Expecting an uptick in consumer spending and expressing optimism on hiring, small-business owners are increasingly confident about sales growth this year, a new survey shows. Nearly half (46%) of survey respondents believe 2012 will be a better year than 2011 for their business, while 41% think conditions will remain the same. “We are very encouraged by the survey findings,” said Raj Seshadri, head of small-business banking at Citibank, which released the survey data this week. “Small businesses are a key driver for the economy. The prospect that small businesses are stabilizing or expanding in 2012 is a positive step in the right direction.”
Survey results show 26% of small-business owners are planning to hire more permanent full-time employees during the next year, with 71% expecting to maintain their staff size. An additional 22% of respondents plan to hire some seasonal workers to fill full-time slots. Small-business owners are also expecting to work more hours, while driving employees to increase productivity. “The survey revealed an increase in hiring intentions from small-business owners –the largest we’ve seen in two years,” said Seshadri. “Our survey shows momentum for small businesses in 2012.”
In forecasting growth, businesses are taking specific steps to solidify improved sales, according to Citibank. They include: increasing marketing to attract new business (65%); introducing new products or services (59%); obtaining better pricing from suppliers, vendors and landlords (59%); expanding into a greater geographic area (35%); and pursuing partnership opportunities with other companies (27%). Despite the economic uncertainty of the last few years, respondents still cited several benefits to being a small-business owner. Top advantages named were: being their own boss (85%), making strategic decisions (83%); and building relationships with customers (81%).