Small-business owners upbeat on companies in the coming year

Small business owners remain optimistic about their companies even as they are more concerned about the economy.

That’s the finding of a quarterly survey released last week by Wells Fargo & Co.

Two-thirds of the 600 owners surveyed last month said their companies’ financial situation today is good, up slightly from 65 percent in a similar survey taken in the fourth quarter. And 71 percent said they expected their companies to be in good financial shape 12 months from when the survey was taken; that’s also little changed from 70 percent in the previous survey.

When asked about the most important challenge facing their companies, 14 percent said finding customers; that was the most-often cited challenge and was up from 11 percent in the previous survey. Eleven percent cited the economy, up from 8 percent.

The survey was in line with one released earlier this month by the advocacy group National Small Business Association, which found a slight increase in the number of owners with a bleaker view of the economy, but three-quarters of owners upbeat about their own companies’ prospects. The NSBA survey was taken in December.

Many owners have had more faith in their ability to manage their companies than they do in the ability of the economy to gain strength. The results of both surveys show that owners sensed the economy had weakened at the end of 2015. The Commerce Department reported at the end of January that the gross domestic product had grown at an annual rate of just 0.7 percent during the fourth quarter.

Half the owners in the Wells Fargo survey expect their revenue to increase, up from 47 percent. And owners’ hiring plans were unchanged, with 26 percent expecting to take on more employees.

Associated Press

SCORE reports freelancing is on the rise

Washington, D.C.-based SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business mentors, released statistics recently on the growing freelance economy.

According to SCORE, 34 percent of the U.S. workforce, or 54 million people, now consists of freelance workers. Also known as independent contractors, consultants or entrepreneurs, these workers earn at least some of their income through self-employment.

Online talent marketplaces, mobile apps and co-working spaces allow for virtual collaboration on freelance projects, according to the report. And 69 percent of freelancers feel the internet and social media have expanded networking opportunities.

Age-wise, here’s how the freelance population breaks down, according to SCORE:

▪ 30 percent are millennials (age 21-34)

▪ 33 percent are from Generation X (age 35-50)

▪ 29 percent are Baby Boomers (age 51-68)

▪ 8 percent are seniors (age 69-plus)

Celeste Smith