The onslaught of non-stop challenges over the last two years — from pandemic restrictions and staffing shortages to inflation and rising gas prices — is taking a toll on small business owners, according to a new survey from Podium, a technology platform that serves more than 100,000 local businesses in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.
Just over 7 in 10 owners (72%) feel burned out from the pandemic’s impact on their business, according to the survey. Inventory shortages, the lack of separation from work and home, and challenges communicating with customers ranked among the top pandemic-related issues, according to the survey of 1,001 small business owners done in partnership with Censuswide (fielded May 23 to June 6). Owners also cited inflation (48%) and rising gas prices (39%) as two top threats to their businesses.
The survey showed that staffing remains a sore point, with 40% of owners hesitant to hire due to the rising minimum wage and 42% saying there is a shortage of workers with the skills they need.
Faced with persistent pressure, many owners are losing their inherent hopefulness. The National Federation of Independent Business said its Small Business Optimism Index hit the lowest point ever recorded in June, with confidence at a 48-year low.
“Running a local small business has always been hard, but in the last few years, it’s been especially tough,” says Podium founder and CEO Eric Rea. “With challenges like inflation and staffing shortages, many small business owners are now doing the jobs of several people. It’s vitally important they get the support they need to succeed. These businesses are the lifeblood of countless communities and the engines that fuel overall economic growth.”
According to the survey, many business owners have turned to technology to become more efficient and help reduce the strain. Among those who have gone contactless to abide by Covid regulations, nearly nine in 10 (85%) said using contactless communications such as text and online messages was helpful for their business. Over half (57%) said communicating with customers over text helped reduce stress and workload for themselves and their staff and 44% have opted for technological solutions as an alternative to hiring.
At the same time, many customers welcome the use of digital communications. About half of the small business owners (51%) say their customers prefer doing business via “contactless” methods such as text and online messages instead of in-person or phone. Slightly more than a quarter (27%) said customers no longer want to talk to them on the phone.
Nearly nine in 10 owners (89%) say ease of communication is a somewhat or very important driver in keeping customers happy.
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