GDP numbers not so rosy for small business

The U.S.’s latest GDP figures show the economy is growing at its fastest pace in years, but small businesses are still reeling.

According to government data, U.S. 2009 fourth-quarter GDP grew at a 5.6-percent clip – the fastest pace since 2003. Government stimulus, greater exports and less-severe reductions in business inventories have been credited with the growth, but data from Sageworks, which compiles financial information on privately-held companies, paints a far bleaker picture for small businesses.

Drew White,  Sageworks’s chief financial officer, said the survey results representing “tens-to-hundreds of thousands” of U.S. privately-held companies, showed a marked decline in 2009 revenues. White said 2009 fourth-quarter sales, by small private businesses with less than $10 million in annual reported revenues, were down 6.4 percent (see the full report). That was a significant decline from the previous year, when 2008 fourth-quarter sales increased 2.4 percent. Pre-recessionary 2007 figures showed an increase of 5 percent. As a barometer, White said a 3-percent growth rate was “reasonable.”

“Seeing a 6-percent decline is pretty dramatic,” admitted White, who noted it was a good indicator of the degree to which small businesses have been hammered during the current recession. “It’s almost like a 10-percent differential – huge.”

White said as long as consumers refrain from spending, small businesses will continue to remain in survival mode, which likely means reductions in overhead, such as payroll and advertising.

VIDEO: New class of startup aims for quick revenues

peHub‘s Dan Primack spoke with Reuters about a new kind of startup that’s designed to develop an idea and then be snapped up by a larger company.

As Primack explains, these startups differ from the traditional sort in that they tend to be interested in creating targeted web services or applications rather than conventional companies with longer-term growth ambitions.

“The hope for these companies isn’t to create the next Google or the next Cisco, the goal is to create a little application that Google or Cisco or Facebook or Twitter wants and then will purchase,” he explains.