Many Small Business Owners See Situation Improving

The economy has taken many steps forward in the last few years and that, in turn, has allowed small businesses to see greater benefits than they likely have since the start of the recession. As a consequence, many owners say that they're in a much better position these days.

A recent survey of New England-based small businesses – of which 89 percent had between one and 100 employees – across a wide swath of seven different industries showed that in general, the vast majority of owners say their companies are expecting 2014 to be at least a little bit better for them than last year, according to a report from the Smaller Business Association of New England. In all, 78 percent of owners polled felt this way, and many reported significantly improved prospects for other aspects of their companies.

"The key take away from the survey is 'business is good,'" said Nancy Mobley, CEO of Insight Performance, which conducted the survey on SBANE's behalf. "2014 looks to be the year of doing more with less. As evidenced by the HR Programs & Business Climate survey, businesses will likely invest in what they already have rather than increasing headcount as their top priority. We will see more businesses finding ways to be creative with their existing staff, rethinking job positions and reorganizing strategically. We are seeing significant investments being made in leadership development, managerial training and coaching, for example, to ensure that employees are engaged, motivated and ready to accept new challenges."

Other notable steps
Last year, 62 percent of those polled hired new employees, and the same number are planning to either keep the current benefits they offer to their workers or even improve upon them in the coming year, the report said. Another half say they're going to institute merit-based increases in salaries for their employees, while 45 percent more are also planning to put bonus or incentive programs into place. Another 64 percent also said they've been able to hold company-wide events including holiday parties as a means of keeping up worker morale.

Owners who are still worried about their bottom lines, though, may have more options for dealing with their concerns. For instance, shopping around for the right small business insurance might help companies to trim some of the fat from their budgets. Finding the right commercial insurance, for instance, could save companies thousands annually.