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Small Business Owners Still Struggle with Balance
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By Jeff Cornwall

According to the latest release of the results from OPEN from American Express Small Business Monitor, which is a semi-annual survey of small business owners, entrepreneurs are struggling with finding balance in their lives.

While business owners recognize the importance of "down-time" in their lives and most are satisfied with the amount of leisure time they have (81 percent), most report that carving out this time does not come without stress. Two-thirds of business owners (64 percent) find it stressful balancing their personal life and their business. Women business owners are more stressed by work/life balance than their male counterparts (71 percent vs. 62 percent).

Two-thirds of business owners (67 percent) report they find themselves making sacrifices in order to be an entrepreneur. Among those who feel they are making sacrifices, family (52 percent) and friends (42 percent) are areas where they make the most sacrifices, followed by personal finances (36 percent) and health (35 percent). Male business owners are more likely to find themselves making sacrifices in their personal lives in order to be an entrepreneur when compared to women (73 percent vs. 65 percent).

As business owners find themselves trying to achieve balance, they identify flexibility as the most essential entrepreneurial attribute. One-third of business owners (34 percent) identify flexibility as the most essential aspect of being an entrepreneur. Following at a distance is working well under pressure (24 percent) and knowing the market (18 percent).

Taking their own advice on the importance of flexibility, two-thirds of business owners (64 percent) report making personal time for themselves during the business day. Men are slightly more likely than women to make personal time for themselves (66 percent vs. 60 percent). Although entrepreneurs realize the importance of taking time for themselves during the business day, nearly half (45 percent) consider taking time off from work to pursue a leisure activity a 'guilty pleasure'. Female business owners are more than four times more likely than their male counterparts (18 percent vs. 4 percent) to consider ignoring an email as a "guilty pleasure".

There may indeed be a connection between exercise and business success. Fifty-nine percent of small business owners report exercising several times a week with nearly one-quarter (24 percent) exercising every day. Nearly three-in-ten (29 percent) business owners with companies over $1 million in revenues say they exercise every day.

The vast majority of entrepreneurs have the support of their significant other. Most entrepreneurs (89 percent) report a happy marriage or relationship with their spouse or significant other. Of those who report having a happy marriage, a similar number (81 percent) believe being an entrepreneur contributes to their happy marriage/relationship.

Entrepreneurs are not only concerned with their own well-being. When making business decisions, eight-in-ten business owners (80 percent) take into consideration how their decision will affect their employees and their livelihood. In terms of offering employee benefits, nearly seven-in-ten employers (69 percent) believe it is important to offer healthcare coverage to their employees.

Growth is a priority for a large majority of business owners. Over the next six months, seven in ten (71 percent) small business owners report planning to grow their businesses in a variety of ways. While most in this group (50 percent) plan to grow by selling more of the same product or service, one in five (22 percent) will introduce new products or services, and 14 percent will branch out into new markets or increase investments in their business (11 percent).

For many, business is a family affair, and six in ten entrepreneurs (61 percent) who are parents would like their children to join their business. It will be interesting to see how many of these children agree!


Jeffrey Cornwall is the Director of Belmont University.

Dr. Jeffrey Cornwall, a director of Belmont University, holds its Jack C. Massey Chair in Entrepreneurship.
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