Entrepreneurs are making slow but steady progress toward growth, according to the Fall 2013 American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor. The research suggests business owners have abandoned their "wait and see" approach, with 32 percent of entrepreneurs making growth a top priority.

Furthermore, small business owners increased capital investments by 5 percent year-over-year, and hiring plans also increased by 6 percent. Entrepreneurs reported a 7 percent reduction in cash flow concern, suggesting that they are in a better position to increase investments.

Concerning the state of the economy, fewer business owners believe the economy is in recession (25 percent, down from 30 percent this spring), paving the way for increased optimism. When asked about their outlook over the next six months, more than half (56 percent) have a positive outlook on business prospects and 43 percent are confident that their revenues will increase. Currently, nearly four-in-10 say their revenues are greater than they were a year ago and 16 percent say they have more employees than they did last year (compared to 8 percent in fall 2012).

Being more strategic with social media

Social media has become a large part of a company's overall online marketing process, but only 50 percent of entrepreneurs surveyed use social media. Those that do employ it have developed a more targeted approach, according to the survey findings:

  • 71 percent use social media to attract new customers;
  • 59 percent use it to drive sales;
  • 55 percent use it to create a dialogue with customers; and
  • 36 percent use it to create communities where customers can talk to each other.

"Small business owners appear poised to flip the switch to growth mode," said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN. "Business owners are getting more targeted in their approach to building customer demand and an increasing number are using analytics to better understand their customers and social media to drive sales."

Read more about trends and statistics.

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