By Rieva Lesonsky
Have you set small business goals for 2015 yet? If you haven’t, think big. I’ve been saying for a while now that the economy has revived, creating lots of opportunities for smart entrepreneurs to tap into pent-up consumer spending. Apparently, lots of small business owners agree with me.
According to Capital One’s quarterly Spark Business Barometer, small business owners have big expectations for the New Year. Overall, small businesses are more optimistic than last year and are backing up that optimism with cold, hard cash. As 2014 ended, entrepreneurs were focusing on giving back, making charitable donations and volunteering in the community—more so than in the recent past.
Not only are small business owners feeling flush enough to make donations, they’re also feeling confident enough to make investments in their own businesses instead of just pinching pennies.
That doesn’t mean entrepreneurs are suddenly becoming spendthrifts. On the contrary, they’re still looking for ways to cut expenses. However, it’s not their main focus. Just 13 percent say that improving their margins through better cash and financial management is their number-one business goal in 2015.
Instead of skimping and cutting back, entrepreneurs are focused on growth and are energetically reinvesting in their businesses for 2015. Almost half (46 percent) say they will increase employee wages and salaries in 2015; 33 percent will spend more on employee training; and more than one-fourth plan to hire new employees next year.
No wonder small business owners are ready to spend: Nearly half saw their sales increase in the past year, and most are quite confident that growth will continue. The majority (57 percent) believe that current business conditions are good or excellent; 49 percent are optimistic about the national economy in 2015; and 62 percent are optimistic about their local economies.
Small business owners’ biggest priorities for 2015 reflect that optimism. They are focused on getting more customers; doing more marketing and advertising to increase sales; and boosting profits through better cash flow management.
To attain those goals, where exactly are entrepreneur planning to invest? The top areas are:
- Hardware and software (29 percent)
- Social media (28 percent)
- Online advertising (26 percent)
I think these investment strategies make a lot of sense. All three require relatively small investments but can pay off in big ways. If you haven’t already made a business plan for growth in 2015, now’s the time to compare your goals to those of the entrepreneurs in this survey and see how you measure up. And when you set your goals, set them big—now’s the time to take a chance.