Still Tough Times for Small Business

Maybe small businesses will drive the economy’s eventual resurgence in this country, but they show little sign as yet of feeling strong enough to do so. In the latest Discover Small Business Watch polling of small-company owners, conducted last month, 43 percent of respondents said conditions for their own business were getting worse, vs. 30 percent saying they were were getting better. (Most of the rest said business conditions were staying about the same.)

If anything, those numbers are more upbeat than you might expect when noting respondents’ sense of how the economy in general is doing. Twenty-nine percent think it’s getting better, but 51 percent think it’s getting worse. It can hardly brighten their mood that 51 percent have been coping with “temporary cash-flow issues” — the highest number of owners expressing that lament since January.

With cash tight, it’s unsurprising that 43 percent are reducing their outlays “on business-development activities such as advertising, inventories and capital expenditures.” A hardy (or, at least, solvent) 25 percent of owners expect to boost such spending.