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Tag Archive for 'economy'

RESULTS: How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

The Question:
How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

36% - This year has been great and we plan to finish strong.
29% - This hasn’t been a great year, but it looks like we’ll finish strong
14% -  We started out well, but the rest of the year doesn’t look so good.
21% - We’re not going to have a good year, first half or last half.

Jim’s Comments:
Comparing our poll this week to similar results over the past couple of years, it actually looks like small business owners are finally feeling more confident about the economy. In previous polls we’ve barely gotten half of our audience to say they were optimistic about the next few months. But this week almost two-thirds like what they see for the last third of the year.

As you know, I now consider Main Street, not Wall Street, to be the leading indicator of the economy. If I’m right, this poll response is good news we can count on–at least unless Wall Street and/or Washington does something stupid to derail all of our hard work.

Main Street, not Wall Street, is the leading economic indicator

What sector of the U.S. marketplace produces over half of the economy, signs the front of over half of U.S. private payroll checks, and is the perennial new job engine?

No, it’s not Corporate America or Wall Street banks. It’s Small Business America. If this sector were a sovereign country it would be the largest economy in the world.

So why does Wall Street, instead of Main Street, get all of the economic media coverage?

William Dunkelberg, Ph.D., NFIB’s Chief Economist, is the oracle of the Main Street economy. For more than 40 years his monthly Small Business Optimism Index has been the gold standard for this sector. Alas, since 2007 his Index has recorded an unprecedented cycle of sustained levels below the 40-year optimism average. Find the Index at smallbus.org and NFIB.com.  Plus Bill reports his findings on my radio program every month.

On the other end of the precious metals scale of small business polling, closer to the copper standard, is me. For several years my online poll has asked small business owners weekly about their take on the economy. Recently we asked which of five business issues is the most pressing:  cash flow, a business loan, more customers, Obamacare, taxes and/or regulations.

Here’s what we learned:

SmallTownUSA

One marker of sustained business success since 2008 is deleveraging, which manifests, in part, as improved cash flow. Consequently, when cash flow concern registers only a 16% response, and loan demand gets no takers, these are the two sides of the deleveraging coin. But low loan demand also means low growth expectation.

Obamacare barely moved the worry meter at 5% in our poll because this issue will be dormant until Q4 2014, when we learn what the 2015 employer mandate will cost.

The big concerns, more customers at 54% and taxes/regulations at 25%, can be taken two ways: No one admits to having enough business and no one likes taxes and regs. But based on the economic indicators of the first half of 2014, plus recent tax increases and out-of-control growth of regulations that disproportionately hurt small businesses, these are not gratuitous responses; they’re the true top concerns of small businesses. And they track with the NFIB Index.

As I’ve been saying since 2006, Wall Street is no longer a leading indicator of the economy; it’s now merely a leading indicator of itself. If you want to know the true condition of the U.S. economy, listen to Main Street small business owners.

Write this on a rock … The small business sector is now the true leading economic indicator of the U.S.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

The big concerns, more customers at 54% and taxes/regulations at 25%, can be taken two ways: No one admits to having enough business and no one likes taxes and regs. But based on the economic indicators of the first half of 2014, plus recent tax increases and out-of-control growth of regulations that disproportionately hurt small businesses, these are not gratuitous responses; they’re the true top concerns of small businesses. And they track with the NFIB Index.

As I’ve been saying since 2006, Wall Street is no longer a leading indicator of the economy; it’s now merely a leading indicator of itself. If you want to know the true condition of the U.S. economy, listen to Main Street small business owners.

Write this on a rock …

The small business sector is now the true leading economic indicator of the U.S.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

RESULTS: Which of the following is the most pressing challenge your business has right now?

The Question:
Which of the following is the most pressing challenge your business has right now?

16% — Negative cash flow
0% – Getting a business loan
54% — Need more customers
5% — Impact of Obamacare
25% — Taxes and/or regulations

Jim’s Comments:

SBA Poll Results: How is the economy looking for you?

The Question:
With two months of 2014 behind us, how is the economy looking for your business?

5% - So far, 2014 sales are great and expect this to continue.

34% - We’re seeing improvement over last year.

42% - So far, this year is trending no better than last year.

18% - This year is looking worse than last year.

My Comments:
When we asked you about your instincts about the new year in our online poll the first week of January, 60% of you said you were either positive or very positive. Alas, as you can see above, now two months into the new year, less than four in ten small business owners see any signs of economic growth in the early going. With this kind of response from the pathologically optimistic sector that creates over half of the U.S. economy, it looks like anything but a robust recovery continues to be our reality.

Here’s the understatement of the decade: This is starting to get out of hand. Of course I’m talking about what seems to be entrenched malaise on Main Street. Please remember, I’m just commenting on what you report to me. I would much rather be talking about how excited everyone is about the future. I’ll have more to say about this in an upcoming Feature Article. Stay tuned and thanks for participating.

Connecting small business, the economy and Washington

The Great Recession ended in July 2009. In our online poll since then we’ve asked small business owners several times about their economy.

Comparing responses from our poll at the end of 2011 with the one at the end of 2013, the groups experiencing sales growth went from 76% in 2011 to 48% in 2013, while the bottom half went from less than one-fourth having a tough time in 2011, to more than half reporting flat to negative sales in 2013. Small business reality has been steadily going in the wrong direction.

We’ve also asked about small business projections for the coming year. In 2012, 73% were positive about the New Year, while the rest were uncertain. But one year later, in 2013, the responses essentially inverted: 24% positive, and 76% not so much. Recently we asked, “How are you projecting sales for 2014?” Only 20% are projecting a good year, with the other 80% projecting slight to flat to negative growth.

As you can see, not only has actual business performance declined for our small business respondents, but optimism about the future is also going in the wrong direction, from 73% positive in 2012, to 24% positive in 2013, to 20% positive in 2014.

For more than a decade on my radio program, I’ve reported monthly on two scientific small business surveys: Dr. Bill Dunkleberg’s NFIB Small Business Economic Trends Report (the 40-year gold standard), and the Tatum Index of Business Conditions. In terms of context, my “trends and conditions” poll responses have consistently aligned with the results of these two during the same periods.

Here’s why all of this matters: Almost five years into a recovery, the economy should be growing at 4%, but is barely reaching 2%. And in December, economists expected 200,000 new jobs, but were shocked when only 74,000 were created.

The small business sector produces over half of the U.S. economy and most of the net new jobs. If you’re wondering what happened to the missing 2% GDP and millions of new jobs, they’re lost in the production small businesses have not created since 2009.

When we’ve asked about the single greatest thing holding small businesses back since 2009, the answer has been consistently and overwhelmingly “uncertainty” created by anti-business attitudes and policies coming out of Washington, like Obamacare and proposing a minimum wage increase.

Small business owners are pathological optimists. But Washington has taken a toll on their reality and expectations—and by extension, the economy.

In the 21st century, as small business goes, so goes America.

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Be sure to check out my latest segment on The Small Business Advocate Show® where I talk more in-depth about the economy and how small business effects it.

Connecting the small business, government and the economy

My latest book The Age of the Customer® is available at the following locations. Be sure to purchase your copy today to help your small business stay relevant.

Recapping my 2013 Crystal Ball Predictions

Let’s review my 2013 predictions, what happened and my score

Prediction:The political class will claim “fiscal cliff” avoidance, but it’s more postponement than policy. Reality: The government was shut down again in October. Plus 1.

Prediction:The 2013 economy will be held back by two government-created headwinds: tax increases and Obamacare. Reality: Dozens of tax increases took billions out of consumers’ pockets and Obamacare is a recurring budgeting nightmare. Plus 1.

Prediction:Small business uncertainty about investing in growth will continue for the fifth consecutive year. Reality: The monthly NFIB Small Business Optimism Index shows continued business reluctance to hire, invest capital or borrow money for growth. Plus 1.

Prediction: The NFIB Index will continue to be at or below the unprecedented 40-year historical low of 93 points in 2013, as it was in Obama’s first term. Reality: Through November, the average Index score was 92.3. Sadly, plus 1.

Prediction: The unemployment rate will remain above 7%. Reality: While U-3 has recently fallen to almost 7%, the real unemployment condition (U6), remains in the teens. Plus 1.

Prediction: GDP in 2013 will remain moribund, below 3%. Reality: GDP through October averaged 2.3%. Plus 1.

Prediction: For the first time in history, the national debt will exceed GDP. Reality: 2013 GDP is $16.8 trillion, national debt is $17.2 trillion. Plus 1.

Prediction: The U.S. credit rating will be reduced for the second time in history during the Obama presidency. Reality: While there were warnings, the rating did not drop. Minus 1.

Prediction: State insurance exchanges, Obamacare platforms, will not be ready for the 2014 launch. Reality: The epic fail of the Obamacare launch is now the stuff of legend, including no access to exchanges for small businesses. Plus 1.

Prediction: The 2014 Obamacare “guaranteed issue” mandate will artificially cause increases in 2013 health insurance premiums. Reality: All policies increased in the past year in anticipation of mandates, like pediatric dental, even if you don’t have kids. Plus 1.

Prediction: While feckless and fecklesser – the U.S. and the U.N – watch, Iran will take the world across a nuclear Rubicon. Reality: The recent Geneva Accords not only didn’t stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but actually removed successful economic sanctions. Plus 1.

Prediction: Alabama defeats Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game in Miami. Reality: Bama 42, Irish 14. Plus 1.

That’s 11 of 12 this year, bringing my 13 year average to 72%. How’d you do?

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Be sure to listen to my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Radio Show®. I recap all my predictions in more detail. Also subscribe to my newsletter below to get my 2014 predictions.

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