Webinar: State of Small Businesses in the United States

Last week, CEO of Network Solutions Roy Dunbar hosted a conversation between Kristina Bouweiri, Anita Campbell, Tom Heath, Kelly Muccio and Surfy Rahman to talk about the state of small businesses in the US and what SMB owners could do right now to increase sales.

To kick things off, Roy shared some encouraging statistics from the State of the Small Business Report (PDF) released last month. According to the report, there are currently 27 million small businesses in the United States, making the small business sector responsible for more than 40 million jobs and $6 million in revenue. And impressively, that number is only expected to grow over the next two years.

If you weren’t able to attend last week’s talk, here’s a full taste of what you missed.

Where Small Business Owners Are Excelling

There are two main areas that set small businesses apart from their larger, more corporate brothers and sisters: their ability to roll with the punches and the relationships they create to help retain customers.

  • Resiliency: We may be in a recession, but small business owners are ruling it. Sixty-nine percent of SMB owners reported a profitable year in 2008 despite the economic downturn, with 67 percent also adding that they’d be spending as much, if not more, this year than last. Anita noted that much of SMB owners success is due to their resiliency. They’re thought of as one of the most optimistic groups in the world and they have to be. When you’re small and faced with obstacles, you can’t do anything else but decide to overcome. And they are.
  • Customer Service: The State of Small Businesses report gave SMB owners an A- rating in customer service, noting their impeccable service and ability to retain customers by treating them with care. Quite novel these days. The importance of customer service was also seen as a reason for why female small business owners tend to be more successful than men. Simply put, they’re better at building relationships with other women business owners, they support one another more and they’re focused on their customers and meeting their needs. All of this allows them to build stronger relationships both online and off. (Don’t look at me, Men, I didn’t say it!)

Where Small Businesses Owners Need to Do Better

Last week’s discussion, as well as the recent Small Business survey, also highlighted a few areas where small business owners need to improve in order to keep growing and moving forward.

  • Access to Capital: In order for small businesses to grow, they need capital. Tom commented that this means SMB owners need to have more than just a great idea. They need to actually be able to convince a lender that the idea will make money, that it will grow, that they understand their customers and that they’ll be able to run things. It’s about having that presence when you walk into a room. Unfortunately, many SMB owners either don’t possess that presence or they’re too intimidated to try.
  • Embracing Technology & SEO: According to Roy, small businesses that embrace technology are doing 16 percent better than those that are not. That’s huge. And each of the speakers seemed to agree that technology and SEO give small business owners a considerable leg up over their competition. Kristina attributed much of her business’s success to the fact that they’ve embraced technology and have invested in their site’s infrastructure and in tech tools, while Anita called SEO and search one of the most powerful things a small business can invest in. Surfy agreed that the Internet has leveled the playing field between small business and large business owners.
  • Embracing Social Media: Ready for another startling statistic? Only 12 percent of small businesses are currently using any kind of social media. Surfy again urged the importance of these areas, telling tales of his own use. His partner has a blog that gets a ton of hits. They use it to announce future events and to keep clients up to date on what’s going on. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, etc. Even more impressive, he noted that 45 percent of their reservations now take place online via the iPhone’s Open Table application. That means without that app, they’d lose almost 50 percent of their customers. That’s astronomical and something you can’t afford.

If there was one thing I took away from last week’s webinar it was that your job doesn’t stop once your business opens its doors. That’s when it starts and you need to let people know you exist and market to them. Small business owners are admired for their ingenuity and aggressiveness. Embrace it and use that mindset to find your customers.

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Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

24 Reactions
  1. Wow, I can’t believe only 12% use social media. If only they knew what a great opportunity they are missing out by not taking advantage of social networking. I wonder what keeps these businesses from trying social media sites.

  2. Martin Lindeskog

    It was interesting to participate at the webinar. You could search on #Growbiz on Twitter if you want to see comments.

  3. One thing that seems to be missing in the evaluation is business flexibility and the ability to innovate. Small businesses are better positioned to adapted to changing economic and cultural changes when they are structure properly. Thanks for the summary of the meeting.

  4. Thanks for sharing the interesting results.

    I agree with you that woman are better at building relationships with other women business owners. I struggle with this at a time when referrals are vital to survive.

  5. Wow that is amazing that only 12% are making use of social media. Even more startling to me was the fact that one application was responsible for 50% of the company’s sales. That is truly amazing!

    If I had to guess what keeps them from using it, I’d have to say it’s the time involved and the incorrect notion that social media sites are mainly for college students and younger generations.

  6. I second Amanda. As annoying as social networking sites can be, its startling to know that only 12% use it to their advantage. It seems that the best way to get your ideas out and forge new connections nowadays are often mediated through social networks. Is seems that there is some sort technological divide between those SMB who are savvy enough to wreak the benefits ICT and those who are still learning how to embrace it.

  7. I missed the Webinar but I’m glad I found your article. I think the discussion points are key to keeping a competitive edge these days.

  8. Because we partner with small businesses who outsource their accounting services to us, I agree that besides cash flow management and access capital, good marketing strategies are some of the greatest challenges affecting small businesses. We are currently partnering with a marketing client to couple up our accounting services with a marketing services solution to meet this need. Thank you for an insightful article that rings very true to what I am finding in practice.

    Rick Belgarde, President
    CFO Rick Inc.

  9. Being passive will just lead your business to failure. We must take actions, our own steps in achieving that success.

    Great insights Lisa! Thanks for sharing! 😉

  10. I guess the reason behind may be lack of time and efforts. I am sure after Barak Obama small businesses should turn to social networking. Its a great way to stay in touch with mass. I think, small businesses should outsource the social networking projects to virtual assistant. Many small businesses are joining Twitter after the twitter revolution, so I guess this 12% figure will eventually grow.

  11. Anita,
    This was a great webinar…

    Thank you for adding some value!

    The Franchise King
    Joel Libava

  12. Lisa:

    Thanks for this overview of the webinar. It sounds like many small businesses need to shift gears radically; hopefully, many of them will come to their senses sooner rather than later.


  13. Great post,
    I also agree with the results on social media being a surprise. I think it may be that many small business owners do not realise that many parts of the online experience are free and it can open up amazing new markets for them. Internet technology has to be the small business owners friend because of its flexibility and cost.
    One of the most common emotions I find in dealing with small business owners is FEAR. This prevents them from moving forward and they can become locked in their current position.
    Because the internet is moving so fast, small business owners need to JUMP IN , overcome their fear and utilise the benefits of this amazing technology to its fullest.

  14. Great overview of the webinar, Lisa. And the 3 keypoints you shared above are of superb importance.

  15. Lisa,

    Thanks for that excellent recap of the GrowSmartBusiness Webinar! We have received lots of great feedback from the attendees and the panel discussion was well received by the small business community. Network Solutions plans to make it an ongoing webinar series to help them successfully grow their business. Please visit us at http://www.growsmartbusiness.com to make use of our resource center that provides lots of helpful tips, best practices and expert advice for small biz owners.


  16. The greatest advantage that any smaller business has over it’s larger competitors is the ability to develop durable one-on-one relationships with their customers. This is especially true for small retailers, the small businesses that I work with. Many of my clients are women who intuitively understand the importance of building first-name relationships with their customers.

  17. I’m sorry I missed the webinar! Thanks for the recap. Small business owners are resilient, flexible and can more easily adapt to market conditions. But, yes, they do have challenges to face.

  18. Matthew Kettlewell

    Great article –

    I think you mean $6 Trillion in revenues (says $6 million)

    Thanks for the great insight!


  19. Small Business and the use of technology will continue to grow. The idea of large corporation employing thousands of people will continue to decline and the production in the country will continue to flatten.