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Small and midsize businesses talk challenges, changes and strategies in new national Chase survey

By Patty Tascarella – Senior Reporter, Pittsburgh Business Times Small and midsize U.S. business leaders say continued economic uncertainty is their main challenge but most — 77% and 63%, respectively — remain optimistic about their own companies, according to a new national survey.

Still, fewer small businesses anticipate revenue and sales growth for 2021, down to 47% from 60% last year, according to the annual JPMorgan Chase Business Leaders Outlook survey.

The outlook for midsize businesses is a bit brighter: 69% expect to see revenue and sales growth in 2021, relatively unchanged from 70% a year ago and before the start of the pandemic.

“Businesses have weathered many storms over the past year, displaying impressive levels of creativity and adaptability as they shifted to new operating models, distribution channels and technologies,” Jim Glassman, head economist, JPMorgan Chase Commercial Banking, said in a prepared statement. “The challenges aren’t over, but their tenacity has helped sustain economic momentum and offers optimism for recovery in 2021.”

More than 2,100 business leaders in various industries across the U.S. participated in the survey, which was conducted online in late 2020. Among the findings:

  • The majority of midsize (84%) and small (72%) businesses have moved some or all of their workforce to remote work over the past year.

  • Nearly two-thirds of midsize businesses and one-third of small businesses have increased cash reserves as a cushion for potential future disruptions.

  • One in 10 small businesses changed their business model to have 100% of sales come from e-commerce in 2020, with 12% planning to do so in 2021.

  • Some 44% of small businesses have explored online lending in the past year, with 25% procuring an online loan. For 2021, 56% say they would be open to doing so if they are in need of capital.

  • Employment projections declined modestly compared to previous years as 45% of midsize businesses and 34% of small businesses expect to increase full-time personnel. A limited supply of qualified candidates remains the top challenge to hiring for midsize businesses and is increasingly becoming a major concern for small businesses.

  • Nearly all (96%) of midsize and two-thirds of small businesses report taking actions in preparation for potential cyberattacks. Across both midsize and small businesses, employee education and training programs mark the most widely used tactic. Some 55% of midsize businesses have developed proactive counter measures, such as deploying technology against potential cyber-related disruptions, up from 47% last year.

Chase (NYSE:JPM) is based in New York but has operated in Pittsburgh for decades. It entered the local retail banking landscape in October 2019.


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