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Small Business Data

7 survival tips for small business success

They say 20% of new businesses fail within the first year. By year five, half of new businesses fail. That’s what data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us, and for new entrepreneurs that stat can be pretty intimidating. After all, more than five million new businesses were created in 2022 (a record year!) according to the US Census Bureau — does this mean 2.5 million businesses are destined to fail within the next few years? 

Not necessarily.

Businesses fail for many reasons, from poor planning to financial challenges. Some businesses expand too fast, scaling up before they’re ready. Some get too complacent, allowing themselves to grow stale in their market. Sometimes, businesses fail for reasons that are totally out of their control — like getting hit with an economy-disrupting global pandemic, for instance. 

Businesses fail for many reasons — but data tells us that within the first five years just as many businesses succeed. Rather than focusing on why businesses fail, let’s take a look at what established businesses, those that have survived for 6+ years, do differently — and what you can do to increase the odds of your own business’s survival.  

Here’s what the most recent QuickBooks-commissioned survey data tells us small business owners can do to ensure the success of their new business through the first five years and beyond. 

1. Know your numbers

You started a business to follow your dreams and be your own boss, not because you’re a financial expert or interested in complicated accounting formulas. You don’t have to be a certified accountant to own and operate a successful business, but you do need to have a basic understanding of your business finances. 

Successful business owners understand what impacts their bottom line. They know how much revenue they need to make to pull a profit, which parts of their business are the most profitable, and what their expenses are. 

  • 83% of established businesses know how much revenue they need to pull a profit, compared to 79% of new businesses. 
  • 92% of established businesses know which areas of the business are the most profitable, compared to 85% of new businesses.

Longevity relies on knowledge — and lasting businesses are successful in part because they have an intimate knowledge of their business needs.

2. Conquer cash flow challenges

Cash flow is a constant struggle for small businesses — even established businesses. Over 60% of new business owners say cash flow is a problem, while 44% of established businesses admit cash flow is an ongoing challenge.

Understanding the ebbs and flows of cash in and out of your business can help you avoid dry spells and keep your money moving in the right direction. This means understanding how to measure your business's cash flow, build cash flow projections, and manage your business expenses.  

  • 83% of established businesses know how to measure their cash flow, compared to 80% of new businesses. 
  • 91% of established businesses know what the largest expense is each month, compared to only 85% of new businesses. 

3. Pace yourself

The goal of every new business is rapid growth, right? Not so fast. Growing a new business is incredibly rewarding, but growing too quickly can result in some serious growing pains. Scaling up before you’re ready could be a recipe for disaster. Successful businesses with longevity on their side say steady growth and stability are top priorities. 

  • 54% of established businesses say steady growth is a top priority. 
  • Another 32% of established businesses say stability is a top priority.

Slow and steady wins the race. Make sure your business is prospering at its current size before taking the next step. 

4. In uncertain economic times, stay focused

They say emotion drives 80% of financial decision-making — logic steers the remaining 20%. With the rising cost of inflation, banking crisis headlines, and economic uncertainty at the forefront of small business owners’ minds, it’s easy to get emotional and make some not-so-logical decisions. But lasting businesses say they’re staying focused and staying the course. 

  • 71% of established businesses say they haven’t created any new innovations or technology over the last three months, compared to only 40% of new businesses. 
  • 59% of established businesses say they haven’t purchased any new innovations or technology either, compared to 36% of new businesses.

Younger businesses are investing more time and money into new technology and innovations, but established businesses are prioritizing their time, money, and effort for their most essential operations.

8 myths about starting a new business — busted!

There are a lot of myths about starting a new business and thriving beyond year five. Let’s separate fact from fiction.

5. Hype up your business with word-of-mouth marketing

You don’t need a huge marketing budget to get the word out about your business. You just need to offer a great product or service and an outstanding customer experience. Easy, right? Okay, easier said than done, but established businesses say word-of-mouth referrals, a low-cost marketing strategy, offer the highest return on investment. 

  • 59% of established businesses say word-of-mouth referrals provide a high return on investment, compared to 43% of new businesses.

Never underestimate the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Getting back to a strategy that exceeds customer expectations and has them passing your business along to a friend or family member could mean the difference between failure and success. 

6. Split your sales approach

In this market, an online presence is crucial — there’s no doubt about it. But it’s equally important to connect with your customers where they are (and where they prefer to shop). While newer businesses tend to be more digitally native companies, established businesses understand the value of in-person retail experiences — signaling the value of a diversified sales approach

  • Lasting businesses say their sales revenue is evenly split between in-person (51%) and online transactions (49%). 
  • Among younger businesses, the split is more disparate. In-person sales account for 31% and online transactions account for 69%.

Omni-channel and multi-channel sales strategies, which include both an in-person and online approach, offer customers multiple ways to connect with your brand. Plus, multiple sales channels allow your business to pivot quickly if one channel fails (in the off-chance a global pandemic hits, for example, shutting down all in-person activities). 

7. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Even if you have formal business or management training (65% of new business owners say they do), there’s one thing you can only earn with time: experience. Only 56% of established business owners say they have formal training, but these business owners say they rarely feel out of depth at work. The difference is years of experience.

  • 81% of established business owners say they rarely feel out of depth at work, compared to only 57% of new business owners. 
  • This means 43% of new business owners feel out of depth at least some of the time, compared to only 19% of established businesses. 

You don’t need formal training to succeed in business — but you also shouldn’t expect to know everything from day one, or to do it all without help. If you’re just starting out, established business owners who have been there, done that, can be your greatest source of knowledge and support. All you need to do is ask.

Feel confident from day one

You're never too small, and it's never too soon to know you're on track for success.

Sample and methodology

Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Insights 2023

Online survey commissioned by Intuit QuickBooks in December 2022 of 1,500 business owners throughout the US. Average annual business revenue from the previous year was $1,033,965. Half (52%) of respondents are men and nearly half (47%) are women. One in five (22%) respondents are sole proprietors and nearly half (45%) have up to 10 employees. Three in ten (30%) respondents own businesses five years old or younger. Seven in ten (70%) own businesses six years old or older. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest decimal place so values shown in charts and graphics may not add up to 100%. Responses were collected in online surveys using Pollfish audience pools and partner networks with double opt-ins, random device engagement sampling, and post-stratification based on local census data to ensure accurate targeting and results. Respondents received remuneration.


This content, report and materials are for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, accounting, financial, investment, or tax advice, or a substitute for obtaining such advice specific to your business. Additional information and exceptions may apply. Applicable laws may vary by state or locality. No assurance is given that the information is comprehensive in its coverage or that it is suitable in dealing with a customer’s particular situation. Intuit Inc., or its affiliates do not have any responsibility for updating or revising any information presented herein. Accordingly, the information provided should not be relied upon as a substitute for independent research. Intuit Inc., or its affiliates do not warrant that the material contained herein will continue to be accurate nor that it is completely free of errors when published. Readers should verify statements before relying on them.

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