Small-Business Owners Love What They Do, Despite the Economy

A new Gallup poll shows that eight of 10 small-business owners would do it all again if they could.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
May 22, 2014, 1 a.m.

The eco­nomy may rise and fall, but small-busi­ness own­ers re­main happy with their ca­reer choice.

In a new Gal­lup and Wells Fargo sur­vey re­leased this week, 84 per­cent of small-busi­ness own­ers say that if they had they could do it all over again they would still start their own busi­ness. (Wells Fargo is also a spon­sor of Na­tion­al Journ­al‘s Next Amer­ica pro­ject.) To the 600 small-busi­ness own­ers who were polled, the in­de­pend­ence and de­cision-mak­ing that come with their job are in­valu­able be­ne­fits.

While 42 per­cent of those sur­veyed say that be­ing their own boss is the most re­ward­ing part of their job, more than 10 per­cent of re­spond­ents also cite job sat­is­fac­tion and pride, flex­ible job hours and hav­ing fam­ily time, and in­ter­act­ing with cus­tom­ers as reas­ons they like their choice of work.

Over­all, this sort of sat­is­fac­tion hasn’t changed for small-busi­ness own­ers in the last 11 years of the Gal­lup sur­vey — roughly 80 per­cent have con­sist­ently said they would do it all over again. What’s re­mark­able is how un­waver­ing these sen­ti­ments are, re­gard­less of how small-busi­ness own­ers think the eco­nomy is do­ing. 

Just look at the Great Re­ces­sion. In early 2009, when un­em­ploy­ment start­ing to fall sharply and many busi­nesses struggled, sen­ti­ment among small busi­ness own­ers dipped very slightly, as 79 per­cent said they still en­joyed their ca­reer path. Yet it is only re­cently that small-busi­ness own­ers have thought the eco­nomy was truly re­cov­er­ing. 

A sep­ar­ate poll re­leased in April shows that for the first time in five years, a ma­jor­ity of small-busi­ness own­ers are op­tim­ist­ic about the eco­nomy. The 2014 U.S. Bank An­nu­al Small Busi­ness Sur­vey polled 3,000 small-busi­ness own­ers and found that 52 per­cent think the eco­nomy is in re­cov­ery — a 7-point jump from last year. Just 34 per­cent of those sur­veyed think the U.S. is still in re­ces­sion. In 2010, nearly nine of 10 small-busi­ness own­ers said the U.S. was in a re­ces­sion.

There are some con­cerns for small-busi­ness own­ers, though. The top worry (23 per­cent) of those sur­veyed in the Gal­lup poll is gen­er­at­ing rev­en­ue and se­cur­ing a cus­tom­er base. Oth­er con­cerns in­clude cash flow (15 per­cent), and cred­it fin­an­cing and the avail­ab­il­ity of fund­ing (10 per­cent).

Fur­ther polling from Gal­lup and Wells Fargo shows that small-busi­ness own­ers’ con­fid­ence in their busi­nesses has not re­covered since fall­ing sharply in dur­ing the re­ces­sion. Mean­while, only about half of small busi­nesses are still in busi­ness after five years, and just one-third of them make it 10 years, ac­cord­ing to Small Busi­ness Ad­min­is­tra­tion data.

But that’s part of the chal­lenge of be­ing a small-busi­ness own­er, and pos­sibly one of the reas­ons many more people are start­ing their own busi­nesses.

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