For small businesses, the past few years have been fraught with economic uncertainty. But this spring, worries about cash flow are taking a back burner as entrepreneurs focus on growing their businesses, meeting new people, and using social media to attract new customers.
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor survey of 1,150 small business owners showed concerns about cash flow are at a low not seen since before the recession. Compared with spring 2011, when 66% of respondents were primarily worried about cash flow, only 49% named cash as a major stressor this spring. According to the survey, the top concern of small business owners now is maintaining their current revenue sources.
Confidence is high as 72% indicated that they think will be able to access needed capital to expand their businesses. That’s the highest percentage in the history of that question, which first appeared on the survey in 2002. And while 56% of respondents admitted to being stressed out by the economy, that’s down from spring 2011’s high of 70%.
Networking and social media are key
About the same number of small business owners plan to grow their operations in the next six months as last spring: 72%, compared to 74% in 2013. For those folks, connecting with their communities and meeting new people are priorities—and social media plays an increasing role in their networking efforts.
Fifty-eight percent of small business owners said they utilized social media this spring. Last year, only 46% said social media played a part in their business. People who use social media said they use it to bring in customers (66%), drive sales (49%), open a dialogue with customers (46%), get consumer insight (41%), and create communities for their customers to engage with each other (29%).
Forty-three percent of those surveyed plan to focus more on social media in the coming year. And of the 35% who plan to hire more employees in the near future (up from 31% last year), the most common position to hire for is a social media expert. Twelve percent plan to add a social media employee, up from 9% last year and just slightly edging out accountant/bookkeeper (11% plan to hire one of those) as the number one new hire needed .
Hiring a social media professional might be a good move for the 54% of business owners who currently find social media to be a “time suck.” With all the focus on social media, only 29% said that social media has helped their business flourish in a challenging economy.
Happiness trumps all
But are small business owners happy? The survey indicates that they are. Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said they are “very happy” compared with 56% in 2013. Among women small business owners, that number is even higher: 73% are very happy while only 66% of men said the same. And most of them credit entrepreneurship as being the root of that happiness. Eighty percent of them said that their happiness was entirely or somewhat because of their self-employed status.
The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor was conducted from February 24 through March 18, 2014 and surveyed owners and managers of companies with 100 or fewer employees.