Atlanta entrepreneurs compete for talent as revenue growth and economic confidence drive expansion

Local entrepreneurs are finishing 2018 on a high note, with most Atlanta-area small business owners anticipating year-over-year revenue growth and making plans to hire in the year ahead, according to the fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report. While the majority of Atlanta business owners are optimistic about the direction of the economy, entrepreneurs are struggling to land qualified employees as they look to expand their businesses. 

The report, based on a semiannual survey of 1,000 small business owners across the country and the greater Atlanta area, revealed that 85 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs are confident their year-end revenue will exceed that of 2017. In addition, over the next 12 months:

  • Seventy-three percent of Atlanta business owners believe their revenue will increase (vs. 71 percent in fall 2017)
  • Eighty percent plan to expand (vs. 83 percent in fall 2017)
  • Forty-three percent plan to hire (vs. 33 percent in fall 2017, and 16 percentage points higher than the national average)
  • Sixty-nine percent are confident the Atlanta economy will improve (vs. 60 percent in fall 2017)
  • Sixty-four percent express similar confidence in the national economy (the highest level of confidence among business owners surveyed in 10 major cities nationwide)

“Atlanta business owners are experiencing a sustained pattern of revenue growth and are looking to expand amid a strong local economy,” said Dean Bird, Atlanta small business banker manager at Bank of America. “Concern over most economic issues is declining, and the only factor significantly tempering Atlanta businesses’ expansion plans is a heated competition for talent.”

Heightened competition for Atlanta talent as small business hiring ramps up

As Atlanta business owners make plans to hire in the year ahead, they acknowledge that identifying and retaining employees has become a significant challenge. In the last year, turnover affected 21 percent of Atlanta entrepreneurs. Among business owners who sought to hire new employees, 56 percent say they had difficulty finding qualified candidates, in large part due to the tightening job market.

To adjust to these challenges, business owners who sought to hire in the last year have modified their hiring strategies to find and recruit top talent by:

  • Shifting to a more flexible culture in terms of hours, location and extra time off (27 percent)
  • Using social media more actively (22 percent)
  • Offering higher salaries (10 percent)

When it comes to the top characteristics Atlanta business owners are looking for in their potential job candidates, they primarily value passion for the work and mission of the business (52 percent), the ability to learn new skills (52 percent) and integrity (51 percent).

Concern for most economic issues declines or holds steady; worry over health care and taxes dips significantly

In correlation with positive business forecasts in Atlanta, the survey found a general trend of declining concern across economic factors that are tracked. While health care costs remain at the top of the list, Atlanta entrepreneurs’ concern over this factor fell to 53 percent, a 19 percent drop from fall 2017. Concern over corporate taxes also decreased significantly, with only 42 percent identifying this as a burdensome issue nearly a year after the enactment of U.S. tax reform, down from 50 percent in fall 2017.

Perhaps a result of recent changes to and uncertainty about trade policies, 34 percent of Atlanta business owners identify U.S. trade policy as an economic concern. Thirty-six percent say the latest tariffs/U.S. trade policies have impacted their businesses, with 8 percent reporting a negative impact, 11 percent reporting a positive impact and 16 percent reporting both positive and negative effects.

Atlanta small business owners feel the holiday spirit; recommend entrepreneurship as a career path

Atlanta business owners are feeling the holiday spirit as 85 percent plan to offer at least one holiday perk to their employees. The top holiday perks being offered are office closures (52 percent), flexible hours or vacation time (42 percent) and employee gifts (42 percent). Finally, despite unique challenges in managing a small business, Atlanta entrepreneurs love what they do. Ninety-three percent say the added stress of entrepreneurship has been worth it, and are the most likely (95 percent) nationwide to recommend that others follow in their footsteps.

For a complete, in-depth look at the insights of the nation’s small business owners, read the fall 2018 Bank of America Business Advantage Small Business Owner Report and for additional insights, download the Small Business Owner Report infographic.


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