Local Business

Small business owners sound off on salary report

The most recent survey of small businesses by American Express revealed a mixed bag of economic news for Illinois.

But some McHenry County small businesses are bucking the trend and enjoying better times than what the results show.

The twice-yearly nationwide survey of 1,000 businesses with fewer than 100 employees revealed that the number of Illinois owners who pay themselves a salary has plummeted over the past year from almost two-thirds to just over half. That salary, too, shrank significantly – it averages $60,000 now, compared with $83,900 last year.

Also down from past surveys is hiring. Twenty-nine percent plan to hire over the next six months, down significantly from 45 percent this spring and 40 percent in fall 2012.

But times are good for Exceed Floor and Home in Crystal Lake and Huntley Gymnastics Academy.

Exceed, which employs 10 full-time workers, has been “in a hiring mode for the past two years” as business has grown, owner Haig Haleblian said. The business at 5186 Northwest Hwy. opened in 1993 and does flooring, countertops, cabinetry and plumbing work.

“Our business is really, really good. but I work it really hard. I’m here six days a week,” Haleblian said.

Haleblian has been able to pay himself a salary since shortly after his business opened, and was somewhat surprised by the survey that half of Illinois small business owners are not.

“I think maybe the first few months I started out I didn’t, but I’ve since been fortunate enough to do so,” he said.

Times are good as well for Amy Krotser, owner and head coach of Huntley Gymnastics Academy. She opened the 10763 Wolf Drive business two years ago and employs between 20 and 25 part-time and full-time coaches.

The academy has 700 students, and its official gymnastics team boasts 100 members. Times are good, she said, because her business is a niche market on which parents are willing to spend.

“My business is doing very well – I have a different business, though. People stopped taking vacations, they drive cheaper vehicles, but they won’t take their kids out of gymnastics. I think people make their children a priority,” Krotser said.

Krotser pays herself a salary, but added that she pays all of her coaches more than what she takes home.

Business owner Lori McConville wants to earn a salary, but anticipates that day is at least three years away.

She opened Marvin’s Toy Store, which sells toys that encourage children to use their imaginations, June 1 at 64 N. Williams St. in downtown Crystal Lake.

McConville employs one full-time and three part-time employees.

McConville and Haleblian credit the city of Crystal Lake for creating what they call a pro-business environment that helps people start up a business or grow an existing one. The city boasts that every retail space on Williams Street in downtown is rented out.

“The resources I got were at the local level,” McConville said. “Crystal Lake is organized and holds events to bring in customers. The city itself offered a grant for me to get started.”

Haleblian shares her sentiments. He, like many people in the state’s business community, said that the state of Illinois needs to fix its business environment.

“Dealing with the city of Crystal Lake is a complete joy. I have absolutely no issues. If Illinois was run the way Crystal Lake was run, Illinois wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in, period,” Haleblian said.

By the numbers

A poll of Illinois small business owners by American Express revealed a mixed bag of economic news compared with last year:

• Half are likely to pay themselves a salary, down significantly from 65 percent last year.

• That salary averages $60,000 a year, also down significantly from $83,900 last year.

• The number of businesses with cash-flow issues has dropped to half, compared to 64 percent a year ago.

• Just under 30 percent plan to hire within the next six months, down from 40 percent last fall and 45 percent earlier this year.

• They have experienced higher revenue growth on average – 14 percent – compared to a 10 percent average in the Midwest and nationwide.

SOURCE: American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, Fall 2013 survey

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