Small business owners are feeling bullish about the economy and the future of their businesses, with their optimism reaching pre-recession levels, according to a new study. Rather than worrying about cash flow, they are focused on growing their businesses, upping customer service and using data analytics to get a competitive edge.
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor survey of 1,130 small business owners and managers showed that 63% have a hopeful outlook. Similar levels have not been seen since the fall of 2007 before the recession. Small businesses report that they are making more money, compared to last year which may be why optimism is shifting into high gear.
Growth, growth, growth
Business growth is the top priority over the next six months for many. This kind of interest in growth has not happened since the spring of 2011. “Nearly half of all business owners are confident in the U.S. economy and find their businesses in an excellent position for growth,” said Alice Bredin, small business adviser to American Express OPEN.
With cash flow issues easing, 79% are increasingly confident that they can get the capital they need to take their business to the next level, up from 72% six months ago.
The keys to success — customer service and data analysis
Serving customers more effectively is at the top of the list for 85% of business owners, seeing it as a way to outmatch their competition, up from 78% in the spring.
While customer service is in the forefront of their minds, a growing number of businesses are actively analyzing data to help with growth objectives with 85% believing that analyzing sales and customer data, they can run their business more effectively.
The top reasons for analysis are:
- Improving current products/services (72%)
- Making key business decisions (66%)
- Boosting efficiency (65%)
- Identifying ideas for marketing (58%)
- Identifying opportunities for new products (52%)
- Tracking loyalty/rewards usage (37%)
With growth fresh in their minds, many entrepreneurs are planning to invest in their business, with a third planning on increasing hiring over the next six months. More than half will be reinvesting in their businesses. Spending on technology, office equipment, manufacturing/production equipment, office furnishings and real estate investments is part of the plan.
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor was conducted from August 19 to September 12 and surveyed owners and managers of companies with 100 or fewer employees.