Four in Five U.S. Small Business Owners Anticipate Strong Finish to 2019

December 4, 2019 at 9:00 AM Eastern

U.S. small business owners are entering the new decade on a high note, with 82 percent anticipating year-over-year revenue growth as they close out 2019, according to the Bank of America Business Advantage Fall 2019 Small Business Owner Snapshot.

Entrepreneurs are confident about their business prospects, with expansion plans, revenue projections and intent to hire remaining strong and steady from last fall. While business owners also maintain a positive outlook for their local economies (52 percent vs. 54 percent in fall 2018), they are expressing a slightly more cautious view of the national economy (49 percent, down from 55 percent in fall 2018). The top five factors influencing business owners’ confidence in the national economy this fall are elections (91 percent), U.S. political climate (90 percent), GDP growth rate (89 percent), inflation (89 percent) and interest rates (89 percent).

“Entrepreneurs are charging into the new decade eager to increase their revenue and expand into new markets,” said Sharon Miller, head of Small Business, Bank of America. “While business owners are also closely monitoring the effects of recent changes to U.S. trade tariffs and policies, as a whole, they’re continuing to invest in their businesses and are optimistic about 2020.”

The new research, based on a semiannual survey of more than 1,600 entrepreneurs across the country, also reveals:

Small business growth indicators remain steady and strong

  • Sixty-nine percent plan to expand (up slightly from 67 percent in fall 2018).
  • Fifty-eight percent expect their revenue to increase (level with 57 percent from fall 2018).
  • Twenty-four percent plan to hire (down slightly from 27 percent in fall 2018).
  • Twelve percent intend to apply for a loan (down slightly from 15 percent in fall 2018).

Concern about health care costs and the political environment declined, while concern about other economic issues is on the rise

  • The top two economic concerns for entrepreneurs in the year ahead are health care costs (61 percent) and the political environment (61 percent), though they declined from 66 percent and 65 percent, respectively, since spring 2019.
  • Conversely, the survey found increasing concerns related to consumer spending (54 percent vs. 47 percent in spring 2019), the strength of the U.S. dollar (50 percent vs. 46 percent in spring 2019), and corporate tax rates (45 percent vs. 40 percent in spring 2019).

U.S. trade policies are impacting more business owners

Over the past year, more business owners say they have been impacted by U.S. trade policies. As of this fall, 44 percent say they are feeling the effects of tariffs, up from 41 percent in the spring and 36 percent in fall 2018. Of those business owners who have been affected this fall, the greatest impacts have been on the costs of their goods and supplies (61 percent have noticed an increase) and raised customer pricing (55 percent).

Holiday season brings challenges and stressors, but resilient business owners have ways to cope

During the holiday season, entrepreneurs are preparing for the unique challenges and opportunities that come with this busy time of year. Sixty-six percent expect to face challenges this holiday season, including balancing work and personal commitments (42 percent), creating customer demand (37 percent), and keeping prices competitive (36 percent).

Fifty-four percent of entrepreneurs feel stressed during the holidays. As stress levels rise, they plan to cope by taking extra steps toward self-care (48 percent), going on a vacation (38 percent), and developing processes to handle the influx of business (25 percent). Nearly three-quarters of entrepreneurs also look forward to spending time with family and friends during the holidays, 29 percent plan to provide employees special perks and bonuses, and 28 percent plan to give back to their local communities.  

For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of small business owners, read the Bank of America Business Advantage Fall 2019 Small Business Owner Snapshot.

Bank of America Business Advantage Fall 2019 Small Business Owner Snapshot

Ipsos Public Affairs conducted the Bank of America Small Business Owner Snapshot survey for fall 2019 online between July 19 and August 19, 2019, using a pre-recruited online sample of small business owners. Ipsos contacted a national sample of 1,323 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 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 suggest caution when making direct statistical comparisons of the results before and after 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 66 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 4,300 retail financial centers, including approximately 2,400 lending centers, 2,600 financial centers with a Consumer Investment Financial Solutions Advisor and 1,900 business centers; approximately 16,600 ATMs; and award-winning digital banking with nearly 38 million active users, including approximately 29 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 approximately 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

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Reporters May Contact:
Don Vecchiarello, Bank of America
Phone: 1.980.387.4899