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Counting Down to the Cliff

Small business owners seek long-term direction as the fiscal cliff looms in Washington.
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Small business owners understand that sometimes you have to make short-term decisions--changing a product line, reducing staff, taking in revenue that’s not part of the core business--but you still have to keep an eye towards long-term sustainability. Business owners also know that if you make too many short-term decisions, you wind up not optimizing the long term and creating a bigger problem for the future.

As the fiscal cliff looms, the government doesn’t seem to be heeding this lesson. Small business owners have taken notice.

In the first 2012 post-election SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard, a survey administered by my company, we were hoping to see some clarity and optimism from our respondents. However, it seems small business owners still don’t hear any real positive leadership or direction coming from Washington, and our survey reflects that.

Only 60% of small business owners said they were optimistic about the small business economy in November, down eight points from October, and 61% said they weren’t feeling any more certainty about the government’s ability to avoid the looming fiscal cliff. Our hiring and average paycheck numbers stayed mostly flat, with hiring ticking down just 0.1% month-over-month.  

From my conversations with small business owners, I believe that what they likely want is some compromise from our lawmakers and a clear path forward regarding economic policy. Unfortunately, so far, it looks like we’re in for more fighting between the parties and a short-term approach to solving the problems that lie ahead.

We’ve yet to hear a real long-term solution to this fiscal cliff crisis. If Washington does find a way to avoid the cliff, the fear among small business owners is it will be just a Band-Aid, not a cure--without regard for the long term.

I’m curious if our leaders have the same approach as small business owners. What’s their long-term vision? Where are we going ultimately? I’d like to hear an answer, and it needs to be soon. The clock is ticking.


Last updated: Dec 4, 2012

MICHAEL ALTER | Columnist | President of SurePayroll

Michael Alter is president of SurePayroll, America?s leading online payroll service. He received an MBA from the Harvard Business School and holds a bachelor's degree in economics from Northwestern University.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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