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The DNA of an Entrepreneur Series: Business Climate and Optimism

December 2, 2011

Survey of 3,000 small business owners in the US, UK and Europe

It’s been a few years since the depths of the 2008 recession, and economists, politicians and the people at the corner coffee shop are all looking for glimmers of hope around the corner.

Is it harder to get a reservation at your favorite restaurant?

Did you have to wait in a long line to check out the last time you shopped? How busy was the airport that last time you flew?

Everybody’s looking for signs of hope and increased spending, but we’re not always finding them.

In this light, I’ve been looking forward to Hiscox’s latest DNA of an Entrepreneur report.

This survey has the opinions of 3,000 small business owners from the US, UK, and throughout Europe on their thoughts about the current business climate, and what the future holds.

There’s a lot of great details in here and some of the most interesting were the differences in sentiment throughout the different areas of the US.

First, some relatively good news – 45% of US small business owners are optimistic about the year ahead. But, if you break this down to the different regions a slightly different story comes out. While half of the small business owners in the South and Midwest are optimistic, only 34% of those in the Northeast feel the same way.

Is this just the natural cynicism of Northeasterners coming through or are they seeing something other parts of the country aren’t yet?

Do you feel optimistic about the year ahead?

View Results

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OK, now for some less positive news – 57% reported negative or no growth in revenues or profits during the last 12 months. Digging a little deeper, the reports are much worse for sole proprietors (65% negative or no growth) vs. companies with 20 – 50 employees (35% negative or no growth). While these are sobering numbers, it’s possible that they’ve already been through the worst of it and 2012 has a brighter future in store.

Which of these answers should we pay the most attention to?

Do we focus on the positive of the optimism business owners have for next year or look at the cold, hard numbers reflecting that most either lost ground or didn’t grow in 2011?

I think you have to account for both, and hope that the glimmers of the real recovery we’re all looking for are truly sustainable next year.

What are your thoughts as a small business owner?

  • Ruelle Smith

    I think that the external challenges (like the economy) pose the biggest potential issues that may affect the optimism of small business owners from around the world. But I also think that business owners’ cautious optimism for 2015 may mean that they feel the economy is less likely to pose problems compared to the recent past. What’s truly important for me is keeping the customers which can help retain one’s business through thick and thin.

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