New Research Identifies Six Dimensions That Characterize Success-Oriented Small Business Owners

New York (PRESS RELEASE – July 3, 2010) – Six dimensions characterize small business owners who projected revenue increases and business expansion even as the recession peaked, according to a new report from The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute.

Among the attitudes, preferences and characteristics that most distinguished these success-oriented small business owners from those that foresaw flat or declining performance during the 2009 recession were “being able to create opportunities for others,” “doing something for a living that I love to do,” “being able to decide how much money I make” and “taking the business to the next level.”

The Institute’s analysis is based on a comprehensive study, The Guardian Life Index: What Matters Most to America’s Small Business Owners, which surveyed owners of 1,100 small businesses with 2 – 99 employees. Based on a 21-point scale (from +10 to -10), it measured the positive and negative intensity of responses to a vast battery of issues.

The Index also identified 60 critical factors that correlated with success-oriented owners who projected 2009 revenues of more than 10 percent over 2008 in combination with the intent to expand their businesses in 2009-10. Insights from the research may help explain why, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, only 51 percent of small businesses endure for five years or more.

“Success-oriented small business owners are a special breed of highly motivated, caring and curious individuals,” explained Mark D. Wolf, director of The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute. “They effectively balance their personal and business goals, take advantage of others’ expertise and continually seek to learn the best practices exhibited by peer companies.”

The six dimensions, based on the 60 factors, paint a nuanced portrait and provide a deeper understanding of the success-oriented small business owner:

Collaborative. Success-oriented small business owners learn how to delegate effectively to others within their business as well as build strong personal relationships with their management team, employees, consultants, vendors and customers. They are more committed “to creating opportunities for others.”

Self-fulfilled. Success-oriented small business owners place a high value on the personal fulfillment and gratification that their companies provide them, relishing the self-determination and respect that come from being their own boss and being in control of their personal income and long-term net worth. They are more desirous of “doing something for a living that I love to do,” “being able to decide how much money I make” and “being able to have the satisfaction of creating something of value.”

Future-focused. Planning for both the short- and long-term future are key traits that characterize success-oriented small business owners. They are more focused on cash flow and more likely to have “a well thought out plan to run our business for years into the future” as well as “a well thought out plan to run our business day to day.”

Curious. Success-oriented small business owners are more open to learning how others run their businesses. They actively seek best practice insights regarding management, business innovation, prospecting and finding / motivating / retaining employees.

Tech-savvy. Technology is a key point of leverage for success-oriented small business owners. They more intensely value their company’s website and are significantly more likely to “rely a great deal on technology to help make our business more effective and more efficient.”

Action oriented. Finally, success-oriented small business owners are more proactive in taking initiative to build their businesses. They are more committed to “taking the business to the next level,” “differentiating ourselves from our competitors” and “having something to sell when I’m ready to retire.” They also see adversity as “a kick in the rear to help move you forward.” Not surprisingly, they are less concerned than other small business owners about the overall state of the economy.

“Each year thousands of enterprising individuals start new companies with the dream of creating long-lasting businesses,” said Patricia G. Greene, Ph.D., MBA, Special Academic Advisor to The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute and the F.W. Olin Distinguished Chair in Entrepreneurship at Babson College. “The six dimensions identified by The Guardian Life Index will help these entrepreneurs – the backbone of our diverse, resilient economy – achieve their goals.”

A detailed research monograph that further explains the six dimensions and 60 factors associated with success-oriented small business owners is available on

About The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute

The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute is an intellectual resource devoted to better understanding America’s small business owners. It combines ground-breaking research the company commissions with the expertise of people within the Guardian Life family who have deep experience in the small business community, to yield deeper knowledge, insights and wisdom about today’s small business trends.

For more information about The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, please visit:

About Guardian

A mutual insurer founded in 1860, The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America and its subsidiaries are committed to protecting individuals, business owners and their employees with life, long term care insurance, disability income, group medical and dental insurance products, and offer 401(k), annuities and other financial products. Guardian operates one of the largest dental networks in the United States, and protects more than six million employees and their families at 120,000 companies. The company has more than 5,400 employees in the United States and a network of over 3,000 financial representatives in more than 80 agencies nationwide.

For more information about Guardian, please visit:

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