AmEx OPEN survey: Business owners make growth top priority

american expressA recent report released by American Express indicated that entrepreneurs have opted to abandon their cautious approach, with approximately one-third of business owners naming growth as a top priority.

The fall AmEx OPEN Small Business Monitor found that 54 percent of small business owners are making capital investments, compared to 49 percent last year, while 35 percent plan to increase their hiring, compared to 29 percent last year.

Fewer business owners—25 percent, down from 30 percent in the spring and 36 percent last fall—said the economy is in a recession, 56 percent indicated that they have a positive outlook on business prospects and 43 percent said they are confident revenues will increase. Nearly 40 percent said they have seen revenue increases over last year, and 16 percent said they have more employees than last year.

“Small business owners appear poised to flip the switch to growth mode,” AmEx OPEN President Susan Sobbott said. “Business owners are getting more targeted in their approach to building customer demand and an increasing number are using analytics to better understand their customers and social media to drive sales.”

While social media has becoming a growing trend among businesses, only 50 percent of entrepreneurs said they use social media, and those that do use it for a more targeted approach. Seventy-one percent use social media to draw in new customers, 59 percent use it to boost sales, 55 percent use it to open dialogue with customers and 36 percent use it to create peer communities.

Fifty-two percent of business owners, compared to 44 percent six months ago, said increased customer demand would be most helpful towards growth. Nearly all entrepreneurs surveyed offer incentives to customers for repeat business, up from 89 percent last year, while 94 percent used customer feedback to improve products and services.

Fewer entrepreneurs—or 59 percent, compared to 64 percent in spring 2007—said it is stressful to balance their personal and professional lives, and on average, business owners are working a half-hour less per day than in the fall of 2010.

The survey also found that more than half of business owners take out a salary, though they are earning less than last fall—$68,300, compared to $72,000 last fall. Salaries for female entrepreneurs, however, increased by $3,000 from one year ago, though women business owners are more likely to have to work a second job than their male counterparts.

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