October 15, 2012

Small business owners stressing more, survey finds

Michael LaBella

Q&A talks about anxiety in the marketplace with Michael LaBella, TD Bank market president for Connecticut.

Q: TD Bank did a survey of small business owners and determined that anxiety levels for them are on the rise. Why does TD Bank conduct a survey on this topic? What do you hope to learn from it? Have you done this survey in the past?

A: Given the economic pressures small business owners continue to experience, TD Bank conducted this survey to better understand and analyze business owners' current stress levels and evaluate their business banking needs. Asking about the current moods of small business owners allows us to better understand where they are coming from, and what needs they are looking to fulfill. It also helps us better identify their largest problems areas, so that we, as a banking partner, can offer customized products and services to help them manage their money and achieve success. We conduct small business surveys on a regular basis, asking various questions about their needs, plans and overall outlook. Small businesses play a critical role in Connecticut's economy, and we're always looking for ways to help them out.

Q: What were some of the findings of the survey? Any surprises in the information?

A: Our survey revealed 60 percent of small business owners admit that their stress levels are increasing, with 33 percent noting that stress is primarily due to managing their finances. Small business owners have many responsibilities, and it appears managing their money causes them the most stress. The survey also showed that more than half of polled small business owners note that "exceptional customer service" is what they appreciate most from their business banking relationship. Small business owners place strong value on customer service, so it makes sense that they look for the same thing from their business banking relationship.

Q: The survey results say anxiety levels are on the rise. What are some of the driving factors behind that rise?

A: Managing their money seems to be the main form of stress for small business stress. Other stressors included managing employees (20 percent), working long hours (11 percent), and customer/client relations (17 percent). Small business ownership can be stressful in general, as being the boss sometimes means making tough decisions. That's why it's so important for small business owners to have partners that can help ease their stress levels.

Q: How does customer service impact the stress a business owner feels? What can be done to remedy it?

A: While over half of polled small business owners noted they value "exceptional customer service" the most from their business banking relationship, a majority said a lack of customer service is what causes them the most stress from their current bank. Small business owners thrive on personal connections, so it's no surprise they cited customer service as a top stressor from their bank. Having a real person there on the other side of the line or the desk is a tremendous help, both emotionally and financially. It helps business owners feel they're not alone when it comes to the day-to-day financial operations of their business.

Q: What is your overall perspective on the small business market in the Northeast? Will small business owners continue to experience high levels of stress in their day-to-day dealings?

A: Small businesses are the backbone of Connecticut's economy. Economic pressures will likely continue, so it's more important than ever for small businesses to find ways to both grow sales and effectively manage their money. However, with careful planning, sound cash flow management, and a committed banking partner, small business owners can reduce stress and increase their chances of succeeding heading into 2013.

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