Small Business Owners Succeed in 2012 Despite an Uncertain Economy

Americans place a lot of hope on small businesses to create jobs and help fuel the country's economic growth. In the year 2012, how do small business owners feel about their future? What are their concerns and their views on success?

The Hartford's second annual Small Business Success Study in 2012 surveyed over 2,000 small business owners nationwide for answers to these questions and more. Here's what we learned.

How Small Business Owners Define Success in 2012

Survey results showed that passion and profitability both ranked high as being essential to small business success, with more emphasis on the bottom line in 2012 than in 2011.

Business Owners Cautious About Economic Growth

According to the 2012 study results, small business owners see the economy as a major risk and barrier to growth, along with taxes and uncertainty regarding federal regulations. The majority of small business owners are not optimistic that the national economy will strengthen in 2012.

Contributors to Small Business Success in 2012

Despite the struggling economy, many small business owners feel their enterprises remain successful in 2012. Whatever their personal criteria – whether to earn enough for a comfortable lifestyle, to maintain the status quo or to simply do what they love, 61% of respondents believe their businesses are moderately or very successful. 7% said their businesses are extremely successful, up from 4% in 2011.

To Hire or Not to Hire

The realities of the 2012 economy have caused some small business owners to lower their expectations for growth. Small business hiring slowed in the past year and even when looking to the year ahead, over half of businesses plan to simply maintain their current size and not hire new employees.
In August 2012, 59% of small business owners had not hired anyone in the past 12 months. 67% of small business owners do not intend to hire in the next 12 months.

The Silver Lining of a Slow Economy

While uncertainty and a slow economy certainly pose hurdles to small business owners in 2012, they also have their upsides. Most owners responding to our survey said they used recent down time to make positive shifts in their business, which helped them find new operational efficiencies and position their businesses for growth in the future.

Not-So-Risky Business

In 2012, the bottom line is vitally important to most small business owners, and they are more cautious when it comes to taking business risks. But they also told us that success isn't solely about profit and growth. It’s also about quality of life - and that’s where small business owners find the greatest satisfaction.