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    Hope, uncertainty and confusion evident in small business survey


    Small business owners do not know what will happen to their companies this year. They aren’t sure if vendors will charge more, their inventory will increase, or even if they’ll hire in 2021. Meanwhile, they are certain marketing has become more difficult, which is why half of the small businesses polled plan to spend the same or less on advertising as they did in 2020, according to a small business survey.

    Those are the key findings in a survey of clients of McElvy Partners, a Houston-based media company that works with more than 2,000 small businesses each year. The online and email survey was conducted during the first two weeks of February 2021 and 124 small businesses made clear they’re hopeful but hesitant.

    “We learned a lot from our clients in this survey,” said Jonathan McElvy, president and CEO of McElvy Partners, which owns print and digital media companies. “Obviously, in times like these, sentiment can change by the week – by the hour. But to know that so many small businesses don’t really understand what to expect this year only adds to the difficulty brought on by the pandemic.”

    This survey, and so much of the work we do, is designed to create bridges from the small-business island. We need to know how our neighbors feel about their businesses, and we need more information to make the best decisions during tough times like this.

    McElvy pointed to a number of responses to his company’s inaugural sentiment survey as evidence of the uncertainty.

    “I was really surprised that only half of our clients plan to hire more people in 2021, because we all know what happened to employment numbers last year,” McElvy said. “Even more telling was that more than half of the respondents don’t plan to add more inventory, and nearly 80 percent said they do not plan to make large capital purchases this year. When you combine those things, it’s incredibly telling about how small businesses feel right now.”


    Small business survey shows marketing challenges

    While small businesses do expect revenue growth this year, the survey also found that marketing has become one of the most challenging parts of running a small business.

    “There’s a great misconception that access to all these social and digital channels has made it easier for mom-and-pop stores to promote themselves,” McElvy said. “The reality is there are so many channels, and so much horrible advice out there that we’re seeing a real paralysis of how and where to market.”

    Asked which area of business respondents needed the most help, 40 percent said “website and marketing.” The next closest answer was “Customer Retention” at 25 percent.

    McElvy Partners conducted the survey to help small businesses understand how their colleagues view the economic conditions of 2021.

    “Anyone who owns and operates a small business will tell you they always feel like they operate on an island. They don’t have boards and big management teams, and they’re left to make decisions based on gut instinct,” McElvy said. “This survey, and so much of the work we do, is designed to create bridges from the small-business island. We need to know how our neighbors feel about their businesses, and we need more information to make the best decisions during tough times like this.”

    McElvy said his hope is that by understanding hiring practices, supply costs and marketing challenges, small business owners can better understand the best direction for their companies this year.

    Here are some other key findings from the survey:

    • A large majority of survey respondents came from well-established businesses, with 86% in business for more than four years.
    • 72% of service businesses believe they’ll have more customers in 2021
    • 73% of all small businesses believe their revenue will be higher this year
    • More than a quarter of all small businesses are not sure they’ll survive 2021
    • 63% of small businesses plan to spend the same or less on marketing as they did in 2020
    • 52% of small businesses believe vendors will charge more this year.

    To read or download the full results and analysis of the 2021 Small Business Sentiment Survey, click the button below.

    About McElvy Partners

    McElvy Partners is the umbrella organization for print and digital media divisions geared toward helping small business clients expand their reach and customer base. Those divisions include The Greensheet, The Leader, the Fort Bend Star, Texas Printers and Targited Digital Agency, all based in Houston. The company has separate divisions that provide complete marketing services in Charlotte, N.C., and five communities north of Corpus Christi, headquartered in Beeville, Texas. Along with management of those divisions, McElvy Partners is an information source for small business owners with daily content designed to help provide direction to entrepreneurs.

    To find out more, or to reach McElvy Partners, click HERE.