The economy continued to recover over the course of 2013 and many small business owners across the country likely saw their bottom lines improve during that time as a consequence. However, that is not to say that most companies did not run into the occasional roadblock, or that those obstacles won't linger for the coming year as well.
For example, perhaps the biggest headache small business owners faced last year is the huge amount of uncertainty related to their requirements and costs under the new and constantly updated health care law, according to a report from The Associated Press. Many did not know whether they were going to fall under the coverage mandate, which stated that they had to offer all of their employees health insurance, and still more were concerned about the cost of having to do so. Moreover, the federal government's problems in implementing the health insurance exchange websites grew so severe over the course of the year that the Obama administration had to delay implementation of the small business requirement altogether, pushing it back until 2015, but many experts said that the decision only kicked the can down the road and ended up being damaging for the many companies across the country which had already begun the work of shopping for and making decisions about health coverage for 2014.
Many companies were also bothered by another aspect of federal lawmakers' problems that presented itself a little earlier in the year: The government shutdown and other budget fights, the report said. Altogether, the sequester followed by the decision of the U.S. Congress to shutter all federal operations for some time, seem to have cost small businesses nationwide as much as a few billion dollars altogether, particularly those that operate in states where the federal government has major bases of operation. Fortunately, these problems will not present themselves again in the coming year, as lawmakers recently struck a budget deal that will keep operations running smoothly for 2014 and beyond, without interruption.
Financial problems still persist
Of course, those are two issues that are largely out of the control of the small business sector as a whole, but on a more macro level, many such companies still faced other problems this past year, and both may continue into the coming one as well, the report said. For one thing, hiring may be picking up somewhat, but it still remains relatively low, and unemployment continues to linger at higher levels than historical averages, as has been the case for some time now. More companies may be willing to begin these efforts even if they're worried about how feasible they are, however, as a recent poll from Bank of America shows that more than half say they need more workers to succeed in the coming year.
Another snag that hit many small businesses this year was the fact that even if they wanted to expand, they might not have been able to do so simply because they had little to no access to credit from banks and other lenders, the report said. Experts predict standards will loosen somewhat, and the U.S. Small Business Administration is likewise now working to encourage more issuing of financing to independent companies.
Owners worried about their prospects for improvement in the coming year may also want to look at their companies' expenditures as a means of improving their bottom lines. For instance, if they shop around for lower-cost small business insurance coverage such as liability insurance, they might be able to save thousands of dollars per year.