Economic uncertainty is high among small-business owners, but there is some improvement in their outlook, according to the latest American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor.
While a majority (59 percent) are feeling stressed out by the economy, this percentage is down from last spring, when nearly two-thirds (64 percent) expressed this attitude. Similarly, just 20 percent believe economic conditions are the biggest barrier to growth (compared to 23 percent in the fall of 2011) and fewer have cash flow concerns (53 percent vs. 58 percent last spring)
Nearly one-third (32 percent) of the surveyed 839 small business owners/managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees said that job one is maintaining their current business and sources of revenue. As a result, the survey concludes, they have adopted a “wait and see” approach for growth plans. Only 29 percent of businesses surveyed have plans to hire new employees, down from 35 percent in the spring. But only 16 percent of these entrepreneurs blamed the economy for employee layoffs, compared with 21 percent six months ago.
What lessons can small-business owners learn from their more successful counterparts? For the first time, the semi-annual survey, now in its eleventh year, identified common traits and behaviors among the so-called High Achievers, who represent six percent of the total survey sample. These small-business owners, on average, have spent twenty-six years in business, employ eighteen people in their firms and have attained business growth of thirty-four percent over the last three years (versus 10 percent growth for the total survey population).
The survey found:
· High Achievers take more risks: More than two-thirds have increased their appetite for risk compared to one year ago (67 percent vs.35 percent of the total population)
· Growth is a priority: Ninety-three percent (vs. 69 percent overall) are planning to grow their businesses over the next six months, while just over half (51 percent) list growth as their top priority (versus 31 percent overall)
· They invest in their business: More than three-quarters (78 percent) are planning to make capital investments
· They provide incentives to customers to get repeat business
· They leverage social media
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.