The fifth annual First Citizens Bank Small Business Forecast reveals that most small business owners plan to significantly grow their businesses this year. Overall, 74% of respondents expect their businesses to grow in the next six to 12 months — a 12% increase from the 2018 survey. Of the surveyed states, California has the highest number of small business owners planning to expand in the near-future (89%) while Wisconsin has the fewest (47%).
“Our report shows promising numbers for the success of small business owners and for our overall economy in 2019,” said Kate Stackhouse, director of sales strategy at First Citizens Bank. “Year after year, the vision and accomplishments of these business owners have an immense impact on the health of our economy. We strive to equip business owners with the insights they’ll need to help them follow their passions and navigate shifting market trends to achieve an even stronger business performance in 2020.”
With 81% of millennials looking to expand their businesses in 2019, the forecast found younger business owners are generally more eager to grow when compared to baby boomers (66%) and Gen Xers (71%).
Increasing current customer satisfaction and loyalty is the top growth strategy among small business owners (51%), followed by identifying new customers (45). Creating new products and businesses is the third most-popular strategy for owners to achieve growth (29%).
While small business owners were satisfied with their performance, 68% expressed optimism around future economic conditions. Millennial small business owners have the most confidence in the U.S. economy (72%), a 12% increase from 2018. In general, those surveyed agree that the states where their businesses are located are great places to start a business. Of the states surveyed, Florida had the most significant increase in optimism around economic conditions in 2019— rising four percentage points from last year to 73% — followed by North Carolina (67%), South Carolina (58%), California (54%) and Wisconsin (53%).
Other findings include:
• More than half of respondents (53%) indicated that their businesses benefited from the tax reform in 2018. In last year’s study, 55% of respondents predicted the tax reform would benefit small business owners in general.
• Finding different avenues for reaching new leads/prospects is the top 2019 sales initiative for small business owners (44%), followed by growing the sales pipeline (33%). Investing in technology or software to streamline the sales process ranks third this year (22%).
• Most respondents (76%) consider their businesses to have been successful over the past year. Wisconsin has the most small business owners who think they were successful in 2018 (87%), followed by Florida (83%).
• Forty-three percent (15% higher than last year) indicated they are planning to secure funding to expand their businesses in the next 6-12 months. Of these respondents, 48% plan to use bank loans. Other popular methods of securing funding are through personal savings (41%) and friends and family (33%).
• When considering marketing strategies, one-in-five small business owners said they plan to work with social influencers on product promotions. Across generations, millennials are the most likely to use social influencers in their 2019 marketing strategies (24%) followed by Gen Xers (20%).
The First Citizens Bank Small Business Forecast is conducted annually in California, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina to assess the motivations, sentiment and success of U.S. small business owners. Wisconsin was included in this forecast for the first time this year. For more information, visit https://www.firstcitizens.com/smallbizstudy.
About First Citizens Bank
Founded in 1898 and headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., First Citizens Bank is one of the largest family-controlled banks in the U.S., with offices in 19 states. Drawing from over a century of experience serving the needs of business customers, First Citizens focuses on developing long-term relationships and offers a comprehensive array of products and services to help small businesses manage their finances and grow. First Citizens Bank is a major subsidiary of First Citizens BancShares Inc. (Nasdaq:FCNCA), which has over $35 billion in assets. For more information, call toll free 1.866.FCB 4BIZ (1.866.322.4249) or visit firstcitizens.com/business. First Citizens Bank. Forever First®.