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Progress: Most small businesses report success in 2011, but …

Published 1:58pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

In spite of the drastic doom and gloom of the last few business years, most small business owners said in a recent survey that 2011 was a successful year for their company.

Nearly three-quarters of those queried in the latest Manta SMB Wellness Index reported success. Respondents said that new business activity was up more than 12 percent in the third quarter of 2011, compared with the same quarter in 2010.

The Manta SMB Wellness Index is a quarterly index of the state of small business released by Manta, a website community of small businesses with more than 1 million registered users and 87 million company profiles.

Today I want to share the “real world” of the small business owner. Here are a few highlights of this research in which Manta polled more than 1,000 small business owners from Nov. 14 to Nov. 21, 2011. It reports:

• Most small business owners surveyed (72 percent) say 2011 was a successful year for their company — and new business activity saw a boost, too.

• Almost half the respondents (44 percent) say the business climate has taken a toll on their personal health. One in three surveyed said they exercise less, 22 percent said they had gained weight and 14 percent said they are more testy and have argued with family and co-workers.

• Nearly two-thirds of small business owners averaged more than 40 hours a week at work, while nearly 1 in 10 reported that their average work week stretched to about 70 hours.

• Even though the owners surveyed reported some health setbacks, 45 percent of those surveyed said their business has had a positive impact on their personal life. Nearly a third of small business owners said they were happier, 15 percent said they have more time for family and friends and eight percent reported that their marriages had improved.

• September saw the steepest drop in business activity in the past year and half. Business owners reported a 12.5 percent drop in new business activity in the third quarter, compared with the second quarter.

• Small business owners tend to be optimists. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said the small business economy would improve this year. These folks are a determined lot: 62 percent ranked growing their business as their top New Year’s resolution — ahead of improving relationships with their family, working out more and eating healthier.

Manta’s index is based on nationwide data compiled from new business licenses and corporate submissions to government agencies and is verified with multiple sources including utility information. Manta polled 1,026 small-business owners. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

— Dean L. Swanson, Southeast Minnesota SCORE