More than half (58%) of small business owners reported that they expect their revenue to decrease in 2020, even though 47% said they did not have to close for any amount of time during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to results of TD Bank‘s Small Business Recovery Survey. Conversely, just 16% of SBOs expect to see any increase in revenue in 2020, while 26% project it will stay the same.
The TD Bank Small Business Recovery Survey polled 750 small businesses nationwide with below $10 million in annual revenue and 250 or fewer employees. Businesses with annual revenues of $500,000 or lower, which comprised 59% of the survey respondents, were more likely than those with higher annual revenues to expect significant 2020 revenue decreases (loss of 10% or more), with 38% of this group making such projections.
Many SBOs have sought assistance. Forty-three percent of survey respondents participated in the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program. Of those businesses in the survey that received a PPP loan, 60% have annual revenues of $1 million or lower.
Small businesses were ill-equipped to cope with the challenges of COVID-19, according to survey data. An overwhelming 81% of SBOs said they did not have a disaster or crisis plan prior to pandemic shutdowns. Further, 31% of respondents did not make any changes to business operations or strategy to adapt to the circumstances. Of the 69% of SBOs that reported implementing one or more changes:
- 28% added work from home capabilities
- 27% reduced operating hours
- 20% temporarily or permanently laid off staff
- 18% incurred extra costs for additional cleaning
- 13% moved their business online
Only half of respondents reported making any business adjustments to better serve their customers or clientele, although millennial and Gen Z business owners (ages 18-39) were nearly twice as likely as Gen X and baby boomer SBOs to make changes to accommodate customers during this time. SBOs who did modify operations for their customers added virtual functions like appointments/telehealth or conferences (25%), created a new delivery or pick-up service (15%) and/or developed e-commerce/online sales (11%).
“Owning and operating a small business is full of challenges in good and bad times, but COVID-19 has presented unforeseen and unique circumstances over a longer time period than most business owners have ever experienced,” Chris Giamo, head of commercial bank at TD Bank, said. “Those business owners who are willing and able to adapt their business model and overall mindset are the ones who are better positioned to weather these unprecedented times.”
SBOs expressed mixed sentiments related to their financial outlook and external factors that could affect their business operations. Fifty-five percent stated they will seek funding but just 7% of participants expressed concern about their ability to obtain a loan in the next year. The top near-term challenges for SBOs are:
- Health of the economy (national and local): 69%
- Getting paid on time or without significant delays (not more than 30 days): 25%
- Presidential election and potential regulatory changes: 24%
- Supply chain disruptions: 21%
When thinking about the future, the majority of SBOs (69%) acknowledged that they need to prioritize building stable financing and cash reserves, enhancing their business model flexibility, and improving budgeting and accounting methods to cut costs to better prepare for future crises. While a large opportunity also exists for SBOs to digitize their payment methods in a time when fewer consumers want to handle cash due to health concerns, only 15% of businesses identified this as a future priority. In fact, 75% of small businesses reported accepting cash and checks, making it the overwhelmingly preferred method of point of sale (POS) or vendor payments, while only a third use electronic payments such as ACH and 28% use either a cloud-based or traditional POS system to process credit card payments.
“A business owner’s banker should be a primary resource for financing ideas and solutions to optimize business plans and operations,” Jay DesMarteau, head of commercial distribution at TD Bank, said. “The pandemic has accelerated consumers’ and vendors’ expectations to have more options available when working with businesses of any size, from contactless payments to remote purchasing. By working with trusted professionals like a bank, accountant or attorney, business owners can gain insights that could help drive efficiencies and better long-term plans.”
The Small Business Recovery Survey was conducted among a representative group of 750 small business owners across the United States from June 5-11, 2020.