New Lucas Group Report Reveals Increase In SMB Optimism And Hiring Plans

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Near 60 percent of U.S. small to mid-sized businesses report positioning for “Growth” while facing shortages in IT, Sales and A&F talent availability.

Lucas Group

The bolstering effect of consumer confidence plus consumer spending directly drives the forecasts of many small to mid-sized businesses.

Throughout the C-suites of America’s small to mid-sized businesses, executive optimism regarding the economy and job growth has continued to increase since early 2014, according to a new report published by executive recruitment firm, Lucas Group. The Q2 2015 SMB Job Generation Outlook finds 66 percent of SMB execs feel optimistic about the country’s near-term economic prospects, a 15-point jump from Q2 2014. When asked specifically about their own companies, the months ahead look even better, with SMB executive confidence bumping up eight points from last year to reach 77 percent.

Recent rises in economic optimism—at both national and company levels—are coupled with increased hiring plans and job growth prospects. In Q2 2014, 40 percent of survey respondents positioned their company in “Growth” mode and 45 percent reported plans for near-term hiring. One year later, six in ten SMB executives across the nation say their business is positioned for “Growth” and 54 percent will hire in the coming months.

“The year-over-year optimism boost seen in this quarter’s SMB executive survey is an outward demonstration of a series of associated factors,” said Scott Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at Lucas Group. “The bolstering effect of consumer confidence plus consumer spending directly drives the forecasts of many small to mid-sized businesses. With unemployment numbers continuing to erode and the prices of gas and oil dipping lower, more and more consumers are ready to buy what SMBs have to offer. That raises executive confidence, and yet with the current volatility of the markets, only time will tell if today’s optimism will be realized with profits.”

While the collective health of the American SMB appears positive and executives are expressing plans to expand workforces, companies across regions and industries are challenged to find the talent they need. Hiring difficulties have intensified for many SMBs, with 56 percent of Q2 respondents disclosing that finding and hiring qualified professionals is harder now than it was one year ago. Seventy-four percent of executives surveyed in Q2 2015 rank “Talent Availability” as among their Top 3 business challenges, noting Information Technology, Sales and Accounting & Finance as functional positions toughest to satisfy.

Since 2013, the SMB Job Generation Outlook has surveyed over 2,600 executive-level leaders from SMBs across the U.S., capturing plans and opinions on an array of business, social and political issues, including minimum wage, take-home pay, immigration reform, governmental impact and more. Additional findings from Lucas Group’s Q2 2015 survey include:

  • The matter of immigration reform is not only a hotly debated topic in the political arena, it’s also an important discussion for American business leaders. In the past year, support among SMB executives for easing immigration requirements for skilled workers in IT, science and other high-demand fields increased 10 percentage points. Fifty-six percent of SMB leaders surveyed in Q2 support easing requirements for this subset of immigrants, while only 23 percent disagree. During that same time period, the percentage of SMBs reporting difficulty in finding qualified IT talent has increased from 32 percent to 43 percent.
  • Take-home wages have increased in the last year for 83 percent of SMB workers, and 33 percent of Q2 respondents report their companies are increasing salary offers and adding bonuses and supplementary benefits to compensation packages in an effort to better attract, hire and retain qualified professional talent.
  • The changing generational make-up of the American workforce is presenting both challenges and opportunities for SMBs. Seventy-two percent of surveyed execs say Baby Boomer retirement is impacting their business, yet only 24 percent report specific plans to hire more Millennials. While almost 60 percent of SMB leaders worry Boomer retirements create a “brain drain” within the organizations, the same percent say they are not entertaining the prospect of hiring retirees back on a contract basis.

The SMB Job Generation Outlook is conducted by Lucas Group in coordination with Polaris Marketing Research. For the full Q2 2015 SMB Job Generation Outlook, click here.

About the Survey
Conducted quarterly, the SMB Job Generation Outlook is a national survey of executive-level SMB leaders. The Q2 survey was conducted by Polaris Market Research on behalf of Lucas Group from May 28 - 29, 2015. Each of the respondents was CEO, CFO, COO, chairman, president, executive vice president and/or owner of their company. Survey respondents represented a variety of geographic regions and industries including manufacturing, finance/insurance/real estate, business services, IT and transportation. Eighty-six percent of Q2 respondents were from companies with fewer than 1,500 employees and 79 percent projected 2015 business revenues under $300M.

About Lucas Group
Lucas Group is North America’s premier executive search firm. Since 1970, our culture and methodologies have driven superior results. We assist clients ranging in size from small to medium-sized businesses to Fortune 500 companies find transcendent, executive talent; candidates fully realize their ambitions; and associates find professional success. To learn more, please visit Lucas Group at and connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

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Kate Wilson
Lucas Group
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