2012 Ends with Less Optimism, But 2013 Offers Growth Opportunities

As 2012 came to a close, small business owners held less optimism about the economy and month-over-month hiring was down, according to the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard. SurePayroll Inc., provider of online payroll services to small business, releases the data on national hiring and paycheck trends each month.

The SurePayroll Scorecard showed that month-over-month hiring was down 0.1 percent from November to December and optimism among SMB owners fell 5 percent, from 60 percent the previous month. Paychecks did increase slightly 0.1 percent month-over-month. The impending fiscal cliff was likely a big factor in the overall declining trend seen in the Scorecard’s data. For many business owners, ambiguity surrounding those issues impacted business decisions as well as overall economic outlook.

"Small businesses had been asked to play a game where they didn’t know the rules in 2012,” said SurePayroll CEO and President Michael Alter, referring to uncertainty over government action. "That being the case, they’d rather just not play. That’s likely why we’ve seen a drag on hiring throughout the year. On the bright side, they’ve been innovative and creative. Our customers tell us they’ve been using new services to outsource nonessential work and technology to increase productivity, as well as focusing on their most profitable customers."

That innovation and creativity is expected to carry over into 2013 as businesses continue to look for ways to become more productive and efficient. Alter expects the outlook for 2013 to contain a slight growth in revenue and flat hiring, similar to the overall trend for 2012. He also expects small business optimism to rebound to around 65 percent as uncertainty surrounding business matters fades and owners tap into available tools and resources.

"Even though the tax holiday has been lifted, 2013 is not Doom’s Day. The 2 percent increase in taxes shouldn’t result in a huge change in consumer demand or small business revenue," said Alter. "Businesses will need to continue to take advantage of global and technology tools to become more productive."

As business owners prepare for the year ahead, they should continue to observe trends in tools and technology and pay attention to economic issues. Potential spending cuts, the federal deficit and global economy could all potentially affect the way small businesses do business. Likewise, as mobile technology continues to move to the forefront, many opportunities will emerge for businesses to become more productive. SMB owners will want to continue to pay attention to the various cloud-based products and services available to them.

"There will be lots of opportunities to grow without significant capital spending. Businesses need to make sure they’re taking advantage of these," said Alter. "The businesses that will be most successful are the ones that are leveraging these trends."