Small businesses comprise about 30 million companies in the United States and employ nearly half of the workforce. They play a significant role in the growth of the economy and today's historically low unemployment rate. But as they grow, they face a number of obstacles that can derail their success.

We surveyed more than 1,000 small business owners with annual revenue between $1 and $20 million across the U.S. to explore the largest challenges they face in today's economy and at various stages of building their business.

Specifically, we asked them about the obstacles they encounter when growing their companies; how technology impacts them — for good or bad; their concerns about and experiences with fraud and cybersecurity; and how they plan to exit their businesses when the time comes.

Throughout the course of this year, we will be unveiling the survey results and sharing resources aimed at helping small business owners overcome some of the challenges they identified. First up: Findings from our survey questions asking about the top challenges of growth.

Challenges of Growth for Small Businesses

Expanding a company can be a difficult task no matter how large or small your business is now. However, our research reveals that as businesses grow their revenue beyond $3 million annually, they experience more challenges to growth and tend to be more likely to work with their financial institution to address some of those issues.

Key Findings

Our survey respondents identified the top three challenges they currently experience as competition, revenue and access to skilled labor.

When asked about what challenges could potentially derail their business in the next five to seven years, there were many overlaps. However, respondents expressed increased concern about the potential of future government regulations and taxes.

 

Owners of businesses with $3 million or more in revenue said they face more challenges to pursuing growth than smaller business owners.

 

About 24 percent of all respondents said their financial institution played no role in helping their company grow, and an additional 38 percent said they received little help from their financial institutions.

But bigger companies appear to lean on their financial services providers more frequently: Of companies with more than $3 million in annual revenue, more than half said their financial institution played a large role or played somewhat of a role in their growth.

 

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Resources for Overcoming Challenges of Growth

How Important is a Financial Institution to Your Company's Success?

Small Businesses With Greater Revenue Experience More Growth Challenges

How Rewarding Customer Loyalty Can Be a Revenue Growth Driver

6 Tips to Improve Your Accounts Receivable Collections

Employee Retention Strategies for Keeping Your Talent

How to Create an Effective Incentive Compensation Plan

Sustainable Business Practices Can Improve Your Bottom Line

About the City National Small Business Report

The 2018 City National Small Business Report polled 1,031 business owners, selected from research panels that represent populations of business owners and entrepreneurs from across the United States. We received between 800 and 900 responses per survey question, unless otherwise indicated. The individuals surveyed included men and women whose business revenue is between $1 and $20 million annually and who employ up to 250 employees.

The survey was fielded online from January through March 2018. Our aim was to help identify the primary challenges and opportunities faced by small to medium-sized business owners across industries in the U.S. by gauging attitudes around finance, technology, labor, competition and long-term goals and strategies for growth.

This report is for general information and education only and was compiled from data and sources believed to be reliable. City National Bank does not warrant that it is accurate or complete. Opinions expressed and estimates or projections given are those of the authors as of the date of the report with no obligation to update or notify of inaccuracy or change. This report is not a recommendation or an offer or solicitation to buy or sell any financial instrument. It is not specific investment advice. Readers must make independent decisions based on their own objectives and financial situations. This report may not be reproduced, distributed or further published by any person without the written consent of City National Bank. Please cite source when quoting.