Atlanta Entrepreneurs Compete for Talent as Revenue Growth and Economic Confidence Drive Expansion

December 6, 2018 at 9:00 AM Eastern

Local entrepreneurs are finishing 2018 on a high note, with most Atlanta-area small business owners anticipating year-over-year revenue growth and making plans to hire in the year ahead, according to the fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. While the majority of Atlanta business owners are optimistic about the direction of the economy, entrepreneurs are struggling to land qualified employees as they look to expand their businesses.

The report, based on a semiannual survey of 1,000 small business owners across the country and the greater Atlanta area, revealed that 85 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs are confident their year-end revenue will exceed that of 2017. In addition, over the next 12 months:

  • Seventy-three percent of Atlanta business owners believe their revenue will increase (vs. 71 percent in fall 2017).
  • Eighty percent plan to expand (vs. 83 percent in fall 2017).
  • Forty-three percent plan to hire (vs. 33 percent in fall 2017, and 16 percentage points higher than the national average).
  • Sixty-nine percent are confident the Atlanta economy will improve (vs. 60 percent in fall 2017).
  • Sixty-four percent express similar confidence in the national economy (the highest level of confidence among business owners surveyed in 10 major cities nationwide).

“Atlanta business owners are experiencing a sustained pattern of revenue growth and are looking to expand amid a strong local economy,” said Dean Bird, Atlanta small business banker manager at Bank of America. “Concern over most economic issues is declining, and the only factor significantly tempering Atlanta businesses’ expansion plans is a heated competition for talent.”

Heightened competition for Atlanta talent as small business hiring ramps up

As Atlanta business owners make plans to hire in the year ahead, they acknowledge that identifying and retaining employees has become a significant challenge. In the last year, turnover affected 21 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs. Among business owners who sought to hire new employees, 56 percent say they had difficulty finding qualified candidates, in large part due to the tightening job market.

To adjust to these challenges, business owners who sought to hire in the last year have modified their hiring strategies to find and recruit top talent by:

  • Shifting to a more flexible culture in terms of hours, location and extra time off (27 percent).
  • Using social media more actively (22 percent).
  • Offering higher salaries (10 percent).

When it comes to the top characteristics Atlanta business owners are looking for in their potential job candidates, they primarily value passion for the work and mission of the business (52 percent), the ability to learn new skills (52 percent) and integrity (51 percent).

Concern for most economic issues declines or holds steady; worry over health care and taxes dips significantly

In correlation with positive business forecasts in Atlanta, the survey found a general trend of declining concern across economic factors that are tracked. While health care costs remain at the top of the list, Atlanta entrepreneurs’ concern over this factor fell to 53 percent, a 19 percent drop from fall 2017. Concern over corporate taxes also decreased significantly, with only 42 percent identifying this as a burdensome issue nearly a year after the enactment of U.S. tax reform, down from 50 percent in fall 2017.

Perhaps a result of recent changes to and uncertainty about trade policies, 34 percent of Atlanta business owners identify U.S. trade policy as an economic concern. Thirty-six percent say the latest tariffs/U.S. trade policies have impacted their businesses, with 8 percent reporting a negative impact, 11 percent reporting a positive impact and 16 percent reporting both positive and negative effects.

Atlanta small business owners feel the holiday spirit; recommend entrepreneurship as a career path

Atlanta business owners are feeling the holiday spirit as 85 percent plan to offer at least one holiday perk to their employees. The top holiday perks being offered are office closures (52 percent), flexible hours or vacation time (42 percent) and employee gifts (42 percent). Finally, despite unique challenges in managing a small business, Atlanta entrepreneurs love what they do. Ninety-three percent say the added stress of entrepreneurship has been worth it, and are the most likely (95 percent) nationwide to recommend that others follow in their footsteps.

For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, read the fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report.

Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report

GfK Social and Strategic Research conducted the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report Survey for fall 2018 online between August 30 and September 13, 2018, using a pre-recruited online sample of small business owners. GfK contacted a national sample of 1,067 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 10 target markets: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. 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

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 67 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 4,400 retail financial centers, approximately 16,100 ATMs, and award-winning digital banking with more than 36 million active users, including nearly 26 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 across the United States, its territories 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
Phone: 404.607.2844