As our nation celebrates National Small Business Week and Census 2020 gets rolling, there is no better time than the present to talk about the importance of data and, most importantly, data on women business owners. As Marissa Mayer said, “With data collection, ‘the sooner the better’ is always the best answer,” and we cannot agree more at the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO).
Every year, NAWBO surveys our members to get their assessment of the business environment for women in America.With 11.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, according to American Express 2017 State of Small Business Report, we need to know where women business owners stand to better understand our economic landscape.
In the 2019 NAWBO Annual Membership Survey, with more than a thousand members responding, NAWBO received some important data and found some continuing trends to share with today’s lawmakers, job seekers and those looking to do business with women business owners. The survey asks a variety of important questions, including business demographics, important policy concerns and financial analysis, among other topics.
Year after year, our survey finds that the woman business owner is a driven individual. She strives to grow her business and go above and beyond for herself, her family and her employees. No one can deny the determination behind these women. Nearly three-quarters of respondents work more than 40 hours a week, more than two-thirds contribute personal funds for the betterment of their business and 75 percent say that if they were forced to make ends meet, they would start with delaying or reducing their own compensation. However, no matter how hard business owners work, no matter how much sweat, equity and time they put in, there are still challenges to be addressed.
For 2019, the top three business challenges identified were finding ways to drive growth (58 percent), finding time to focus on core business (47 percent), and finding high quality employees (28 percent). The top two struggles underscore the common concern of any business owner -so much to do and so little time to do it. We see this dynamic play out with women business owners, as many important business interests are put on the back burner while the focus is on the day to day tasks. For example, for the second year in a row, close to half of the respondents have done nothing to prevent or prepare for a cybersecurity incident, and while more than half are saving for retirement, most of these women have done absolutely nothing to plan for the succession of their business.
When it comes to public policy, the same concerns continue to take center stage. Taxes and regulation are the top focus for respondents, with many believing it is too soon to tell the impacts of the 2017 tax reform package. On the other hand, if you asked these business owners what action policymakers should take, half of the respondents would say addressing health care costs should be a priority. Despite the concerns regarding policy or the challenges these women face, they continue to remain optimistic, with 99 percent planning to either increase or maintain the number of employees or contractors and 45 percent saying they are optimistic for their business and the economy overall.
By highlighting these concerns and addressing them, NAWBO believes we can continue to grow this important subset of our economy. Women business owners are a fast-growing sector, and we must support it and give these women solutions and resources to grow their businesses. Nearly half of our members want to hire but cannot find the people to do the job. We have to address this problem head on. Congress must look at our workforce and see how we tackle the unskilled labor force that is a common problem not just for NAWBO members, but for small business owners at large.
NAWBO was founded in 1975 to be the first advocacy organization for all women business owners. Our annual membership survey is designed to provide clarity on the economic picture from the perspective of women business owners, who will continue to be a growing force in our nation’s economy for years to come.
Molly Gimmel, Chair on the National Board of Directors, National Association of Women Business Owners, [email protected]