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Small Business Owners Investing Significant Personal Time and Savings to Grow Their Business, According to American Express Open Research

Many are planning capital and talent investments, but concerns about the economy remain high

Seventy-nine percent of small business owners continue to make growing their business a top priority, but many are making personal sacrifices in the process. According to data from the most recent American Express OPEN Small Business Growth Pulse, 89% of small businesses indicate they invest a significant amount of their personal time in an effort to grow their business. Also in line with these findings, six in ten (60%) small business owners say they spend a larger percentage of time working ON their business to drive growth rather than IN their business managing details.

Many small business owners are not only giving their time, but are also contributing their personal finances to boost their business. More than two-thirds (68%) report that they invest a substantial portion of their personal savings to help their businesses grow. Within this finding, there is also a difference between male and female business owners. Male business owners (72%) are more likely than their female counterparts (62%) to be investing personal funds in order to grow their business. Business owners in the manufacturing industry are also more likely to invest a substantial portion of their personal savings in an effort to grow their business (89% for manufacturing vs. 73% for retail and 60% for the services industry).

Talent and Capital Investments Are Planned to Fuel Growth
As they follow their path to growth, a number of small business owners are planning both capital and talent investments. As many as 59% plan to hire staff over the next six months, and among those with hiring plans, 29% are planning to hire only full-time workers; 22% are planning to hire only part-time workers; and 8% are planning to hire both full and part-time workers. Additionally, 71% plan to make capital investments, which include investments in computer and systems software/additional software licenses (42%) and manufacturing/production equipment (23%).

“As 2016 unfolds, small business owners are working harder than ever to position their businesses for growth,” said Janey Whiteside, SVP & GM Customer Marketing & Relationship Management, American Express OPEN. “The personal commitments that small business owners make are vital to their success, and their planned investments are indicative of how important growth is in the coming year.”

Economy and Cash Flow Present Challenges to Growth
While small business owners remain confident in their ability to grow their businesses, the economy remains a top concern. Uncertain economic conditions was identified as the single greatest challenge that business owners face (24%; up from 17% when asked in August 2015), followed by concerns about the rising costs of doing business (17%; flat from August). Among manufacturers, financing (finding money to expand) is the biggest challenge (27%), followed closely by uncertain economic conditions (26%).

Cash flow is another cause for concern, as nearly two-thirds (64%) of small business owners expect to experience cash flow issues over the next six months. Their greatest cash flow concerns include:

  • Having enough cash on hand to win new business (18%)
  • The ability to accurately track cash flow (16%)
  • Accounts receivable (14%)

Despite these headwinds, small business owners see various ways to meet these challenges and grow their businesses. When asked about the top two most important triggers that could really take their business to the next level, 40% said expanding their product/service offerings while 34% said expanding the market for their current products and services.

Confidence in Access to Financing; Credit/Charge Cards Seen As Important Tool
An overwhelming majority of small business owners (92%) are confident that they can access the funding they need to grow their business. When looking at how they will fund and grow their businesses, 71% identify credit and charge cards as an important tool and 35% see them as a “very” important tool. Given the importance of credit cards as a source of short-term funding, three quarters (76%) of business owners who use credit cards for business expenses indicate that an increase in their credit limit would be beneficial to their business. And, among those who have hit their credit limit, more than half (57%) have attempted to have their limit increased.

More than three quarters of small business owners (78%) who use credit cards for business expenses say credit card rewards are important to their business. The rewards that they see as most valuable include:

  • Cash back (74%)
  • Airline miles (32%)
  • Travel discounts (29%)

Survey Methodology
The American Express OPEN Small Business Growth Pulse is based on an online sample of 1,001 U.S. small business owners/managers of companies with $250,000 or more in revenues and fewer than 100 employees. The anonymous survey was conducted via the Internet by Ebiquity December 9-18, 2015. The poll has a margin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% level of confidence.

About American Express OPEN
American Express OPEN is a leading payment card issuer for small businesses in the United States and supports business owners and entrepreneurs with products and services to help them run and grow their businesses. This includes business charge and credit cards that deliver purchasing power, flexibility, rewards, savings on business services from an expanded lineup of partners and online tools and services designed to help improve profitability. Learn more at and connect with us and

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at and connect with us on,,,, and

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