SMBs Show Their Grit: Owners Like Being On Their Own Despite Tough Conditions

The news is full of stories about small businesses going under due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But that hasn’t dimmed the entrepreneurial spirit, according to a study released Friday by American Express. 

Of the small business owners polled, 81% still believe the benefits of having their own companies outweigh the challenges.  

The main motivations are being their own boss (89%), turning a passion into a business (86%), creating jobs (85%) and being able to set their own hours (85%).  

But 76% have pivoted or are in the process of doing so in to maintain revenue during the current crisis. And 73% of those that have pivoted expect to change again next year.

Nor has the election daunted them, although SMB owners are very aware of it, and 98% are planning to vote.  

Only 21% say it will take less than a year to recover from the downturn, while 46% predict it will require one to three years, and 25% say it will take three or more years. 



Moreover, 41% are looking for marketing, branding and social media tools. 

You can figure out what those are: 77% of SMBs expect to prioritize offering product and/or services online within the next year.  

Clearly, email marketing solutions should be included among these investments, especially triggered email systems.

Online businesses cannot survive without the ability to engage customers in real-time to update them on orders, reclaim abandoned carts and alert them about loyalty benefits. 

In a survey conducted earlier this year, AWeber found that 65.9% of SMBS use email to promote their businesses or communicate with prospects and customers.  

But while 60% said their email strategy is effective, 15% said it is very much so, 26% said it is ineffective.

Still, online opportunities abound. Take the case of Olga Sagan, a Seattle bakery. Her retail sales were “devastated” by the pandemic, plummeting by 90% in April, American Express reports.  

But Sagan’s online sales rose from $200 a month to $5,000 a day. 

Talk about a quick pivot.

For their part, consumers have shifted their spending due to industries being closed or limited (44%), prioritizing items they need (42%) an changes in personal health and wellness interests (40%). 

Most have changed their priorities, and they are eager to support businesses that emphasizes employee well being (76%), are local to their community (74%) and focus on sustainability (64%). 

Meanwhile, 41% of SMBs are planning to increase their marketing efforts to help them weather the changes. In addition, 40% expect to increase their products or services online, 36% to cut expenses and 35% to diversify revenue streams. 

Among the resources they need are help with virtual business conferences/webinars (47%), virtual networking events (44%), advice and resources about leading through a crisis (44%) and learning ways to de-stress and stay mindful (42%).  

Small businesses are also looking for help with identifying new growth opportunities (44%), managing their cash flow (37%), flexible payment terms for expenses (34%) and input on accessing capital (33%).  

This is in line with their priorities — 86% cite that obtaining new customers is a main goal, and 84% include maintaining and growing their current business and revenue sources. 

Another 81% list managing cash flow. 

Value adjustments are also being made. For instance, 73% of SMBs are likely to take action to increase diversity in their firms. And they are:

Changing their company culture to make diverse employees more included — 54%

Changing their hiring and recruiting processes to increase diversity — 47% 

Making measurable commitments to address racial injustice in the future — 47%

As for the election, here are the main issues for SMBs: 

  • Economic recovery — 48%
  • Managing the COVID-19 pandemic —  45%
  • Small business stimulus — 36%
  • Tax policy — 33% 

American Express surveyed 1,000 small business owners and 1,000 consumers.

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