New Year, new optimism

As the New Year gets under way, growing numbers of small-business owners feel a cautious sense of optimism.

Chicago Tribune Minding Your Business columnist Ann Meyer cites evidence both scientific and unscientific in a recent column.

Many privately owned companies came into being or continued to succeed and grow in spite of the crippling economic conditions that hogged headlines in 2008 and 2009.

Meyer writes:

Despite the severity of the recent recession, “There still were hundreds of thousands of businesses started. And we would expect that to increase” as the economy improves, said [Dane] Stangler, senior research analyst at the Kauffman Foundation.

Some already see signs of improvement. About 15 percent of Illinois businesses surveyed in September and October said they plan to reduce their work force or lay off workers in the next six months, compared to two-thirds that said they had cut back during the previous 12 months, according to the Management Association of Illinois.

A new study of Census data commissioned by the Kauffman Foundation indicates firms that are less than 5 years old created about two-thirds of all new jobs in 2007. On average, these young firms created about four jobs per year.

As a result, the Kauffman Foundation is advocating policy changes to encourage startups, such as cutting payroll taxes, welcoming immigrants who intend to start businesses here, easing lending standards and reforming Sarbanes-Oxley regulation, which discourages small companies from going public.

And while the thrust of her column focuses on newer companies, a lot of these issues also apply to established small-business owners who want to expand or sell – which is where my book, How to Sell Your Privately Owned Company, comes into the picture.

It’s hard to avoid getting so caught up in day-to-day survival of our small businesses that we don’t pay attention to what’s going on in the world surrounding us. But as the old saw goes, knowledge is power. More to the point, applied knowledge is power.

Take time out each day to read up a little on your business, the business environment in your community and the economy at large. And I hope you’ll find this blog a reliable source of information that matters to you, especially if you’re thinking about selling your business.

Eric R. Voth is a serial entrepreneur, a private investor, consultant, and writer. He is author of How to Sell Your Privately Owned Company, a Basic Guide for Independent Business Owners, Baby Boomer’s Edition. Eric and his colleagues help a business Seller prepare and groom his or her company prior to offering it for sale or merger – then guide the owner through the actual process. He became involved in this field as a result of merging his own company in 1993.

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