How Optimistic Are Small Business Owners Going Into 2014?

    December 31, 2013

The rise of the internet has certainly made it easier for small business owners to build and market their livelihoods. However, these opportunities are tempered by the fact that small businesses must work extra hard to stand out in the largest crowd imaginable.

Standing out from the crowd online is especially challenging given the quickly-evolving nature of the internet. Though most businesses have managed to get a foothold in social media in recent years, new evidence is showing that the sands of the internet may be shifting once again. Young people are now using traditional social media such as Facebook less, favoring more personal and closed off platforms such as WhatsApp and Snapchat. It’s not surprising, then, that small businesses are often kept on their toes, scrambling to market themselves on a variety of platforms that may or may not prove effective.

How will you market your business in 2014? Let us know in the comments below.

In 2013 small businesses were greeted with a myriad of opportunities large and small, yet many small business owners are still unsure of what may be coming in the new year. A new Gallup poll released this week shows that about half of U.S. small business owners (49%) are neither more optimistic nor less optimistic about their business’ future heading into 2014. A full 28% of them are less optimistic about the new year, and only 23% are more optimistic about what 2014 could bring.

Certainly some of this unease can be pinned on the fact that small business owners must always be wary of the new and unexpected, plenty of which could easily sink a small business.

Gallup’s survey found that owners are still very concerned about the state of the economy, which continues to remain staid five years on from the beginning of the recession. Other outside factors that small business owners must contend with include the new Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as “Obamacare”) healthcare rules and other government intervention, including regulation and taxes.

Gallup’s poll also found that small business owners are still worried about traditional small business concerns such as finding new customers, generating stable revenue, and hiring good employees.

What are your concerns for your business going into 2014? Let us know in the comments.

With unemployment still high and consumer spending increasing, it would seem that things in the U.S. are on-track for a small business renaissance in 2014. Likewise, economic indicators show that the country’s economy is slowly crawling back to relevance. So why should it be that so many small business owners have scant optimism going into 2014?

The wider rollout of Obamacare certainly has implications for small businesses in the new year. Major provisions of the healthcare law are set to begin on January 1, potentially increasing the overhead of some businesses. The changes could be particularly hard for those businesses that have counted on fixed lower healthcare costs for some time.

The Obamacare concerns also feed into overall concerns about the government. Though congress actually managed to pass a compromise budget in the closing days of 2013, the government shutdown in October highlighted just how dysfunctional the legislative branch of the U.S. government currently is. The current congress managed to reach record-low disapproval rantings, leading a majority of Americans to declare it the worst congress they’ve seen in their lifetime.

Though the “do-nothing” congress could be seen as a good thing for businesses wary of any legislative intervention, it is also a constant source of possible major changes. Take, for instance, this year’s fight over states collecting sales tax from internet sales. While physical retailers would no doubt benefit from legislation such as the Marketplace Fairness Act, online retailers most certainly wouldn’t. This means that some segment of small businesses will be harmed either way, and having such legislation constantly up in the air means uncertainty for everyone, which could be yet another source for small business owners’ lack of optimism.

For small businesses that rely heavily on Google for online traffic and new customers, 2013 was also a very unsteady year. In May Google rolled out its Penguin 2.0 update for its search algorithm, shifting search optimization (for better and worse) once again. Though that update doesn’t seem to have been as catastrophic for search rankings as previous updates have been, the additional Penguin 2.1 update in October added to the uncertainty that Google’s algorithm changes always create. This, for certain businesses, could be fueling the unease the feel around attracting new customers.

Any or all of these factors are good reason for small business owners to temper their optimism going into the new year. Uncertainty is anathema to good business and is especially dangerous for small businesses. However many new tools and opportunities small businesses get in the new year, old issues such as the fear of government intervention and the constant scramble for new customers are as real as ever- and certainly enough reason to keep optimism in check.

How optimistic are you for small businesses in 2014? Tell us in the comments below.