By Rieva Lesonsky
Even though most of the nation is still mired in winter weather, small business owners are enjoying a sunny outlook, according to Manta’s End-of-Year Small Business Wellness Index. The more than 1,000 entrepreneurs polled not only say they had a great 2013 (with 72 percent reporting that their businesses flourished), but also forecast an even better 2014.
The 83 percent of small business owners who are optimistic that 2014 will be even better aren’t just wishing and hoping. They’re setting lots of goals to make this year a success. The top goal (cited by 40 percent) is finding new ways to promote and market their companies. Other top goals include improving customer service and getting new business (21 percent), networking more frequently (9 percent), launching new products or services or enhancing existing ones (14 percent) and delegating more to employees (5 percent).
Success isn’t all about the numbers. Small business owners finally seem to be recovering from a period in which the economy was stressful for both business and personal reasons. When asked if their business affected their overall health in 2013, 65 percent said business had no impact on their health. How did they keep business stress from getting to them? The top stress-relievers are exercise (36 percent), taking vacations (25 percent) and getting more sleep (14 percent).
That doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement, however. When it comes to personal goals, improving personal health was the top goal for business owners, with more than one-third (34 percent) saying they plan to exercise more, eat healthier and get more sleep in 2014. Other personal goals include saving more money (19 percent), improving personal relationships (19 percent) and helping others (15 percent).
How can you make sure that you achieve both your business and personal goals this year? Small business owners in the survey rely on a variety of resources for business advice, including other business owners (27 percent), industry experts (20 percent), customers (16 percent), the Internet (14 percent) and friends or family (13 percent).
One thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that no matter how much you think you know or how much experience you have in your industry, starting a business is a whole different ball game—one that takes a team to do it right. Whether you’re a startup or a veteran entrepreneur, a sole proprietor or heading multiple locations, you need advice and support from people outside your business. Here’s some of what has worked for me:
- Network with other business owners in different industries. I’ve learned lots from talking to SEO experts and website designers.
- Get professional help. When it comes to legal, accounting and IT issues, unless you’re a pro yourself, it’s worth the cost to hire professionals.
- Find mentors. Your local SCORE office or Small Business Development Center offer invaluable free advice from people who’ve been there, done that. (Disclosure: both organizations are clients of my company.)