A new research report published by American Express finds that despite
demanding workloads, high stress levels and worries about the state of
the economy Canada's legion of small business owners are happy and
fulfilled and have no regrets about going it alone.
In fact nine in ten say they "love to get up every day and do what I
do" and eight in ten believe they enjoy a better quality of life since
starting their own business. Confirming their passion and sense of
fulfillment in being their own boss and deep emotional commitment to
their business, nearly all small business owners (91%) believe the
rewards and opportunities far outweigh the risks and challenges of
running their own business. When asked if they would do it all over
again, 93 per cent say they would. The cross-Canada survey of 762
business owners was conducted for American Express by Ipsos Reid.
"This is a unique and resilient group of people that can rightly be
described as the backbone of the Canadian economy," says Howard
Grosfield, VP & General Manager, Small Business Services, American
Express Canada & International. "While they cut across so many
industries and professions, small business owners do share some common
characteristics, including their passion for what they do and the
personal fulfillment and sense of purpose they get from their work."
There are several factors that figure prominently when business
owners reflect on what drives them and keeps them engaged and
- Independence and control (62%)
- Simply loving the work they do (29%)
- Personal drive for success (22%)
- Commitment to employees and customers (21%)
The American Express survey results confirm that running a small
business is indeed a tough job and not for the faint of heart. Owners
work, on average, 45 hours a week, with nearly half (45%) working more
than 50 hours in a typical week. Stress levels are high with almost
eight-in-ten (78%) saying they feel the pressure of being the ultimate
decision maker and having accountability for the success of their
enterprise. Adding to the day-to-day struggles is a "wary but cautious"
outlook on the sagging economy and the future, with nearly seven in 10
small business owners worried about pension and retirement finances.
Nevertheless, the survey also shows that the exact same business owners
accept and embrace these challenges in anticipation of future rewards.
Why go it alone?
For many Canadians, the appeal of owning their own business comes down
to a desire for independence and control, and for 98 per cent of
respondents, it is the primary reason why they continue to do what they
do. Other factors include the ability to do the type of work they most
enjoy (88%), and the opportunity to make better use of their skills and
knowledge (46%). In fact, of those surveyed, nearly 60 per cent say
they would "never work for anyone else again." And when it comes to
making money, 39 per cent of small business owners say it weighed into
their decision to go it alone - further indication that the country's
more than two million small business owners are driven by personal
fulfillment and achievement rather than just by the prospect of
What is the price of success?
Independence and work enjoyment sometimes comes at a price with many
conceding that they are workaholics and that they are personally
defined by their business. Many (40%) are unable to take vacation
because they believe there is no else who can keep things running when
they are away. And seven in ten (70%) confess that they have trouble
switching off and even when they are away, they spend time checking in
at work to remain connected with what's going on. Most of these agree
that this kind of behaviour is driven mostly out of personal need to be
in control and thrive on being constantly engaged in the business.
What does it take to succeed?
A majority of small business owners identify the willingness to take
risks as a key part of their success, however, only one in 10 of those
polled actually consider themselves to be a high risk taker.
Interestingly, small business owners also believe luck plays a big
role. More than half identify a 'breakthrough moment' that helped them
take their business to the next level. Respondents have a practical
view of which personal traits help keep their business on the rails.
Among the most important characteristics are being good with people
(86%), being organized (80%) and being driven and committed (76%).
What lies ahead?
The American Express survey indicates that small business owners are
unique in their emphasis on placing work above all else, and their
approach to growing their business is also distinctive. Almost all
(89%) of those polled say they want to grow their business, but that
doesn't mean they all have ambitions to make it big. Only 15 per cent
aspire to dramatic growth, as compared with nearly three quarters who
prefer a moderate pace. Similar numbers were found when it comes to
potential expansion as 81 per cent
envision growing their business within their own market and only one in 10 have plans to expand internationally.
With moderate growth and personal fulfillment as guiding principles for
small business owners, it should come as no surprise that 37 per cent
of respondents say they plan to work as long as they can. Less than two
in 10 intend to sell and retire, and the same number plan to stay
involved while others run the business.
It is clear that small business owners believe in their overall
business strategies. In fact, when asked if they would do anything
differently if given the opportunity, nearly 60 per cent said they
would take the same approach. Nevertheless, there are some who would
make some subtle changes based on history. For example, one respondent
noted that 'it's hard to collect outstanding receivables' and felt that
more aggressive collection policies may be key to getting paid quickly
in the future. A small percentage of survey respondents said more education and better market research would factor
into their actions if they could start over but for the most part,
small business owners are satisfied with how they have shaped their
business over the years.
"There is no question that running a small business places significant
demands on the owner, but these findings show that the difficulties
pale in comparison to the rewards," added Grosfield. "As business
owners continue to navigate through both the risks and rewards that
come with being the boss, it's crucial to ensure this critical market
segment has access to the very best products and services built
specifically for their needs."