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Two polls highlight what small business owners are thinking

By Mario Cywinski |

With small business week in full swing, two recent polls have shed light on what Canadian entrepreneurs and small business owners are saying.

Recession, what recession? Over half (56 per cent) of Canadian entrepreneurs said that the recent recession had either no impact or a positive impact on their company, found a RBC poll. A majority (72 per cent) said they are optimistic about their company for the next year, but 58 per cent say they do not believe the recession is over yet. This may be the reason only 23 per cent plan to add staff over the next year.

"Small business owners feel as though they have weathered the storm well, but are still prudently approaching the future by reviewing their business plans and assessing their financing options, said Mike Michell, national director, small business, RBC.

Small business owners have many things to worry about, as a result of the recession, here is what they said were at the top of the list:

  • finding clients and developing their market (22 per cent);
  • keeping a steady workload (13 per cent);
  • maintaining sufficient cash flow and financing growth (11 per cent).

So far, we have looked at what current entrepreneurs have been saying about their business; however, how many new entrepreneurs are entering the world of small business ownership?

The RBC poll found that 55 per cent of business owners are over age 55, with 18 to 34 year old owners representing just seven per cent. However, new owners come in all ages, and half of current owners say the best thing newbies can do is to network and develop alliance to be able to grow their business, followed by knowing your competition and your market.

Networking and knowledge are important, but most entrepreneurs (72 per cent) thinking of entering small business ownership are worried about finding start up money, according to a Intuit Inc., survey. Other concerns include convincing lenders they are a good risk (71 per cent) and navigating tax and finance requirements (61 per cent). In Ontario and British Columbia, the HST adds another dimension, and half of entrepreneurs in those provinces believe it discourages ownership.

"There's no shortage of reasons for Canadians to stifle entrepreneurial pursuits but, we've found that simply isn't happening," said Barb Anderson, product-marketing leader for financial management software, Intuit. "The market uncertainty, grim headlines and general anxiety of the past six months haven't affected the entrepreneurial drive."

For many, their day-to-day work life involves working for a company they do not own and living by that company's rules. This may be the reason that 45 per cent of respondents to the Intuit poll cited a desire to work for themselves as the main reason to start a business. Other factors cited were controlling own destiny (43 per cent), means to better quality of life (35 per cent), and starting something new (33 per cent).

With all the uncertainty stated by many respondents, one-third still want to start their own business and 43 per cent of those plan on doing it in next two years. In addition, 91 per cent plan to hire their own staff and 82 per cent will manage client service.

For those entrepreneurs who have been running a small business, 34 per cent learned from their mistakes, as they would do things differently if they started over. They would:

  • more networking (73 per cent);
  • soliciting more clients (67 per cent);
  • more advice (66 per cent);
  • started business younger (60 per cent);
  • and develop better business plan (54 per cent).

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