63 Percent of Dallas/Fort Worth Small Business Owners Are Still Recovering From the Great Recession

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The FINANCIAL — Seven years after the Great Recession, nearly two-thirds of Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners (63 percent) report their businesses are still recovering, according to spring 2015 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners in Dallas/Fort Worth and around the country.

Though many feel they have not completely recovered, they are far more optimistic about the economy, business growth, revenue expectations and hiring than a year ago.

Small business owners from the Dallas/Fort Worth area had the highest year-over-year increase in optimism about the national economy than any other market surveyed. In the spring 2014 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, 33 percent were confident the national economy would improve over the next year, compared to 55 percent in 2015. Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurs also feel positive about the future of their businesses. Three-quarters (76 percent) plan to grow their business over the next five years, which is higher than any other market surveyed and up 15 percent from last spring. In addition, nearly two-thirds of local entrepreneurs (62 percent) expect an increase in revenue over the next 12 months, compared with 56 percent last year.

“The fact that Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners have expressed such high optimism and expectations for growth, despite a lengthy recovery process from the recession, shows a lot about their strength and resilience,” said Jeffrey Coomer, small business banker manager at Bank of America. “They are selfless and focused individuals who have made tough decisions and sacrifices in the best interest of their customers and employees.”

When looking at staffing, the majority of Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurs (57 percent) say they expect to hire more employees this year, which is a 17 percent increase from one year ago. Despite these hiring projections, most (51 percent) say it’s difficult to find qualified staff. Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurs say the top challenges in finding qualified staff are attributed to a skills gap (63 percent) and high salary demands (51 percent).

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Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners demonstrate self-sacrifice; prioritize employees and customers

Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners are prioritizing the needs of customers and employees before their own. The most recent survey reveals that 64 percent of local entrepreneurs would rather delay or reduce their own compensation than take other courses of action to make ends meet; this includes delaying or reducing compensation for their staff (10 percent) or scaling back on the services they offer customers (9 percent). More than half (52 percent) report that they have never given themselves a raise, or haven’t done so in more than two years.

Almost all (97 percent) of Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners say they have employee appreciation programs, including:

Dinners and outings (51 percent).
Salary bonuses (46 percent).
Health care benefits (33 percent).

They also provide a number of work-life balance benefits for employees, including:

Flexible hours (53 percent).
Office closure on major holidays (47 percent).
Extra time off (42 percent).

The majority of Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners (56 percent) cite that establishing relationships with customers and clients is the primary driver of repeat business, and they find many ways to show their appreciation, including:

Referral programs (34 percent).
Social media promotions (34 percent).
Loyalty programs, such as stamp cards or a loyalty app (33 percent).

Additionally, 66 percent say a primary way in which they have adapted to customer demands is by becoming more technologically savvy (62 percent nationally).

Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurs appreciate support from their community, mentors and policymakers
Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners overwhelmingly support other small businesses in the community by shopping small. Sixty-four percent of Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners gave themselves an “A” or “B” grade for shopping at other local small businesses. They also rate their local community high in shopping small, as 59 percent handed out an “A” or “B” grade when assessing how well Dallas/Fort Worth residents frequent small businesses.

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Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners feel a strong sense of camaraderie in their small business community. In fact, 32 percent say other small business owners or business mentors help the most when it comes to running their business; this is 12 percent higher than the national average and any other market surveyed.

In addition to feeling supported by their local community, 45 percent of Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurs believe policymakers appreciate small business owners, which is higher than the national average (30 percent) and any other market surveyed. When asked about the impact of specific government policies, Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners say the greatest potential for a positive impact on their business could come from expanded tax breaks for automatically enrolling employees into retirement savings accounts (36 percent) and incentives to keep jobs on U.S. soil (31 percent). Conversely, the policies that would have the most negative impact on their business would be required health care plans for employees (37 percent) and an increased minimum wage (29 percent).

Health care costs and the effectiveness of government leaders are top concerns for Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners

Although overall economic confidence is running high, Dallas/Fort Worth entrepreneurs still have concerns over specific issues. Among the categories surveyed, health care costs (65 percent) and the effectiveness of U.S. government leaders (64 percent) are the top concerns among Dallas/Fort Worth small business owners. Commodity prices and the strength of the U.S. dollar are also top concerns, with 60 percent citing their unease.


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