small business owners

Future’s so bright, small business owners have got to wear shades.

By Rieva Lesonsky

America’s small business owners are doing well and feeling confident about what the future holds, according to the Q2 2018 Small Business Index report by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Here’s a closer look at how small business owners across the country are doing. Keep reading to see how your business compares.

Positive outlook

In general, the new report continues a trend of positive outlooks among entrepreneurs over the past four quarters. For example, more than six in 10 (61%) small business owners surveyed say their businesses are in “good health” overall. In addition, almost 4 in 10 (38%) say their businesses are in “very good health.”

Faith in the future

Last quarter, small business optimism about the national economy surged immediately after new tax laws were passed. Since then, optimism has leveled out a bit at 47%. However, that’s still the second-highest rating in the survey’s history.

A similar number of small business owners feel good about the health of their local economies, which is often a bigger factor in a small business’s revenues than the national economy. Almost half (40%) of small business owners in the survey rate their local economy as “good,” which is tied for the highest rating in the survey’s history.

Working hard

If small business owners are feeling positive about their futures, there’s no doubt they’ve earned it. Survey found that the average small business owner spends more than 14 hours each day working in their business — making their workday almost twice as long as the typical American employee’s 7.8-hour workday. All told, this means small business owners are putting in about 70 hours per week.

Even small business owners who describe their companies as being in poor health report working 10.25 hours a day.

What are small business owners spending their time on? The average work day for a small business owner in the survey breaks down to about 5.6 hours working with clients or customers, about 4 hours working on administrative tasks, and about 3.7 hours managing staff. There’s also an average of 6.7 hours per night sleeping. If my math is correct, that leaves between three and four hours a day for family, friends and personal time.

I’m glad to see small business owners are spending the bulk of their day actually working with clients and customers — after all, isn’t that what it’s all about? However, spending four hours on administrative tasks seems excessive to me. I can easily see how administrative duties can expand to take up four hours per day, but I also think it’s important to prevent that from happening.

How can you reclaim more of your time to spend with clients and customers, friends and family, or even getting an extra hour of sleep? Start by looking for technology that can help you simplify and streamline administrative tasks. For example, if you’re still manually creating invoices or inputting figures into spreadsheets and reconciling them by hand, know that there are many solutions out there to automate much of that work.

Tech talk

The survey results bear out the value of implementing tech solutions. Small business owners in the survey that use technology such as smartphone apps, cloud computing, big data, accounting software, CRM software and videoconferencing reported feeling significantly better about the health of their businesses that don’t use such technology. In fact, 32% of business owners that report their companies are in good health feel that they are ahead of the technology curve.

In comparison, just 25% of small business owners overall say they are ahead of the technology curve. The majority (61%) believe their technology use is in line with that of their competitors. However, 12% admit they feel behind the curve when it comes to using new technology.

A majority (61%) of small business owners report being in line with other companies’ technology use, but 12% report feeling behind when it comes to adapting to new technology.

So what types of technology tools are small business owners in the survey employing? Here’s the rundown:

  • Cloud-based services: 53%
  • Smartphone apps: 51%
  • Videoconferencing: 34%
  • Customer relationship management (CRM) systems: 31%

Hire purpose

Will small business owners be increasing their payroll in the coming months? Good news for job hunters: Approximately one in three small business owners expect to increase headcount this year (tied for the highest
in the Index’s history). Overall, 32% of all businesses in the survey expect to hire. The largest businesses are even more likely to be growing their headcount (61% expect to do so).

How are you doing?

One thing that impressed me about these business owners: They have a good handle on how their companies are doing, and a sense of when they aren’t doing so well. A whopping 87% of entrepreneurs in the survey say they have clear metrics in place to indicate when their business is struggling.

If they do find their business struggling, 86% say they have a clear idea for how they can pivot to get their company back on track. In addition, 81% have created a business plan for adapting to a changing economy. Since changes the one constant business

The small business owners in the Index sound incredibly well prepared. No wonder they have such a strong sense of confidence: They’re in the perfect position to steer their businesses to success.