Ahead of this month’s crisis on Wall Street, one in three small-business owners were already citing the uncertain economy as their biggest challenge, according to the American Express Open Small Business Monitor, a semi-annual survey released this week.

“The economic news of the last several weeks is shaking every business owners’ view of the economy,” Susan Sobbott, the president of American Express OPEN, said this week in a statement.

The survey, which was conducted in August and received 768 responses from small-business owners nationwide, found that optimism was down significantly from this time last year, falling from 64 percent to 48 percent.

In order to cope with the uncertain economy, many business owners are changing their priorities and focusing on maintaining current revenue sources, the survey found.

“This realignment in priorities can be linked to business owners’ move to cost-cutting measures,” Sobbott said. “While there are many costs associated with business growth, there is considerably less in cultivating more business with current clients.”

Small-business owners were also accepting lower profit margins, working longer hours, cutting business or capital expenses, raising prices, and delaying or cutting marketing expenses.

Despite the troubling economic outlook, 74 percent of respondents said they were still planning for growth in the next six months. Most are focusing efforts on better customer service.