Which Do You Fear More: Losing Customers–or Your Whole Business?

A new study sheds some light on common fears of small business owners.
Business Writers
April 11, 2012

The loss of customers is at the top of the worry list for small business owners, says a new report from small business insurer Hiscox USA. Losing the business entirely tied for second place with fear for one's health.

The insurer surveyed about a thousand small business owners for the study and discovered–not surprisingly–that they're a pretty stressed lot.

The report states 49 percent of entrepreneurs fear losing their customers, while 47 percent fretted about losing the business entirely. Forty-three percent said they feared repayments on existing personal debt, and just over a third (36 percent) said they feared their work situation affecting their family life or close personal relationships. Laying off staff caused the least angst: 29 percent said they feared it, but 41 percent said it caused no fear.

Fear, longer hours and working harder to win and keep new business have led 43 percent of small business owners to say they are more stressed than they were a year ago. (They're not, however, particularly stressed about having to work hard; just over a third, or 38 percent, listed being on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as a stressor.)

“Businesses are operating under extraordinarily stressful circumstances. Stress is an important biological process in dealing with difficult situations. But the stress reaction is intended to be temporary,” David Bull, a medical doctor and an entrepreneur who founded strategic brand communication company IncrediBull, tells the OC Register.

Nearly 40 percent of owners said they're working harder to look after new and existing clients, and 27 percent said they were struggling to keep their businesses afloat.

“Managing a small business can be liberating and rewarding, but over the last few years it has become increasingly stressful," says Hiscox small business expert Kevin Kerridge. "It is clear that small business owners remain determined, focused and flexible, but are also working harder to keep up with pressures facing them and their teams.”

Despite increased stress, 69 percent feel mentally prepared to tackle the business challenges of the year ahead, and 57 percent expect their businesses to grow in the coming year. This is a much sunnier outlook than the National Federation of Independent Business's report, which showed optimism had dipped for the first time in six months.

What keeps you up at night? And which do you fear more: losing customers or losing your business?

Image by OPEN Forum