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THE STATE OF SMALL BUSINESS

2014 Outlook: The Good News Is, You'll Be Less Stressed
 

The bad news? You might have a hard time getting funding. Here's a look at how business owners are feeling heading into the New Year.

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Planning to start (or continue running) your own business in 2014? Expect the process to be slightly less stressful than it was in 2013 or 2012. On the other hand, you should seriously consider bootstrapping.

At least, that's what people who are currently running small businesses expect for the coming year. In a survey of 500 small businesses in the United States, 41 percent reported increasing levels of stress. That's not good, but it's a lot better than it was: 49 percent said stress was increasing in 2012, and 50 percent thought so in 2011.

"Though stress is relatively high, it has been coming down from even higher levels during the height of the financial crisis. That's good news for everybody," says Ben Walter, CEO of Hiscox USA, an insurance company that serves small businesses and commissions the annual survey. Walter shared these stats in a recent webinar, "Setting Up Your Small Business for Success in 2014."

But... there's bad news too. The percentage of respondents who say funding a new business is increasingly difficult continues to rise, reaching 74 percent in this year's survey. "We found that surprising because we've all heard that there's more global capital than ever before, with a lot of money flowing into the capital markets," Walter says. His suspicion: "It may all be flowing to the usual suspects, to big corporations rather than small businesses."

That ain't fair, but small businesses will have to deal with it in the coming year. The smart ones will bootstrap if they can, and cut as many costs as they can get away with without lessening their product's value (often in creative ways). Or, they may take advantage of the new crowdfunding rules.

Despite those new rules, 62 percent of American business owners say that government bureaucracy is a big impediment, up from 55 percent last year. "That number's always been high but it's starting to go up," Walter says. "No doubt all the things that people are saying about Obamacare is making it worse."

And so, despite being less stressed than they were, small business ownes are not overly optimistic about 2014. Fifty percent of them said that they were, down from 55 percent in 2013 but up from 45 percent in 2012. "It's pretty much trending sideways," Walter says. "It reflects what we've seen in broader consumer data about the economy, with the recovery moving in fits and starts."

Owners do, however, have higher hopes than the rest of the world, where optimism dropped to 38 percent from 48 percent last year. Chalk it up to our American get-up-and-go. "Optimism in the U.S. always leads the rest of the world by a pretty wide margin," Walter notes.

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IMAGE: Forest Woodward/Getty
Last updated: Dec 31, 2013

MINDA ZETLIN is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
@MindaZetlin




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