An interesting press release came out of American Express Canada five days before Christmas.
(That, by the way, is a good time to publish a news release if it’s not newsworthy. If it’s important, you might prefer to release it at a time when the intended audience is likely to notice it.)
Amex interviewed 500 entrepreneurs across the country in a “state of small business” survey. I couldn’t see any new information, but some decent insights for those trying to understand this market.
The main conclusion: Entrepreneurs work more than 55 hours a week, they spend weekends catching up on paperwork, they take minimal vacation time and endure severe stress. Yet they wouldn't trade what they do for a steadier (and probably easier) job working for someone else.
“Even dealing with daily problems and obstacles like staffing and employee issues brings its own set of rewards as they see it being part of the process of creating something worthwhile for themselves and their family.”
What Motivates Them?
"Sitting back and watching the world go by isn't part of a small business owner's make-up, says Donna Lue-Atkinson, Amex’s Director of Small Business Services. “These Canadians are squeezing more out of life than just the day-to-day routine. They've taken a passion for an interest or idea and turned it into a rewarding venture."
While some say they started their own business to strike it rich (28%), most are strongly inspired by internal drivers like pride of achievement and personal satisfaction (87%). They say the reward for all their worries and hard work is rooted in being able to make a living doing something that gets them charged every day.
Only 8% said they started their own business because they were out of work (8%). In contrast, 83% said they have valuable skills that can be put to better use if they're calling the shots rather than taking orders from someone else.”
"Lonely and Isolated"
Amex’s research confirmed my theory that many business owners feel lonely and isolated -- "especially in the early days as many make the adjustment from a busy corporate environment to being the only one on the work site or in the office. Generally, it isn't until a few years after start-up that they have the money and resources to have regular staff on the payroll."
This is a key point for marketers to understand. The camaraderie that many managers and executives find at work is not shared by many entrepreneurs – who have no peers in their organization, and rarely have time to pursue professional development outside of work.
For outstanding entrepreneurs, organizations such as YPO have always made a difference – but only a small percentage of business owners ever get involved in such peer-based information sharing.
"Small business owners are definitely saying this isn't a road for the faint of heart," says Lue-Atkinson. "Particularly, their experiences are very different compared to those who have the relative security of corporate life to fall back on - we know we'll have a pay cheque at the end of the week, draw a pension when we retire and have a health package if we get sick. Small business owners don't have the same safety net. Because of that, they're a very unique market in terms of their motivators and needs."
A few notes on Amex’s release: It’s hard to find it on their website. They certainly didn’t post it in their “small business” section (which is all about their credit cards). You have to go into the Site Map, which is called “Site Help”, and click on “Latest News,” which takes you to a Canada Newswire mini-site. Even then, all you get is the press release, which doesn't contain much more information than I've summed up here. There’s no background stats for those who want more information, and nothing about what this adds up to.
Presumably the marketers at Amex got other information for their own use out of the survey – but they offer no hint how they are using these insights to serve small business better.
Which may be why they dumped it into the marketplace on the 20th of December.