Credit: commons.wikimedia.org
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

If knowledge is power, then the upcoming Survey of Business Owners (SBO) report will be pretty potent stuff.

Issued every five years by the U.S. Census Bureau, the SBO offers one of the most comprehensive examinations of America’s small-business landscape. The much-anticipated next edition, a first look at which is expected next month, will provide a detailed picture of how that landscape changed between 2007 and 2012  — a period of time that covers both the financial crisis and the subsequent economic recovery.

In addition to informing researchers about the successes and struggles of businesses and their owners throughout the nation, the 2012 SBO could also drive important decisions by policymakers. It will also give entrepreneurs themselves an opportunity to see how they’re doing, thanks to the demographic breakdowns within the report that examine business ownership along gender, race and ethnic lines, as well as for veterans and other subgroups.

Among experts, it’s a closely watched report. Christine Kymn, director of economic research and chief economist for the SBA Office of Advocacy, describes the SBO as “probably the most robust, complete resource that we have available pertaining to data on small-business ownership.”

And it could even impact law-making efforts, she says. “Members of Congress can look within their districts to see how different types of small businesses are faring” and draft new policies that benefit their constituencies.

Unfortunately, the release of the 2012 SBO was delayed somewhat due to efforts to provide “maximum data quality,” the Census Bureau’s Public Information Office told us in a statement. According to an updated schedule, preliminary information will be released in August, with more comprehensive data made available in December of this year.

Of course, it isn’t the only research game in town, but the SBO is among the most detailed and impactful. Kymn notes that smaller examinations don’t offer such a “statistically robust” number of participants. As such, it will likely offer a definitive take on how the Great Recession affected small companies and the degree to which they are benefiting from the recovery.

So, what have experts observed in past versions of the SBO? “Access to capital is the number one issue we hear about — and we usually hear about it broadly,” Kymn says. “And women-owned businesses, for instance, while they are growing and doing great, still have lower receipts on average. From a policy perspective, that’s something to focus on.”

Ultimately, this survey helps inform those trying to make the entrepreneurial world a better place for all. As Kymn explained it, “Journalism is all about who, what, where, when, why and how. This data takes that ‘what’ and tries to identify the other elements. With that info, we can then go to leaders in [various industries and political arenas].”

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