With small businesses facing unprecedented economic uncertainty in the US and UK, you might expect their general outlook to veer toward the pessimistic. Yet, our research into the opinions and sentiments of small business owners and their accountants showed something entirely different. The results of our second annual Make or Break Report revealed an irrepressible and unexpected optimism. Both owners (79%) and accountants (84%) feel more confident about 2017 than 2016.
Despite economic uncertainty being the most pressing concern for UK and US business owners, small business confidence was found to be high. This was especially true for young businesses. The majority of one-year-old (94%) and two-year-old (84%) businesses said they felt more confident going into 2017 than they did going into 2016. And over three quarters (79%) professed confidence in their businesses’ survival in 2017. In the same vein, for those going through a tougher time, nearly a fifth said they expected 2017 to be a turnaround year for their business.
So what accounts for this remarkable “glass half full” approach?
1. Small businesses want to free themselves of the red tape
Despite the economic uncertainty precipitated by Brexit, a fifth of small businesses polled believe that the separation would reduce the red tape and legislation associated with the EU. The result? An increase in trading and local buyers. In the US, 37% of business owners think a Trump administration will have a positive effect on them. “Less regulation” was claimed as the biggest bonus. New administrations always bring with them unknown factors, but 78% of US small business owners said they remain confident about the future.
2. Small businesses are shunning traditional offices
Small businesses are hailing remote working and flexible working hours (42%) as the biggest driver of productivity. There has been an increase in infrastructure and services supporting the move to flexible working. Expect 2017 to be full of opportunities to take advantage of this shift.
3. Small businesses are prioritising the health and happiness of their employees
SMB owners across the US and UK believe their, and their staff’s, health has a direct impact on business success. Creating more of a work-life balance ranked high in their priorities. This includes taking adequate time off.
4. Small business owners believe they are in control of their destiny
Acknowledging the inherent risks that come with the small business territory, owners are happy to admit they have no regrets. This includes when mistakes are made. Over three quarters (77%) of those surveyed agreed that when a decision may have led to trouble, it was nevertheless a fundamental learning experience.
While it can be heartening to see the enthusiasm and optimism bolstering small business owners, it’s always worth keeping one foot on the ground. The accountants who work with them are more cautious. A hefty 77% said their clients take risks they fear may impact the long-term health of the company. We admire the entrepreneurial spirit of going it alone, but we also know the benefits of working with a trusted advisor who brings outside expertise. So take the optimism with a side of reality, and this year balance enthusiasm with fiscal prudence.
Read our Make or Break 2017 report to explore our findings in detail, and learn what you can do to turn economic uncertainty into business certainty.