Ask a group of small business owners how they define success and you’re likely to get a varied laundry list, ranging from the aspirational to the financial. But ask them to rank the importance of each characteristic, and a distinct “success profile” emerges that might surprise you.
In 2013, research firm Audience Audit and Infusionsoft conducted a nationwide survey of more than 1,100 true small businesses – those with 25 or fewer employees and revenue of more than $100,000. The resulting study, entitled “The American Dream: What Really Motivates Small Business Owners,” provides a snapshot of the attitudes and behaviors that motivate and inform the business decisions of the nation’s economic engine.
Study participants ranked statements pertaining to various small business topics on a seven-point scale, “1” representing not at all important and “7” representing extremely important. When asked, “How important are each of the following in your definition of success?” participants scored 16 common attributes of small business success, including “Making a lot of money,” “Having a flexible schedule,” and “Being in control.”
Scores of individual statements were tightly grouped, but aspirational and quality of life goals clearly topped the list.
“Living the life I want” earned the highest level of importance (6.6 out of 7), followed by:
- “Doing the work I love” (6.5),
- “Determining my own path” (6.3),
- “Securing basic financial goals like retirement savings, funds for education and freedom from debt” (6.3) and
- “Helping my customers be more successful” (6.3).
Among the other nine success attributes tested, “Making a lot of money” and “Being in control” ranked in the middle of the pack (5.8), while “Growing my business so I can sell it” and “Supporting more employees” were the least valued (4.6).