Undefeated Seasons

By the Numbers

Some industries, such as construction and services, have done well since September 11. Others, such as travel and manufacturing, have suffered.

"I think in the aggregate, small businesses were hurt pretty seriously," says Damon Dovier, director of government and public affairs for National Small Business United. "We also found a number of indirect effects. Not only were restaurants hurt adversely, but we also found that the people who service those restaurants were hurt tremendously."

Despite those challenges, small companies remain a driving force in an economy posting surprisingly high employment and a solid gross domestic product. According to an April survey by the National Association for the Self Employed (NASE), 49 percent of the nation's self-employed say they're optimistic or very optimistic about their revenue, while 41 percent said they are cautiously upbeat. Just 10 percent said they are not optimistic.

That's not to say small businesses haven't struggled. The survey also found that 48.6 percent of respondents saw sales drop after September 11, with 46.4 percent seeing no change and just 5 percent seeing an increase.

The NASE study also found that 87 percent of respondants expect the state of their businesses to improve in three to six months; 51 percent expect their businesses to be strong in five years. Just 7 percent said that "World Events/Terrorism" had the most impact on their businesses in the past year, behind "Self" and "Consumers."

"'Rebound' is the word I would use," says NASE president Robert Hughes in describing the state of small businesses one year after the attacks. "There's no doubt there was an economic downturn prior to September 11, and September 11 probably deepened it." He adds, however, that entrepreneurs are resilient, responding by refocusing efforts on personal service, the effective use of technology and the like.

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This article was originally published in the September 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Undefeated Seasons.

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