This data reflects insights gathered from a series of research studies focused on how SMB owners are faring during the COVID pandemic. The Harris Poll teamed with TriNet, a comprehensive HR Solutions provider for SMBs. These initiatives focus on the state of SMB beyond TriNet’s own customer base and provides an insightful narrative as to how SMBs have coped and adapted during these challenging months.

SMBs are Optimistic: Nearly two-thirds of SMBs expect business to improve or return to normal 

The latest round of surveys reveal how SMB owners are adapting to the current situation, dealing with the impact of the pandemic on their business while simultaneously preparing for the future.

The survey reveals that two-thirds (64%) of SMB leaders expect their businesses to emerge either stronger or the same as before the pandemic, as most states across the U.S. gradually lift shelter in place orders. Additionally, 88% of SMBs are either creating or amending their business continuity plans after their experiences with the pandemic, including prioritizing health and safety of their employees.

“Although this pandemic has been one of the most difficult challenges many SMBs have faced, including direct impacts on revenue, employee health and wellness, morale, and plans for the future, we find in these results an underlying optimism and agility, despite the unprecedented hardships. This is the kind of optimism and agility that has come to define the SMB community and will help our economy to move forward and recover,” stated John Gerzema, CEO at The Harris Poll.

Lower SMB Revenue

The challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly difficult for SMBs. The survey found 83% are experiencing decreased revenues since February, with almost one in four seeing their revenue decline by more than 50%.

While revenues are down, optimism and confidence levels are rising. As reported in the first wave of surveys, four out of five companies made strategic investments in March and early April to keep business operational. Their investments are paying off – as businesses begin to turn on their lights and open their doors to customers, 86% of SMB leaders say their business has handled the challenges brought on by the pandemic well and almost two-thirds (64%) expect their business to be stronger or the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lost revenue has been a major hardship for SMBs, but one-third of respondents cite the uncertainty of the situation and the unknown of when “normal” will return as their single biggest challenge. The most difficult areas of dealing with the pandemic for SMBs include:

  • Uncertainty – not knowing when “normal” will return (31%)
  • Finances – lost sales, making payroll, paying expenses (26%)
  • Safety/health concerns – keeping employees and customers healthy (19%)
  • Employees – layoffs/furloughs, productivity, remote work (18%)
  • Operations – supply chain issues, delayed delivery, stores/locations closed/reduced hours (7%)



For this research, TriNet teamed with The Harris Poll to conduct a series of ten online surveys from April 3 to May 8 among small business leaders in U.S. companies with 5 to 249 employees. Between 150-200 responses were collected for each of the ten waves. Business leaders were qualified as either owners/partners or C-level executives.

View the complete whitepaper.


Amber Broughton

Managing Director

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