According to a survey of over 800 small business owners, plans for growth are up and economic worries are down – but the more successful the business, the rosier their outlook is.
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor, which surveys companies with fewer than 100 employees each spring and fall, released its latest findings this week, and for the first time this year, they broke down the numbers according to a “Success Index” which measured the responses of high-achieving businesses and compared them with self-identified “struggling” businesses.
Compared with previous surveys, fewer people overall reported feeling stress over the economy – only 59 percent said the economy was a major stressor, while 64 percent answered that it was last spring. Only 53 percent are worried about cash flow, compared with 58 percent in spring 2012.
The results showed that while optimism is up across all groups, there were distinct differences in the way high-achieving businesses planned for the future, including greater willingness to take risks and prioritizing growth.
High Achievers, Strivers, Sustainers and Strugglers
Businesses grouped themselves into one of these four categories, according to how they felt they’ve been performing since the recession. Six percent of the total survey sample identified as high-achieving, and their answers differed markedly from the strivers, sustainers, and strugglers.
Some of the differences:
- Almost 80 percent of high-achieving small business owners plan to make capital investments over the next six months, compared with 49 percent of the total survey group.
- 67 percent of high achievers say they are more willing to take risks than they were a year ago, while only 35 percent of the entire survey group said their appetite for risk had grown.
- When it comes to growth, 93 percent of high-achievers plan to grow their businesses, while only 69 percent of the entire group said they were planning for growth.
- Loyalty rewards and better customer service are more important to high-achievers. Only 22 percent of the total survey population offered loyalty rewards, compared with 40 percent of high achievers. Customer service was a priority for 84 percent of high-achieving businesses, while 78 percent of all respondents said the same.
- Social media plays a large role for high-achievers. While 70 percent of them use social media, and 79 percent leverage it in order to attract new customers, only 49 percent of all respondents use social media on a regular basis.
American Express OPEN Leads the Way
Small businesses that use American Express OPEN business credit cards have a head start on success, with the AmEx OPEN program leading the way in social media, loyalty rewards, and customer discount programs.
Some American Express OPEN credit cards give users discounts on things like office supplies and wireless services, which earn five percent cash back. The OPEN program also offers shipping discounts with FedEx Freight that can save small businesses hundreds of dollars per year.
Small businesses have every reason to look at the future optimistically, and by modeling the behavior of “high achievers” in this study – take risks, prioritize growth, utilize social media – and having the right credit card to help them grow their businesses, strugglers and strivers might be grouping themselves with the high achievers on the next survey.