Chicago Small Business Owners Confident in Economy, Plan to Expand Their Business

Fall 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report Also Finds Chicago Entrepreneurs Use Technology More Than National Counterparts

Thursday, November 13, 2014 9:00 am EST

Sixty-six percent of Chicago’s small business owners plan to grow their business over the next five years up from 59 percent last spring, according to the fall 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, released today by Bank of America.

The Small Business Owner Report is a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners in Chicago and around the country.

With 48 percent planning to hire more employees and 61 percent predicting revenue increases, Chicago small business owners are feeling more confident in achieving growth than they did in fall 2013, when 30 percent planned to hire more employees and 54 percent expected revenue growth. Additionally, within the last 12 months, confidence in the local and national economies has grown by 6 percent and 14 percent, respectively.

“Small businesses are a cornerstone of the local economy, and will continue to be an important source of employment in the area,” said Jay Miller, regional sales executive for Bank of America. “As our small business owners continue to gain confidence in the Chicago economy, Bank of America will be there to help small business owners grow.”

Even with increased confidence in the economy as a whole, Chicago small business owners do have reservations about specific economic issues. For example, 73 percent believe that health care costs could affect the future of their business (up from 67 percent six months ago), 72 percent are concerned about the strength of the U.S. dollar (up from 60 percent six months ago), and 70 percent worry about the effectiveness of U.S. government leaders (up from 65 percent from six months ago).

Chicago small business owners - a tech savvy crowd
Chicago small business owners see technological advances as a way to improve business operations. When asked to grade themselves on tech savviness, 64 percent of Chicago small business owners give themselves an “A” or “B.”

Chicagoland entrepreneurs are more connected than their national counterparts, with almost half (46 percent) saying that they could not run their business successfully for longer than one day without a smartphone or a tablet, compared to 34 percent nationwide. An overwhelming majority (78 percent) also identified technology as a means to save time and improve efficiency, including the use of applications for inventory management and money management.

“New technologies are changing the way small businesses across various industries operate and interact with customers,” said Jennifer Mariani, Small Business Banking manager. “Chicago’s small business owners are eager to leverage innovation in order to remain competitive in a difficult economy by becoming more efficient and nimble.”

Many Chicago small business owners incorporate some type of digital technology into their business, including technology for security software (48 percent, versus 44 percent nationally), organizing office tasks (45 percent, versus 38 percent nationally), selling products or services online (43 percent, versus 38 percent nationally), and replacing cash registers with mobile tablets or cloud-based POS solutions (26 percent, versus 18 percent nationally).

Year-end cheer expected among Chicago small business owners
Seventy-one percent of Chicago small business owners expect to hit their year-end revenue goal. However, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are not expected to impact revenue; 72 percent and 86 percent say Black Friday and Cyber Monday, respectively, will have little impact on their business’ bottom line.

Chicago small business owners are also planning to reward their employees with end-of-year perks this holiday season:

  • Fifty-one percent plan to award salary bonuses to employees.
  • Forty percent will host a holiday party for their staff.
  • Forty-five percent plan to give out gifts to employees.

For an in-depth look at the attributes of the nation’s small business owners, read the full fall 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report and for additional Chicago-based insights, download the Small Business Owner Report Chicago infographic here.

About the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report
Braun Research conducted the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report survey by phone in October 2014 on behalf of Bank of America. Braun contacted a nationally representative sample of 1,000 small business owners in the United States with annual revenue between $100,000 and $4,999,999 and employing between 2 and 99 employees. In addition, 300 small business owners were also surveyed in nine target markets: Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, D.C., New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and Miami. The margin of error for the national sample is +/- 3.1 percent and the margin of error for the oversampled markets is +/ 5.7 percent, with both reported at a 95 percent confidence level.

The Braun Research survey results conducted on behalf of Bank of America and interpretations in this release are not intended, nor implied, to be a substitute for the professional advice received from a qualified accountant, attorney or financial advisor. Always seek the advice of an accountant, attorney or financial advisor with any questions you may have regarding the decisions you undertake as a result of reviewing the information contained herein. Nothing in this report should be construed as either advice or legal opinion.

Bank of America
Bank of America is one of the world's largest financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small businesses, 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 48 million consumer and small business relationships with approximately 4,900 retail banking offices and approximately 15,700 ATMs and award-winning online banking with 31 million active users and more than 16 million mobile users. Bank of America is among the world's leading wealth management companies and is a global leader in 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 more than 40 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Reporters May Contact:
Diane Wagner, Bank of America, 1.312.992.2370