ADP Research Institute

On a day when the stock market drops more than 460 points, I’m here to hold your hand and to let you know that “All will be well.” At least all of us Baby Boomers with retirement savings tied into 401(k) plans certainly hope so.

Actually, it provides an economic segue into a recent white paper penned by the ADP Research Institute regarding midsized businesses in the United States.

Editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak
Bernie Pacyniak

As many of you may know, midsized businesses are what make this economy tick and certainly constitute the backbone of the American confectionery industry. They play a critical role in job creation as well as job stability.

Consider some of the stats cited in the ADP Research Institute’s report, “The Struggle for Confidence Between Wall Street and Main Street.”

First, midsized businesses account for more than one-third of all jobs in the United States, roughly 45.6 million.

Second, as the white paper declares, “they’re particularly resilient, having added more than half as many employees as Big Business lost in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008. More than four out of five midsized businesses survived that crisis and continued to grow as other business segments suffered.”

Despite such positive numbers, owners and executives of midsized businesses face several challenges, the leading trio being health care benefits, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and government regulations. Not necessarily earth-shattering news, I know.

But here’s a stat the survey revealed that raised my eyebrows: One-third of midsized business owners indicted they experienced fines and penalties for non-compliance with government regulations. More shocking, half of these owners could not say how much they paid in penalties or how many fines they incurred.

Overwhelmed, understaffed? Certainly. Ironically, midsized business owners reported less concern with government regulation (51 percent) than they had the previous year (54 percent). Could it be that the complexity of running a midsized operation differs greatly from running a startup? No doubt.

As a quote in Forbes from Robert Sher, a midsized business consultant, that’s cited in the report states, “Midsized businesses with the practices of a startup cannot thrive. Even firms with solid products and services often feel they can continue growing without much change in process because of past successes. But my experience and research show they will hit a plateau at some point — operations will melt down, quality will suffer, or the sales activities needed to drive growth will fail — and then it will be difficult to regain momentum.”

I’m sure many of you are nodding your heads from experience. And there are many more who are just approaching that crossroad.

To illustrate that point a bit further, let me touch on two other areas in the survey: health care costs and the ACA.

Although concern about the ACA among midsized business owners and execs this year slipped slightly from last year, a drop of five percentages points from 59 percent in 2013 to 54 percent in 2014, less than a quarter “are confident that they have the tools and information needed to make the decisions about the best health and benefits strategies for their companies.”

Granted, the government doesn’t have a great track record in either explaining or implementing ACA. But hey, it’s been two years since that Supreme Court decision. I know, many were thinking it would go away. Doesn’t look like it though, does it?  

Moreover, rising health care costs aren’t going away either. In fact, that’s the top concern of midsized owners and executives at 69 percent. But just slightly more than half (56 percent) have put together a plan to control or lower the cost of providing medical insurance to employees. And less than half are offering or are in the process of offering wellness programs to their employees.

Finally, there are a couple of other numbers worth noting.

The study reveals that two out of five midsized business owners and executives are concerned about the talent pool. A more shocking number: Only one in 10 are confident they have the tools for effective talent management.

I didn’t mean to create another downer on a bummer Wall Street market day — although, by the way, I see it rebounded some.

Rather, I thought it interesting to see how the lifeblood of this economy is doing these days, a segment that’s often ignored by Wall Street. I hope it serves as a benchmark for comparison, and for long-term strategizing.

And don’t worry, all will be well.

Notes about the survey: The ADP Research Institute conducted the ADP Midsized Business Owners Study in July and August 2014 among 756 business owners, C-suite executives and senior-level executives amongst U.S. midsized organizations. For more information, visit