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December 13, 2012

SMBs Predict Better Business in 2013, but Less Hiring

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

Small and medium-sized businesses, SMBs, have a surprising optimism going into 2013, or so detailed from a recent study by Cbeyond (News - Alert). The survey entitled, “Winter 2012 Cbeyond Business Leader Snapshot,” revealed just how good businesses were feeling about their overall prospects for next year, but at the same time, revealed some other, less positive points to consider in their future.

The Winter 2012 Cbeyond Business Leader Snapshot covered an array of companies from personal services to business services, to retail and manufacturing and beyond. Companies in the study represented a wide array of sizes, as measured by both annual revenue and total number of employees, and surveyed a total of 435 executives at these companies.

Perhaps the centerpiece of the report showed that almost half, or 49 percent, of business leaders involved in the survey expected business conditions in general to be, at some level, better six months from now. The exact quality of that better--slightly better or much better--was in dispute, but a large swath expect business to be better in about six months. Meanwhile, 27 percent expect the opposite, with conditions to be slightly or much worse.

There were some bumps in the road as well, with 51 percent of firms believing that taxes represented the greatest threat to the entire concept of SMBs right now, followed almost immediately by excessive regulation at 41 percent, labor costs at 34 percent and the increasing federal deficit at 32 percent.

Another major threat to business came in the form of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as ObamaCare, with 38 percent calling it a likely source of negative impact on their bottom lines. Only 15 percent of respondents could say it would have a positive impact, which hardly bodes well. Several respondents are likely to need a bit of healthcare going into 2013 as well as 58 percent say their stress level is on the rise following the November election. Nearly half that number--30 percent--say it's much greater, while only 28 percent--pretty much the other half--call it only somewhat greater.

But, the survey wasn't just about politics and healthcare, with businesses also citing the biggest helps to their business. 94 percent of the survey cited both top-notch network access and desktop / laptop management as either very or somewhat important to them. 91 percent pointed to applications, and 90 percent cited mobile services. 85 percent looked to voice and broadband services, while 82 percent pointed to the cloud for their valued services.

Further reports from the survey suggest that cloud computing in general is making substantial gains among businesses, with 21 percent saying working without the cloud would be a major challenge. 83 percent of cloud users said it made them "more flexible," 78 percent said it made them "more productive," and 71 percent said it was actually saving them money to use the cloud that they wouldn't have saved without.

It's clear that the environment for businesses of all sizes is still likely to be challenging going into the next several months, but based on this survey, it's just as clear that businesses expect better coming out of the next several months too. With improvements in technology leading the way, we may well just see that better environment after all, and that's good for all concerned.




Edited by Amanda Ciccatelli
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