NH’s small businesses continue to plow through pandemic, SBDC survey finds

Results point to fears of sales, revenue and customer loss
Liz Gray

Liz Gray, state director of the Small Business Development Center, says the organization will be launching a cybersecurity initiative as a result of its recent resiliency survey.

Some 70% of New Hampshire businesses reported a decrease in monthly revenue as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, and 42% said they are worse off than they were in June 2020, according to the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center’s new resiliency survey.

At the top of their concerns, the 42% who said things are worse for them listed maintaining sales, revenue and customers, public acceptance of the vaccine, availability of the vaccine, supply chain disruptions, access to capital and cybersecurity.

The SBDC’s second resiliency survey was conducted in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire Survey Center in partnership with 56 business organizations across the state.

All told, 1,611 businesses from 174 New Hampshire communities took part, with the highest concentration of businesses reporting from the Seacoast and northern New Hampshire. Organizers plan to use the results from the survey to provide services and policies that best support the businesses of the state.

They survey found that, overall, businesses are still contracting because of the pandemic. Nearly half have reduced their hours of operations and a third closed temporarily. Three in eight report having fewer employees. and the average number of employees decreased to 12, down slightly from mid-February 2020.

Three-fourths of the businesses reached in the survey said they applied for relief in 2020 and just over half said they planned t to apply for relief in 2021. The most common assistance came through the federal Paycheck Protection Program” Nine of 10 said their business received it. A little over half received an Economic Injury Disaster advance or loan. One in four were able to maintain or bring back employees under PPP and over a third changed the layout of their business to protect employees.

As for the future, businesses cited access to customers, health and safety guidance, financial assistance and access to the Covid-19 vaccine for their employees as the most important for their business going forward.

In the first survey, released last summer, the results were more discouraging.

At the time, over 80% of respondents had reported a revenue loss, more than 40% said they had to cut workers, and one of six aid they weren’t even they would survive the year.

“These surveys are allowing us to not only understand the impact of Covid are having on the business world, but they are also going to provide policymakers with guidance as to what they need to do into the future,” said Andy Smith, director of the Survey Center.

‘Have their voices heard’

The survey was initially presented in a 33-page summary report. Additional reports specific to different New Hampshire regions and industries are being developed to give business leaders more insight into their specific sector.

“I know a lot of people are talking about survey fatigue, but we actually got more responses in Phase 2,” said Liz Gray, director of the SBDC. The previous phase had around 1,500 respondents, while this phase had 1,611.

Gray thinks the high response rate was prompted by businesses interested in sharing their Covid-19 experiences.

“People genuinely want to have their voices heard in the hopes that economic developments like practitioners or economic development organizations like SBDC will respond and help,” she said.

The SBDC plans to use the responses from this survey to ensure they are creating programs that will best help small businesses in the state. Since a high percentage of businesses said they still plan to apply for relief, Gray said the SBDC “will continue to run our webinars, keep our Covid assistance page updated, and make sure that our newsletters send out the most up to date information on new programs as they’re rolling out.”

She also said the SBDC is also launching a Cybersecurity Initiative.

The number of businesses concerned about cybersecurity increased by 7% from last year’s resiliency survey – a data point that Gray finds “particularly interesting.” Due to an increase in ecommerce and social media presence among businesses during the pandemic, the SBDC anticipates that cybersecurity will remain a growing concern in the state.

The initiative, which will be in partnership with the N.H. Tech Alliance, will provide businesses with a cybersecurity resiliency guide, advisory services and other resources.

Gray said the SBDC plans to conduct a third phase of the survey this summer.

“It is a really unique snapshot in time of how people are feeling and how things have changed,” said Gray.

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