Key4Women Confidence Index Shows Diminished Economic Optimism

Washington (PRESS RELEASE – November 11, 2010) – The women business owners canvassed by the Center for Women’s Business Research for the fourth Key4Women Confidence Index this fall were overall less optimistic that the economy is recovering than this time last year, with most indicators trending slightly downward or staying level.

Since the Key4Women Confidence Index was launched in April 2009, it has generally shown a steady increase in optimism about the overall economy, but the new index found diminished optimism. At present, only 33.3 percent of respondents think the economy will be better in six months, down from 53.7 percent in October 2009. Half think the economy will be about the same in six months.

“The Key4Women Confidence Index offers a clear assessment of the level of optimism of women business owners,” said Beverly Holmes, Chair of the Center for Women’s Business Research. “The current index found reduced optimism overall, but we also see inspiring resiliency and determination, and strong indications that women business owners are learning from the challenging economic climate and fine-tuning their business practices and strategies.”

“We are clearly seeing women business owners taking control of operational factors that enhance their market positions,” said Maria Coyne, Key’s head of Business Banking and founder of Key4Women. “The index found that 75 percent are watching cash flow at least a little more carefully and half are collecting receivables a little or a lot more aggressively.”

In addition, several women business owners said they have learned to get smart about their clients, to not hang onto ones who are difficult to work with or who are not profitable, and to be careful about how clients are going to pay.

More than a third of women business owners (36.5 percent) reported higher sales volume Q3 2010 versus Q3 2009, while about a third (32.3 percent) reported lower sales volume in the same period.

Most women business owners (60.4 percent) plan to keep their average selling price the same over the next three months while 29.2 percent plan to increase their average selling price and only 10.4 percent plan to reduce prices.

Nearly three quarters (74 percent) plan to keep employment relatively the same, short term, while 20.8 percent plan to increase employment. Anecdotal statements from respondents show that women business owners are investing in their employees by “up-skilling” and “re-skilling” employees, as well as investing in employee training.

More than half of those who are surveyed (56.2 percent) report that the economy is still significantly or considerably affecting their businesses. This is up from 48.5 percent last year.

More women business owners reported they were seeking credit this year:  60.4 percent sought credit this year versus 54.7 percent in October 2009.

Responding to unstable overall economic conditions, the women business owners participating in the index have demonstrated their resiliency by working on their strengths, increasing their marketing, and reducing debt to strengthen their credit positions.

When asked (in open-ended fashion) the single most important problem facing their businesses, respondents replied: lack of demand in the form of lack of new business; reduced sales and maintaining existing clients; and cash flow issues.

The Center for Women’s Business Research partners with KeyBank on the Key4Women Confidence Index to investigate how women-owned firms are faring in the larger economy. The index is conducted in the spring and fall each year in order to track trends on specific variables of importance to business sustainability and growth.

The survey for the current Key4Women Confidence Index was conducted in October with nearly 100 women business owners responding from a pool of more than 400 members of the W-Biz Insight panel. The W-Biz Insight panel is a diverse group of women business owners, including new and veteran business owners from a range of industries, whose companies have annual revenues from less than $25,000 to more than $15 million. The companies range from sole proprietorships to those with more than 100 employees. The panel includes, but is not limited to, Key4Women members.

About the Center for Women’s Business Research

The Center for Women’s Business Research provides data-driven knowledge that advances the economic, social and political impact of women business owners.  The Center does this by setting the national agenda; creating insight on the status and achievements of women business owners; altering perceptions about the economic viability and progress of women-owned enterprises; and driving awareness of the economic and social impact of this vital business sector. The Center is continuing to accept new members of the W-Biz Insight panel.

About Key4Women

Key4Women is a KeyBank program dedicated to helping women business owners achieve success by providing them access to capital, customized solutions, ongoing education, and networking opportunities.  The program is grounded in research and insights that show women business owners face distinct challenges from, and do business differently than, their male counterparts.  Key4Women is delivered to the client by a dedicated team of Key4Women Relationship Managers throughout KeyBank’s 14-state footprint.  Passionate about helping women business owners achieve success, Key4Women has, since 2005, lent $3 billion to qualified women-owned businesses, and has pledged to lend another $3 billion to women-owned businesses by 2012. Key4Women increases resources to women business owners through national and local partnerships, including those with the Women’s President Organization (WPO), the Center for Women’s Business Research, and the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).

About KeyCorp

Cleveland-based KeyCorp (NYSE: KEY) is one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies, with assets of approximately $94 billion. Key companies provide investment management, retail and commercial banking, consumer finance, and investment banking products and services to individuals and companies throughout the United States and, for certain businesses, internationally.

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