Robb Hilson: May 11, 2016

Bank of America Small Business Owner Report Found Only One in Three Small Business Owners Are Confident the National Economy Will Improve Over the Next 12 Months

Findings Suggest Small Business Owners’ Outlook Impacted by the Upcoming Elections


Small Business Executive, Bank of America

This May, Bank of America will release the spring 2016 Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of 1,000 small business owners (SBOs) across the country. This iteration of the report explores the state of small business, including attitudes toward the overall economy, growth expectations and how the upcoming elections are impacting SBOs’ future plans.

According to the survey, less than one-third (29%) of SBOs said they are confident the national economy will improve over the next 12 months – a decline from spring 2015. The report also found that the upcoming elections are having a sizable influence on the outlook of small business owners. Sixty-seven percent of SBOs report that the presidential election will affect their business, while 53% believe congressional elections will have an impact. Additionally, while concern over traditional economic factors such as taxes, interest rates and consumer spending are down, the effectiveness of U.S. government leaders is the number one concern troubling small business owners in 2016, with 79% citing this concern versus 69% in spring 2015.

Bank of America Small Business Executive Robb Hilson is available to discuss the small business outlook in the lead up to the elections.


·         SBOs are concerned about the upcoming elections Of those reporting the upcoming presidential election will affect their business: 29% say “a lot” and 38% say it will affect them “somewhat.” Only 14% of SBOs say the presidential election will have no impact on their business. Similarly, more than half of SBOs said the congressional election will impact them “a lot” or “somewhat.” When voting, SBOs are taking both personal and business considerations into account. Roughly one-third give more weight to their personal views, while 15% approach voting from a business perspective. More than half take both into consideration evenly. The top issues SBOs take into account when voting are: taxes, health care policy, and economy and job growth.

·         Decreased confidence in the overall economy, government effectiveness and health care – Similar to the national economy, the number of SBOs who anticipate the global economy to improve over the next 12 months has decreased (18% in spring 2016 vs. 35% in spring 2015). SBOs remain the most optimistic about their local economy, but are still less confident YOY: 38% are confident that their local economy will improve (compared to 49% a year ago). In addition to the effectiveness of U.S. government leaders, SBOs’ top concerns are health care costs (74%) and the stock market (52%).

·         Concern for most traditional economic factors down Anxiety around most economic factors has declined YOY – consumer spending (59% in spring 2015 vs. 44% in spring 2016), interest rates (55% in spring 2015 vs. 43% in spring 2016) and the strength of the U.S. dollar (59% in spring 2015 vs. 51% in spring 2016). There was also a downward shift in concern around commodity prices and credit availability.

·         SBOs are less bullish SBOs are neither aggressively planning for growth nor downsizing. The majority of SBOs (59%) plan to keep their employee count the same over the next 12 months (vs. 46% in spring 2015) and 45% plan to keep their business more or less the same size over the next five years (vs. 33% in spring 2015). Revenue projections are also down – 51% expect their revenue to grow over the next 12 months (compared to 63% in spring 2015).

·         Changing face of the workforce – Forty percent of small business owners do not regard a college degree as important when evaluating job applicants. Nearly half (49%) report that skill level is now the single most important factor in hiring, followed by fit with company culture (24%) and previous work experience (24%). Among all small business owners, there is a preference for hiring Gen-X employees (47%) over millennials (26%) and baby boomers (8%).


Robb Hilson has been the Small Business Executive at Bank of America since November 2011. Hilson leads a national organization that provides banking solutions to more than 3 million businesses with annual revenue up to $5 million across the United States. Hilson joined Bank of America in 1987 and has held a number of leadership positions in Commercial Banking including West Region Credit Products Executive, Global Commercial & Investment Banking Credit Services Executive, Southeast Business Banking Executive, and South Florida Commercial Market Executive. He also has held the positions of President in South Florida and Palm Beach County, as well as state President of Florida. Hilson earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance from Florida State University in 1981 and a Masters of Business Administration in 1982 at the University of Georgia. Hilson grew up in Miami and has been active in many community organizations including Community Partnership for Homeless, Westminster Christian School, Leadership Florida, Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, March of Dimes, United Way, and the Orange Bowl Committee.

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