For the first time in five years, small-business owners are feeling more optimistic about their prospects, according to the recently released Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index. Specifically, the index rose 21 points for the first quarter of 2014 to +45, which is the highest it’s been since the third quarter of 2008. The results are based on a January survey of 603 U.S. small-business owners.
Much of the increase in optimism has to do with the general improvement of the economy as a whole. The complete survey results [PDF] show that specific triggers of the shift include better access to credit, anticipated increases in revenue and staffing, and improved cash flow.
Of course, small-business owners continue to face some very real challenges: According to the Index, 21 percent of those surveyed say generating new business is currently their biggest hurdle. Other obstacles include government regulations, hiring, and health care.
Make Hay While the Sun Shines
If you’re feeling optimistic about the future, why not seize the opportunity to invest in your business? Here are four ways to do just that.
1. Make renovations. If you’ve been putting off major renovations to your office or another essential aspect of your small business, now is the time to seriously consider an upgrade. Set aside time to crunch the numbers to determine whether the investment is feasible. Building renovations often result in improved conditions for your employees, which can be a good way to increase loyalty over time.
2. Update your technology. If your software is outdated, update it. End of story. Yes, it costs money, but if you have a bit extra in the kitty right now, use it. Obsolete software leaves your company computers more vulnerable to hackers and viruses, the damage from which can be even more costly to repair.
3. Hire additional staff. If your employees have been running ragged to keep up with the tasks assigned to them due to previous budget cuts, now is the time to consider loosening the purse strings a bit. Bringing on new staff can reduce workplace stress and enable each employee to do the best job possible.
4. Advance your skill set. If you’ve been putting off training for financial reasons, you don’t need to hold back anymore. Go ahead and pay for courses or seminars. Or, invest in training for your employees to advance their skill sets as well. The more you all know, the better prepared you’ll be to overcome the specific challenges of your industry.
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