Small Businesses Shift Into Growth Gear

After years of just trying to survive the down economy, small business owners are once again focused on growing, a new study finds.

Research from Dell and Intel revealed that nearly half of all small business owners are planning to grow their companies in the near future, while 38 percent are focused on long-term growth.

Despite increased international opportunities, a majority of U.S. startups and small businesses still see greater growth opportunities at home than abroad. In addition, two-thirds of those surveyed don't even view access to global markets as key to growth.

The research shows that technology is helping give small business the ability to expand again. More than three-quarter of small businesses consider access to technology as key to growth.

While nearly 90 percent of small businesses are satisfied with how their technology needs are currently being met, they are still concerned about keeping up in the future. More than 40 percent of those surveyed report that their technology requirements are becoming increasingly complex.

"Small business owners are now more dependent than ever on technology for growth since their customers and employees are so geographically dispersed," small business consultant Barry Moltz said. "This technology challenge is becoming increasingly difficult with customers and employees expecting to be able to access information from anywhere, and on any device."

The decision to start growing again is also being fueled by small business owners' optimistic outlook on the year ahead. Over the course of 2013, more than half of entrepreneurs and small business owners expect finances to improve, with most expecting better prospects for sales as well as greater growth opportunities.

"To compete in today’s global landscape, they need technology to innovate, but it’s not the only thing they need," said Ingrid Vanderveldt, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell. "Turning a great idea into a successful business also requires access to financing, networking and knowledge."

Based on the research and conversations with startups and small businesses over the last year, Dell believes that policymakers, together with big business, should focus on the several areas to help them overcome  obstacles to growth, including:

  • Improving access to capital and markets: Although obtaining capital remains a common problem, the current regulatory environment is causing small business owners to look elsewhere from government lending for financing. Policymakers should impose reasonable fiscal controls on government spending and work to reform America's corporate tax system to be globally competitive by adopting a territorial tax system with lower rates and permanent, effective research incentives.
  • Improving access to networks, talent and expertise: Competition for top talent is high among startups and small businesses, especially at executive levels and in the fields of science and technology. To expand the talent pool and help empower the next generation of entrepreneurs, policymakers can work to improve the quality of K-12 STEM education and engage more students in STEM learning at a younger age, increase U.S. college graduation rates and remove barriers to immigration for skilled workers.
  • Improving access to technology: Technology will continue to play a larger role in enabling the success of startups and small businesses as it levels the playing field, making it easier for them to compete with large companies, having to hire fewer employees and automating routine tasks. Policymakers can encourage innovation and increase access to technology by maintaining robust national investments in research and development, and investing in next-generation infrastructure, including telecom, energy, transportation and health care.

The study was based on surveys of 941 small business decision-makers, from companies with one to 99 employees, in the following nine major U.S. metro areas: Miami; Atlanta; Chicago; San Francisco Bay area; Los Angeles-Orange County; Austin, Texas; Philadelphia; Boston; and Seattle.