Forbes Study Shows Small Business Owners' Cautious Optimism

2010 is supposed to be a big transition year for small business. Indicators show the economy is improving. More guaranteed loans are available for small business owners. So within a year, happy days will be here again, right?

Perhaps, but according to a recent study published in February 2010 by Forbes, most small business owners are cautiously optimistic and still expect to have hard times in 2010. The study, “U.S. Small Business Outlook 2010,” shows the current temperature of business owners as 2009 came to a close.

One question about cash flow was not surprising. When asked if it was harder to manage cash flow now than 12 months ago, 64 percent said it is harder, while 26 percent said it was the same. Lower revenues were the biggest contributor to harder cash flow, while slow or non-paying customers were in the #2 spot.

And when asked about company revenues in 2009, 73 percent said their revenues either stayed the same or declined in 2009, with 26 percent having significant declines in revenue. 63 percent of small business owners reduced their budgets to help with lower revenues, while 55 percent cut back on entertainment. 45 percent actually cut their workforce to get by with lower revenues.

The hardships seem to be a blessing in disguise, however. While 66 percent of small business owners say they are working harder and longer than ever, 80 percent agree that they are smarter about operating their business as a result of the economic crisis, and 70 percent agree that they have become stronger leaders.

Looking ahead, small business owners do see 2010 as the year the financial crisis bottoms out and financial markets turn around. But the optimism stops there for 2010. Most small business owners see business stability happening in 2011, while 2012 will be the year for the return to growth.

Happy days are not quite here again. If the projections of current small business owners are accurate, it will be another two years before prosperity returns. But the good news is that small business owners are smarter than they were before the financial crisis started. Entrepreneurs are smarter about the way they run their businesses. They see the importance of planning and want to spend the time doing it. And they recognize that they will need to do business in new ways in order to succeed.