Economic uncertainty has given way to overwhelming optimism, according to the latest edition of Rocket Lawyer's semi-annual Small Business Index.
The San Francisco-based legal services specialist polled 500 small business owners for its survey and found that small and midsized businesses (SMBs) are more confident about their prospects going into 2015 after several years of weathering a shaky business landscape. A majority of small businesses in the U.S. (61 percent) have experienced strong growth during 2014.
In the New Year, 80 percent said that they expect their businesses to continue to grow. And that means more demand for talented workers.
"Hiring is up 27 percent from 2013," Lisa Honey, director of product marketing for Rocket Lawyer, told Small Business Computing during an interview. Small businesses are expected to continue to hire in 2015, she added, but there's a catch.
A Change in Hiring Patterns
The company found that while small business demand for talent is indeed picking up, it's "not necessarily that they're hiring full-time employees," said Honey. Instead, small business owners increasingly opt to engage the services of self-employed workers (54 percent) rather than full-time employees (40 percent) or even part-timers (44 percent).
Millennials are more likely to strike out on their own compared to any other demographic, according to Rocket Lawyer's survey. Fifty-one percent of millennials are self-employed, the company discovered. When they're in charge of hiring decisions, they're also big on hiring part-time workers (55 percent) compared to Baby Boomers (42 percent) and members of Generation X (37 percent).
Oddly, these forward-thinking millennials drop the ball in one crucial part their business: legal compliance.
Millennials are "the least likely [demographic group] to consult with a lawyer this year," said Honey. Rocket Lawyer's data suggest that "leading the charge with being self-employed" causes millennials to overlook their legal requirements, she added. "They sometimes bury their heads in the sand," a habit into which many hard-working entrepreneurs occasionally fall.
Last year, contract negotiations emerged as the biggest legal issue (27 percent) for small business owners. In a statement, Rocket Lawyer called it "an area that will continue to grow in significance as SMBs increasingly turn to the solopreneur, contract, and part-time employee hiring pool."
Other high-ranking legal issues included payment collections (19 percent) and employment issues (11 percent). More than a quarter of small businesses (27 percent) run the risk of failing to keep up with changing government regulations.
Making a Splash Online and in Mobile
Small business owners also plan to boost their Web and social media efforts. "Twenty-nine percent said their biggest concern was growing their online presence," said Honey. "Thirty-five percent said growing their online presence was their number-one priority."
Small business owners are also warming to mobile payment technologies, she revealed. Sixty percent of those polled by her company said they were considering implementing a mobile payment option in 2015. "Sixty-eight percent believe that it would offer customers a more seamless and simple payment experience. Again, millennials are leading the way with 71 percent saying that they were considering mobile payments.
Nearly one-third of the small businesses polled use mobile technology to participate in the sharing economy. Ridesharing (36 percent) and navigation apps (23 percent) were among the most frequently used. "It's inspiring to see small businesses constantly seek new and innovative ways to stay competitive and grow," remarked Charley Moore, founder and CEO of Rocket Lawyer, in a statement.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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