If you’re a small-business owner, you may not be able to think of a recent year that’s been so transformative: 2013 marked a banner 12 months for technology IPOs, and it heralded the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.
So, how does all of this affect SMB professionals’ outlook for 2014? Things are looking positive, according to a new poll of more than 1,000 small-business owners by Rocket Lawyer. Some 80% of SMB pros surveyed say optimism is the watchword for the coming year.
Opportunities: Growth sectors
Owners of small and midsize businesses are looking at a fairly topical slate of growth areas in 2014.
With all the talk in the news about tech companies such as Twitter going public and healthcare systems undergoing unprecedented change, perhaps it’s no wonder that polled owners say technology (36%) and healthcare (27%) are regions of opportunity in the coming year.
Meanwhile, growth in 2013 looks to be a mainly marketing-focused effort.
- More than 40% of the owners say marketing will lead their 2014 to-do lists.
- 25% indicate fundraising will be the primary focus.
- 13% of the polled SMB professionals cite product development as a priority.
Healthcare: The ACA in 2014
In light of the predictions of doom by numbers of politicians, it’s perhaps somewhat surprising to hear what SMBs have to say about the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- 75% said that the healthcare act’s implementation will not affect their hiring plans.
- Less than half (45%) say they’ll not enroll in the ACA in 2014 (or even 2015).
Among those who will not enroll, the reasons given include having fewer than 50 employees (40%) and/or having a healthcare plan they’re already satisfied with (30%).
With all of this in mind, the poll also shows that the outlook is also on the uptick for would-be employees, especially freelancers.
For them, the big picture looks like this: More than one-third (37%) of the SMB owners said they planned to hire on new staff in the first half of 2014, and more than half of those new hires, the owners say, are expected to be independent contractors.
That’s promising news, and a strong way to start a new year–for employers and employees.