Despite the long hours, the financial stresses, and the general difficulty of running your own company, small business owners consistently report higher ratings of happiness, job satisfaction, and economic optimism than many other workers. So what’s their secret?
In part, the positive feelings are economic; almost all indicators suggest that the climate for small businesses in the United States is improving. According to a Gallup poll, which found consistent upticks in optimism and positive feelings toward their financial future, “34% of small-business owners report that it has been easy for them to obtain credit, up from 28% a year ago.” Revenues are increasing, bottom lines are getting less and less thin, and owners of small businesses are finding relief in programs like the Affordable Care Act, which has helped lift some of the financial strain of paying for employee health care.
Aside from the financial rosiness, though, small business owners seem to just have a better work-life balance, more job satisfaction, and an overall feeling of positivity that’s lacking in the regular workforce. Individual studies and surveys have found:
•Small business owners have more time to spend with their family.
•They work fewer than 40 hours per week and take at least four weeks of vacation.
•They feel that their year-end perks (bonuses, vacation time, travel flexibility) are especially salient; 52% plan to give holiday bonuses.
And these are just a few of the studies that exist. Sure, small business owners worry about their futures as much or more than regular workers — after all, there’s little to no safety net when you’re the boss — but they also aren’t subject to the biggest factor in disengagement: Feeling taken advantage of or unimportant.
Whereas many employees who work for someone else feel like just another cog in the machine, small business owners are more directly connected to their business. Consider this: When you work for someone else, the profit has to trickle down through the CEO, the executives, and the many tiers of management before it reaches you. You may see the high earnings reports of the company but little of the reward directly reflected in your bank account. Even loyal, happy employees eventually see their optimism wane if they don’t feel cared for — and many workers simply don’t.
Small business owners, however, ride out the lean times, but they also flourish alongside the business. They take pride in the work, and the successes of the business feel more closely mapped to their efforts, which leads to greater creative satisfaction.
Still, even with all of the positive metrics associated with life as a small business person, many potential entrepreneurs are nervous about taking the initial plunge. Barriers to seeking self-employment include fear of losing a steady income, lack of personal savings to draw from, and concerns over the odds of success.
But for those who do take on the risk of small business ownership, the rewards seem to be paying off.