10-2-13 8:51 AM EDT | Email Article

More small business owners are optimistic that the national economy will strengthen this year compared with the fall of 2012, yet more rate their risk-taking as conservative, according to The Hartford’s 2013 Small Business Success Study.

Christa and Mike Doran, coaches and owners of Tuff Girl Fitness in Hamden, Conn. (Photo: Business Wi ...

Christa and Mike Doran, coaches and owners of Tuff Girl Fitness in Hamden, Conn. (Photo: Business Wire)

“Risk-taking has always been the domain of America’s small business owners,” said Liam E. McGee, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Hartford. “Today, many small business owners say that the Great Recession left them with scars and they are now more cautious in how and where they invest their capital. To get this growth engine of the economy growing again, small businesses need more clarity and certainty on what tomorrow will bring.”

The third annual study also finds that slow economic growth, taxes, uncertainty with federal regulations and healthcare costs continue to top the list of major risks to small business owners. However, the number of small business owners citing these factors as major risks to their business has significantly declined, suggesting they may be adjusting to the reality of today’s economic environment.

Optimistic, Yet Conservative

Forty-eight percent of small business owners are optimistic that the national economy will strengthen this year, compared with 33 percent in The Hartford’s 2012 Small Business Success Study. In addition, 79 percent of owners rate themselves as conservative rather than risky in the overall level of risk they are currently taking with their business, up from 73 percent in fall 2012.

Small business owners feel more optimistic about their local economy in the next six months than the national economy (48 percent versus 22 percent, respectively).

Major Risks Declining

Small business owner views of major risks to their businesses have all declined since fall 2012 survey findings:

             
Major Risks     2012     2013
Slow Economic Growth     67 percent     59 percent
Taxes     59 percent     42 percent
Healthcare Costs     53 percent     40 percent
Uncertainty With Federal Regulations     56 percent     30 percent
       

Factors considered as major risks to the business are inherently linked to costs and impact the bottom line. Of those who cite healthcare costs as a major risk to their business, 44 percent unaided say it is because healthcare is expensive and they cannot afford it. For small business owners who report that taxes represent a major risk to their business, the majority (83 percent) say it is because they will have to pay more and it hurts profit. Of those who noted slow economic growth as a major risk, 29 percent say it is because customers and businesses are not spending money.¹

Informed On Affordable Care Act

Sixty-eight percent of small business owners say they are at least somewhat informed about the Affordable Care Act, with only 21 percent saying they feel very informed. Thirty-nine percent believe it will have a mostly negative impact on their business. Roughly the same amount (43 percent) believe it will have no impact at all. Owners who believe the act will have a negative impact would offset it by taking one or more of the following actions: reduce employee hours (38 percent), halt plans for future hiring (37 percent) and/or cut staff (33 percent).

Of those owners with one-to-four full-time employees, 43 percent believe the Affordable Care Act will have a negative impact on their business, compared to 36 percent of owners with 20-to-49 employees.

“While a majority of owners believe they are informed on the Affordable Care Act, more education is still needed, particularly for those with the fewest employees. Many small business owners indicate plans to take actions that would reduce job opportunities for workers and potentially stifle the growth of their businesses. It is critical that these be informed decisions based on knowledge and facts,” said McGee.

Contributors to Success

Overall, most small business owners (70 percent) believe that their business is currently operating successfully. Sixty-one percent of respondents feel that improved demand for products and services is a major contributor to the success of their business, about twice as many as those who say fewer rules and regulations (32 percent) and a better pool of qualified talent (31 percent) are major contributors to the success of their business. However, surprisingly, about half (46 percent) cited that social media is not a contributor at all to the success of their business.

McGee Speaks at U.S. Chamber CEO Leadership Series

McGee will discuss the study, its implications and the importance of risk-taking for achieving economic growth later today at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce CEO Leadership Series in Washington, D.C. The event will be streamed live at http://www.uschamber.com/webcasts/us-chamber-foundation-host-chairman-president-and-ceo-hartford and live updates will be available via www.twitter.com/thehartfordnews.

October Blog Series by Gene Marks – Exploring Themes From This Year’s Study

Join the conversation starting today when Gene Marks, columnist, author and small business owner, explores themes from The Hartford’s 2013 Small Business Success Study and provides his perspective on some of the key findings from this year’s study in a four-part blog series posted during the month of October. Visit The Hartford’s Small Business website www.thehartford.com/SuccessStudy.

For more information on these survey results, visit www.thehartford.com/SuccessStudy.

For more news about The Hartford, visit: http://newsroom.thehartford.com/.

The Hartford 2013 Small Business Success Study Methodology

Braun Research conducted a telephone survey among small business owners across the United States for The Hartford. A total of 2,000 interviews were completed with owners of for-profit businesses with fewer than 100 full-time employees that have been in business for at least one year. The study included a nationally representative sample of businesses in the United States. One respondent per business was interviewed. The interviews took place between July 26 and August 12, 2013. The margin of error is ± 2.19% at the 95 percent confidence level.

About The Hartford

With more than 200 years of expertise, The Hartford (NYSE: HIG) is a leader in property and casualty insurance, group benefits and mutual funds. The company is widely recognized for its service excellence, sustainability practices, trust and integrity. More information on the company and its financial performance is available at www.thehartford.com. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheHartford. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheHartford.

HIG-C

Some of the statements in this release may be considered forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. We caution investors that these forward-looking statements are not guarantees of future performance, and actual results may differ materially. Investors should consider the important risks and uncertainties that may cause actual results to differ. These important risks and uncertainties include those discussed in our Quarterly Reports on Form 10-Q, our 2012 Annual Report on Form 10-K and the other filings we make with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We assume no obligation to update this release, which speaks as of the date issued.

From time to time, The Hartford may use its website to disseminate material company information. Financial and other important information regarding The Hartford is routinely accessible through and posted on our website at http://ir.thehartford.com. In addition, you may automatically receive email alerts and other information about The Hartford when you enroll your email address by visiting the “Email Alerts” section at http://ir.thehartford.com.

1 Data cited in this paragraph show the coded responses from an unaided open-end question.

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Morningstar - 2013/10/2 - Not So Risky Business: The Hartford Finds Risk-Taking Among Small Business Owners Conservative, Despite Increasing Optimism
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