Small businesses make smart investments to stay ahead of the economy

Small business owners brace for new challenges: Our seventh annual survey shows how they’re approaching 2023.

Small business owners are cautiously eyeing the year ahead and preparing to take additional steps to keep pace with business conditions. Check out the results1 of our small business survey to see why.

Small business owner confidence is waning in 2023 as owners look to an uncertain economy. What’s behind that concern, and how are they preparing for the coming year?

The annual Truist survey of small business owners, conducted in February 2023, asked 518 owners (annual revenues between $100,000 and $2 million) about their plans for their businesses for 2023.

Key takeaways

Small businesses owners told us they’re:

  • Concerned about inflation, rising costs, and the economy
  • Making investments in technology, especially to support customer service and sales
  • Embracing the advantages of remote work
  • Retaining staff with perks beyond pay
  • Taking actions to achieve work-life balance

Find out more about what small business owners expect in 2023.

Small businesses act now to get ahead of economic uncertainty.

2023 trends

Small businesses told us how they’re approaching 2023:

  • Confidence in their own businesses and in the economy has declined.
  • Stress levels are on the rise with 54% of small business owners extremely/somewhat stressed about inflation, rising costs, and economic uncertainty.
  • While down from last year, more than 73% reported a cash shortfall during the year, forcing them to turn to personal and business cash reserves and business lines of credit while considering cuts to owner salary and the infusion of personal funds.
  • 62% currently leverage remote work, and 76% plan to maintain or increase their remote workforce.
  • 88% of small business owners are taking positive actions to achieve work-life balance.
  • 80% expect to invest in technology to drive sales.

Top investments to achieve business goals

Percentage of small businesses investing in:

Increasing sales efforts


Increasing use of technology


New product development


Boosting digital marketing


Expansion of domestic markets


Future capital investments


Improve internal processes


Growth is top of mind.

Owners are spending more time on sales and investing in technology. 

  • Sales led by owners. 42% of sales were generated by the sales efforts of owners, up from 30% last year.
  • Investment in marketing and sales technology. 80% of small businesses are investing in customer service and communications technology.
  • How many more customers can I take on? Understanding their capacity to grow and handle more customers is the top business question for small business owners.
  • Looking for help. 45% of owners are looking for help in prospecting for new customers, and 37% would like to improve their skills in networking to generate referrals.

Owners increasingly lead sales.

Percentage of sales in 2022 generated by:

Business Owner








Funding when you need it

Small businesses are focused on economic uncertainty and are preparing for its consequences:

  • Only 54% of small business owners see conditions improving in the upcoming year.
  • The average small business has 4.7 months of expenses in cash reserves, a 20% increase over last year.
  • To cover cash shortfalls, small business owners say their top source of funds is owner cash. 39% of owners have taken a cut in salary, and 29% have had to borrow personal funds.
  • Small businesses needing to find funding during a downturn will turn first to reductions in owner salary to reduce expenses. The last items to be cut will be staff salaries and benefits.

Owners plan the steps they’ll take if faced with a downturn.

Percentage of small businesses saying they’ll cut:

Owner Salary


Travel & Entertaining






Maintenance & Improvement




Marketing & Advertising


What growing businesses are doing

For small businesses looking to grow, studying companies that have demonstrated growth allows them to extract lessons for their own businesses.

According to Truist’s 2023 survey of 518 small business owners,1 businesses that grew revenue between 2021 and 2022 (120 survey respondents) think and act differently than businesses where sales stayed the same or decreased revenue year over year (398 survey respondents). Here’s how the growing business from our survey were different from businesses that weren’t growing.

Growing businesses were more likely than non-growing respondents to:

Outlook and goals

  •  Be better prepared for unexpected events—twice as many growing companies as non-growing companies say they are extremely prepared for a natural disaster, economic downturn, fraud/information breach, or loss of a key customer, supplier, or employee.
  • View the U.S. economy and their own business as strong


  • Focus on areas of improvement in networking (29% more likely) and in sales and customer service training (191% more likely)
  • Invest by adding sales staff (more than two times more likely), distribution channels (92% more likely), and developing or enhancing products (more than two times more likely)
  • Adopt or expand technology related to customer service and communications (43% more likely) and operations (68% more likely)
  • Have owners who spend more time in sales (21% more likely), marketing (23% more likely), and networking (32% more likely)


  • Offer more benefits and remote work options to attract/retain workers (82% more likely)
  • Plan to increase the amount of work done remotely (almost three times more likely)
  • Have owners who say they have a good/perfect work-life balance (21% more likely). Owners were also twice as likely to regularly seek advice or outside help from others.

Cash reserves

  •  Collect accounts receivable faster (43% more likely)
  • Offer customers other ways to pay electronically (four times more likely)

Get your business ready for the year ahead.

Our teammates are ready to support you with advice and expertise to help you as you prepare for the road ahead. Set up a virtual or in-person appointment, call 844-718-1530 to speak with a Small Business consultant, or visit Truist Small Business to learn how we can help your business reach its goals in 2023.