Microsoft Store, the Redmond, Wash. software giant's retail arm, recently took the pulse of the small business community, using SurveyMonkey to poll 1,300 business owners in the U.S. The results paint a positive picture of the year to come, but also reveal some of the technology challenges that entrepreneurs are still grappling with.
Perhaps the biggest reason to celebrate the arrival of 2018 is the positive contribution small business owners plan to make to the job market. Ninety percent of respondents said they plan to hire one or two new employees next year, suggesting they expect their businesses to grow.
In 2018, more than a third (33.9 percent) of small business owners plan to give back to their communities. Over 37 percent are planning to launch new products or services, while nearly 36 percent expect to employ a marketing strategy.
Many entrepreneurs (18.9 percent) plan to team up with other small businesses. Some will seek out a mentor (6.2 percent) after the New Year.
Entrepreneurs also appear to be shedding their workaholic tendencies.
Mobility and Work-Life Balance
"Eighty percent of respondents say they currently maintain enough freedom and flexibility to support their work-life balance. Respondents maintain a high level of mobility, working off-site and in multiple locations instead of at a fixed venue," blogged Todd Minor, senior small business lead at Microsoft Store.
"The younger the business (less than one year old), the more likely it is to have employees who work primarily from mobile devices," continued the executive. "As companies grow, mobile use gives way to other devices and digital options for how work gets done."
Contrary to the notion that small business owners are constantly burning the midnight oil, most keep a traditional work week. Thirty-three percent of respondents reported that they work 30 to 50 hours a week while 22 percent said they work 11 to 30 hours a week.
Only 20 percent said they worked more than 50 hours a week, while a lucky 12 percent devote one to 10 hours to their businesses each week. Another 12 percent said they don't count the hours they work.
The Small Business Security Challenge
IT can be a challenge for organizations of all sizes, but it is often felt more acutely by tightly budgeted small businesses. And there's one area where a lack of investment can prove extremely damaging to a growing company: cybersecurity.
In a somewhat unnerving finding, nearly a quarter of small business owners admitted that they haven't implemented any protections to help safeguard their sensitive data. Among those who have invested in cybersecurity solutions and services, 40 percent require that their employees use anti-virus software and 30 percent are using encryption software.
There's good news for cybersecurity service providers that cater to the startup and small business scene. Seventy percent of entrepreneurs who want to address their security needs would rather pay for an expert's support than go it alone.
Other challenges going into 2018 include keeping up with the rapid pace of technological change and budgetary constraints in general.