Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Nearly every business in the United States is a small or mid-size company. According to the latest Census Bureau data, more than 99% of American businesses have 500 employees or fewer. In order to assess the opportunities and challenges for the national economy, it’s essential to understand the pain points and motivational factors at the heart of the small and mid-size business community. Unlocking those insights was the impetus behind First Citizens Bank’s Small Business Forecast, and the majority of small businesses that took part in the survey see a bright future ahead. As part of the Small Business Forecast, we conducted an online survey of 330 business owners across five U.S. states, each of which employed less than 500 people.

One of the biggest takeaways is that the “American Dream” is still very much alive. Among the Millennial and Gen-X business owners who participated, the top motivational factor for starting a business was to realize their dreams. (In our survey, the Millennial generation represented business owners born between 1981 and 1997, while Gen-Xers represented business owners born between 1965 and 1980.)

Just as importantly, small-business owners across all age categories are riding a wave of positive momentum from year to year. More than three-quarters of our survey respondents across all demographics rated their business performance as “Very Successful” or “Successful” in 2018. They also have plans to build upon that success in the coming years.

Namely, 77% of all survey respondents said they were either “Very Confident” or “Confident” that their business would grow or expand in 2019. Across all demographics, the percentage of respondents planning to grow their business increased 12% as compared to 2018.

What’s more, 68% of all participants are confident about the overall economic conditions in the U.S. The latter number represents an 8% growth in economic confidence among survey participants as compared to 2018.

However, while more than half of respondents stated they benefitted from tax reforms in 2018, significantly fewer respondents believe that the tax reforms benefit small business owners in general: That number dipped from 55% of respondents in 2018 to 47% of small-business owners in 2019.

All of these metrics point to the fact that American small businesses are thriving, and they’re confident that this positive momentum will continue in the coming years. So, beyond new job opportunities due to growth and expansion plans, how might that growth look to the outside world?

It will likely be a boon to consumers, marketing professionals, and social media specialists. More than half of small-business owners plan to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty programs, and a high percentage of small businesses will focus on serving new customer segments and creating new products. Along with hiring new employees, many of the business owners surveyed also plan to increase their marketing and advertising budgets – with an emphasis on social-media campaigns.

At First Citizens Bank, we strive to equip business owners with the insights they’ll need to help them follow their passions and navigate shifting market trends to achieve an even stronger business performance in 2020.

All in all, the results of our Small Business Forecast show that America’s small-business growth engine is revved up and ready for the road ahead. Especially in younger generations of business owners, optimism and momentum are on the rise – and those factors have long been key predictors of economic growth


Kate Stackhouse is director of sales strategy at First Citizens Bank. Founded in 1898 and headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., First Citizens Bank is one of the largest family-controlled banks in the U.S., with offices in 19 states. Drawing from over a century of experience serving the needs of business customers, First Citizens focuses on developing long-term relationships and offers a comprehensive array of products and services to help small businesses manage their finances and grow. For more information visit firstcitizens.com/smallbizstudy. First Citizens Bank. Forever First®.

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