Small Businesses Optimistic About Growth, Pessimistic About Country

Why business owners are optimistic about the future. Hint: It's not Congress.
CEO, Small Business Trends LLC
January 29, 2013

Presidential inaugurations typically ignite a sense of optimism with the promise of a fresh start, at least for a short while. With President Obama’s second inauguration just behind us, are small-business owners feeling more optimistic about the outlook for 2013? The latest SMB Wellness Index from Manta says yes. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of the over 1,300 small-business owners polled report that 2012 was a financially successful year for their business, and more than three-fourths (78 percent) are confident about their company’s growth prospects for the coming year.

That confidence doesn’t stem from faith in Washington, however. On the contrary, almost 40 percent of entrepreneurs in the study report they will delay hiring due to uncertainty about the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff issues that seem to be perpetually looming in Congress. In addition, the economy was far and away the main cause of stress for small-business owners in 2012. Asked what was their biggest stressor last year, 51 percent cited the economy, compared to just 15 percent who cited their own personal financial situation. No wonder 76 percent say they disapprove of how Congress is managing budget issues.

Financial Independence

Despite the fiscal uncertainty in Washington, small-business owners are personally optimistic about their businesses’ outlook for 2013. That’s because they’re not relying on government to resolve the issues—they’re confident in their own ability to carry on despite whatever actions politicians take (or don’t take). 

While small businesses are still on the fence about hiring, the employment picture has improved from last year. While only 18 percent hired new employees in the fourth quarter of 2012, 35 percent report that they plan to hire in the first quarter of 2013. Although this is still a minority of small-business owners, it’s nearly double the percentage that hired in Q4 2012.

Confidence Will Cost You

However, this confidence about business growth is coming at a personal cost to small-business owners, who are working longer hours than they have in years past to achieve their success. Nearly half (49 percent) said they worked more than 50 hours per week in 2012, up from 40 percent who did so in 2011. More than one-fourth (26 percent) worked 51 to 60 hours a week, up from 21 percent in 2011; 14 percent worked 61 to 70 hours (up from 11 percent in 2011), and 9 percent worked over 70 hours a week (up from 8 percent in 2011).

It’s no wonder that small-business owners’ health habits are suffering, with just 29 percent of reporting that their diet and exercise habits improved in 2012. In 2011, 37 percent said their diet and exercise habits got better compared to the prior year. Nearly 40 percent of small-business owners regularly get less than six hours of sleep per night.

Hesitant Optimism Could Hinder Growth

Small-business owners’ employees may feel the pinch in 2013, too. Despite more upbeat hiring plans for the coming year, small-business owners are still slow to loosen the purse strings. Some 14 percent of small-business owners say they don’t have any plans to raise salaries or distribute bonuses this year, and 13 percent are cutting out discretionary spending altogether. 

How do your outlook and your plans for 2013 compare to these results? 

Photo: Thinkstock 

CEO, Small Business Trends LLC