U.S. Small-Business Owners: Satisfaction vs. Success

PRINCETON, NJ (Gallup) — U.S. small-business owners are more likely now to say they are satisfied with being a small-business owner than they were at the tail end of the recession, but are less likely to see themselves as successful. According to a Wells Fargo/Gallup survey of small-business owners conducted earlier this year, 56% of small-business owners, up from 45% in 2010, are either extremely or very satisfied with being a small-business owner. But fewer owners, 37%, say they feel extremely or very successful as a small-business owner — the lowest figure in a decade.

While small-business owners’ satisfaction dropped in 2009 and fell even further in 2010, it rebounded in 2012 to where it was prior to the recession. After dipping again in 2013, it returned this year to the level seen in 2012. On the other hand, owners’ perceptions of being extremely or very successful have trended downward since 2007 and have yet to recover. This is the case even as Gallup has observed improvements in many of its economic measures on employmenthiringeconomic confidence, and consumer spending in recent years.

One explanation for this paradox may lie in the fact that small-business owners tend to like the basic lifestyle and self-sufficiency that come with being an entrepreneur, and therefore may tend to be satisfied even when they don’t perceive themselves as particularly successful. Over four in 10 say that the most rewarding thing about starting and running their business is being their own boss and being independent — by far the most frequently mentioned response to this open-ended question.


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