Small And Mid-Sized Business Leaders Anticipate Uptick In Business Conditions During The Next Six Months

ATLANTA, Dec. 13, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Nearly half (49 percent) of business leaders expect general business conditions to be slightly or much better six months from now, compared to the 27 percent who say it will be slightly or much worse. Despite this optimism, 45 percent of small and medium-sized business leaders expect 2013 hiring levels to fall short of 2012.

The findings stem from the Winter 2012 Cbeyond Business Leader Snapshot™, a blind survey of 435 executives who own or manage a small to medium-sized business with 10 or more employees. The objective of the survey is to provide timely insights into relevant business and technology issues impacting small and mid-sized businesses. Company size ranged from less than $250,000 in revenue to more than $5 million, with 21 percent having more than $5 million in annual sales, 32 percent having more than 100 employees, and 70 percent having been in business for five years or more.  Industries were represented as follows: 38 percent business services, 36 percent retail and manufacturing, 19 percent personal services and 7 percent non-profit.

Cbeyond Inc., (Nasdaq:CBEY), the technology ally to small and mid-sized businesses, conducted the survey which studied the current business sentiment and technology outlook among small and medium-sized business decision makers in the U.S. Complete survey findings are available at .

Among the business leaders surveyed, 51 percent believe taxes are the biggest immediate threat to the success of small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S., followed by government regulations (41 percent), the cost of labor (34 percent) and the federal deficit (32 percent).

A plurality of SMB leaders (38 percent) fear the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as ObamaCare, will have a negative impact on their bottom lines in 2013.  At the same time, only 15 percent expect this legislation to have a positive impact on their bottom line numbers.

When asked to rate their stress levels today versus before the November election, the majority (58 percent) of small business leaders say their stress level is on the rise with 30 percent stating their stress level is much greater and 28 percent stating it is somewhat greater.

Business Leader 2013 Technology Outlook

Small business leaders also expect technology to play a major role in their businesses in 2013.  The specific technologies business leaders said would be very or somewhat important to them in the coming year ranked as follows:
  • 94 percent network access (high-speed, always-on Internet access),
  • 94 percent desktop/laptop management (desktop support, software/antivirus maintenance),
  • 91 percent applications (security, productivity and collaboration software),
  • 90 percent mobile services,
  • 85 percent enterprise-grade voice and broadband services,
  • 82 percent cloud services.

The cloud is gaining traction among SMB leaders.  Of the respondents, 21 percent stated operating their business without cloud services (use of hardware and software delivered as a service over the Internet) would be a major challenge.  The majority of cloud users also find significant benefits from the technology, with 83 percent stating the cloud made them more flexible; 78 percent crediting the cloud for making them more productive and 71 percent stating that the cloud is saving them money.

Other findings showed SMB leaders are interested in leveraging cloud-based solutions for a variety of business functions in the coming year, including:
  • 33 percent for banking (i.e., online banking or cash management),
  • 33 percent for company email,
  • 30 percent for file sharing,
  • 30 percent for data archival,
  • 29 percent for accounting/ERP.

More proof of the importance of technology is evidenced by spending plans for 2013.  Sixty-four percent of SMB leaders plan to increase their technology budget in 2013.  Thirty-one percent expect their technology budgets to remain flat, and only 5 percent anticipate a decrease in their technology budget.

"Cbeyond takes great steps to understand our customers' needs and the trends and economic conditions that are impacting their businesses and technology decisions," said Paul Carmody, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Cbeyond.  "This study showed there are still concerns about market conditions and the impact of healthcare costs.  As small and medium-sized businesses seek to cope with macro factors affecting their companies, leaders increasingly view technology as a way to help them drive productivity.  They also are starting to see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel -- a collective sentiment which we hope is indicative of the overall U.S. economy moving forward in the coming months."

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