Houston entrepreneurs are projecting a strong but more cautious business outlook this spring, with revenue expectations and expansion plans dipping over the last six months, according to the spring 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. Though area business owners remain more optimistic than their peers nationwide, their confidence in the local economy has weakened since fall 2018.
The report, based on a semiannual survey of over 1,500 small business owners across the country and the greater Houston area, reveals that:
“Houston business owners are a bit more cautious today than they were six months ago, but their confidence in their businesses and the economy remains above that of their national counterparts,” said Elizabeth Romero, central small business division executive at Bank of America who is based in Houston. “While expansion plans have simmered somewhat since last fall, hiring plans remain steady, and the majority of business owners continue to invest in their businesses.”
Sixty-seven percent of Houston entrepreneurs expressed concern about the current political environment, though they are divided over how major policy issues are directly impacting them. Fifty-five percent of Houston business owners say the new tax code has had an impact on their business — with 36 percent reporting that impact as positive, the highest among business owners surveyed in 10 major cities. This is down from the 46 percent who anticipated a positive impact one year ago.
Regarding U.S. trade policy, 47 percent say they have been impacted by tariffs, with 22 percent reporting that impact as mixed, 16 percent reporting it as positive and 9 percent reporting it as negative. Additionally, 31 percent of Houston entrepreneurs say they’re concerned about climate change affecting their business.
Unexpected or major economic events can transform a business in the blink of an eye - a lesson Houston business owners learned all too well in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The majority of Houston entrepreneurs are taking steps to protect their business from potential threats such as natural disasters, an economic downturn or a cyber breach. However, most Houston business owners do not have a plan to address reputational crises or challenges.
Customer feedback holds tremendous sway in the digital era, with online reviews serving as a powerful channel for sharing both compliments and criticisms. While 61 percent of Houston business owners have received a negative online review of their business, 56 percent believe positive reviews matter the most, compared to 44 percent who say negative reviews have a greater impact.
Furthermore, 64 percent say reviews are important to the success of their business, with 75 percent reporting that positive reviews have helped generate business opportunities. Recognizing that negative reviews do have an impact, 70 percent of Houston business owners who have received one say they respond as soon as possible to limit the reputational damage.
For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, read the spring 2019 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report.
Ipsos Public Affairs conducted the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report Survey for spring 2019 online between February 8 and February 24, 2019 using a pre-recruited online sample of small business owners. Ipsos contacted a national sample of 1,504 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, previous 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.
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Britney Sheehan, Bank of America