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Mid-Year Report Card: How Are Business Owners Doing?

By the DynaSis Team

At the end of 2013, Inc. magazine published a 2014 business outlook report based upon information gathered during the Inc. 5000 Conference. At the time, Inc. reported, the CEOs of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in the U.S. expressed optimism about the upcoming year, with 37% stating their prospects were “excellent,” and 45% ranking them as “good.” Furthermore, 81% indicated they planned to increase their workforce.

Despite being upbeat and ready to hire, only 9% of these savvy business owners reported being “very optimistic” that the U.S. was headed for a sustained period of economic growth. Forty-six percent were slightly optimistic; predicting slow but steady growth, and 26% felt that the country still has serious problems that are preventing a full recovery.

At the time, specific concerns these business stars expressed included gridlock in Washington, the Affordable Care Act, and unpredictable consumer behavior and spending.  The National Federation of Independent Business found even more uncertainty, with 62% of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) stating they were afraid to expand for similar reasons. A major concern was the economic growth “seesaw” that appeared to be taking place.

As we head into the latter half of 2014, we thought it might be interesting to see how well the business economic climate has performed—and give you a chance to benchmark your own results against those figures. So, how are we doing, today?

According to recent figures, it looks like the answer is, “pretty good.” U.S. businesses added 288,000 jobs in June 2014, lowering the unemployment rate to 6.1%. That’s five straight months of gains—the longest streak in 15 years.

Furthermore, the U.S. economy has reversed the declines of the frigid winter and economists expect it to grow at a healthy rate of 3% for the rest of the year. (Interestingly, that is the exact rate that Moody’s Chief Economist Mark Zandi forecast in late 2013.)  The stock market, which many pessimists predicted to crash in 2014, has had its ups and downs but overall has stayed strong.

Of course, it’s no secret that much of this growth has been fostered by artificially low interest rates bolstered by bond-buying programs. Yet, even with the federal government easing away from this approach, the economic situation appears to be holding its own. Economists attribute this to consumer confidence inspired by a healthy stock market, strong banks and other signs of economic stability.

The result of all this activity is that bank lending is up 4% this year (and business lending is up 10%) as of mid-June. Businesses have done their part, too. When dealing with the Affordable Care Act, for example, businesses appear to have used creative tactics such as realigning shift assignments rather than laying off workers as some experts predicted.

Kiplinger’s now forecasts retail sales to grow 4% for the remainder of 2014, and for business spending to be up approximately 5%. How is your business doing? Will you grow or contract in 2014? Are you spending more?

If you’re not where you want to be—if perhaps you long to join the ranks of the Inc. 5000—use the second half of the year to plan the changes that will help you accomplish your goals. Improving your company’s access to and use of technology is absolutely one of the best strategies you can adopt.

We took a little break from “talking tech” this week, but in our next article, we’ll offer some compelling arguments that your technology investments will reward you with a stronger, more competitive company. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, you are always invited to fill out our inquiry form or give us a call at (770) 569-4600.

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