Overall Optimism on the Rise Among Small Business Owners
It seems that entrepreneurs are feeling slightly more confident this quarter than last as the results of Wells Fargo’s latest small business optimism index saw a rise from 64 in April to 68 in July. Part of this optimism comes from a reported increase in cash flow and accessibility to credit. In fact 36% of business owners said it was at least somewhat easy to obtain credit, marking that response’s best showing since the fourth quarter of 2008. As for cash flow, 60% of entrepreneurs said their company was doing very well or “somewhat good” which was a five-point improvement from last quarter.
Unfortunately, despite the relatively strong optimism overall, many business owners showed concern for the future. As Wells Fargo’s Head of Small Business, Lisa Stevens, put it, “The latest Small Business Index score shows that while small business owners are more optimistic today than a year ago, many remain uncertain and cautious about what lies ahead.” Much of this anxiety revolves around this year’s contentious presidential election. However there is also some improvement in that area as one-third of business owners now say that the candidates are speaking to the issues that are most important to them as entrepreneurs. While that figure may still seem low, it is up from 28% just three months ago (notably before either major party candidate was officially coronated as their party’s nominee).
Wells Fargo’s survey also once again confirms that small business owners are better informed and more engaged voters in general. This quarter 57% of entrepreneurs surveyed said that they were paying very close attention to this year’s election news. By comparison a Gallup poll conducted in June found that only 40% of average Americans said the same. Additionally 92% of respondents in both the July and April studies said they would be voting in this November’s election.
In other news the majority of small businesses are now equipped to accept EMV — a.k.a. “chip cards” — at their locations. The survey found that 51% of these businesses are now EMV card compatible, up from just 31% last year. Meanwhile 30% said they accept credit cards using mobile point-of-sale terminals such as those issued by Square, which recently also debuted EMV and NFC payments.
While it might seem counter intuitive that overall optimism is headed north while, at the same time, concern and worry are rising, it actually does make sense. Some might even be tempted to compare this contradiction to the longstanding paradox of how many citizens feel things are getting worse when they may actually getting better. In this case small business owners can see that their companies are doing well even if the news and other outlets are telling them to start panicking. With this election year proving truly unpredictable we’ll just have to wait and see whether it’s blue skies or storm clouds for small businesses in the coming quarters.