In April, Acquis led a Monitor Live+ discussion alongside some of our fellow asset finance sector experts to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing SMBs in the US. With an economy still coming to terms with the impact of a global pandemic, the challenges have been thick and fast in recent years.

The discussion was based upon a survey conducted by Acquis, who spoke with 500 SMBs across multiple industries. The purpose of this research was to gauge current sentiment in the market and understand both their aims for the future and their concerns. Subsequently helping to determine how the asset finance sector can support them in their challenges.

To discuss the results and share their own insights into the industry, Acquis was joined by Bob Neagle, CEO of Finova Capital LLC, Deborah Baker, head of Worldwide Leasing and Finance at HP and Miles Herman, CEO of LEAF Commercial Capital, Inc.

Optimism about the future within SMBs

At the top of the agenda for discussion was the varying levels of optimism in different sectors. The survey revealed that 65% of SMBs are optimistic about the future of their business with the IT, Retail as well as Finance and Insurance industries all with the highest levels of optimism. On the other end of the spectrum, the healthcare and beauty, business administration and manufacturing sectors were largely pessimistic about the future.

The panel discussed why this was the case. For Bob Neagle the levels of entrepreneurship within the SMB category have led to these levels of optimism – “Part and parcel of being a small business is that you’re optimistic about what you’re planning to execute…people understand when there’s no point in pursuing something that isn’t going to work.”

IT was revealed as the most optimistic sector, and as Deborah Baker pointed out, “Everyone is talking about AI constantly and the impact it is going to have on a sales cycle, residual values and refresh cycles.” which, in turn, will impact on the way that products are leased, acquired or consumed.

Miles Herman commented on the changes that hybrid working has had on certain sectors too, “That’s going to have ramifications around commercial real estate and what equipment is required in office settings. People are still looking at what they need and reevaluating the workspace, which will have ramifications for all of the organisations.” This also highlighted a concern for businesses as they are becoming increasingly thoughtful about what it is they really need, “They are differentiating between a need to have and a nice to have.”

Challenges for SMBS in the next year

When discussing the challenges that SMBs said they are facing, the panellists found some of the results surprising. According to the research, supply chain issues were the top concern (51%), with Talent Sourcing and Retention (47%) and Fraudulent Activities (47%) also featuring as notable concerns. Bob pointed out that supply chain issues hadn’t been seen as a notable concern for almost 2 years but that it speaks to the diversity of SMBs in the US market at current.

When looking further at the specific industries that highlighted supply chain delays as a concern, it was SMBs in construction who were particularly concerned. For Miles, this wasn’t a huge surprise, “We’ve seen twelve months periods to get certain pieces of construction equipment that may need to come in from overseas.”

Talent sourcing and retention was also a topic of conversation for the panellists as they highlighted the significant tech and finance lay-offs in the past year as a possible cause for concern. Deb also raised the increased prominence of hybrid working as a factor here, “Companies that are able to shift to hybrid work are much more attractive to an employee.” Those who can’t or won’t shift will automatically become less attractive to a lot of prospective employees.

Managing cash flow and access to funding were also notable challenges for the SMBs surveyed. With some banks pulling back, companies are looking at alternative lines of credit, which is where asset finance can come in. For those looking to provide these alternative lines of credit to SMBs, Bob noted how they can make themselves an attractive option. In some cases, salespeople are being taken out of the process and replaced with digital and convenient user experiences which is proving both effective and keeping costs down.

Miles added that “customers are evolving in how they want to do business. There are some people today who don’t want to talk to anybody.” With a hybrid and flexible working environment, some customers want to be able to access and understand products at any time of the day, while others still want to pick up the phone and talk about them. It’s imperative that your products are accessible to all customers, with both simple and complex needs. It can’t be a one-size-fits-all solution.

Biggest growth opportunities for SMBs

Looking to the next 12 months, the SMBs who took part in the research highlighted cost and pricing optimization as potential opportunities, as well as investing in employee wellbeing. Finally, new products and services delivered from digitization and automation were found to be another area for growth opportunities.

For Bob, anything connected with tech and digitzation is a key place for growth, “If you’re not all over that, it’s going to overtake you. You might as well figure out how to work with it because that’s the direction that the world has moved in.” It can help make your employees more productive and deliver a higher level of service making you both an attractive workplace for employees and assisting you in creating more effective and adaptable products. With this in mind, investing in tech and opportunities for price optimization go hand in hand as Deb reinforced.

Sustainability was also seen as a growth opportunity for 30% of SMBs and Miles noted that it is being seen as a much more critical component now within businesses as they consider their ESG policies, “When we think about climate financing today, I think that’s becoming a much bigger piece of how we think about things.”

Across the US market, there are both opportunities for growth and solutions to the challenges which are facing SMBs. As the panel discussed, it is often about understanding the challenges better and discovering what works for your business, whether that is accessing the right finance options or changing your company’s working model.

Embracing the development of technology and prioritising flexible solutions will be key areas of growth for many, as well as providing a way to combat some of the challenges that SMBs are facing. IT is going to continue to play a key role in the development for SMBs worldwide and with AI still emerging, then we need to be prepared for a new wave. At the same time, inflation and rates remain unpredictable, forcing companies to become smarter about selling. In a world that is changing faster than it ever has before, knowing your product and creating a flexible selling experience will be more important than ever before.

To see the results of the research, please visit:

To watch the full discussion head to