Survey: Small-Business Owners Focused On Expansion

56% Of Small-Firm Owners Have Positive Outlook On Business

Small Business ForecastFocused on driving revenue gains, a growing number of small-business owners plan to ratchet up hiring and make capital investments, according to a new survey. The American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor found that owners of companies with fewer than 100 employees are increasingly abandoning a "wait and see" approach, with one-third now making growth a top priority.

"Small business owners appear poised to flip the switch to growth mode," said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, in a statement.

Data shows about 54% of owners are making capital investments, up from 49% a year ago, while 35% have hiring plans – up six percentage points. Entrepreneurs are now better positioned to make such investments as cash flow has become less of a dilemma – the survey found that 52% of respondents reported a cash squeeze compared to 59% six months ago. While a quarter of business owners believe the economy remains in recession, that's down from 36% last fall, according to survey results. And, significantly, 56% of small-firm owners have a positive outlook on business prospects, with 43% confident about an ascent in sales.

Growth is already well underway at distributor Added Incentives. Overall sales at the Northbrook, IL-based firm are up this year over last and vice president Danny Friedman expects revenue to keep rising in 2014. Friedman says the gains are being powered, in part, by companies in certain key markets that are increasing their spend on ad specialties – so much so that they are starting to approach pre-recessionary levels. "Legal, construction and education are all coming back," he told Counselor this week. "Right now, I see no reason why it won't continue."

A similar optimism is circulating at Black Duck Inc. The Albuquerque-based company, which boasts an extensive in-house decorating operation, plans to intensify the marketing muscle behind its sublimation printing offering, something the firm expects will drive more sales and possibly soon necessitate investment in more equipment. Black Duck plans to continue to drive the sales increases it experienced this year by focusing on markets where the company has been achieving success of late, including real estate and medical. "Real estate in particular," said e-commerce manager Erich Campbell, "has been growing in a big way."