By Rieva Lesonsky
To steal a line from a 1930s-era songbook, it looks like happy days are here again—at least for the nation’s small business owners. The latest annual Semi-Annual Small Business Index poll, conducted by Rocket Lawyer, asked entrepreneurs about the small business outlook for 2015, and the news has me doing a happy dance.
A whopping 80 percent of the entrepreneurs in the survey believe their companies will experience growth this year. Perhaps that’s not surprising, given that 61 percent say their businesses grew dramatically last year!
Boasting renewed confidence in the small business outlook, small business owners are getting ready to invest in their companies in various ways, including:
Hiring Is on the Rise
The sunny small business outlook has small business hiring plans up 27 percent compared to the same time last year. The bulk of this hiring will be temporary, as more than half (54 percent) of entrepreneurs in the survey say they are planning to hire independent contractors. By comparison, 44 percent plan to hire part-time workers and 40 percent expect to hire full-time employees. Those are still hefty numbers, which is a positive sign.
Boosting Their Online Presence
Small business owners in the survey are recognizing the vital importance of having a strong online presence for their business and brand. In fact, more than one-third (35 percent) say that improving their online presence is their number-one business concern for 2015. To help with this, many of them (27 percent) are hiring marketing employees. Perhaps with the expectation that improved marketing will drive more leads, 37 percent also plan to hire for sales positions—making sales the number-one area for small business hiring.
We often hear that small business owners are slow to adopt new technology, but on the contrary, the small business outlook regarding developments in mobile payments technology such as Apple Pay is very positive indeed. In fact, 60 percent of small business owners in the survey say they would consider offering mobile payment options in 2015.
The primary reason for doing so (cited by 68 percent) is to offer customers a simple, seamless payment experience, but 51 percent also say they believe mobile payments offer new opportunities for their businesses to surpass competitors.
I wasn’t surprised to see that Millennials are the most likely to be excited about mobile payments’ future—71 percent say they’re likely to consider adopting mobile payments this year.
The small business outlook is not all smooth sailing for small business owners going forward, however. New legislation such as minimum wage increases in many states, as well as continued implementation of the Affordable Care Act, have 27 percent of entrepreneurs in the survey worried that they either don’t understand, or will fail to comply with, government regulations.
On the legal side of things, the biggest problem small business owners reported in 2014 was difficulty with contract negotiations. More than one-fourth (27 percent) say that this is a challenge. As more small businesses hire independent contractors, creating solid contracts with those workers will undoubtedly going to continue to grow in importance.
If you are facing any of these challenges, there are many places you can go to get help. The Small Business Development Center (SBDC) nearest you, SCORE or the RocketLawyer website are all valuable resources for small business advice and tools. (Disclosure: SCORE and the LA-SBDC Network are clients of my company).