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U.S. Small-Business-Owner Satisfaction Improves to '08 Level

U.S. Small-Business-Owner Satisfaction Improves to '08 Level

by Dennis Jacobe

PRINCETON, NJ -- Despite today's challenging operating environment, U.S. small-business-owner satisfaction is up sharply to 39 in the third quarter of 2012, compared with 26 in the same quarter of 2010, according to a recent Wells Fargo-Gallup Small Business Index poll.

Trend: Overall, how satisfied are you with being a small-business owner?

The findings, from a quarterly survey conducted July 9-13, 2012, with a random sample of 600 small-business owners, reflect the difference between the 55% of small-business owners who say they are extremely (17%) or very (38%) satisfied with being a small-business owner and the 16% who say they are not too (10%) or not at all (6%) satisfied. Another 29% of owners are somewhat satisfied. This question has been asked in the third quarter of each year, with the exception of 2011. The sharp improvement in owner satisfaction is largely the result of a 12-point increase in the percentage of owners saying they are extremely or very satisfied in 2012 compared with 2010.

Net small-business-owner satisfaction now matches that of July 2008 -- during the recession, but before the full fallout of the financial crisis on small businesses. Owner satisfaction, however, has yet to match pre-recession levels.

Self-Reported Owner Success Up Modestly

Thirty-nine percent of small-business owners feel they are extremely or very successful in 2012, similar to two years ago, but below the third-quarter levels of prior years.

Overall, how successful do you feel you have been as a small-business owner?

The majority of small-business owners (51%) feel somewhat successful, while 8% feel not too successful and 1% not at all successful. Since success is not defined in the question, small-business owners' self-reports might reflect anything from exceeding the company's goals and profit expectations to basic survival under highly adverse operating conditions.


The Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index this quarter finds small-business owners' overall optimism declining since April, consistent with the decline in Gallup's Economic Confidence Index and the continuation of Gallup's U.S. unemployment rate above 8%. Small-business-owner hiring and capital spending remain anemic.

Still, despite the challenges small-business owners face, 55% are extremely or very satisfied with being a business owner and another 29% are somewhat satisfied, for a combined 84% saying they are satisfied to some degree with being a small-business owner. Of course, small-business-owner satisfaction is self-defined. For example, some owners may base their satisfaction on growth and profits. Others may include the freedom to be their own boss and/or the ability to serve their communities and create jobs as part of their satisfaction with being a small-business owner.

At the same time, small-business owners must be realists in order to survive. Currently, 39% rate themselves as extremely or very successful, while another 51% consider themselves somewhat successful. The finding that 90% of owners consider themselves at least somewhat successful says a lot about their optimism and resilience.

While owners must be optimistic by the nature of what they do, there is no doubt they would feel even more successful in a stronger U.S. economy.

About the Wells-Fargo Small Business Index

Since August 2003, the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index has surveyed small-business owners on current and future perceptions of their business financial situations.

Survey Methods

Results for the total dataset are based on telephone interviews with 600 small business owners, conducted July 9-13, 2012. For results based on the total sample of small business owners, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.

Sampling is done on a random-digit-dial basis using Dun & Bradstreet sampling of small businesses having $20 million or less of sales or revenues. The data are weighted to be representative of U.S. small businesses within this size range nationwide.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit

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