Often Divided Americans Unite Behind Small Business - Aflac Survey Finds

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic and its impact, political debates and social unrest in 2020 threatened to divide our nation. But despite societal tensions and the burdens of sickness, a shaken economy and personnel shortage, people came together and agreed on one thing: their support and commitment to small businesses. While the pandemic seemed destined to hurt relationships, Aflac's 2021 Business Culture Survey reveals how business owners, customers and employees actually built community as parties pulled together to weather adversity.

"As people were dealing with the isolation of the pandemic and round-the-clock reports of its impact on communities at home and around the world, we expected a corresponding diminished sense of unity, but when it comes to support for small businesses, our survey found the opposite was true," said Aflac Senior Vice President of Distribution Expansion and Consumer Markets, Jeramy Tipton. "We were encouraged to see that the small-town culture of care between local businesses and their communities was not severed, but actually strengthened, including small-business owners finding a renewed sense of care when it comes to the well-being of their employees and customers."

According to the survey, support for small businesses in the community is near universal, even breaking through ideological divides that exist within the country. Whether left-leaning or right-leaning, urban or rural, consumers remain united in their support for small businesses:

  • 59% of left-leaning and 61% of right-leaning consumers are willing to pay more at local businesses for the same product they can find online, with 59% of urban and 62% of rural consumers also willing to do so.

  • 69% of left-leaning and 70% of right-leaning consumers are willing to forgo the convenience of online ordering to shop at local small businesses, with 70% of urban, and 69% of rural consumers also willing to do so.

Though 45% of small businesses reported decreased profits, small-business owners showed strong support by investing in their employees and communities:

  • 81% reported that they maintained or grew closer to their employees, and 53% became more informed of their employees' personal lives.

  • 76% said they maintained or increased closeness to their customers, and 51% saw the relationship between their customers and employees improve.

  • 81% felt retaining talent was as or more important than previous years. In fact, 82% maintained or increased benefits for their employees.

  • 80% maintained or increased their level of community involvement, regardless of location or business type.

"With the overwhelming majority of small businesses reporting that they maintained or increased benefits for employees during the pandemic, the sense of responsibility often seen in the tight-knit small-business community is alive and well," Tipton said. "Much like Aflac's desire to help people when they need it most, it is clear from our survey that community-minded small-business employers share this commitment to help protect their employees during their most challenging times."

Just as the pandemic produced greater appreciation by small-business owners for employees, consumers reciprocated, upping their appreciation for small businesses as well:

  • 49% of small-business patrons tipped or spent more to support their local businesses, including 45% of those who also reported a decrease in personal income.

  • 62% of consumers were willing to spend more for an item to support a local business.

  • In making purchase decisions, almost as many consumers consider how a business treats employees (58%) as they do customer service (62%), and 83% say they are more likely to frequent businesses that treat their employees well.

The 2021 Aflac Business Culture Survey is part of Aflac's Care in Motion: The Small-Business Story campaign, which will highlight small-business stories of resilience.

For the full findings from the 2021 Aflac Business Culture Survey, visit SurveyResults.Aflac.com. Watch a video of the findings here.