three-quarters (76 percent) report that the amount of competition is consistent with six months ago, and around 15 percent report facing more competition. This is particularly true for larger businesses in the small business segment (100-500 employees), among which 26 percent report facing increased competition.

A Colorado coffee roaster weighed in by saying:

“We have started to see a lot more competition in the area. It seems like people are very interested in owning their own small businesses in coffee…We have taken steps to alleviate that through advertising and marketing and social media.”

A Fayetteville, New York small business owner added:

“Many local small businesses are still dealing with the challenges that affect business on a national level as well: health care costs, meeting the demands of competition and keeping skilled employees.”

Working Longer
Three out of every ten of our respondents said they are working more hours than last year, with only 6 percent saying they are working fewer hours.

An Alaska-based small business owner said:

“I have lots of people who depend on my decision making and the health of the business.”

Please visit www.SBIndex.us to explore the full results.

The Index is part of a multiyear collaboration by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber to elevate the voice of America’s small business owners and highlight the important role they play in the nation’s economy. The initiative will produce the quarterly MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index; a five-event Small Business Series, with live events in Dallas, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., Tampa, and Phoenix where presenters will share information that helps businesses save money, save time, and foster growth; and the annual Dream Big Small Business Awards program, which celebrates the achievements of small businesses and honors their contributions to America’s economic growth.

About the Index
The MetLife & U.S. Chamber of Commerce Small Business Index is the product of 1,000 telephone interviews in April 2017 with American small business owners and operators conducted by Ipsos, an independent global market and research company. Each respondent was asked the same set of ten questions that compose the Index. The survey findings have been calibrated to match the U.S. Census data on small business to better ensure the data is representative of the small business sector at large.

Please click here to see the full methodology.

About the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations. For more information, visit www.uschamber.com

About MetLife
MetLife, Inc., through its subsidiaries and affiliates ("MetLife"), is one of the largest life insurance companies in the world. Founded in 1868, MetLife is a global provider of life insurance, annuities, employee benefits and asset management. Serving approximately 100 million customers, MetLife has operations in nearly 50 countries and holds leading market positions in the United States, Japan, Latin America, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. For more information, visit www.metlife.com