Small business owners satisfied, survey reveals

By Doug Watt | December 20, 2005 | Last updated on December 20, 2005
3 min read

Despite long hours and high stress, the majority of Canada’s small business owners are content with their decision to go it alone. A survey conducted for American Express reveals that 62% of small business owners aren’t bothered by the hard work, and 84% say they wouldn’t think twice about doing it all over again.

The survey indicates that most small business owners were inspired by the freedom and independence of running a business from the ground up. Eight-seven per cent said they were motivated by pride and personal achievement, while only 28% said dreams of striking it rich were the main driver.

“Sitting back and watching the world go by isn’t part of a small business owner’s make-up,” says Donna Lue-Atkinson, director of small business services at American Express. “These Canadians are squeezing more out of life than just the day-to-day routine. They’ve taken a passion for an interest or idea and turned it into a rewarding venture.”

The overwhelming majority of those surveyed (83%) said they decided to start their own business because they believed they had a valuable skill set that could be better put to use in an independent environment.

The survey also reveals that running a small business is no picnic, as owners struggle with staffing issues, long hours and financial worries.

The Leger Marketing research reveals that owners also feel lonely and isolated, American Express says, especially in the early days as many make the adjustment from a busy corporate environment to being the only one on the work site or in the office.

“Small business owners are definitely saying this isn’t a road for the faint of heart,” Lue-Atkinson explains. “Particularly, their experiences are very different compared to those who have the relative security of corporate life to fall back on — we know we’ll have a pay cheque at the end of the week, draw a pension when we retire and have a health package if we get sick. Small business owners don’t have the same safety net. Because of that, they’re a very unique market in terms of their motivators and needs.”

Economic factors are the biggest worry for business owners, she adds. “Small businesses aren’t able to absorb market changes the same way big business can. Things that wouldn’t be on the radar screen for large companies can have a huge impact on these start-ups in terms of viability.”

American Express says the average small business owner puts in 55 hours per week, including weekends. While the majority agree (51%) that work is their predominant focus, most say that if they are able to get away they would either spend it enjoying the outdoors or catching up on quality time with family.

In addition, Canadian small business owners are very optimistic about the future of their company, the survey suggests, with most respondents saying they’re taking steps to maintain and expand their business. Only 12% said they planned to leave their business.

The survey is based on telephone interviews conducted among random samples of 500 Canadian entrepreneurs.

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Doug Watt