Some business owners just started their enterprises since the 21st century “great recession.” Others have been in business considerably longer. Whether new or “seasoned,” most want to know what trends their businesses face. Knowing growth rates of a market sector can be very helpful–if for no other reason than benchmarking one’s own performance against the average of one’s peers. A company that compiles a lot of research data on small businesses in my own back yard of Raleigh, North Carolina is Sageworks. In an interview with Catherine Clifford of Entrepreneur.com, Libby Bierman of Sageworks said that a recent study by her company showed the average growth rate of small businesses across all industries was 8% in 2012.
While growth is a very good sign, there are winners and losers in every statistical average. Certain sectors, however, performed poorer than others. According to the research, the slowest growth industries for U.S. small businesses in 2012 were:
- Skilled nursing care facilities: -3.29 percent
- Printing and related support activities: 1.86 percent
- Automotive repair and maintenance: 2.81 percent
- Offices of physicians: 3.00 percent
- Highway, street, and bridge construction: 4.24 percent
- Insurance agencies, brokerages, and other insurance-related activities: 4.32 percent
- Lessors of real estate: 5.07 percent
- Other miscellaneous manufacturing including jewelry and silverware, sporting and athletic goods, dolls, toys, and games, office supplies other than paper, and signs: 5.55 percent
- Offices of health practitioners other than physicians and dentists, including chiropractors, optometrists, mental health practitioners, speech and occupational therapists: 5.98 percent
- Other amusement and recreation services including bowling centers, golf courses, and recreational centers: 6.03 percent
As I reviewed the list above earlier today, it occurs that personal services, low technology manufacturing and discretionary spending-based businesses have been it hard. Why would this be the case? In terms of the personal services businesses, many of them are healthcare related. The Affordable Care Act may have a lot to do with this poorer performing sector, as many have shunned making decisions to invest capital in an arena that is in extreme flux. Many before me have written about the loss of manufacturing jobs to overseas competitors. In the United States, we have become less competitive in manufacturing that is not highly customized or based on a technology. Whether infrastructure projects or amusement, spending is down on items that don’t seem necessary. Take note if you have a business in any of the above sectors. While you may be able to outperform your sector, you may consider how your sector as a whole is not growing as quickly as others. How should you respond? This question should drive your strategic planning.
However, the list of fastest growing sectors (below) identified by this research highlights some additional trends and opportunities. Many who have the flexibility to diversify or move their efforts to one of these sectors should seriously consider doing so.
Fastest-Growth Industries for U.S. Small Businesses in 2012
Residential building construction: 14.77 percent
Building custom software and servers for businesses: 14.29 percent
Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers: 13.75 percent
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services: 12.31 percent
Architectural, engineering, and related services: 11.40 percent
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors: 11.37 percent
Building finishing contractors who make additions, alterations, maintenance and repairs: 11.32 percent
General freight trucking: 10.41 percent
Services to buildings and dwellings, including pest exterminators, janitorial services, and landscaping: 10.11 percent
Other specialty trade contractors, including site preparation activities and other specialized trades: 10.04 percent
Most of these businesses, as Bierman mentions in her interview, require very little capital to get going. They do not require the purchase of expensive assets and can be successful based on the strength of human capital. As a result, business services firms are performing strongly and should continue to do well.