Small business survey reveals ‘no regrets’ surprise

Michelle Di Gangi
Posted by Michelle Di Gangi
Small Business Banking

Starting and sustaining a small business is no small feat, yet nine out of 10 small business owners say they have no regrets and would do it again if given the chance, according to our recent survey of small businesses.

Female business owner with long red hair, sitting at desk and looking out window with a contented look.Bank of the West’s “Pay It Forward” survey found that 92% of small business owners have no regrets, and 88% would do it all over again if given the chance. I’m very encouraged by these findings, especially in light of the economic challenges of recent years.

In addition, the overwhelming majority of small business owners think the benefits associated with running their own business outweigh the challenges they experience, because:

  • It has improved their financial well-being (73%).
  • It doesn’t feel like a job (55%).
  • It provides financial peace of mind (52%).
  • They like “being the boss” (41%).
The bold and the thorough

Through our close relationships with business owners, we’ve seen first-hand how important a “take the plunge, don’t hesitate” attitude can be toward starting a business. Yet, as also evidenced by our research, we’re reminded that it’s just as important for small business owners to create a plan, consult a financial expert and make sound hiring and marketing decisions to maximize the level of success they can achieve.

Commissioned by Bank of the West and conducted by Harris Interactive in May 2014, the survey of more than 500 owners in operation for five years or more uncovered valuable insights about small business ownership — including best practices, lessons learned, pitfalls to avoid, and inspiring advice.

Given the tremendous obstacles in starting a business, the survey respondents offered the following when asked for their best business advice for new or aspiring entrepreneurs:

  • 31% said to separate business finances from personal finances.
  • 27% advised to maintain a healthy cash reserve.
  • 22% said manage cash flow.
  • 17% counseled to create a budget and stick with it.
Factors that make a difference

In looking back at any “If only I could, I would” moments, respondents admitted they:

  • Didn’t do enough marketing and promotion (32%).
  • Hired a friend or family member who was less costly, rather than the right person for the job (24%).
  • Didn’t have the right tax and/or legal support (19%).
  • Didn’t invest in enough or the right technology (15%).

When asked what positions small businesses for success against competitors large and small, more than two thirds (68%) of small business owners said service is their key differentiator, followed by expertise (46%) and price (40%).

“Paying it forward” has become synonymous with moving together toward a better future, and in conducting our research, I’m thankful that small business owners have been so generous with their time and insights in an effort to help smooth the way for aspiring entrepreneurs. I liken it to creating a community of virtual mentors who we can all be inspired by and learn from, and I look forward to developing this community over time. Our “Customer Wise” series is another effort in this direction, and I encourage you to read the latest interview here.

The “Pay It Forward” survey is the third installment in Bank of the West’s “How Small Business Works” series, a periodic look at the trends and forces that impact small businesses. Click here for a more detailed summary of the findings.


Reminder: All comments are moderated prior to publication and must follow our Community Guidelines.

  • Anonymous says:

    So amazing to me that business owners would work so hard for something then neglect to market it.

    Reply | 6 years ago
  • Anonymous says:

    Even after working with small business owners for a quarter of a century, some of these results are fascinating. For anyone whose profession relies on understanding the needs of small business owners, this is important information.

    Reply | 6 years ago

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