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How Worried Are Small Business Owners About Coronavirus?

3 min read • Apr 23, 2020 • Grant Olsen

If you’re wondering how small business owners are feeling about the future, one of the best indicators is the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index. This survey measures the health of America’s small businesses and has been conducted monthly since 1986. And this March registered the biggest drop in the survey’s 34-year history.

This drop is notable because it comes on the heels of a string of 39 months of small business momentum. The March results won’t come as a surprise to any small business owners, as 9 of the 10 sections of the survey recorded lower numbers than the prior month. Yes, this is a grim time for entrepreneurs.

“Small businesses are living through the coronavirus pandemic right now and it’s hard to say what the severity of the disruption will be, but we do know they’re feeling the urgency,” explained William Dunkelberg, the NFIB’s chief economist. “It is vital that these businesses have access to federal funds that are made available through the CARES Act to keep the doors open on Main Street.”

Here are some of the notable findings from this most recent survey:

  • Uncertainty amongst small business owners has reached the highest level since 2017
  • Reports of better business conditions for the next 6 months had the largest monthly decline since 2012
  • Real sales expectations for the next 6 months declined 31 points, which is the largest monthly decline in the survey’s history
  • The percentage of businesses that thought it was a good time to expand dropped by 50%
  • Job openings dropped to 35%

The NFIB’s findings share similarities with a survey Lendio conducted among American small business owners. A large number of respondents reported financial struggles related to the coronavirus crisis. The most common reasons given for sales declines were fewer customers visiting businesses and customers being reluctant to spend money on products or services due to financial hardship.

“The vast majority of small businesses are now impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and owners are taking the threat to their business seriously,” said Dunkelberg in the NFIB’s survey conclusion. “Many owners have already sought out financial help and more are planning to do so in the near future. The outbreak has left few, if any, owners unscathed. The economic impact is immense, and now, the questions are how long will it last and how quickly can the small business sector recover once on the other side.”

These reports are disheartening, as they illustrate this disaster’s vast toll. But all is not lost. Some of the hardest-hit states have begun to see coronavirus cases plateau or decline. Social distancing, which has been so problematic for many businesses, seems to be doing its job.

With these positive indicators popping up around the country, the White House has recently shared guidelines for states and counties to begin reopening. This process could begin happening as early as May. And research from the Harvard Business Review reveals that 60% of small business owners expect to be open for normal operations by the end of the year.

There are plenty of reasons for concern. But optimism is slowly rebounding around the country as small business owners recover from the early blows of coronavirus and prepare for the future. Our nation has endured many disasters and always comes back stronger. This time will be no different.

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Grant Olsen

Grant Olsen is a writer specializing in small business loans, leadership skills, and growth strategies. He is a contributing writer for KSL 5 TV, where his articles have generated more than 6 million page views, and has been featured on FitSmallBusiness.com and ModernHealthcare.com. Grant is also the author of the book "Rhino Trouble." He has a B.A. in English from Brigham Young University.