Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
I’m not alone in recognizing the importance of small businesses. In a 2022 survey of 8,000 Americans, 73% said small businesses make their community a better place to live. This isn’t surprising when small businesses make up 98% of all U.S. businesses, and more than a third (36%) of all workers in America are employed by small businesses.
And while small businesses continue to be formed rapidly, they’re creating fewer jobs than before. Despite the number of new business applications skyrocketing, surpassing 5 million in 2022 compared to 2.1 million in 2005, the number of new businesses with employees during this same time period fell from 10% to roughly 8%.
Why? I believe one of the primary reasons we’re seeing this shift is due to the unique strains entrepreneurs face when it comes to accessing financing, with record inflation and high interest rates creating an even more challenging environment.
Related: Here’s the Secret to Growing Your Small Business, According to Execs at UPS, Airbnb, Mastercard, and Other Big Brands
New findings in the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index Annual Report ultimately show that these macroeconomic issues and business growth are intrinsically linked.
We typically look at inflation through the lens of the consumer, but its impact on small businesses shouldn’t be overlooked. Small business growth and stability are early indicators of the economy’s health, and right now, small businesses identify rising costs as the number one challenge they face. With small businesses’ cash reserves 20% lower today than before the pandemic, and credit card debt 15% higher than before the pandemic, businesses have less cash on hand and more debt accumulating, hindering their ability to create jobs and hire workers.
In addition to inflation, business owners are contending with an increasingly difficult financing landscape. Small businesses are currently twice as likely to use their own savings to fund their business as they are to use loans from banks or other commercial lenders, with more than half (58%) of U.S. small business owners surveyed indicating they have self-funded their business often by working other jobs.
How entrepreneurs are adapting
For business owners to navigate these headwinds and achieve growth from both a revenue and workforce perspective it’s essential they take advantage of the many resources and tools available to them.
It’s critical to be smart and savvy when it comes to business banking. New data shows that finding the right banking partner can mean being able to access capital or not, as small businesses that worked with well-financed banks before 2022 interest rate hikes got more funding than those working with less well-financed banks. Understanding this, it’s important to be informed and ask a few basic questions when looking for the right bank.
For example, is the bank FDIC insured? Does it offer a competitive annual percentage yield? Are there fees or a minimum balance required? Can the bank support other business operations from payroll to credit card processing, automated bill pay or instant payments? You’ll want to get clarity around all these questions before making a decision.
Businesses also need to tap into the power of digital tools. According to our recent Annual Report, more than half (55%) of small businesses that manage eight or more areas of operations with digital technology report revenue growth. However, this drops to 31% among those who use digital tools for up to two areas only. And high adoption of digital technology isn’t just supporting revenue it’s supporting employment, too. Twenty percent of high adopters report workforce growth, but fewer than 1 in 10 low adopters report the same. Many digital tools are also increasingly leveraging AI to drive efficiencies, automate operational work, inform decision-making and reduce human error, which can have incredible benefits for small businesses.
Related: I’ve Served Small Businesses for More Than 10 Years Here Are 3 Investments to Consider That Will Help You Succeed
Finally, working with an accounting professional can be an incredible resource in helping businesses navigate the current macroeconomic environment. Our report found that more than 80% of small businesses agree that their accounting professionals have helped them reduce the impact of inflation on the business. From keeping up-to-date and accurate records updated on everything from income to expenses and deductions, hiring an accountant and outsourcing bookkeeping can save small businesses time and money: on average, small businesses estimate having an accountant saves them $39,000 each month.
As we face a year ahead where economic challenges may persist, it’s imperative that we foster an environment that is conducive to economic growth and small business resilience.