Small business owners “nervous” about looming fiscal cliff

Eric Blinderman, who had to shut down his two upscale New York restaurants for a week in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, said the approaching fiscal cliff could mean a “double whammy” for his business heading into the busy holiday season.

With a package of $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts set to come into effect on January 1 if President Obama and Congress fail to agree on an extension or reach an alternate deal, small business owners like Blinderman will be hit with additional costs that could seriously impact their bottom line and ability to grow.

“That uncertainty is what leaves me so nervous,” said Blinderman, who operates two restaurants, both named Mas, in Manhattan’s affluent West Village that employ about 100 people.

Blinderman relied on a pair of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to open his restaurants and wants to launch a third location, but said some of the projected cuts to the SBA’s budget may derail that.

“If we don’t sidestep the fiscal cliff then I won’t be able to expand,” he said, referring to the $65 billion in federal spending cuts that will be automatically triggered as a result of the Budget Control Act – a last-minute deficit-reduction deal reached by Obama and the Republican-led Congress in August 2011.

Small business owners are optimistic

Small business owners are optimistic about the future of the economy. That’s the gist of a new Bank of America survey released last week. The first of its kind, the survey included some 1,000 small business owners.

“The overarching theme here is despite of all the stress and challenges, small business owners in this country are confident folks and feeling pretty good about the near term future of their business,” said Robb Hilson, a small business executive with Bank of America. “Optimism has improved over the last several quarters.”

Though the survey found that small business owners feel confident about their local economies, they feel less confident about national leadership, which is unsurprising given the upcoming election and the shaky economic recovery.

Small businesses hiring more online workers

When Casey McConnell started text messaging marketing company Qittle he took the traditional route of hiring onsite employees. But he soon realized it was more advantageous to hire workers online.

“We found it was easy to find these specialists or people that we could hire for a certain amount,” said McConnell, the CEO of Qittle. “We didn’t have the extra overhead and we just got the project done. It’s really easy for us to ramp up our needs or pull back using contractors. If we had an internal staff it’s pretty hard to fluctuate like that.”

Qittle’s preference to hire workers in the cloud is reflected in Elance’s recent survey that shows 83 percent of small businesses plan to hire half their workers online within the next 12 months. Only 10 percent of those surveyed plan to hire predominantly onsite workers (90 percent).

What your area code says about your business

The choice of area code carries more weight in consumer perception than zip code, according to more than 70 percent of small companies polled in a survey conducted by communications and messaging service company j2 Global Communications Inc.

Nearly the same percentage of business owners said having the right phone number gives them a competitive edge.

“Reinforcing that you’re the right person to be working with, building that credibility is the most important thing (owners) have in building a small business,” said Mike Pugh, j2′s vice president of marketing communications, adding that a San Francisco area code was more likely to be seen as optimal for tech startups, while a Detroit number would be preferable for someone in the automotive industry.

Fewer small businesses taking summer vacation

– Robin Enos is a contributor to FindLaw’s Free Enterprise blog. FindLaw is a Thomson Reuters publication. –

We’ve written about how small businesses don’t really have a legal obligation to give employees paid vacation time. But what about the owner’s small business vacation time?

You’d think owner vacation time would rank low on small business owners’ priority list. And you would be right. A majority (59 percent) took no vacation last summer, says a report released by American Express.

Small business seen emerging from “foxhole”

An improved economic outlook has many small business owners looking to grow now to gain a leg up on their competition.

Nearly half (47 percent) of the owners polled in a recent survey by office equipment maker Brother International Corp said they were willing to spend rather than stockpile cash reserves – an increase of 11 percent over 2010, when they were still facing recessionary pressures.

“They know they can’t stand pat, they can’t stay in the foxhole,” said John Wandishin, vice president of marketing for Brother. “When the clouds start moving and the sun starts coming out, how are they going to be positioned?”

Citibank: Small business cautiously optimistic

Small business owners are showing increased confidence in the economic recovery, but they’re still not willing to pull the trigger on hiring new workers, according to a new survey by Citibank.

“Optimism is definitely up,” said Raj Seshadri, who heads Citi’s small business banking division. “We’re not out of the woods. They’re worried about costs, particularly the cost of healthcare, the cost of raw materials – how they’re going to manage through the increasing cost of running their business.”

The majority of owners said they believe 2011 will be better (44 percent) or the same (42 percent) than 2010, while just 15 percent expect it to be worse, according to the poll. It included a random sample of 1,002 small businesses throughout the country with revenue in excess of $100,000.

Small businesses cheer midterm results

– George A. Cloutier is the founder and CEO of American Management Services and the author of the bestselling book, “Profits Aren’t Everything, They’re the Only Thing”. The views expressed are his own. –

Last week’s midterm elections have provided an emotional boost for many small businesses, according to a survey conducted by American Management Services.

About 73 percent of small business owners said they felt more optimistic about the future of their company due to the Republican gains, in a survey of more than 300 small business owners in 25 states following the Congressional elections. The participating companies all employ at least 25 employees and are considered the job-drivers most likely to hire new workers.

Exclusive: Survey says small businesses upbeat about 2011

Small businesses are feeling better about the economy and are looking to grow in 2011, according to a new survey released this week by online marketing firm Constant Contact.

Of the more than 1,400 small business owners that responded to the survey (view full results), 73 percent expected their companies to grow over the next 12 months and nearly 40 percent felt “positive” about the economy over the course of the next year.

“They see the darkness behind them and looking forward they see some light,” said Eric Groves, Constant Contact’s senior vice president of global market development. He added the survey is a “followup” to the Waltham, Massachusetts-based company’s larger spring polling of roughly 4,000 small businesses. Groves said Constant Contact has more than 400,000 clients, predominantly small to medium-sized businesses.

Big banks not so popular among small businesses

A new study showed the big U.S. banks have some work to do to if they want to improve their image among small and mid-sized businesses.

The annual report, released by Portfolio.com and based on research conducted by American City Business Journals (ACBJ), surveyed 1,762 business owners, CEOs and presidents of companies with more than one employee and asked them to rank 207 brand-name companies, from the technology, telecom, travel, financial and media sectors, on a set of seven different attributes.

Among banks and financial services firms trust remained the biggest issue for the small business owners polled, said Godfrey Phillips, vice president for research at ACBJ.