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Hearing from Real Small Business Owners

Hearing from Real Small Business Owners

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: May 4, 2017

Small business owners are always thinking: about their next sale, next potential customer, long to-do lists. At night, sleep may elude them as the day’s worries percolate.

Ever wonder what they think about most?

We asked — and their responses will help us better help them develop thriving businesses. SCORE’s most recent client survey shares feedback from more than 18,000 entrepreneurs — all of them SCORE clients — about their motivations, worries, goals, and more.

Drawing from this survey, SCORE has released its inaugural data report, The Megaphone of Main Street, Volume 1. The report and corresponding infographic share some key thoughts from those business owners. Their candid responses, encompassing every stage of business ownership, illuminate the state of small business around the country.

So, what’s on small business owners’ minds?

Pre-start business owners

People who had not yet started their business reported that the most critical services for business success were marketing and sales, followed by financial assistance and general business operations. In fact, entrepreneurs across all stages of the business life cycle were most concerned with marketing and sales.

Pre-start sources of guidance are diverse, with about 40 percent of advice for respondents coming from their peers, and other popular sources including web searches and friends and family.

Why include information about people who haven’t started a business yet? Census data and other surveys don’t always collect data from this demographic. But since SCORE serves our clients “for the life of your business,” we know that initial idea conception and planning stage is an important time to support aspiring small business owners.

New and start-up businesses

Only 14 percent of start-up businesses in their first year of operation said they obtained financing. The others were primarily self-funded.

New business owners were either tentative or bullish about growth. While 40 percent predicted no growth at all during the survey year, 34.6 percent predicted growth greater than 50 percent.

These polarizing responses indicate the varied goals of small business owners, along with the rise of microbusinesses and the freelance economy. Seventy-six percent of start-up respondents to our survey reported themselves as non-employer firms or having no full-time employees beyond the owner.

Regardless of their individual size, the start-up business group’s impact on their communities has been nearly immediate; 42 percent of responding start-ups were able to hire in their first year, creating work for three people on average.

Established businesses

Meanwhile, a major feature of established small businesses is that many remain small and can be classified as microbusinesses: They have between zero and four employees, including the owner. Ninety-two percent of all businesses are microbusinesses, but they by far create the most jobs. But while 63 of all in-business respondents anticipated growing in the coming year, 65 percent of microbusinesses surveyed report they’re struggling or stagnant.

Only 15 percent of existing businesses obtained financing, highlighting the challenges of established small businesses to expand their operations with what may still be relatively limited funds.

Fifty-eight percent of established small businesses said their primary source of answers to their business questions was other business owners or peers, driving home the importance of mentoring through the full life cycle of business.

Want to ask a trusted peer about your business venture? Whether you’re just thinking about entrepreneurship, have a start-up business, or have been operating for a while, meeting with a SCORE mentor can help you gain new perspective on your small business goals.

About the Author:

Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.