Small businesses cautiously optimistic about 2012


It’s the beginning of a new year, and a survey of small businesses on the nation’s eastern seaboard confirms that it’s also the season to look forward to modest improvement in the year ahead. A survey from TD Bank finds that small businesses are not exactly jumping for joy, but they are looking at meeting or exceeding revenue projections in the near future and investing in their own operations.

According to TD Bank, which polled 300 businesses in its area of operation which extends from Maine to Florida, 61% met or exceeded expectations in Q4 2011, and even better, 74% expect to meet or exceed expectations in Q1 2012.

“The words ‘cautious optimism’ are what we’ve been hearing from our small business customers when discussing their early 2012 outlook,” said TD’s Fred Graziano. “Despite feeling somewhat uneasy about the U.S. economy, many are hopeful that they are in a position to boost their revenue stream and possibly invest in their business in the upcoming months.”

Despite the par-or-better hopes for revenue performance, slightly less than half say they are optimistic about the economy – 48% to be exact. However, 85% are maintaining staffing levels and 20% are looking to hire at least one more employee. 80% are planning to maintain or increase capital investment.

TD Bank asked what the biggest challenges were likely to be going forward and received mixed results:
* cash flow management (25%)
* lackluster sales (19%)
* expense management (15%)
* increased competition (12%)
* debt management (9%)
* working longer hours (9%)
* access to credit (7%)
* employee layoffs (3%)

RBR-TVBR observation: The parade of mildly optimistic surveys continues. What will be interesting is to see how these surveys look when March and April roll around. The takeaway from this one is that if businesses are looking at investing in themselves, broadcasters should be making the case that their airwaves should be a key component of that investment.