C2FO Releases 2021 Working Capital Outlook Survey Findings


C2FO today released a new worldwide survey, which examines the working capital health of more than 6,700 leaders of small and mid-sized businesses (“SMBs”). The survey found alignment across the world when looking at SMBs in terms of access to liquidity, the cost of borrowing, and their outlooks for the future.

C2FO’s 2021 Working Capital Survey was conducted across 16 countries in December 2020 and January 2021, focusing entirely on businesses with between 10 and 500 employees. Key findings from the survey include the following:

  • Respondents cited economic instability and uncertainty about customer orders as their biggest challenges — concerns likely fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 economic crisis.
  • An average of 87% of respondents said they have enough liquidity for the next six months.
  • Liquidity costs continue to rise, as 65% of respondents said they pay an APR of more than 8%.
  • Late or extended payment from customers is a growing global concern, as 37% of respondents said late payments from customers had increased in 2020.
  • Due to the pandemic, the cost of borrowing in the last year increased for 32% of respondents within the United States — most significantly impacting woman-owned businesses, with 43% noting an increase while nearly half of that, 24%, of man-owned businesses noted an increase. 34% of black-owned businesses also responded they experienced an increase in the cost of borrowing.
  • Despite the challenges of 2020, overall optimism among respondents about their future business prospects was fairly strong — averaging 6.5 on a scale of one to 10.

The purpose of C2FO’s 2021 survey was to measure the economic health and outlooks for SMBs in countries around the world. A full report on the survey’s findings can be viewed here.

“While it’s heartening that many SMBs in this survey have a positive outlook for their immediate future, it is also very clear that more needs to be done to provide these businesses with immediate access to the low-cost liquidity they need to grow,” said Alexander “Sandy” Kemper, C2FO’s founder and CEO. “These kinds of studies are important in calling out the economic challenges that businesses worldwide face every day.”

Minority-owned businesses within the United States were well represented in this year’s survey, with 49% of responses coming from non-white owned businesses, 27% of responses coming from black-owned businesses, and 46% of responses coming from woman-owned businesses. Furthermore, the survey took a look at various subcategories when looking at small businesses, classified as a business with under $50 million in revenue.

The survey found that the cost of borrowing in the last year due to the pandemic, when looking at all responses within the United States, increased for 32% of respondents. This increase significantly impacted woman-owned, with 43% of woman-owned businesses noting an increase, while nearly half that, 24%, of man-owned businesses noted an increase. Black-owned businesses were also impacted with 34% responding they experienced an increase in the cost of borrowing. This trend was further reflected when looking at small businesses with a revenue of less than $50 million, with 39% of woman-owned businesses within this category expressing an increase while only 23% of man-owned businesses with a revenue of under $50 million responding their cost of borrowing increased.

C2FO conducted global surveys of SMBs in 2016 and 2017, but the 2021 Working Capital Survey is the most thorough and far-reaching, conducted in eight languages across 16 countries and consisting of 26 or more questions about topics like financial health, the cost of borrowing, support from government programs and more.

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