A Sign of Life for the Economy: Business Owner and Banker Optimism

Last Updated Jun 20, 2011 9:40 PM EDT

Is the economy finally going to turn around? Business owners and their bankers finally appear optimistic that it will, according to the most recent Pepperdine Private Capital Markets Project, sponsored by the university's Graziado School of Business and Management.

More than half of the 1,221 business owners surveyed thought overall business conditions would improve in the next year, and more than three quarters said they saw growth opportunities that their own businesses would be taking advantage of within the next year. The survey also asked 284 investment bankers about the financing outlook for private companies.

Specifically, the survey found that:

  • Businesses expect the economy to improve. Some 53 percent of the owners of privately-held business say they expect the general business environment to improve in the next year.
  • Entrepreneurs are even more optimistic for their own companies. Even business owners who don't have much faith in the general economy see opportunities for their companies. Some 78 percent expect their own business to grow in the next year.
  • Financiers also expect things to get better. The survey asked a wide range of capital providers, from traditional bankers to angel investors, asset-backed lenders and private equity investors, which direction they think the economy is headed. Two-thirds said they expect the economy to improve in the next year. Slightly more than half, or 54 percent, said they expect their own business to pick up in the next year.
  • For many private companies, growth is already here. On average, the businesses in the survey said revenues had grown by 4.2 percent in the past six months.
  • Small businesses are having more trouble getting financing than big ones, at least according to their bankers. An overwhelming 88 percent of bankers said they were having trouble raising bank debt for their small business clients, while only 23 percent said raising debt was a problem for large privately-held companies.
Even though both bankers and business owners are generally optimistic, uncertainty about the economy was still cited as the top worry for both groups. Some 29 percent of survey respondents in both categories cited economic uncertainty as their greatest business concern.

How much opportunity do you see for your business--or career--over the next 12 months?
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Kimberly Weisul is a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/weisul.
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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.