SOURCE: Small Business Research Board

March 26, 2008 10:40 ET

Small Businesses to Concentrate on Human Resources, Customer Service to Improve Operations Says Latest Small Business Research Board Study; Predict Less Investment for Technology, Automation

NORTHFIELD, IL--(Marketwire - March 26, 2008) - Small business owners and managers in the U.S. confirmed they expect to more heavily focus on issues related to customer service and human resources to improve their operations the next 12 to 24 months rather than continue making significant investments in automation and technology, according to the latest Small Business Research Board (SBRB) study released here today.

The quarterly nationwide SBRB poll indicated improved staff training, the addition of more staff and improved or enhanced employee incentive programs would be key to improving productivity. The fourth quarter poll co-sponsored by International Profit Associates said that investments in existing or new automation and technology trailed human resources in the rankings.

Meanwhile, the quarterly report said 32% of the businesses plan to expand during the next 12 to 24 months, the same percentage as indicated in the prior study completed during the third quarter of 2007. For those businesses forecasting growth during the coming months, 24% said they would provide more services, 21% said they would add new products and 18% said they would enhance current customer services. Facilities expansion was the fourth most mentioned possibility for increasing revenue with 15% saying they plan to grow within their current locations and 13% said they would add a location.

The results were a reversal from the third quarter when investments in automation and technology were the leading candidates for near term investments.

It was the third consecutive quarter that 32% of the respondents said they were considering expansion.

More than 950 owners and managers participated in the study.

As previously reported, the SBRB Small Business Confidence Index (SBCI) during the fourth quarter of 2007 was set at 33.67 or nearly 10 points (21.7%) lower than the index of 43 reported for the previous report. Small business owners and managers throughout the U.S. reported lower levels of expectations for the next 12 months in all three categories comprising the confidence index. Only 24% of the respondents indicated they intend to increase hiring the next 12 months, a decrease of 15 points from the 39% reported during the prior study conducted during the Fall, 2007. Of the participants, 29% said they believe the economy will improve, eight points fewer than the last study. The current report also showed 48% of the businesses are projecting revenue increases, five points fewer than the 53% indicated last fall.

The Small Business Research Board ascertains and reports the opinions of small business owners and managers on a wide variety of topics related to their own businesses as well as national and international issues that may impact their operations. The SBRB conducts these studies for the benefit of small business owners and managers. The SBRB also provides opportunities for third parties to gain real time insight into the attitudes of small businesses nationwide through the independently conducted research.

The universe of participants is developed from among small businesses across the United States. The SBRB study is a voluntary survey conducted via phone and email. The latest information about the Small Business Research Board can be found at www.ipasbrb.com.

International Profit Associates, Inc. (IPA) is the largest privately held provider of management consulting services to small and medium-size businesses in North America. IPA, based in Buffalo Grove, Il., and its more than 1,800 professionals offer a wide range of proven and innovative methodologies to help businesses grow and prosper regardless of the economic cycle. IPA either provides directly or through its affiliated companies a comprehensive array of business advisory services, tax and estate planning services or merger, acquisition and other financial advisory services in the United States and Canada. More information about IPA can be found at www.ipa-iba.com.

For more information about this poll, results of previous studies or other matters related to the SBRB, please contact Raymond D. Minkus, (847) 441-4192.

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