The Biggest Challenges for Small Businesses

Accessing funding and complying with regulation topped the worry list in a recent survey of U.S. company owners

Written by Joyce M. Rosenberg, The Associated Press

Small businesses are still struggling to get the money they need and to comply with government regulations, according to a survey by Babson College. Company owners who took part in the survey said they’ve been able to get only about 40% of the money they requested from all sources, including loans and investor funding.

The nearly 1,900 survey participants sought a median amount of $100,000, but received only $40,500. The survey also found that banks are companies’ primary source of funding.

Finding money has long been difficult for small businesses, particularly young ones. However, getting loans has been even tougher since the recession because banks are extremely cautious about lending in general.

Businesses that seek funding are most likely to use it to supplement their cash flow or to buy real estate or equipment. Only about eight percent of the owners said they wanted money so they could hire more staffers—a finding that’s in line with other surveys that have shown owners are conservative about expanding their payrolls.

Owners who want to hire continue to have a hard time finding workers with the skills they need. Nearly half the survey participants said job candidates without skills are a challenge. Just over 20% said candidates’ salary requirements are an issue.

Regulations take up an average of four hours of survey participants’ time each week. The survey found that it’s usually the small business owner who handles regulatory issues, complying with federal, state and local rules and tax laws. Nearly 60% of the participants found it difficult to understand and manage regulations and laws.

Nearly two-thirds of owners learn about regulatory changes from an accountant or attorney, while a little under half learn about them from trade associations. Chambers of commerce and local Small Business Administration offices are other go-to information sources. But just over a third of owners do their own digging to learn about regulations by surfing the Internet.

The companies in the Babson survey were drawn from two groups. One included members of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, which is aimed at companies that want to grow. The second group comprised companies that are not part of the Goldman Sachs program. The survey was conducted in March.


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