Small Business Owners on Alert for Operational Challenges, JPMorgan Chase Survey Finds

While small to mid-size business leaders have concerns about the health of national and global economies, their personal outlooks remain bullish, according to the Chase 2023 Midyear Business Leaders Outlook survey released.

“To their credit, they continue to demonstrate an ability to adapt and adjust through the ups and downs of economic cycles.”

The survey, which speaks with decision-makers at more than 500 small businesses with annual revenues under $20 million, offers a snapshot of how entrepreneurs are currently handling a range of operational challenges, including bank closures, tightening credit and a challenging labor market.

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“These findings confirm what our bankers are hearing every day from our clients – that despite ongoing concerns about recession, inflation and staffing, small business owners are optimistic,” said Ben Walter, CEO of Chase Business Banking. “To their credit, they continue to demonstrate an ability to adapt and adjust through the ups and downs of economic cycles.”

Lingering Concerns: The rising costs of materials and goods are continuing to drive up business costs. So it’s unsurprising that inflation remains a top concern for business leaders, with 77% of respondents saying their expenses have increased by 6% or more. Other concerns include:

  • Hiring: 45% are “extremely” or “very” concerned about the limited supply of candidates.
  • Taxes: 38% feel that government should focus on lowering tax rates and reducing credits and deductions.
  • Supply Chain: 16% report supply chain disruptions as a top challenge.

However, despite inflation, hiring challenges and concerns over taxes, 67% of business leaders in our survey expect revenues to increase over the next six months, and 45% say they’re “hitting the accelerator” on growth — up 10 percentage points since November 2022.

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Recession-Proof Spirits: While 47% of business leaders surveyed expect a recession in the second half of 2023, optimism is staying remarkably steady.

  • Room for Expansion: 81% are planning to borrow money and 45% are looking to expand their businesses. The overall percentage of respondents who plan to add or increase locations due to growth rose from 35% to 45% since November.
  • Addressing The Stress: Some of the unshakeable optimism may be tied to a deepened focus on mental health and stress management in the workplace. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of business leaders report that managing these factors has become an important issue for their employees and their businesses, and more business leaders reported offering mental health days since November (up 13 percentage points).
  • Reaching New Customers: More than a third (36%) of business leaders are reporting operations or sales outside of the United States, which represents a significant increase since November.
  • Staying Nimble: Businesses have continued to adapt to increasing costs by raising prices on select products and services, cutting nonessential expenses, and purchasing smaller inventory orders.
  • Harnessing the Power of New Tech: Business leaders are ready to ride the artificial intelligence wave. 33% plan to add ChatGPT to their business in the coming year, and 42% plan to add other artificial intelligence applications — up 14% from November.

Survey Methodology

JPMorgan Chase’s Midyear Business Leaders Outlook survey was conducted by Chase Insights from May to July 2023. It features data from 505 business leaders across the professional services, retail, technology, healthcare and other key industries. The results of this online survey are within statistical parameters for validity, and the error rate is plus or minus 4.4% for the findings, at a 95% confidence level.

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