Capital Crunch Handcuffs Small Business

The U.S. economy may be inching its way back to health, but the recovery has not yet translated into increased small business access to capital. Cash-flow issues continue to plague America’s small businesses, a new survey shows. More than two of every five small business owners (43 percent) in the survey reported that they were unable to find any willing sources when they needed funds during the last four years.

This failure to secure financing caused 32 percent of small businesses to reduce their number of employees, 20 percent to reduce employee benefits and 17 percent to fail to meet the demand for their products or services, according to the survey of 300 members of the National Small Business Association.

Nearly one in three (29 percent) respondents reported that their loans or lines of credit were reduced in the last four years. Perhaps even more concerning, nearly one in 10 had their loans or lines of credit called in early by the bank. Among those whose loan or line of credit was called in early, 19 percent were given less than 15 days.

Cash-flow problems for small companies don’t stem just from difficulties with outside financing, the survey found. Small businesses also are getting pinched when it comes to client payments. Twenty-one percent of respondents reported longer payment times by their clients, with a notable jump in terms of net 60 to 90 days (the time before full payment is made).

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Subcontracting for prime government contractors was no cash-flow panacea. The NSBA noted that prime contractors are getting squeezed by the government, and the pain trickles down. Fifty-five percent of small subcontractors reported late payments from a prime contractor.

The one promising note in the survey was that almost one in five respondents  (19 percent) said they are more likely to seek investors as a result of the crowdfunding exception included in the recently-passed JOBS Act.

"While small businesses’ ability to garner financing has broad implications on the U.S. economy, nearly one third use personal property, such as their home, to secure financing," said NSBA chair Chris Holman. "The financing issues small business owners face don’t end when they close up shop for the day."

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