SPOKANE, Wash.—Attracting new customers, planning for retirement and protecting against cyberattacks emerged as the top three priorities for small business owners in a new assessment of small business needs commissioned by the Development Center of the Washington Small Business Association (SBDC) and Washington State. Department of Commerce.
The survey, which was conducted by Washington State University’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC), collected data from more than 1,100 businesses across the state between March 1 and July 8 to determine how small businesses in Washington adjusted to nationwide COVID-19 restrictions. and how those businesses were faring two years after the pandemic began.
The survey also sought to better understand the specific needs of small business owners in the state and what resources the SBDC and other state agencies/departments could provide to best assist them.
“Anecdotally we knew that the pandemic affected some businesses much more than others, but this survey gives us a way to look at the effects by industry and region so we can make plans to serve them better. small business community,” said Duane Fladland. state director of the Washington SBDC.
“As we dig into the data, we’re particularly interested in what kind of help business owners are looking for and where the gaps are,” Fladland said. “We know that timely technical assistance can change the trajectory of business growth or recovery, so we want to make sure we’re truly serving the needs of small business owners across the state.”
“Supporting small businesses ensures equitable economic recovery for local communities and the state as a whole,” said Linda Womack, managing director of Small Business and Community Engagement. “This data will be extremely helpful in better understanding and taking a holistic approach to new assistance, as well as our current programs and resources, in order to provide maximum benefit to Washington’s small business owners .”
Key takeaways from the survey include:
The four main areas of impact of COVID-19 as indicated by survey respondents:
- 71% — loss of sales or cash flow
- 57% — difficulty in obtaining supplies
- 47% — compliance with customer and employee security measures
- 33% — difficulties in finding and retaining employees
The top five areas of help needed to emerge from the pandemic, as indicated by survey respondents:
- 45% — finding new customers
- 44% — sales growth
- 43% — planning for retirement
- 43% — protecting their business from cyber attacks
- 40% — setting targets for growth
The 156-item survey instrument was developed as an online web survey, a paper postal mail survey, and a telephone interview script. It was also translated into Spanish and Chinese. The researchers identified 11 trade sectors and 12 regions of the state as parameter populations for the study to ensure that data was collected from each county and different industries. The researchers also worked to ensure that women business owners and racial/ethnic minorities would be included in the survey.
The survey was sent to more than 7,000 businesses and fully or partially completed surveys were returned by 1,193 business owners, resulting in a response rate of 18.1%. While the survey did not specifically attempt to measure business closures, 9.2% of businesses selected for participation had closed and were no longer in operation at the time of contact.
Washington SBDC is a network of more than 47 business advisors working in communities across the state to help business owners start, grow or buy/sell a business. SBDC offers no-cost, confidential, one-on-one consulting in any area of business development and in almost any industry. The Washington SBDC has been hosted by Washington State University since 1981 and receives funding from the US Small Business Administration (SBA), WSU, other institutions of higher education and economic development, and the Washington State Department of Commerce.