RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Small businesses in North Carolina remain open and are generating revenue at rates higher than the national average, according to a survey conducted by the parent company of Facebook.
Findings released this week from the annual Global State of Small Business survey found those small- and medium-sized companies say business improved for them, and on average they were less concerned about demand and cash flow than they were a year ago.
But with a higher share of businesses laying off employees than there were at this time in 2021, there’s still plenty of room for improvement as society moves into the pandemic’s next phase.
“I think this report generally shows that businesses are recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Kate Randle, a public policy manager at Meta. “But there’s still some more work, I think, to be done. And so our hope is that this report will shine a light on how small businesses are recovering, and help continue to support the small business community.”
The report surveyed 174 small- and medium-sized businesses — defined by the tech giant as having 250 or fewer employees — across the state in January, during the worst of the surge driven by the omicron variant, on the Facebook platform.
That raw number of businesses taking the survey is nearly four times smaller than the 682 that took part a year ago, but Randle says there aren’t any concerns about the sample size being too small.
“We felt confident (in North Carolina) that the number of respondents was enough to suggest that those trends were indicative of the larger population,” she said.
Among its findings:
— 82 percent were operational or engaged in revenue-generating activities. That’s slightly down from the 84 percent in the report from early 2021.
— A smaller share — 39 percent — said their sales in the previous month were lower than they were in that same month a year earlier, compared to 42 percent in 2021.
— The rates at which businesses expected problems with cash flow (23 percent) and customer demand (11 percent) were both down significantly from where they were in the previous year’s report, when they were 28 percent and 21 percent, respectively.
— 68 percent said they were confident they could stay open for at least 12 more months under the current conditions. A year ago, 63 percent reported being confident they could stay open just six months.
“Especially in North Carolina, I think we saw some really promising numbers in the report,” Randle said.
But a cause for concern: Nearly a quarter of those small businesses said they cut workers because of the pandemic. A year ago, that rate was 17 percent.
Randle says the shift to online — even as face-to-face activities become more in vogue than they were during the past two years — should help keep businesses afloat. More than half of the businesses said at least a quarter of their sales in the past month came digitally.
“Stores are opening back up, and that in-person presence is happening again, (but) consumers are still appreciating having an online option,” Randle said. “So I would encourage businesses to continue using those types of tools.”
But why is the tech giant even getting involved in small business in the first place?
Randle calls those businesses “certainly the lifeblood of our operation” and says Meta wants to use its size and power to support them. The company has offered online training sessions and provided $100 million in cash grants and advertising to those in over 30 countries through a program that’s no longer taking applications.
And what’s in it for Meta?
Randle calls it a two-way street with each party helping the other, saying stronger small businesses mean stronger incentives for Meta.
“Small businesses are using our products,” Randle said. “That’s a win for us.”