Small and mid-sized business leaders report positive growth plans; note rising challenges from talent availability and health care costs

Atlanta, GA – February 24, 2015 – U.S. job creation numbers, unemployment rates and corporate financial growth each finished 2014 better than they began, and these positive trends were reflected by SMB companies across the nation. According to Lucas Group’s newly released SMB Job Generation Outlook, small to mid-sized business leaders are generally optimistic about 2015 economic and employment opportunities – both for the nation as well as their specific businesses – and the overall health of the SMB appears strong.

Lucas Group has conducted the SMB Job Generation Outlook on a quarterly basis for the past two years, surveying approximately 400 top executives each quarter. In Q4, SMB optimism reached a survey high with 75 percent of respondents reporting feeling optimistic about the economy. The U.S. added nearly 3 million jobs in 2014, and many SMBs plan to continue growing. Forty-seven percent say they will hire in early 2015 and six in ten plan to hire sometime this year. These solid hiring plans reveal a 6-point increase from the same time last year and reflect the moderate, sustained pace of the nation’s overall employment trends.

In addition to economic trends, the Outlook identifies and tracks the SMB’s chief business concerns. In Q4, responding executives rated health care costs and talent availability as their utmost business challenges. Thirty-two percent cited health care costs as their #1 concern, followed closely by talent availability, at 29 percent. These two issues have remained at the top of the SMB challenge list for two years, dwarfing concerns over market competition, tax policies or regulations.

Looking closer, the Outlook reveals that finding qualified talent for open positions has been a growing struggle for SMBs. Since early 2013, the survey has tracked a widening in the available talent gap. In Q4, 60 percent reported difficulty in finding and hiring qualified talent, including 14 percent citing talent acquisition as extremely difficult. SMBs consistently list Sales, Information Technology and Accounting & Finance as the functional positions most difficult to fill.

“The growing talent challenges faced by SMBs across the country appear to be, in part, responsive to changes in our generational workforce,” said Scott Smith, Chief Marketing Officer at Lucas Group. “As Baby Boomers retire in record numbers and Millennials look to replace them, albeit with their own ideas and expectations of how business can – and should – be conducted, companies can be caught unsure of how to smoothly bridge this talent gap and effectively evolve their workforce structure.”

To address talent availability and acquisition challenges, SMBs are employing a variety of strategies. Executives were permitted more than one response and top approaches include:

The SMB is often heralded in our national discourse as the “backbone” and “job generator” of the American economy, and four out of five SMB leaders agree. Noting the significance of this market sector, the Outlook also strives to capture executive plans and opinions on an array of social and political issues.

Other key findings from Lucas Group’s Q4 survey include:

The SMB Job Generation Outlook is conducted by Lucas Group in coordination with Polaris Marketing Research and Dr. Goutam Challagalla, Associate Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology Scheller College of Business. For the full Q4 SMB Job Generation Outlook, click here.

About the Survey
Conducted quarterly, the SMB Job Generation Outlook is a national survey of SMB top business leaders. The Q4 survey was conducted by Polaris Market Research on behalf of Lucas Group. Each of the 400 respondents was a CEO, CFO, COO, chairman, president, executive vice president and/or owner of their company. The survey covered a wide variety of industries with manufacturing, finance/insurance/real estate, business services, IT and construction having the strongest presence. Seventy-nine percent of the respondents were from businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees.

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.

For additional information, please contact:
Kate Wilson, Marketing Project Lead