Finance Operations

Finding qualified workers and managing debt worry small businesses

Small business owners, what keeps you up at night? If it is finding workers or managing your debt, you’re not alone.

Finding qualified workers to fill open positions continues to be the top worry of Florida’s small business, according to a Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Third Quarter Small Business Index survey out this week.

“Florida’s small businesses continue to be concerned about being able to hire a talented workforce,” said Jerry Parrish, Chief Economist and Director of Research at the Florida Chamber Foundation, who added that improving workforce quality was part of the state’s strategic plan for the next 10 years. “Improving Florida’s talent pipeline for a better workforce will help ensure jobs have talented employees and will help put workers on the path to prosperity.”

The No. 2 worry was the possibility of a recession. Debt may also be keeping small businesses up at night. In the Chamber survey, about as many businesses surveyed believed it would be harder to get financing in the next six month as those who thought it would be easier.  About a quarter of those who tried to get financing in the last six months could not, the survey said.

The concerns of small businesses is of key importance in a state where 92% of all its businesses have under 20 employees, Parrish said during a panel discussion of state leaders, including Michael Myhre, CEO of Florida SBDC Network, at the Small Business Leadership Conference last month in Orlando, which was presented by the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship and the Florida SBDC Network. At the rate Florida has been growing, at about 1,000 businesses a day, 3 million more small businesses will be created by 2030, Parish said.  The state has 2.5 small businesses and is No. 2 after Vermont for the percentage of business ownership in the population: 21%.

Economic development leaders discuss the state of small business in Florida at the Small Business Leadership Conference in Orlando.

Other concerns in the latest Florida survey include growth management, government relations and healthcare costs.

Yet, despite those concerns, 50% of respondents are booking higher sales now than the same time last year, and 65% expect to have higher sales this year than last. That’s up from 62% percent last year. Also, 39% plan to hire in the next six months, down from 44% a year ago, and 41% plan to invest in equipment or technology. Find the Chamber survey here.

Meanwhile, a recently released national survey of small businesses showed Florida’s entrepreneurs were not alone in their concerns and outlooks.

The annual Small Business Credit Survey conducted by 12 Federal Reserve Banks shows that 70% of small firms have outstanding debt. As many as 64% of small businesses reported struggling financially, with operating expenses being the No. 1 problem (40%), followed by credit availability (31%) and making payments on debt (29%).

In order to address those financial issues, 69% of small businesses used personal funds, 45% took out additional credit, 32% cut staff, hours, and/or downsized operations, while 28% made a late payment or failed to make a payment altogether.

Still, 35% of businesses in the national survey reported higher revenue growth, and 33% hired workers to their payrolls in the last year, the survey showed. Find the survey here.

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