Sage recently conducted a survey of more than 1000 finance leaders across American small and midsize businesses. The results from the 2021 Return to Growth Outlook report indicate that U.S. businesses are becoming increasingly confident in stabilizing business outlooks, especially towards the second half of the year.
While only one-in-three (30%) finance leaders expect to see revenue reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels by the end of June 2021, 73% expect to achieve this mark by the end of this year. Many businesses (56%) also expect vaccine rollout efforts to positively impact their business by October.
Pandemic significantly accelerates digital transformation efforts
The coronavirus pandemic deeply impacted businesses across the landscape and swiftly changed business practices across the board. To adapt to the needs created by lockdowns, more than half (52%) of those surveyed say they accelerated digital transformation plans by three years or more. When asked which areas were prioritized in digitization efforts, accounting/finance (45%) was the most popular, followed by marketing (31%) and customer relationship management (26%).
When looking at what technology proved to be the most valuable over the last year, more than one-quarter (27%) of businesses surveyed said cloud accounting software was a “saving grace” solution, providing finance teams with complete visibility, remote access to real-time data, improved efficiencies, better decision making, and seamless cash-flow management. Businesses clearly see the value in cloud-based financial software, with nine in ten businesses surveyed using or planning to invest in these systems in 2021.
The confidence shown by many businesses reflects success implementing new policies and strategies over the past year. Just under one-third (32%) of respondents acknowledged trying social media advertising for the first time, while 23% hired employees completely digitally for the first time.
Interestingly, over one-quarter (27%) of businesses said they implemented non-traditional HR policies – such as childcare stipends or flexible work arrangements – for the first time over the course of the pandemic. In what could reflect a burgeoning trend in U.S. businesses, only 13% of respondents intend to reduce budgets for these policies this year.
“It’s no surprise the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected small and midsize businesses, along with their employees and customers. As we faced unique challenges at home and work, businesses saw great success implementing new programs, offering flexible work arrangements, and prioritizing commitment to the communities in which they operate,” said Nancy Harris, EVP and Managing Director, Sage North America. “As the world begins to reopen, it is critical that these key learnings from the last year are not lost, and that organizations continue to leverage creativity and technology to foster stronger relationships with employees, customers, and prospects for continued growth.”
To read the rest of the findings, download the download the report now.
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Read the latest survey findings from U.S. financial leaders, uncovering the impacts of COVID-19 on small and medium businesses and their outlook for 2021 and beyond.