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Sole Proprietors Struggle to Generate New Business

Wearing too many hats prevents solo business owners from expanding, according to a new study.
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More than a third of sole proprietors say their greatest challenge is finding the time and resources to generate new business, according to a new survey.

While more than half of respondents said that hiring an additional employee would allow them to focus more on growing their business and generating new revenue, 69% cannot add any staff due to budget constraints.

The survey, conducted by Visa USA and SCORE, a nonprofit group that counsels entrepreneurs, questioned 1,000 sole proprietors nationwide. There are an estimated 18.6 million sole proprietorships in the U.S. today, representing three-quarters of all small businesses, according to the Small Business Administration.

If they could afford their first hire, 28% of respondents said they would delegate marketing tasks, while 26% would delegate sales, and 25% would hand off operations responsibilities.

Although small businesses as a whole are devoting more time to technology and the online marketplace, just 6% of sole proprietors would hire an employee for technology expertise, according to the survey.

"We always hear, 'I need more time, I wish I could do more," said Howard DeBow, vice president of marketing for Visa USA. "Sole proprietors are juggling and multitasking all the time."

Yet, not all sole proprietors are eager to stop flying solo. Thirteen percent of respondents cited distrust or unwillingness to share the workload as a barrier to hiring, while 16% said they simply prefer to work alone.

Other challenges cited in the survey include overextension across multiple roles and projects (27%), limited resources (23%), lack of time to focus on their passions (23%) and difficulties in running their business efficiently (23%).

The survey also indicated that slightly different factors motivate men and women to go into business alone. More women than men (72% to 63%) said they went into business for themselves because of the flexibility to create their own schedule and work environment. More men than women (54% to 46%) began a solo business because they wanted the freedom to operate as the main decision-maker.

While nearly two-thirds of respondents say they work as hard or harder  for themselves than they did for their previous employer, 83% said they are happier working for themselves.

Last updated: Aug 9, 2006




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