Research Outline

Small Business Owners in the United States


Gain an understanding of the current perspective of US small business owners in terms of their approach to staying alive and surviving in the current economic environment, including whether they are feeling the need to pivot or to stick to their standard business strategy, their spending habits, savings and expense adjustment strategies, and success rates of those small businesses who have pivoted. Gain information on what strategies small businesses are employing to increase productivity, increase profitability, cut costs, and reduce chaos.

Early Findings

  • Key challenges being faced by small businesses in the US due to COVID include "muted demand, new customer expectations, and operational challenges because of health and safety restrictions".
  • While there was limited data on how much the average US small business has in savings, one source notes that most small businesses in the US "lack the liquid assets to cover the cost of COVID revenue declines or lock down closure".
  • This gap however resulted in small business loan limits being increased to keep these businesses afloat.
  • Other broad themes noted for small business adaptation during and after COVID include investing in talent and technology, adjusting staffing models, and finding ways to protect health of both employees and customers.
  • Social distancing adaptations have been one of the most effective ways small businesses have stayed afloat, with 60% of all restaurants in the US adding cubside pickup, and many independent grocery and food retailers adding curbside pickup and delivery as well.
  • Operational adjustments are notably more challenging for smaller businesses than their larger counterparts, as adjusting a layout for social distancing or safe productivity can require a larger fraction of resources for a small company than for a medium to large size company.
  • Many small businesses in the US have already closed permanently, with an estimated 55% of businesses closed since March predicted to not reopen again.
  • Reviewing and managing cash flow is one of the key strategies suggested for small businesses to adjust effectively during and after COVID.
  • Specifically, it's suggested companies maintain liquidity of resources and supplies, as well as keeping close track of how many external funding resources they have available, such as eligibility for loans and other lines of business credit.
  • Cutting down on secondary costs such as advertising or consumable items is also suggested, as is incentivizing early payment by customers and clients by offering discounts or other perks.
  • Maintaining communications around payment and resource flow with customers, employees, lenders, vendors, and suppliers.
  • Small businesses who have also been able to pivot to adopt more contactless services have thrived, including digital payment options and online shops.