As Inc. readers know well, now is an interesting point in time to be out there running a business. The economy continues to be relatively strong, and Capital One's latest Small Business Growth Index shows that business optimism remains steady and has actually increased since the spring.

We know what it takes to run a business--relentless optimism, constant motivation and endless courage day in and day out. Your company depends on it.

Our recent survey of 500 business owners around the country identified four interesting trends that are a reflection of this optimism:           

1. Women-owned Businesses are Thriving

There are 12.3 million women-owned businesses in America, with a collective $1.8 trillion in revenues.

Nearly half of women-owned businesses saw an increase in sales in the past six months. Across the country, women are also leading the way in hiring--35 percent have plans to hire in the next six months, compared to 28 percent of male business owners.

So what? Clearly, this is not a group leader and a business owner to be ignored, and we'll continue to see more women at the helm of successful companies.

2. Business Owners are Getting Creative in the Ways they Hire and Retain Talent

With unemployment at historical lows, it is difficult for businesses to attract and retain top talent. Some of the steps businesses are taking include:

  • Offering industry-leading salaries
  • Marketing your business as a great place to work
  • Providing a flexible work environment
  • Introducing more benefits

So what? Running a business oftentimes means an "always on" approach to hiring in order to find the right people, versus just people to fill your open roles.

3. Millennials are Changing the Face of Leadership

Millennials are changing what it means to be a boss--and their older counterparts may want to follow their lead. We know the younger generations are demanding more from their employers, and interestingly enough, we're also seeing millennials redefining what it means to be a leader and a business owner:

  • They are the most likely to think that company culture has a significant impact on the success of their business.
  • Millennials are attracting talent by outpacing their older counterparts when it comes to creating excellent places to work, and marketing themselves as such, investing in modern office perks such as communal gathering spaces and catered lunches.
  • They are most likely to hire right now, with 50 percent of millennial business owners planning to hire in the next 6 months.

So what? These changes are defining the modern workplace--and staying ahead of the curve is key to keeping a business alive.

4. Mission-driven Companies are Leading the Way

We found that more than a third of businesses have a mission-driven/community initiative, and the majority of business owners with a mission-driven initiative say it has a strong impact on the overall success of their business. We also know that having a relatable mission or purpose can help drive business.

Seventy-one percent of consumers say they will pay more for products and services from businesses with worthwhile causes. Whether it's volunteering with the team, or baking a mission into the business model--these companies are finding new ways to connect with their communities and attract and retain new employees.

So what? Product-market fit will always matter, but a company that eats, lives and breathes its mission is a differentiator in today's marketplace--and one that makes consumers pay attention.

What's Next

While the future may be uncertain, we know that the owners of fast-growing companies are a group we can count on to keep going even if the going gets tough. We all know how important it is to be open to change--in your business, as a leader, and as a connector in the community of entrepreneurs.

For more information, dive into Capital One's latest Small Business Growth Index results.