Small-business owners in Central New York and across the country are slowly but surely regaining their footing after a uniquely challenging year.
According to new research from Bank of America’s 2021 Small Business Owner’s Report, economic confidence and revenue expectations have bounced back significantly since last fall. We found that 60 percent of small businesses nationwide expect their revenue to increase over the next 12 months, and nearly 80 percent attribute this to the increasing availability of covid vaccines.
While these signs of progress are encouraging, we know that the journey to full recovery can be a long one. Below, I’m sharing some key insights from the Small Business Owner Report (https://about.bankofamerica.com/content/dam/about/report-center/sbor/2021/2021-sbor-secured.pdf). I also provide tips to navigate the path forward as the economy safely reopens.
Hiring new talent
Last year, unemployment rose sharply during the pandemic, forcing businesses to reevaluate their budgets and make tough decisions around talent. According to the New York State Department of Labor, hiring is increasing across the board with private-sector jobs up 15.8 percent in the Syracuse metro area and 14.9 percent in Utica–Rome in April 2021 compared to April 2020. Despite this increase, there remains a large pool of talent from which to hire new employees. Given that one-in-five business owners plan to hire this year, it’s important to ensure your business is attractive for top talent.
• Create an application that is easy to navigate. Create an application process that is quick and easy, but still screens for the experience level you’re seeking. Make your application mobile-friendly, too.
• Get everyone to recruit. Tapping into your current employee base can be one of the most powerful and cost-efficient strategies to find and recruit talent. Your current employees have familiarity with your company culture and the necessary skillset to thrive at your organization. Consider offering bonuses to staff who successfully refer new employees.
Reevaluate short and long-term goals
Business owners in Central New York took advantage of many resources and programs throughout the last year to navigate the pandemic, leaning on friends and family and seeking professional guidance. Nationally, 25 percent of small businesses applied for a business loan or line of credit over the past year; however, only 16 percent say they will seek financing in 2021. To continue this positive momentum throughout 2021, consider these strategies:
• Prioritize your business plan. Sit down with your small-business banker to take stock of your business’ current situation and business plan. Your small-business banker can help you set realistic goals as your business’ recovery continues.
• Explore available resources to meet your goals. Bankers want to ensure that small-business owners have access to the tools and resources needed to secure funding. Bankers can also help connect business owners who may not qualify for traditional bank financing to their networks of alternative funding sources, including Community Development Financial Institutions and local or national grant and loan programs. Consider the following questions: What new goals require additional financing? Are you looking to boost your headcount? Do you anticipate any structural or technological enhancements in the coming year?
Business owners adapted their business for the health and safety of their employees over the past year. As the economy reopens, 62 percent anticipate that the operational changes they made in response to the coronavirus will continue beyond the pandemic – specifically enhancing sanitation practices and building a digital sales strategy. As digital proliferation continues, we expect to see more helpful tools come out for business owners.
• Consider a digital transition. Businesses across the country have adjusted aspects of their operations, changing primary revenue streams and shifting to online sales. As we continue to adjust, consider digital banking to limit in-person interactions and greater client convenience.
• Proceed with purpose. If you are a part of the 53 percent of business owners who indicated they are committed to advocating for social change through their business, be sure to set clear and attainable goals. Consumers are sharp and will be able to tell the difference between platitudes and substance.
Overall, we’re seeing encouraging progress for the small-business community in Central New York, and we’re looking forward to helping business owners thrive the rest of 2021 and beyond.
Lynn Coates is a vice president and small-business banker at Bank of America.