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Small Business Data

Small Business Success Month 2024: New data reveals what success looks like for small businesses this year

There are more than 33 million small business owners across the United States, according to the Small Business Association, and their numbers are growing every year. Some of these business owners have endured a global pandemic, skyrocketing inflation, and funding challenges—and their businesses have come out stronger on the other side. Others have been inspired by these seemingly seismic shifts in the US economy to follow their entrepreneurial dreams—starting new small businesses within the last three years to power their local communities and fuel small business employment.

For today’s small business owners, there are many facets to success—and financial success is only one of them. New data from a QuickBooks-commissioned survey of 1,969 US small business owners for Small Business Success Month tells us more about how they define success and what they’re doing to achieve it. From supporting their local communities, to leveraging digital tools, to prioritizing their mental health and wellness, read on to find out what success looks like for small business owners in 2024.

How small business owners define success in 2024

Revenue isn’t the only way to gauge small business success in 2024. Today’s small business owners also care about financial security, contributing to their local communities, and personal fulfillment.



Small businesses need to earn an average of $351,000 this year to feel successful

The majority (65%) would be happy with less than $351,000. For some (11%), earning just $25,000 this year would be enough, while others (16%) say they need to earn $1 million or more. Survey insights indicate that setting a realistic earnings goal is important for small business success and satisfaction.

More than 6 in 10 small business owners surveyed (64%) say they’re on track to meet their earnings goals this year, but 19% say they’re already running behind—and this could spell trouble for their overall happiness. The majority (70%) of small business owners say their job satisfaction will decrease if they don’t meet their earnings goal this year.

However, money isn’t the only way small business owners gauge success in 2024. For small business owners surveyed, success means, first and foremost, providing for themselves and their families, followed by building a good reputation for their business. Hitting financial goals comes in third.

These success metrics vary by generation. Gen Z business owners (ages 18-27) don’t place as much importance on business reputation, but they rank “personal fulfillment” as second-most important. Millennials (ages 28-43) and Gen X (ages 44-59) business owners agree that “providing for my family” is a top metric for success, but Millennials would put “contributing to my community” in that bucket as well.



86% of small business owners say owning a business has helped them meet their personal financial goals

Today’s small business owners know that money isn’t everything—but it certainly helps. Nearly 9 in 10 small business owners surveyed say owning a business has helped them meet their personal financial goals, like starting a savings account (62%), paying off debt (56%), and improving their credit score (55%).

Many of today’s small business owners think starting a business is a better way to build personal wealth than buying a home, according to the QuickBooks “Entrepreneurship in 2024” report. In fact, more than 4 in 10 respondents say owning a business has helped them buy a house.

While money can’t buy happiness, it does contribute to the mental health and wellness of small business owners. More than half of small business owners surveyed (57%) will pay themselves less than six figures this year—and the size of their personal paycheck can impact their mental wellness. Of those who are able to pay themselves at least $100,000, 67% say their mental health is good or great. This number drops to 58% for those who'll pay themselves less than $100,000.

Small business success means community success

A rising tide lifts all boats—when small businesses thrive, their communities do too. But one can’t thrive without the other. Survey results reveal that small businesses rely on their local communities to power their success.

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Small business success is community success

See how the success of small business owners contributes to the success of their communities at large.

89% of small business owners agree it’s important for consumers to support small businesses by buying locally

More than 7 in 10 small business owners surveyed (73%) say they feel supported by their community. These business owners say their community supports them through word of mouth, by leaving positive reviews for their business, and by choosing to shop small over larger businesses.

Small business owners say an average 55% of their annual revenue comes directly from their local community

And they’re putting that revenue right back into community support. These respondents say promoting community growth, creating local jobs, and improving the quality of life within their communities are among the top benefits small businesses bring to an area.

Top 5 benefits small businesses bring to their local community

Additionally, the majority (85%) of small business owners surveyed say they’ve supported local causes in their community within the last year. The most popular causes are local food banks (36% have supported these), education programs and initiatives (35%), and environmental programs and initiatives (34%).



Millennial business owners get and give back the most community support

While 82% of millennial-aged business owners say they feel supported by their community, only 55% of Gen Z business owners and 69% of Gen X business owners say the same. But Millennials seem to prioritize community support more than the newest generation of small business owners.

Nearly 8 in 10 Millennial business owners (78%) say it’s significantly important for consumers to support small and local businesses by shopping locally—only 45% of Gen Z business owners say the same.

And while 89% of Millennial small business owners say they have supported local causes within their communities, this number drops to 79% for Gen Z.



Small businesses located in large, urban areas get more community support

8 in 10 small business owners with businesses in urban areas say they feel supported by their community, compared to 6 in 10 of those located in more rural areas. And this support seems to correlate with business growth—72% of businesses located in urban areas say they’re currently experiencing growth, compared to less than half (47%) in rural areas.

For 50% of small businesses, the grass is greener on the other side

Large and small communities each come with pros and cons. Larger communities offer more opportunities to find new customers and grow the business—but steep competition makes it difficult for small businesses to stand out. Smaller communities come with loyal customers and local support—but little room for growth. No matter where they’re located, half of small business owners say the grass looks greener on the other side.

Fifty percent of small business owners in small communities think their businesses would be more successful if they were located in a larger, more diverse community. But nearly the same amount (48%) of business owners with businesses in larger communities think their business would be more successful if they were located in a smaller, more tight-knit community.



Small businesses in the Northeast see more growth and support (and feel happier)

Across the board, 62% of small business owners surveyed say their business is growing—but some regions report more and faster growth than others. In the Northeast, nearly 70% of small business owners say they are experiencing growth. In the South, this drops to 54%.

This reflects the employment growth tracked by the Intuit QuickBooks Small Business Index. In Q1 2024, New England was the only region tracked by the Index to see employment growth.

Further emphasizing the correlation between business growth and community support, more small business owners in the Northeast (77%) say they feel supported by their community—in the South, this number drops to 65%.

With the highest growth and most community support, it’s no wonder small business owners in the Northeast are also among the happiest—65% of small business owners located in the Northeast say their mental health is in a good or great place, compared to 55% in the South where community support and business growth reportedly isn’t as strong.

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Successful small business owners tap into their resources

Survey results indicate that growing businesses are more likely to have enlisted the help of an accountant and use digital or AI tools that help them run their businesses more efficiently.



More than half of small business owners surveyed (51%) say they have an accountant for their business

These business owners say investing in an accountant gives them peace of mind about their business finances, helps them with more accurate tax prep and filing, and helps them make better financial decisions.

Gen-Z-aged business owners—who may have less experience in the business landscape—are slightly more apt to use an accountant than Millennials or Gen X business owners. Over half (53%) of Gen Z small business owners surveyed say they’ve tapped into an accountant for their business, compared to 47% of Gen X small business owners.



Small businesses that work with an accountant report more and faster growth than those who don’t

More than 1 in 4 small business owners (27%) who say they use an accountant in some capacity for their business say their business is experiencing high growth. Among respondents who don’t use an accountant, only 1 in 10 report high growth.

Nearly 7 in 10 small businesses that use an accountant or accounting software report steady or high growth in their business, compared to just 4 in 10 who don’t use either.



92% of small business owners surveyed use digital tools to run their business

For these businesses, saving time, increasing accuracy, and connecting with customers are the top benefits of using digital tools.

Top 5 benefits of using digital tools

Nearly half of these business owners (53%) say they’re using AI tools—such as automated customer support, sales forecasting, data analytics, fraud detection, content curation, ad targeting, automated web design, and more. They say AI tools help them save time (61% say this), increase productivity (56%), improve customer service (49%), and reduce errors (49%).

Growing businesses are more likely to use digital tools and AI tools

Survey findings suggest a correlation between business growth and the use of digital tools: 67% of small business owners surveyed who say their business is currently growing use AI tools, compared to only 32% of businesses that are not growing.


Only 5% of growing small businesses say they don't use any digital tools, compared to 13% of businesses that are currently not growing.

Mental health and wellness may be a driving force of small business success

Surveyed small business owners say they were driven to start their business not just for financial gain, but for the increased satisfaction that comes with being their own boss and running a successful business.



84% of small business owners who have previously owned a business that closed say that “failure” was motivation to try again

More than 6 in 10 small business owners (62%) say they’ve previously started or owned a business. The majority of these (80%) say their previous business closed or failed.

These business owners say the top three factors that contributed to that closure or failure are the COVID-19 pandemic (33% say this was the primary reason for business closure), wanting to start a different business (30%), and inflation challenges (29%). But for most of these small business owners, that closure or “failure” was a driving force to try again—with renewed passion and a few lessons learned under their belt.

Across the board, over half of small business owners surveyed said they were driven to start their business so they could make better money (55%), be their own boss (54%), and improve their work/life balance (50%).

Small business owners take an average 15 days off per year, excluding weekends and holidays

Part of “being your own boss” and practicing work/life balance is the flexibility to take time off when needed—but only 27% of small business owners surveyed say they always take time off when they need or want to. The other 3 in 4 say they don’t take as much time as they’d like because they get anxious when they’re away from their business, believe their business can’t run without them, or they’d simply rather be working.

The majority of small business owners surveyed (74%) say they have at least one trusted team member to oversee their business while they take time off. But survey findings indicate that these business owners don’t necessarily feel less apprehensive about clocking out.



88% of small business owners rate their satisfaction as “medium” or “high”

Despite their uneasiness to take time off, small business owners surveyed still say they’re satisfied with their job—and work/life balance heavily contributes to their satisfaction. Across the board, “being my own boss” is the top driver of satisfaction, followed by work/life balance, and having the flexibility to work when and where they want.

But this varies by generation. Gen Z business owners are more likely to say “my team” is the top contributor to their satisfaction. Millennials and Gen X business owners say working for themselves brings them the most satisfaction, with work/life balance as a close second.



Despite high satisfaction levels, small business owners still feel stressed

For many small business owners, stress and satisfaction are two sides of the same coin. While 88% say they’re satisfied at work, 76% say they’re stressed. The majority (43%) say getting more or better sleep would help alleviate their stress, followed by more downtime to spend with family, friends, or pets, and extra money to pay off business debts or help with cash flow.

In fact, nearly 4 in 10 small business owners say $20,000 would be game-changing for their business. These survey respondents say a grant or gift of up to $20,000 would be enough to help them cover immediate expenses and alleviate their financial worries for their business.



56% of small business owners say they could use more sleep

Small business owners agree that getting more sleep would help alleviate their stress—less than half of small business owners surveyed (44%) say they get enough sleep at night (at least, most of the time). The other 56% are running on less sleep than they’d like.

Across the board, small business owners say they get an average 7 hours of sleep each night—this is the minimum amount of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleeping less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis has been linked to poor health. And yet, 41% of small business owners surveyed say they’re regularly sleeping for 6 hours or less.

Nearly half (48%) say worrying about their business is the top thing that keeps them up at night, above even family or personal concerns (43%), and global issues (28%). Specifically, they lay awake worrying about inflation, cash flow challenges, and debt.

Despite the stress, nearly 8 in 10 business owners say their business is a significant contributor to their overall happiness

The occasional downfalls of owning a small business don’t outweigh the many positives for today’s small business owners. In fact, the majority of small business owners surveyed (68%) say their mental health has improved since starting their business—only 15% say their mental health has declined. Half of small business owners say they’re always able to prioritize their mental health when they need to. When they need a pick-me-up, they say it’s as simple as spending time with loved ones, getting a good night’s sleep, and getting some exercise.

Sample and methodology

From April 12 to 15, 2024, Intuit QuickBooks commissioned an online survey of 1,969 US small business owners, all over the age of 18, with 0-100 employees. The survey focused on small business success and failure among five cohorts of respondents who identified themselves as small business owners with 1-100 employees (n=924); small business owners with no employees (n=375); and side hustlers who combine W2 and 1099 income by running a small business on the side of their day job (n=670). Overall, 58% of the respondents were male while 42% were female; 20% were Gen Z (ages 18-27), 58% were Millennial (ages 28-43), 18% were Gen X (ages 44-59), and 4% were Baby Boomers (ages 60-85).

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 using Pollfish audience pools and partner networks with double opt-ins, random device engagement sampling, and post-stratification based on census data to ensure accurate targeting and results. Respondents received remuneration. Data insights reflect the opinions of the business owners surveyed and do not reflect Intuit or its affiliates' opinions on the matter.

Disclaimer

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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