Economic Optimism, Hiring and Revenue Expectations Exceed National Average
As the year comes to a close, a strong majority of Atlanta small business owners are looking at better-than-expected performance on their year-end revenues, and they are projecting five-year growth at a greater rate than their counterparts nationwide. According to the fall 2017 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report, a semiannual survey of 1,000 business owners across the country and in the greater Atlanta area, 85 percent of local entrepreneurs are confident their year-end revenue will exceed that of 2016, and 70 percent are planning to grow their business over the next five years (vs. 51 percent nationwide).
Economic optimism is on the rise, with more than half of Atlanta entrepreneurs believing the national economy will improve over the next 12 months, an increase of 7 percentage points from just one year ago. Findings indicate Atlanta small business owners are planning to act on this confidence:
Eighty-three percent are currently working to open a new location (vs. 44 percent nationwide).
Seventy-one percent expect their revenue to increase over the next 12 months (vs. 51 percent nationwide).
Thirty-three percent plan to hire more employees (vs. 16 percent nationwide).
“Such a high number of Atlanta businesses reporting better-than-expected revenue performance this year is excellent news,” said Dean Bird, Atlanta small business banker manager at Bank of America. “Atlanta entrepreneurs are confident in their businesses and the economy, and sense an opportunity to build on their success in the coming months.”
Health care costs continue to be the top economic concern for Atlanta entrepreneurs, remaining steady since last year at 72 percent. Concern for other economic factors, however, has declined significantly, including:
Interest rates (48 percent, down 12 percentage points since fall 2016).
Stock market (46 percent, down 10 percentage points since fall 2016).
Strength of the U.S. dollar (46 percent, down 20 percentage points since fall 2016).
Consumer spending (45 percent, down 16 percentage points since fall 2016).
Atlanta small business owners see employees as the key to their success, with 83 percent citing their ability to attract and retain quality employees as a factor impacting growth, just slightly trailing customer demand (89 percent), a positive economic environment (89 percent) and favorable government policies (84 percent). As a result, Atlanta entrepreneurs continue to be thoughtful about retaining talent, with 48 percent offering flexible hours or work locations, 28 percent providing perks such as office happy hours and 23 percent creating employee reward programs.
Nine out of 10 Atlanta entrepreneurs provide wage increases and promotions, with most raises given on an unscheduled basis (58 percent), driven by either employee performance or positive business growth. Meanwhile, 21 percent give regular annual raises.
Forty-five percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs say social media has had a positive impact on their business’s bottom line in the past year, primarily using it to network with their peers (61 percent), market their business (59 percent), research their marketplace and competitors (59 percent), and capture and respond to customer feedback (54 percent).
While many Atlanta entrepreneurs believe social media has a positive impact on their business, one-third admit to having made a business blunder on mobile or digital channels at some point. Top business blunders among Atlanta entrepreneurs include incorrectly scheduled appointments or meetings (15 percent) and outdated online information that caused customer confusion (15 percent).
Beyond social media, an overwhelming number of Atlanta entrepreneurs are adopting digital tools to assist in their day-to-day operations. Eighty-eight percent of entrepreneurs use at least one digital tool to run their business, with digital banking (51 percent) and financial tracking and accounting apps (37 percent) reported as the most popular solutions.
With 2017 revenues exceeding expectations, 82 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs plan to reward their employees with holiday-related perks, including:
Office closure during the holidays (47 percent).
Employee gifts (33 percent).
Flexible hours and vacation time (32 percent).
A holiday party (32 percent).
Salary bonuses (31 percent).
Additionally, 67 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs plan to participate in charitable efforts this holiday season, such as making financial contributions to charities or nonprofits (39 percent), giving employees time off to volunteer (21 percent) and organizing charitable giving programs (19 percent).
GfK Public Communications & Social Science conducted the Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report survey for fall of 2017 online between August 8 and September 28, 2017 using a pre-recruited online sample of small business owners. GfK contacted a national sample of 1,013 small business owners in the United States with annual revenue between $100,000 and $4,999,999 and employing between two and 99 employees. In addition, a total of approximately 300 small business owners were also surveyed in each of ten target markets: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Miami, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Approximately 150 interviews each were also completed among respondents in the tech and medical/health care field. The final results were weighted to national benchmark standards for size, revenue and region.
Prior to 2016, waves of the Small Business Owner Report survey were conducted by telephone and while best efforts were made to replicate processes, differences in sample, weighting and method suggests caution when making direct statistical comparisons of the results from pre-2016 and post-2016.
Bank of America is one of the world's leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 47 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 4,500 retail financial centers, approximately 16,000 ATMs, and award-winning digital banking with approximately 34 million active users, including approximately 24 million mobile users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business owners through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and more than 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.
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Reporters may contact:
Matthew Daily, Bank of America