As small business optimism rises, worries decreasing at Tahoe | Column

Owning a small business can be challenging. But, according to the fourth quarter 2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, small business owners are feeling a renewed sense of confidence in 2015.

We recently surveyed small business owners across the U.S. and the findings were clear: Business owners are the most optimistic since the start of the Great Recession.

The Small Business Index score rose to +58 at the end of 2014, up 9 points from +49 in July and up 34 points from a year ago.

The climbing Small Business Index score is not just good news for small business owners; it’s also good news for the Tahoe region.

In the survey, business owners said they anticipate a better operating environment and higher revenues in 2015. They also said they plan to increase the amount of money allocated for capital spending and increase the number of jobs at their company too.

We know that in order for our economy to thrive, small businesses need to succeed, which makes this trend in improved confidence and positive future outlook all the more encouraging.

Another promising trend is that small business owners have fewer worries than in recent years. Attracting new customers and new business remains a top challenge, but overall, concerns around key issues that could impact their business are less pronounced than a year ago.

Here are three areas that saw the most improvement:

Paying Employees: For small businesses, balancing cash flow and managing expenses such as payroll can be challenging. In the recent survey, less than a quarter (22 percent) of small business owners reported being very worried or moderately worried about not being able to pay their employees. Compared to 32 percent in 2011, this is a strong downward trend that we hope will continue.

Paying Bills: When asked about paying bills, only 5 percent of small business owners surveyed said they are very worried about making their minimum credit card payments, compared to 12 percent in 2011. We also asked those surveyed about the ability to pay their household bills, and 8 percent report being very worried about not being able to make those payments, compared to 17 percent in 2011.

Retirement: Planning for retirement is another challenge small business owners face.

In the survey, small business owners were asked about their concerns around saving for retirement, and 41 percent said they are not too worried or not worried at all about putting enough money away for retirement. That’s up from 29 percent in 2011.

The Small Business Index also found that unlike a year ago, more business owners think their operating environment in 2015 will be better (35 percent) than think it will be worse (15 percent).

This is a dramatic improvement over last year, when 23 percent of business owners predicted a better year ahead and 25 percent thought it would be worse.

Over the years, we’ve seen time and time again that Lake Tahoe small business owners are a resilient and optimistic bunch.

Building and running a small business has its challenges, yet as the improvement in the economy continues, local business owners may find these challenges easier to overcome.

Lester Romero is Small Business Banking Manager for Wells Fargo in the Tahoe region. For information on the company’s Wells Fargo Works for Small Business program, visit


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