Are small business owners optimistic about the future or are they concerned? Do they approve of President Biden or do they think his policies will hurt them? Are they doing well or not?
That depends on the small business “survey” you’re reading.
For example, if you lean to the left, then you’ll certainly enjoy the survey from a nonprofit organization called Small Business For America’s Future, which claims that small businesses “support” Mr. Biden’s job plans and — if you can believe it — an increase in corporate taxes to “level the playing field.” Gee, who knew so many small business owners support a tax increase? Maybe that shouldn’t be surprising, considering that the Small Business For America’s Future organization is made up of a team of veteran politicos from the Obama and past Democratic institutions.
So I’m sure that this survey was fair and balanced.
Then there’s a survey of small business owners from a company called Alignable that claims that the Democratic-supported PRO Act, which favors unions and — according to some — will discourage the hiring of freelancers, is “anti-small business.” Alignable would like you to believe that because — get ready folks — its platform matches freelancers and businesses. So the PRO Act wouldn’t be so great for Alignable, would it?
Another fair and balanced report, I’m sure.
Then there’s the Small Business Majority, another left-leaning organization that — surprise, surprise — includes and partners with many of the nonprofits (and people) who also, and not coincidentally, break bread with the good people at the aforementioned Small Business for America’s Future. This organization claims that its members are facing a “looming rent crisis” and that “in order to prevent a new wave of closures among microbusinesses, policymakers must examine ways to provide rent and mortgage relief and additional capital into the hands of these entrepreneurs.”
Translation: give us more of that federal money, baby!
The Small Business Majority, in another recently published and completely unbiased survey, warned that “1 in 4” small businesses face closure in the next 3 months. Meanwhile, Bank of America says in ITS survey that 60 percent of small businesses expect to grow their revenues this year and another survey from TD Bank says that 41 percent expect to grow their revenues in 2021 while only 9 percent anticipate a decline.
So wait. Maybe more funding may not be needed.
To counter the left’s data, there’s the right-leaning National Federation of Independent Businesses, which says its millions of members fear Biden’s tax increases and are struggling with finding workers due to the administration’s unemployment and stimulus payments. So their solution is to launch a national “survival campaign” which will, according to this Fox Business report “hold members of Congress accountable for their support of tax increases and show how they would hurt small business owners” (while also demonstrating to their fee-paying membership that they’re not sitting on their asses).
But here’s my favorite.
CNBC reported on Feb. 10 that, according to its latest Small Business Survey, “one-third of small businesses anticipate laying off workers if Congress increases the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour.” But wait! On Feb. 20 those same pranksters at CNBC said that the exact same survey concluded that “minimum wage increases aren’t a job killer.” What exactly changed in 10 days?
There are 30 million small businesses in this country. They are located in big cities, farms and small towns. They are owned by people of all ages, colors and genders. They are in industries that both prosper and suffer depending on the whims of the economy, demographics, world events and public policies. In other words you can’t accurately survey them unless you spend a considerable amount of money to hire a professional firm that uses a truly representative sample and is funded by an unbiased, impartial sponsor.
The small business “surveys” that I run across are almost always suspect and if you don’t believe me just dig further into their methodologies. For example, a software firm called Skynova said that “more than half” of small business owners support a national $15 per hour minimum wage after polling just 353 people. 353! Ready for the shocker? The company publicly supports the national “Fight for $15” campaign that wants to raise said minimum wage. No political agenda in that survey, right? Oh sure.
The previously mentioned survey from the pro-Biden Small Business for America’s Future included just 1,052 participants and appears to have been conducted internally so who knows what methodology was used? Meanwhile, it isn’t clear where Alignable came up with the more than 11,000 small businesses that responded to their survey but I’m guessing it came from their own database of … you guessed it … freelancers who would likely oppose the PRO Act.
Right, left, liberal, conservative … it’s all biased. No survey on small business is truly objective and none of them give a truly fair representation of where small businesses in the U.S. stand on a matter. How could they? It’s too expensive to do it the right way. So instead they’ll do it the best way they can … as long as the results are consistent with their agenda.
• Gene Marks is a CPA and owner of The Marks Group, a technology and financial management consulting firm that specializes in small- and medium-sized companies.