Umpqua Bank, a subsidiary of Columbia Banking System Inc., has released the findings of its annual Business Barometer, which provides insights into the attitudes and priorities of small and midsize business leaders in the United States. The study, now in its 6th year, involved surveying 1,250 business leaders across the country.
According to the findings, business leaders are laser-focused on efficiency, reducing uncertainty, and protecting working capital. To achieve these goals, 74% of respondents stated that they are prioritizing digitization in order to increase efficiency. Additionally, 60% of participants said they are investing in tools to safeguard their payment systems.
One notable trend highlighted by the survey is the likelihood of midsize businesses bringing their supply chains back to the US. 57% of midsize businesses expressed a willingness to relocate their supply chains in an effort to reduce risk and increase control.
Cybersecurity has emerged as a concerning issue for midsize companies, surpassing talent issues. With the increasing threat of cyberattacks, businesses are recognizing the need to prioritize cybersecurity measures in order to protect their operations and data.
Despite ongoing concerns about the direction of the economy, the survey found a rising optimism among business leaders. Expectations for revenue and profitability are at their highest levels in five years, with 58% of respondents anticipating an increase in revenue and 51% forecasting higher profitability.
The findings also revealed a growing appetite for investments that will enhance efficiency and competitiveness. Businesses are keen to make prudent investments that will position them for success in the future.
In terms of key investments, businesses are prioritizing efficiency over aggressive growth. Improving operational efficiency was identified as the most crucial factor for success, alongside increasing revenue and sales. Nearly three-quarters of respondents stated that they plan to invest in digitizing new areas of their business to improve efficiency. Automation is particularly important for midsize companies, who see it as the most important action to manage profitability in the next year.
While the appetite for expanding commercial real estate remains steady, it is observed that midsize companies are more inclined to consider expanding their real estate footprints compared to last year.
The survey also addressed the issue of remote work. For industries not limited by in-person services, hybrid schedules remain popular. Over 50% of businesses surveyed offer consistent hybrid work options, with one-third allowing remote workdays for most of the week and one-fifth permitting a full five remote workdays.
The research was conducted by DHM Research on behalf of Umpqua Bank. The online survey was conducted between July 27 and August 8, 2023, and included owners, executives, and financial decision-makers of small and middle-market companies. The margin of error for the survey is ±2.8%.
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