Don't blame the banks. While it can be difficult to get loans, the SurePayroll survey of small business owners finds most are not trying to.
As the economy has muddled along the past few years, banks have been criticized for making it hard for small businesses to get loans.
While it certainly has been more difficult than in the past for small businesses to get loans to expand or buy new equipment, the results of our August small business scorecardshow the banks may not be the place to lay the blame for small business troubles.
The August scorecard survey found hiring was down slightly (0.1%), as was as the average paycheck (0.2%), compared to July. Optimism among small business owners is trending slowly downward too, now at 60%, after hitting a high of 65% in April. These numbers are in line with what we've been seeing the last several months.
What struck me is that 82% of respondents said they had not sought lending in 2012. Of those who had, only 32% had difficulty securing it.
Much maligned as the banks have been, it appears that small businesses really don't have enough reason to borrow (and therefore spend) right now. There's simply not enough demand in the overall economy to seek lending for expansion.
The four out of five small business owners who aren't seeking money to grow right now may not have enough confidence in the future, enough clarity on which direction to take their businesses, or enough demand building to convince them there is growth to be had.
At SurePayroll, we've certainly heard from small business owners who are having difficulty getting loans. That problem still exists. However, it appears many small business owners are instead focusing on slow and steady growth, and driving up productivity to increase margins with the use of technology, fewer workers, and more hours.
I can understand why August might have been a slow month with vacations and businesses holding off on new hires until the year-end stretch run. However, compared to August 2011, hiring is down 1.5% and the average paycheck is down 1.4%.
The economy is a wheel and it's just not spinning fast enough right now. Small business owners seem to be waiting for it to really turn before they take action.
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. @michaelalter