2011 Outlook: Small Businesses Optimistic About Economy, Ready to Reinvest and Hire

How are entrepreneurs feeling about the economy as we head into the new year? I’m happy to have some good news to report on that front. Recently my company, GrowBiz Media, collaborated with Zoomerang, the world’s first Web-based survey tool, to survey small business owners about their business goals and plans for 2011. The results of the “Small to Midsized Business: Plans for 2011” survey were overwhelmingly positive about both their own companies, and the economy as a whole. Here’s a closer look at what our survey of over 1,000 SMB decision-makers (owners, partners and general managers) found.

Nearly three-quarters of SMBs (72 percent) say the overall economy will improve (30 percent) or hold steady (42 percent) in 2011. And when it comes to their own companies, 34 percent expect their sales to rise in 2011, while 50 percent expect them to stay the same. Only 16 percent think their sales will decrease.

Small Businesses Optimistic About Economy

These entrepreneurs are also putting their money where their mouths are. Twenty-five percent plan to hire employees next year. With over 27 million small businesses in the U.S., Zoomerang’s Alex Terry believes this could lead to the creation of millions of jobs. And in contrast to the layoffs of recent years, 64 percent say they will maintain their current staff levels—just 11 percent plan to cut.

Small businesses are investing not only in employees, but also in new technology. Specifically, in 2011:

  • 29 percent will upgrade their software
  • 24 percent plan to upgrade their hardware
  • 17 percent will do a website makeover
  • 15 percent will add or upgrade mobile technology

One survey finding that surprised me: Only 33 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed expect to add social media to their marketing mix in 2011. If you read Lisa Barone’s posts on this site with any regularity, you should have a good idea of how quickly and effectively social media can boost your business’s profile—and its sales. There’s simply no reason not to at least try this tool in 2011—so if you’re not already using social media, I urge you to start experimenting with it next year.

How do your plans and feelings compare with those of our survey respondents? If you’re not planning to invest in your business in 2011, be aware that many other entrepreneurs are. That could leave your business lagging behind—and that’s something no small business can afford in these competitive times.

I’d love to hear what you think of these results and how optimistic (or pessimistic) you’re feeling going into 2011. To learn more, take a look at the full survey on the Zoomerang site.


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

7 Reactions
  1. Rieva,

    Thanks for the info.

    maybe you and I can team up this year to squash the hold steady bunch….

    For me, I’m optimistic about my own company. I won’t tolerate anything less than a stellar year.

    The Franchise King

  2. Thanks Joel. I love the idea of SQUASHING the hold-steady bunch. Let’s do it!!!

  3. Rieva

    The info is interesting, but doesn’t really reflect the feel of the SME market here in the UK and possibly Europe. We get a feel for what’s happening amoung our members who are small business owners creating sites using our website builder and I would say that 2011 will be difficult for all businesses, yet alone small companies.

    Sorry to sound less than optimistic.


  4. I also saw a report that said many SMB’s are going to allocate funds to training this year as well. In the past many companies offered employees continuing education training but with the economy up in the air these initiatives were frozen. As the economy shows signs of improvement business owners will slowly offer this as a perk once again.