Most Small Business Owners Feel Successful but Admit to Sacrificing Personal Lives

Most U.S. small business owners feel successful, driven by purpose and fulfilled by their work, but more than half are sacrificing time and relationships with loved ones for the sake of their business, according to a new U.S. Bank survey of 1,000 U.S. small business owners and 300 California small business owners. The survey was conducted from July 11-29.

While 83% of small business owners said the business of running a business is making them feel stressed and short on time, the report also found that implementing new digital tools and the power of community can help ease stress, build resilience and drive success long term.

“Small business owners are incredibly resilient, but we recognize how much sacrifice and hard work it takes to pursue their dream,” Tim Welsh, vice chair of consumer and business banking at U.S. Bank, said. “With our study, we wanted to understand more deeply the challenges small business owners are facing and gain insight on where we can provide more support.”

“The survey findings underscore that small business owners are deeply committed to their customers, communities and families,” Shruti Patel, chief product officer for the business banking segment at U.S. Bank, said. “Taking on a tremendous number of responsibilities comes with the territory, and many are feeling short on time and in need of simple solutions that make running their business easier. Financial institutions can help meet this need with seamless banking, payments and software solutions that save small business owners time, money and effort so they can focus on their purpose and have more time at the end of the day for their families.”

Key Findings

  • Nearly 9 in 10 (86%) small business owners define their business as successful and the majority feel personally fulfilled by their work (88%).
  • A majority of respondents defined success based on financials (93%), having loyal customers (91%), making customers’ lives better (90%), supporting their dependents (91%) and doing something they love (90%).
  • Money was not among the top five reasons why small business owners became business owners in the first place. Small business owners were motivated to be their own bosses (95%), to make customers happy (94%), to make their passions a part of their work (93%), by an idea they wanted to pursue (93%), and by a curiosity and desire to learn (93%). In addition, 87% of small business owners decided to start their own business to contribute to their community, while 98% of small business owners said that autonomy and control are a large part of why they became a business owner, with 90% of small business owners saying they have greater independence and autonomy because of their business.
  • Small business owners wear many hats to ensure everything runs smoothly. They identified their top stressors as obtaining enough funding to support their business (80%), supply chain issues (78%), needing to upskill their workforce (74%), staffing shortages (77%) and competitors in the marketplace (79%).
  • Although 88% of small business owners feel personally fulfilled by their work, 83% feel stressed by their workload and not having enough time to do everything they need to do.
  • Putting so much time into their business means sacrifice in their personal life, with more than 70% of respondents saying they have worked at least one weekend every month and more than 40% reporting missing a family gathering or event at least once every month.
  • Roughly half of small business owners have lost touch with close friends/family (52%) or have been a worse romantic partner (51%) due to their business responsibilities. Small business owners are keenly aware of this trade-off, with six in 10 believing it is impossible to have a good work-life balance as a small business owner.
  • According to the survey, 82% of small business owners believe that simplifying digital solutions would reduce stress in their day-to-day, and 42% said digital solutions free up time, allowing them to focus on more strategic responsibilities.
  • Although small business owners are interested in integrating digital solutions for their businesses, 61% reported being overwhelmed by all the solutions that exist and finding it difficult to determine the best one for their business.
  • Small business owners see “conversation with their network” as a top driver of their success and resilience, as well as connecting with their customers via digital channels. In addition, small business owners said support from their family and friends (78%) and listening to their employees and addressing their feedback (76%) are the top two aides driving the success of their business. Small business owners’ next top solutions were promoting their business on social media (76%), improving or building their website (73%) and using digital tools to improve customer experience (72%).
  • Despite facing challenges and stressors, 87% of small business owners are optimistic about the future of their business.
  • When thinking about their business, small business owners said they feel happy (54%), grateful (53%), excited (49%) and joyful (40%).
  • The top skills that small business owners credit for their success are their work ethic (52%), leadership (48%), confidence (45%), adaptability (41%), and organization and time management (39%).
  • Small business owners are relieving work-related stress by reminding themselves of their purpose, as well as being proactive in their strategies and work habits. Their top responses to stress are to try to make every day at their job fun or meaningful (81%), remind themselves of why they started their business to begin with (78%), regularly evaluate their business strategy (73%), establish boundaries with work (71%), and hire additional support or staff to relieve the workload (50%).

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Terry Mulreany
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