positive thinking

By Rieva Lesonsky

Is thinking positive enough to make your small business a success? Not if the results of the latest Small Business Success Index from American Express OPEN are any indication. The study polled small business owners, assessed their characteristics and level of success, and sorted them into four categories: High Achievers, Strivers, Sustainers and Strugglers. The results show that a positive attitude is pretty much a given for entrepreneurs—meaning that alone isn’t enough to create success unless followed through by actions.

While all types of business owners are optimistic—84 percent or more of entrepreneurs in all the categories say they have a “glass is half full” outlook—the high achievers are more likely to have a positive view of the economy. Ninety-three percent of high achievers think the economy is improving, compared to 71 percent of strivers, 46 percent of sustainers and 34 percent of strugglers.

High achievers are enjoying more positive results in their businesses as well. For example:

  • 87 percent of high achievers believe their businesses’ revenues will increase over the next six months, compared to 53 percent of strivers, 32 percent of sustainers and 32 percent of strugglers.
  • 50 percent of high achievers say employee morale has improved, compared to 30 percent of strivers, 12 percent of sustainers and 13 percent of strugglers.

Do high achievers think things are better because things are better for their businesses—or have things become better for their businesses because of their actions? Which comes first, the chicken or the egg? It’s hard to say, but if you want to improve your business, it certainly can’t hurt to emulate the things high achievers are doing. Here are some key areas where high achievers differ from the three other categories of business owners (and particularly from the strugglers).

  • Rewarding employees – 66 percent of high achievers say they will offer employee bonuses and/or raises, compared to 42 percent of strivers, 37 percent of sustainers and 24 percent of strugglers. In addition, 45 percent plan to promote employees, compared to 20 percent of strivers, 14 percent of sustainers and 11 percent of strugglers.
  • Using social media – 72 percent of high achievers use social media for business, compared to 54 percent of strivers, 42 percent of sustainers and 47 percent of strugglers.
  • Getting feedback – 60 percent of high achievers ask customers for feedback on how they can improve, compared to 51 percent of strivers and sustainers and just 36 percent of strugglers. In addition, 79 percent of high achievers ask customers for advice on how to serve them better, compared to 71 percent of strivers, 65 percent of sustainers and 49 percent of strugglers.
  • Attracting customers – I was a bit surprised to see that high achievers are actually more likely that other categories to offer discounts. Some 57 percent do so, compared to 50 percent of strivers, 47 percent of sustainers and just 43 percent of strugglers. They’re also more likely to offer loyalty rewards—47 percent do so, compared to 30 percent of strivers, 36 percent of sustainers and 41 percent of strugglers.

What do these results mean to your business? A positive attitude is a great starting point, but it takes more than thinking positive to succeed. You also need to take action to move you toward your business goals.