US Bank: Wisconsin small business owners gaining optimism but remain cautious

Contact:

Nicole Garrison-Sprenger, U.S. Bank Public Relations

(612) 303-0731, [email protected]

WISCONSIN SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS GAINING OPTIMISM BUT REMAIN CAUTIOUS
MILWAUKEE

(May 15, 2014) – Small business owners in Wisconsin are gaining optimism but remain cautious and feel the state’s economy is on the same track as the national, according to results of the 2014 U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey. The survey reveals trends in economic sentiment, issues of greatest concern to small business owners, plans for future hiring and capital expenditures, and innovation.

Now in its fifth year, the survey polled 3,173 small businesses during the first quarter of 2014, including 200 in Wisconsin, with $10 million or less in annual revenue across the 25 states where U.S. Bank provides small business banking services. A full
breakdown of the survey
is available online, as well as local
highlights
.

“Although our state’s small business owners are still skeptical about the pace of the economic recovery, they’re starting to sense that demand is coming back. We’ve been hearing more interest from owners in making business investments, particularly from those who took the recession as an opportunity to adjust business plans and become more efficient,” said Mike Ward, regional small business banking manager for U.S. Bank in Southeastern Wisconsin.

Economic Outlook

Over the five-year history of the survey, Wisconsin small business owners have become increasingly optimistic toward business conditions in their state. Still, just under half (48 percent) describe them as either “good,” “very good” or “excellent,” while the majority (52 percent) describe them as “fair” or “poor.” They were also more likely (41 percent) to describe the state’s economy at the “same” as the national, rather than stronger (28 percent) or weaker (24 percent)

Wisconsin small business owners were more optimistic when asked about the state of their own business, as 71 percent described the financial health of their business as “good,” “very good” or “excellent,” compared to 70 percent nationally. Similar to those nationally, nearly nine in ten (89 percent) expect revenue this year to be equal to or higher than last year. Asked about factors influencing their view of the local economic conditions, they said that government planning, lower taxes and the general small business atmosphere were reasons to feel good about doing business in Wisconsin.

Investing In Their Business

According to the survey, small business owners in Wisconsin and across the country are hesitant to make significant investments in their business such as hiring. For example, 21 percent of those in Missouri said they plan to add to staff in the next year, compared to 20 percent nationally, and 29 percent said they were likely to make a capital expenditure in the next year, same as nationally.

National Issues

Like their national counterparts, concern about healthcare was the top national issue for Wisconsin small business owners in 2014, as less than one in five (19 percent) said they believe the national health care reform law will be positive for their business in the long run. The next most prominent national issues were unemployment, taxes and the federal budget.

Work/Life Balance

The overwhelming majority of Wisconsin small business owners surveyed described themselves as “Working to Live” (74 percent) rather than “Living to Work” (26 percent) when asked to choose between the two.

Technology & Innovation

Wisconsin small business owners are ahead of the curve when it comes to technology. They are more likely than the general population to be innovators and early adopters of new technology.

* Source: Rogers, E.M., Diffusion of Innovators, 4th Edition (New York Free Press, 1995)

Mobile capabilities are among the ways that business owners are taking advantage of technology. On a local level, 75 percent of Wisconsin small business owners (same as the national average) said they have integrated mobile technology into their business strategy, whether through mobile banking, social networking, web design, payments or other uses.

In addition to looking to new technology to position their businesses in the marketplace, 63 percent of Wisconsin small business owners (compared to 64 percent nationally) maintain a social media presence to make connections, find talent or market their business. Those who maintain a presence said that Facebook was most effective, followed closely by LinkedIn.

U.S. Bank’s commitment to the small business owner extends beyond banking and lending. U.S. Bank’s small business website, U.S.
Bank Connect™
, offers advice and networking opportunities to business owners of varying sizes and stages of their business life cycle. In addition to advisory and networking resources available on Connect, U.S. Bank has introduced a number of products and services since last year’s survey to help small business owners add capabilities and improve efficiencies to their payments process:

· Rebranding
and Enhancing Rewards for Credit Card Suite
: Earlier this year, U.S. Bank introduced a newly-designed, more rewarding suite of credit cards: U.S. Bank Business Edge. Business Edge, which features a number of card options to suit the type of small business and needs of the owner, provides flexible tools that can help business owners simplify spending, manage cash flow and get rewards for spending.

· Credit
Card for Nonprofit Organizations
: With the U.S. Bank Visa® Community Credit Card, nonprofit organizations and small municipalities can now apply for a card with fewer fees, a powerful online expense-management tool and other features crafted to their unique needs. The U.S. Bank Visa® Community Credit Card has no annual fees, no late fees and no over-limit fees and is now offered in all U.S. Bank branches.

· Program
to Control How Business Cards Are Used
: U.S. Bank was the first bank in the nation to offer Visa Payment Controls, which gives small business owners control over how, when and where their employees’ business credit cards are used, giving them more time focused on their business and less time worrying about how their business credit cards are being used by their employees. Online management controls let small business owners manage how employees can use their cards based on time of day or day of week, geographical area, certain merchant types, dollar amount and/or transaction types, such as cash advances or cash withdrawals.

· Easy-To-Use
Customer Loyalty Program
: U.S. Bancorp subsidiary Elavon, a leading global payment solutions provider, launched Fanfare, an easy-to-use loyalty program that delivers rewards to patrons of small to mid-sized businesses right at the point-of-sale. With Fanfare, businesses can build deeper relationships with their customers by providing meaningful rewards via integrated technology. Fanfare enables customers to sign up and track loyalty rewards via a customized website.

· Continued
Mobile Innovation
: U.S. Bank is an industry leader in providing mobile banking services to businesses and consumers. In addition to features such as photo check deposit, U.S. Bank offers solutions for small business owners to accept mobile payments and is working on new programs that help businesses grow customer loyalty and take advantage of the latest technology to connect with their customers on their smartphone.

About U.S. Bank

U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $371 billion in assets as of March 31, 2014, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States. The Company operates 3,083 banking offices in 25 states and 4,878 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust and payment services products to consumers, businesses and institutions. Visit U.S. Bancorp on the web at usbank.com.