There's a reason why most people don't choose to either start or join a small business. It's hard. Actually, it's beyond hard. At times, it feels impossible.

When the work day is supposed to be over, it really isn't. Problems from work don't just disappear when you get home, and they certainly don't stop just because you've put your head on the pillow.

That's why Inc. magazine, in conjunction with Oracle, surveyed a cross-section of more than 300 small and midsize business (SMB) owners, managers, and strategists for the What's Keeping America's SMB Leaders Up at Night survey.

The survey responses provided some key insights:

1. Building a Business Is all about Building and Maintaining a Team

For anyone who has tried to grow a business, it shouldn't come as a complete shock that issues around talent drew the most "extremely" and "very" worried responses from the SMB leaders surveyed.

Specifically, 42 percent of the respondents found that everything involved in hiring the right people needed to build a growing business were either very worrisome or extremely so.

Figuring out what type of compensation packages were needed to keep their employees content and productive were also of concern, with over a third of the respondents placing this issue at the top of their worry list.

2. SMB Leaders Obsess about Sales

Even if you assemble the best team in the world, you don't really have a business until the revenues start coming in. With no revenue, there's no cash flow, and that is a big problem.

Think respondents had sales on their minds? You bet they did.

Nearly 40 percent cited sales as their number one overall concern. What are they mumbling as they toss and turn? When faced with the question, "Are we making the most of all our possible sales channels?" more than 48 percent put themselves either in the "extremely" or "very" worried categories.

On the positive side, when asked whether they had provided their sales teams with the tools needed to succeed, fully 70 percent of the respondents felt this was something they had done and was not causing them to toss and turn. (Whether their salespeople share the same opinion is a matter for an entirely different survey).

3. They've Got Some Serious Growing Pains

There is an old saying that goes "be careful what you wish for." That certainly was the case for the survey respondents. More than 37 percent identified themselves as being either "extremely" or "very" worried about their ability to gain market share as they grow and evolve. This simply means that SMBs leaders are worried about growing in the most profitable way possible.

Other growth worries include getting products or services to market in a timely manner and being able to sustain current levels of growth.

In other words, it is all about scalability, sustainability, and getting to market on time.

4. SMB Leaders Are Confident about Moving to the Cloud

In terms of technology, the SMB leaders surveyed clearly have embraced the cloud.

When asked if they thought their businesses would survive a move to the cloud, 81 percent were in either the "little" or "no" worries categories. The respondents were equally sanguine about their employees' willingness to adopt cloud solutions. SMB owners and the people who work for them have clearly embraced the cloud, but there is no question that if they had been asked just five years ago, these same SMB leaders would have reversed these numbers.

5. Data Backup Isn't a Big Concern

With all of the headlines about data breaches and cyber terrorism, you might have thought this would be a top worry for respondents.

Only, it wasn't.

One in five responses noted data backup as something that was either "extremely" or "very" worrisome. Fully two-thirds were either "not" or only "somewhat" worried when asked if they felt safe putting financial and customer data in the cloud.

6. Tech Eases Some--But Not All--Worries

As long as people start businesses, there are going to be worries about talent, sales, and growth. It's just a fact of life when you are competing for hires and dollars, especially when you are smaller and less well known than most of your competitors.

What was encouraging to see was the many places that technology could play a role in cutting down worries. And where that occurred, SMBs were buying in. The comfort with the cloud and the attention to security demonstrate that SMB leaders are starting to "get it" when it comes to biz tech.

Published on: Feb 16, 2017