SurePayroll Survey Offers New Insights on Small Business Ownership

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When it comes to starting a small business, desire for control outranks passion.

What it is it that drives many of us to jettison ourselves out of the world of life as an employee and step into the unchartered lands of entrepreneurial adventure, starting over as small business owners?

Over 99% of America’s businesses are small businesses. Pick a random person on the street and there’s a greater than 50 percent chance that they work at a small business. Indeed, nearly ten million small businesses – firms with less than 100 employees -- operate in the United States. That means there are approximately ten million small business owners in the country.

What drives these owners to work for themselves instead of working for somebody else?

According to a survey by SurePayroll, the nation's largest online payroll service provider for small businesses, most entrepreneurs start businesses because they do not like others determining their income levels and their schedules. It’s not about having passion for something. It’s not about having a great idea. Instead, it’s all about taking control.

“This survey reveals that people who start businesses are doing so primarily to gain control of their own destiny,” says Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll. “More than anything else, they want to be responsible for how much money they make and how many hours they work — even if it means working more hours and making less money.”

The survey, conducted in July, asked small business owners to record their thoughts on a variety of issues concerning their business. The survey results indicate that while there are many challenges to owning a small business, the vast majority of small business owners would follow the same path again if given the chance and would also encourage their children to become entrepreneurs.

Small Business Owners Reveal Reasoning Behind Business Startup

When asked about the top reasons for starting their company, small business owners ranked their responses in the following order:

  •     I wanted control of my earning potential. (28.9%)
  •     I wanted control of my time. (22.3%)
  •     I followed my passion. (16.3%)
  •     I hated working for someone else. (12.3%)
  •     I wanted to grow something from the ground up. (7.7%)
  •     I did not intend to go into business for myself -- I fell into it. (6.2%)
  •     I was laid off or afraid of being laid off. (3.5%)
  •     I inherited it --it's a family business. (1.4%)
  •     I was ready to retire but still wanted to keep my hand in business. (1.0%)
  •     I had an idea that didn't exist. (0.5%)

Owning a Small Business Tough but Beneficial to Lifestyle

Owning a small business isn’t easy. 63 percent of respondents reported working more hours for themselves than under previous employers. 14 percent said they worked fewer hours as an entrepreneur as they had previously. The remaining respondents, 23 percent, indicated that they work about the same number of hours.

The amount of effort required to be an entrepreneur takes many small business owners by surprise. Indeed, 50 percent of the respondents indicated that owning a business is harder than they imagined it would be. Of the other respondents, 43 percent found life as a business owner easier than they had anticipated, and only 7 percent said they had accurately anticipated what it would be like to be a small business owner.

Life as an entrepreneur does come with one nice perk: flexibility. An overwhelming 79 percent of small business owners feel they have more flexibility in their current life as an entrepreneur. 14 percent indicated they had less flexibility, while the remaining 7 percent said they had the same amount of flexibility.

Despite Ownership Challenges, Small Business Owners Satisfied

The biggest challenge for small business owners is finding good people. When asked about the top obstacle pertaining to small business ownership, respondents ranked their responses in the following order:

  •     Finding and keeping qualified employees. (19.3%)
  •     Balancing business development efforts and current work-load. (18.3%)
  •     Managing my work time and priorities. (14.6%)
  •     Managing employees. (11.9%)
  •     Generating expected revenues. (11.9%)
  •     Creating a work/life balance. (10.8%)
  •     Meeting my income goals. (7.3%)
  •     Acquiring capital to grow. (5.7%)

Despite the combination of challenges, 94 percent of entrepreneurs are content with their decision to start their own business, and the exact same percentage of respondents indicated that they would encourage their children to follow in their footsteps.

Many of the comments received during the survey process suggest that the overall experience of owning a small business has been extremely positive.

One small business owner said it best by noting that “Owning my own small business has been the most challenging and the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my business life.” Another small business owner commented “You control your own destiny – there’s no one else to blame!”

About SurePayroll’s Commentary

Every month, SurePayroll publishes its small business economic indicators via the SurePayroll Small Business Scorecard. Based on employee and contractor paychecks for over 17,000 small businesses, SurePayroll's indices give insights on small business hiring, salary levels and reliance on contractors.

SurePayroll regularly augments its data indices with surveys on a variety of topics of interest to small business owners. The July survey was conducted between July 3 and July 12 via email survey with a 90 percent confidence interval and a 5 percent error margin.

About SurePayroll:

Privately held SurePayroll is America's fifth largest full-service payroll provider and the nation's largest online full-service payroll provider. Catering exclusively to the needs of small businesses, SurePayroll provides a simple, reliable and economical way to process payroll in minutes via the Internet.

In addition to providing payroll services directly to small business, SurePayroll also provides a private-label payroll service that allows SurePayroll's numerous partners to offer payroll processing to their small business clients.

Business partners include ABN AMRO, Pitney Bowes, and MasterCard. SurePayroll will process nearly $3 billion in employee and contractor payroll payments in 2006. For more information, visit

For Media Inquiries Contact:

Ken Gaebler

Walker Sands Communications
Phone: (312) 543-0654


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