American SMBs are optimistic about the next six months, with plans for increased hiring, sales and capital spending. A new survey from PNC indicates an upbeat outlook on sales will prompt nearly one in three US small business-owners to add employees during the next six months as their optimism returns to positive levels unseen since before the 'Great Recession' of 2008-2009. Nearly three in four (70 percent) plan to make some type of investment in their businesses in the next six months.

Although SMBs are optimistic about sales and hiring for the middle part of this year, the survey shows they have some concerns about finding workers with the required skills. Almost half (45 percent) of respondents say requirements for employees' skills and background are higher than in the recent past. Computer/technical abilities, experience "in the field" and communication skills are the top three priorities.

In addition, about one-quarter (23 percent) of respondents will probably or definitely take out a new loan or line of credit in the next six months. While this is a positive economic indicator, it also shows that SMBs feel they lack the internal resources necessary for expansion.

MSPs Fill Gaps and Needs

Firstly, although increased hiring of full-time internal employees is not always the best thing for the managed services marketplace, MSPs should keep in mind that cash- and infrastructure-strapped SMBs need to purchase technology to support new hires. That technology can include upgrades to HR and financial systems to handle extra burden on areas such as benefits, payroll and taxes, as well as purchases for solutions that employees directly need to use for their jobs.

In addition, other survey responses show an additional need for managed services by SMBs even as their ability to bring more job responsibilities improves. Anticipated skills gaps, especially those in the areas of technical abilities and communications, leave broad opportunities for MSPs to help bridge employee shortcomings. Managed technical and communications services can provide an affordable means for an SMB that wants to hire otherwise qualified candidates to do so without suffering due to their lack of skills in those areas.

And in terms of loans, presumably SMBs’ stated intentions to boost capital spending are a main driver for the interest in taking loans and/or opening new lines of credit. Managed services can also relieve the need for new capital spending while still providing SMBs with the additional resources they need to support growth.

Your SMB clients are feeling optimistic about 2012, with the right planning and targeting of services there is no reason you shouldn’t feel optimistic, as well.