Wells Fargo Survey: Small Business Optimism Highest in Seven Years

Small business owners see improvement in revenue, cash flow and hiring over the past year in the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup survey

SAN FRANCISCO--()--Small business owners report they are the most optimistic in seven years, according to the latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index, with stronger revenues, improved cash flow and increased hiring contributing to the improvement.

“The overall Index score speaks to the general improvements that many small businesses experienced in 2014”

In the latest quarterly small business survey, conducted Jan. 5-9, the overall Index score, which measures small business owner optimism, jumped to positive 71 (+71), significantly up from +58 in November 2014 and up from +45 in January 2014. While the score is still below pre-recession levels, it is the highest it has been since January 2008 when the Index score was +83.

Several factors contributed to the rise in optimism this quarter, including:

  • Improved revenue In the January survey, 49 percent of small business owners reported that their revenues increased a little or a lot over the past 12 months, up from 37 percent a year ago. This represents the highest reading on this measure since 2007, when 52 percent of small business owners reported increased revenues.
  • Better cash flow – Business owners’ cash flow improved over the past 12 months, with 54 percent rating their company cash flow as very good or somewhat good, compared to 52 percent in the first quarter of 2014.
  • Hiring is up – More business owners increased the number of jobs at their company over the past 12 months (19 percent). Just 11 percent reported a decrease in jobs, compared to 16 percent in last quarter’s survey.
  • Access to credit – The ability to obtain credit also improved with more than a third (34 percent) of survey respondents reporting that it was somewhat or very easy to obtain credit over the past 12 months, up from 30 percent in November 2014, and 28 percent a year ago.

“The overall Index score speaks to the general improvements that many small businesses experienced in 2014,” said Lisa Stevens, Wells Fargo head of Small Business “With the economy improving every day, many business owners are seeing stronger revenues and are feeling a renewed sense of confidence and expecting an even better year ahead.”

Current Conditions

Incremental increases in how small business owners feel about their current conditions and the future helped drive the rise in optimism this quarter. The present situation score – how business owners rate current conditions for their businesses – continues to climb, increasing to +28 in January, up from +21 last quarter and up from +16 a year ago.

The survey shows that business owner perceptions of their present situation continues to improve each year, having increased 30 points since January 2013, and 57 points from its lowest point (-29) in the first quarter 2010.

A Promising Year Ahead

In addition to reporting an improved present situation, business owners are feeling confident about the year ahead. The positive outlook is reflected in the future expectations score, which increased to +43 in January, up from +37 in November 2014 and +29 a year ago.

Key findings that contribute to the future expectations score include:

  • Revenues – 55 percent of business owners anticipate that their revenues will increase a little or a lot, compared to 48 percent in January 2014.
  • Financial situation – 73 percent of small business owners think their company’s financial situation will be very good or somewhat good 12 months from now, an increase of 7 percentage points from January 2014.
  • Cash flow – 65 percent of business owners believe their company cash flow will be very or somewhat good over the next 12 months, up from 57 percent in January 2014.
  • Capital spending – When asked about capital spending, 31 percent of business owners expect to increase the amount they allocate a little or a lot, up from 27 percent in January 2014, and matching numbers from January 2008 (also 31 percent).

Small Business Index Key Drivers

Wells Fargo and Gallup survey small business owners across the nation each quarter to gauge their perceptions of their present situation (past 12 months) and future expectations (next 12 months) in six key areas: financial situation, cash flow, revenues, capital spending allocation, hiring, and credit availability.

Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Scores: Q1 2014– Q1 2015

     

Overall Index
Score

   

Present
Situation

   

Future
Expectations

Q1 2015 (surveyed January 2015)     71     28     43
Q4 2014 (surveyed November 2014)     58     21     37
Q3 2014 (surveyed July 2014)     49     18     31
Q2 2014 (surveyed April 2014)     47     14     33
Q1 2014 (surveyed January 2014)     45     16     29

About the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index

Since August 2003, the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index has surveyed small business owners on current and future perceptions of their business financial situation. The Index consists of two dimensions: 1) Owners’ ratings of the current situation of their businesses and, 2) Owners’ ratings of how they expect their businesses to perform over the next 12 months. Results are based on telephone interviews with 603 small business owners in all 50 United States conducted

Jan. 5-9 2015. The overall Small Business Index is computed using a formula that scores and sums the answers to 12 questions — six about the present situation and six about the future. An Index score of zero indicates that small business owners, as a group, are neutral – neither optimistic nor pessimistic – about their companies’ situations. The overall Index can range from -400 (the most negative score possible) to +400 (the most positive score possible), but in practice spans a much more limited range. The margin of sampling error is +/- four percentage points. The highest Index reading was +114 in the fourth quarter of 2006, and the lowest reading was -28 in the third quarter of 2010.

Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business owners across the United States and loans more money to America’s small businesses than any other bank (2002-2013 CRA government data). To help more small businesses achieve financial success, in 2014 Wells Fargo introduced Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM – a broad initiative to deliver resources, guidance and services for business owners – and a goal to extend $100 billion in new lending to small businesses by 2018. For more information about Wells Fargo Works for Small Business, visit: WellsFargoWorks.com. Follow us on Twitter @WellsFargoWorks.

About Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a nationwide, diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.7 trillion in assets. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, insurance, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through more than 8,700 locations, 12,500 ATMs, and the internet (wellsfargo.com), and has offices in 36 countries to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 265,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 29 on Fortune’s 2014 rankings of America’s largest corporations. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy all our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Wells Fargo perspectives are also available at Wells Fargo Blogs and Wells Fargo Stories.

About Gallup

For more than 70 years, Gallup has been a recognized leader in the measurement and analysis of people’s attitudes, opinions and behavior. While best known for the Gallup Poll, founded in 1935, Gallup’s current activities consist largely of providing marketing and management research, advisory services and education to the world’s largest corporations and institutions.

Contacts

Wells Fargo & Company
Jim Seitz, 612-316-2447
@JimSeitzWF
Jim.Seitz@wellsfargo.com
Sarah DuBois, 612-466-7484
@SDuboisWF
Sarah.dubois@wellsfargo.com

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Release Summary

Small business optimism is at a seven year high as business owners see improvement in revenue, cash flow and hiring over the past year, says Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index.

Wells Fargo & Company