Facebook survey shows how small, medium businesses are recovering from worst of COVID-19

Business

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Nearly half of small and medium-sized businesses in North Carolina responding to a survey say they did more sales in the past month than they did in the same month in 2020.

The latest Global State of Small Business survey by Facebook mostly paints an optimistic picture of recovery from the worst of the pandemic by those smaller businesses across the state.

And one local economist says he trusts those survey results.

“I think it reflects what’s going on now for the average business,” said Michael Walden, a professor and economist at North Carolina State University.

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Facebook in July surveyed a minimum of 227 small and medium-sized businesses across North Carolina and more than 35,000 across the globe, said Diana Doukas, a policy manager for the tech giant.

It defines those businesses as those having 250 or fewer employees.

“We certainly wouldn’t come out with a report if we didn’t feel confident that this is showing an accurate reflection of what the business community is experiencing, because we want to make sure this is useful information,” she said.

Survey results show 48 percent of responding businesses said they showed higher sales during the preceding month than they did during that month last year — an increase of 26 percentage points from the 22 percent that responded that way during a previous survey in February.

“We’ve certainly seen an expediting of transition for small business from offline to online,” Doukas said. “And small businesses, they’re entrepreneurs, they’re going to figure it out.”

And more of them — 63 percent — said they were confident they’ll be open in another 12 months, an increase of 4 points from the 59 percent that responded that way in February.

But for some, the recovery is slower.

More than 30 percent still expect challenges related to cash flow, 27 percent are bracing for a lack of demand and 19 percent said they cut staff during the pandemic — up from 17 percent in February.

“The question that arises — is there still some worry about the future?” Walden said. “But I’d say that’s right in line. I’ve got worries about the future. I think everyone has worries about the future, until we see where we can really be on the other side of this virus.”

Doukas says Facebook want to help those who are struggling.

She says in addition to the training resources the company previously made available, the company has or will soon launch several programs:

— The Good Ideas Exchange, which she said is “bringing together industry leaders and small businesses … to really discuss the issues and kind of throw spaghetti at the wall and see exactly what we can do to help support the community.”

— The Invoice Fast Track in which Facebook will buy unpaid invoices to free up cash flow for those businesses. 

— A small business funding portal, which lists grant and loan opportunities and helps those businesses find them. “It’s really meant to be almost a one-stop shop for small businesses to find new, alternative and accessible ways for access to capital with (community development financial institutions),” she said. That program will open Oct. 1, she said.

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