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Older Small Business Owners Expect to Do Well in 2021

Most expect to expand operations as state of economy weighs heavily on plans

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En español | Most small business owners age 55 and older expect that they'll make as much money or more this year than they did in 2020.

That's according to the 2021 Small Business Survey, released recently by TD Bank. The poll of 754 businesses with up to $5 million in revenue — 407 of them owned by 55-and-older entrepreneurs — found that 35 percent of 55-plus owners expect their revenue to increase in 2021, while 47 percent predict that they'll do the same as last year and only 10 percent expect a decline.

Fifty-six percent of older business owners expect to expand their operations and/or hours of business, compared with 32 percent who plan to scale back. An additional 35 percent are considering expanding their product lines and services to increase revenue or profits.

Employment is looking stable as well, with 82 percent of 55-plus business owners expecting to maintain their workforces and 7 percent expecting that they'll hire more workers. Just 4 percent expect a decrease in staffing.

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Only 11 percent of older entrepreneurs took advantage of the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program that was instituted early in the pandemic. The older owners also generally took a less positive view of government help than their younger counterparts did, with 26 percent saying that such programs provided necessary funding, while the same percentage felt that the programs needed to be bigger to be effective, and 21 percent saying that the programs didn't provide the support small businesses needed.

"Older business owners typically have more experience running an enterprise,” Jay DesMarteau, head of commercial distribution for TD Bank, explained via email. “They are potentially more prepared for business disruptions, have lower employee bases, and therefore didn't feel the need to take PPP funding."

Forty-six percent of older business owners see the health of the national economy as their biggest business challenge in 2021, while 42 percent were concerned about a potential decrease in revenue or sales and 41 percent were concerned about the continued effect of COVID-19 on their operations.

Patrick J. Kiger is a contributing writer for AARP. He has written for a wide variety of publications, including the Los Angeles Times Magazine, GQ, Mother Jones, and websites of the Discovery Channel and National Geographic.

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