What’s ahead for 2016? Business owners share their views

What lies ahead for small businesses in 2016?

The results of polling conducted by the National Small Business Association reflect what small business owners themselves think. The results are mixed.

While many owners expect an economic downturn, they also believe 2016 will prove to be a profitable year. Small business owners also have some ideas about the challenges they’ll face as well as some strategies to promote growth in the new year. Owners know what issues they deem important in the upcoming election, but don’t believe presidential candidates actually understand the needs of small firms.

The 884 small business owners who were polled had a slightly less optimistic outlook on the overall economy than they had half a year ago Only 20 percent of owners said the economy is better off now than six months ago, 48 percent think it’s about the same. And 16 percent are expecting another recession in the next 12 months.

The top five challenges to the growth and survival of small businesses? According to the poll results: economic uncertainty, followed by the cost of health insurance benefits, a decline in customer spending, regulatory burdens and federal taxes.

Still, 75 percent of small business owners expressed confidence in the future of their own businesses — up from 71 percent six months ago and the highest level for this indicator in four years.

While 45 percent of respondents reported an increase in gross sales and revenues in 2015, 31 percent saw a decrease and the remaining 24 percent saw no change.

As for this 2016, 58 percent of small business owners said they expect to see an increase, while 15 percent anticipate a decrease.

The top strategies for growth in the next year? New advertising and marketing strategies, expanding the use of the Internet and e-commerce, forming strategic alliances and hiring new employees.

Although the number of small business owners who plan to decrease staffing is at its lowest point in eight years, the proportion of firms that did hire over the last year remained unchanged at 23 percent.

Meanwhile, 57 percent of small business owners reported increasing employee compensation over the last 12 months, and 60 percent said they plan to increase wages in the coming 12 months. Only 8 percent of small biz owners expect to decrease their staff this year, and 5 percent say they’ll decrease employee compensation in 2016.

It’s an election year, and small business owners also had some ideas about the top issues they’d like the president and Congress to address: reduce the national deficit, end partisan gridlock and work together, simplify the tax system and reduce the tax burden and reduce the costs of health care reform.

Most small business owners — 53 percent — said they’re paying close attention to the presidential election.

But do candidates actually understand the needs of small business?

Small business owners don’t think so. Just 5 percent of owners said the various presidential hopefuls understand small business very well, with another 40 percent stating the candidates don’t understand small business at all.

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