National’s Small Business Confidence Index: March 2019 Results

On March 31, 2019, National Business Capital & Services (National), released the results of their National Business Confidence Index survey. The survey was conducted to gain insight into how confident US business owners are in growing their businesses this year.

Six key industries were asked to take part in the survey: Food & Beverage, Construction, Retail, Medical, Manufacturing, and Professional Services.

First, we will present the data as accumulated totals from respondents across all six industries. Next, we will break down the data we received to categorize survey responses by industry.

Jump To Industry-Specific Results:

General Survey Results

* Note: For the last two questions, respondents were asked to check off as many answers as necessary, accounting for the varying percentages you see.

Do have plans to grow your business in 2019?

84% of all business owners surveyed responded “Yes” to this question, showing a largely ambitious outlook for business growth nationwide.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

Answers to this question indicate that trust in the economy to support business growth may be declining across the board.

Nearly 30% of surveyed business owners reported that they do not expect economic changes to help their businesses grow, suggesting that business owners are becoming less reliant on healthy economic conditions to aid them in growing their businesses, compared to recent years.

What are your business goals this year?

Over 60% of all business owners reported having goals to boost sales, expand their customer bases, and increase customer volume, making these the top three goals that business owners are looking to achieve in 2019.

32% of surveyed business owners reported having goals to streamline operations, indicating a growing overall need for simplified practices and increased efficiency in 2019.

Goals including lowering costs, raising credit scores, and eliminating legal risk are reportedly not as conducive to achieving successful growth among business owners this year.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

47% of surveyed business owners reported that increasing marketing efforts with new campaigns to be the most important step towards achieving their goals this year, making it the most commonly-shared plan among business owners across all industries.

Plans to hire more staff, and build their social media presence, form strategic partnerships, obtain business equipment, and expand their list of products and services all follow close behind.

Implementing new technology, boosting inventory, and business incorporation are among the least likely strategies to be utilized this year, with 21%, 14%, and 6% of respondents reporting plans to use them in 2019.

General Survey Conclusions

Overall, responses to the National’s Small Business Confidence Survey indicate that business owners have great plans for business growth in 2019, but do not expect economic changes to help them towards achieving them.

Instead, business owners are taking matters into their own hands as they work towards streamlining operations, increasing their marketing efforts to boost sales, expand their customer bases, and increase their volume of customers.

Industry-Specific Results

In the next six sections, we will explore these answers provided from each of the six industries surveyed, and learn the differences and similarities between them in their plans for business growth in 2019.

* Note: For the last three questions, respondents were asked to check off as many answers as necessary, accounting for the varying percentages you see.

Food & Beverage Industry Survey Results

food and beverage industry results infographic

Do you have plans to grow in 2019?

Overall, business owners from the food and beverage industry show tremendous confidence in their ability to grow in 2019, with over 99% of business owners claiming to have plans to grow in 2019.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

On the flip side, the food and beverage industry proved to be the less optimistic when it comes to their faith in the economy.

44% of the food and beverage business owners we surveyed answered “No” to the question “Do You Expect Economic Changes to Help You Grow in 2019?” making this industry among the least trusting in economic support compared to all other industries surveyed.

What are your food & beverage business goals this year?

When asked what their business goals are for this year, the overwhelming majority of respondents (67%) claimed “Boosting sales” to be their top priority.

47% of respondents also reported plans to “expand customer bases,” making this the second biggest goal for business growth in the food and beverage industry.

Interestingly, more respondents from the food and beverage industry reported goals to cut costs (40%), and boost their credit scores (27%) in 2019 compared to any other industry.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

Hiring more staff, and expanding the list of products and services offered were reported to be the two most common responses when asked what steps they planned to take in order to accomplish these goals.

Curiously, recent advancements in foodservice technology that are sweeping the industry, and helping streamline operations, improve customer service, increase efficiency, and boost profits, implementing new software and equipment seems to be of little concern to the business owners surveyed.

How would you go about funding these goals?

When asked how they planned to fund their restaurant business goals, food and beverage business owners reported plans to use company funds (47%), capital from angel investors, including friends and family (40%), and SBA funding (40%).

Interestingly, more food and beverage owners reported plans to seek funding through angel investors and the Small Business Administration than any other industry.

Construction Industry Survey Results

construction industry business confidence results infographic

Do you have plans to grow in 2019?

Respondents from the construction industry gave overwhelmingly positive answers to the first two questions, with 84% of contractors reported having plans to grow their construction businesses in 2019.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

The same percentage (84%) responded “Yes” when asked if they expected economic changes to help them grow this year, making them the most trusting in economic support in 2019 compared to any other industry.

What are your construction business goals this year?

When asked what goals construction business owners had this year, 66% reported expanding their customer base to be their top priority. 56% reported increasing their customer volume to be their second-biggest goal for business growth.

These responses indicate a need by contractors to extend their reach and capabilities in order to take on more customers, and a greater variety of projects this year.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

More construction business owners plan to boost their inventory in order to accomplish their business goals than respondents from any other industry (50%).

Other notable reported plans to achieve their goals included hiring staff (33%), increasing marketing efforts (33%), and obtaining new equipment (28%).

How would you go about funding these goals?

To put these plans into action, the majority of contractor respondents reported plans to use company funds (58%), and bank financing (32%).

These are interesting results, given how common using company funds leads to cash-flow issues, and how slow funding process times from banks typically result in project delays among construction companies seeking fast funding to take on more projects, faster.

In these cases, seeking alternative heavy equipment financing and construction business financing may be more conducive to contractors looking to achieve their goals in a timely manner, without running the risk of project slowdowns and cash-flow interruptions.

Retail Industry Survey Results

retail industry business confidence survey results infographic

Do you have plans to grow in 2019?

86% of retail business owners reported having plans to grow in 2019, showing an ambitious outlook in the industry for business growth.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

74% of these respondents claimed to expect economic changes to help them grow this year, making the retail industry among the most trusting industries regarding economic support of their plans for growth.

What are your retail business goals this year?

Boosting sales (65%) increasing customer volume (61%), and expanding their customer bases (43%) were reported as retail respondents’ three biggest goals for growth in 2019.

35% of retail industry respondents also reported plans to cut costs this year—the second highest score among industries reported, after the construction industry.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

Boosting marketing efforts appears to be the retail industry’s most prevalent method of accomplishing their goals for growth this year, with 43% reporting plans to implement new marketing campaigns.

Hiring staff is their second-biggest priority, with 35% of those surveyed claiming to need more hands on deck this year.

Interestingly, forming new strategic partnerships was the third most-voted response to the question of how retail owners are planning to accomplish their business goals in 2019, suggesting a growing need in the industry for growing their network of profitable business connections.

How would you go about funding these goals?

Responses were nearly evenly split between using company funds (53%), and paying out of pocket (43%) in order to fund their business goals in 2019. SBA funding was shown to be the least desired of all funding methods among retailers, with only 13% reporting plans to seek SBA financing.

It can be inferred that this is due to the speed in which they need their goals to be accomplished, as SBA funding is reported to have some of the slowest processing times compared to other retail financing options.

Medical Industry Survey Results

medical industry business confidence survey results infographic

Do you have plans to grow in 2019?

Over 99% of all medical business owners surveyed responded “Yes” to having plans to grow their practices this year. This creates a tie between the medical industry and the food and beverage industry for the most confident industry in business growth in 2019.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

80% of doctors and healthcare professionals surveyed expect economic changes to help them grow in 2019, making them the second-most trusting in economic support after respondents from the construction industry.

What are your medical practice goals this year?

Boosting sales is indicated to be the highest priority in 2019 among those surveyed from the medical industry. Interestingly, “streamlining operations” was reported to be the second-most common goal among medical professionals this year.

With 60% of respondents from the healthcare industry choosing this answer over all others, the medical industry indicates a higher need for simplifying and digitizing operations than all other industries surveyed.

With a rapidly growing market for new medical equipment that helps streamline and digitize medical practices, keeping up with new trends in medical technology seems to be one of the biggest concerns among healthcare practices nationwide.

Expanding the base of returning patients (53%), and increasing overall patient volume (47%) are the next most commonly-chosen answers given from respondents within the medical industry. This, coupled with “streamlining operations” indicates a growing need to care for more patients faster, and more efficiently.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

The majority of medical practices have plans to hire more staff in order to accomplish their reported goals—tying the manufacturing industry for the highest-reported need for additional employment with a 53% response rate.

The data also shows a strong need to promote practices’ brands and capabilities by boosting their social media presence, and implementing new marketing campaigns.

These strategies align particularly well with the goals set by the surveyed medical business owners to increase their overall patient volume, and expand their customer base, as they can use these digital marketing strategies to advertise to those outside their usual lists of clientele.

How would you go about funding these goals?

More medical professionals reported plans to use company funds to achieve their business goals compared to every other industry, with a 73% response rate.

This is a good sign for the medical industry, as this response indicates confidence in their ability to use their own internal funds to support their business growth, over using outside sources of financing.

They are also reported to be the most likely among all surveyed industries to use alternative financing methods to fund their business goals, with 20% reporting plans to seek alternative medical business financing. This is perhaps due to the speed at which they plan to achieve their goals.

Alternative loans for doctors & dentists offer greater speed and simplicity compared to any other financing method; in an industry in which speed plays such a prevalent factor in business success, this response seems likely to be chosen against others due to the fast and simple nature of the alternative financing process.

Manufacturing Industry Survey Results

manufacturing industry business confidence survey results infographic

Do you have plans to grow in 2019?

The manufacturing industry is shown to be the least confident in business growth this year compared to all other industries surveyed, with the lowest “Yes” response rate recorded of 80%.

While the vast majority of manufacturing business owners claimed to have plans to grow in 2019, it can’t be ignored that this is the lowest-recorded score collected through our survey, and is supported by their answers to the next question involving economic turbulence in the manufacturing industry this year.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

Nearly half of all the manufacturing respondents answered “No” to this question, indicating a the highest rate of distrust in the economy compared to all other surveyed industries.

These results are surprising, as a large number of new economic changes and policies from 2019 were implemented to directly help the US manufacturing industry grow, including trade tariffs on foreign metals from competing nations, implemented to boost US domestic steel consumption.

However, increasing numbers of retaliatory trade tariffs on US exports may be proving to have the opposite effect, leading US manufacturers to have low expectations for economic support for their growth this year.

What are your manufacturing business goals this year?

Reaching new, and retaining loyal customers is reported to be the most common goal among manufacturing businesses in 2019. 73% of manufacturing business owners reported plans to expand their customer bases, and increase overall customer volume this year.

Boosting sales and streamlining operations were reported to be the next most commonly-sought goals among manufacturing businesses in 2019, with response rates of 60% and 53% respectively.

It should be noted that more manufacturing business owners reported having the goal of eliminating legal risk compared to those surveyed from all other industries, with a response rate of 27%.

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

More respondents from the manufacturing industry reported the need for obtaining new manufacturing equipment, expanding their line of products, and implementing new technology in order to accomplish their goals compared to all other industries surveyed (response rates of 67%, 40% and 40% respectively).

This aligns with the manufacturing industries’ highest reported goals of streamlining operations, boosting sales and increasing customer volumes and bases.

New advancements in manufacturing technology and equipment allows for the digitization and simplification of daily operations, and allows manufacturing businesses to run with greater speed, productivity, and efficiency.

33% manufacturing respondents also reported plans to form new strategic partnerships. This is likely due to the trade tariffs that started taking effect in 2018.

With higher prices on foreign materials, manufacturing business owners may be looking to establish new partnerships with vendors offering cheaper prices, in an effort to cut costs.

How would you go about funding these goals?

When it comes to putting their plans into action, most manufacturing businesses surveyed plan on using either company funds (47%), “out-of-pocket” funds (33%), and bank financing (33%).

It should be noted that manufacturing businesses appear to be the least likely to seek SBA financing compared to all other industries surveyed, with only 7% of respondents reporting plans to do so.

This may be due to the slow speeds and complexity typically involved in SBA financing. This also aligns with their overall distrust in governmental and economic policies this year, as the SBA loans are a source of financing that must be granted by the federal government.

Taking this into account, it is interesting to note how manufacturing owners are also among the least likely to fund their goals via alternative business financing, as such methods offer some of the fastest and easiest financing options in the marketplace, and match the goals of the industry’s most common goals in 2019.

These include manufacturing equipment financing, and manufacturing business loans and credit lines.

Professional Services Industry Survey Results

professional services industry business confidence survey results infographic

Do you have plans to grow in 2019?

83% of those surveyed from the professional services industry reported expectations to grow in 2019.

However, results from professional services respondents show nearly-identical numbers to the manufacturing industry when it comes to distrust in economic support for their expected growth.

Do you expect economic changes to help you grow in 2019?

Only 62% of those from the professional services industry reported having faith in economic fluctuations to work in their favor in 2019.

With 39% of services respondents reporting distrust in the economic climate this year, it is expected that those within the industry will be taking matters into their own hands in order to achieve their business goals.

What are your professional services business goals this year?

91% of professional services respondents reported plans to increase overall customer volume—the highest response rate among all industries surveyed. Other notable goals reported by the industry include expanding customer bases, and boosting sales (77%, and 70% respectively).

How do you plan to accomplish these goals?

More professional services business owners are seeking to boost their social media presence, and implement new marketing plans in order to accomplish their business goals in 2019 than any other industry surveyed (response rates of 58% and 66% respectively).

This indicates a huge push for business owners in the professional services industry to boost their overall marketing efforts this year, as they seek new and creative outlets to increase customer retention, and expand their reach to attract new customers.

Professional services respondents also reported having the most plans to form new strategic partnerships compared to all other industries surveyed, with a response rate of 49%.

This indicates either a shift away from their usual partnerships, and/or a growing need for additional relationships that encourage further long-term profitability and productivity.

How would you go about funding these goals?

Results show a nearly even split among surveyed business owners in the professional services industry between using company funds (56%), and/or out-of-pocket funds (50%) to finance their business goals.

Interestingly, less that 1% of all professional services business owners surveyed reported plans to seek funding via banks, indicating an overwhelming distrust among professional services businesses with banking practices and operations.

Need Help Financing Your Goals in 2019?

National offers a vast variety of financing options designed to help business owners from every industry achieve any specific goals for business growth. Over 90% of all applicants are approved for funds, which are typically  received in as little as 24 hours.

Give one of our expert advisors a call at (877) 482-3008, and tell them what you need to accomplish your goals this year.

Or, fill out a 1-minute, free application online to get the ball rolling right away, and an expert advisor will call you in minutes to discuss your options moving forward.

Apply Now

About the Author, Joe Camberato
Joseph Camberato, President at National Business Capital, developed a passion for business at a young age. Joseph has a true respect for anyone who owns a business and enjoys engaging them in discussions of how they “made it happen.”