Small business owners say lack of government support is their greatest fear for the year ahead, according to a recent global survey by Hiscox. The second is being unable to attract new customers, closely followed by the fear of being forced to pass on cost increases to customers.

Regarding the role of government, small businesses' greatest concerns in the United States are taxes and bureaucracy. Nearly two-thirds of men and women (62% and 63%, respectively) say the US taxation system does not favor those seeking to set up their own business.

Men and women (64% and 61%, respectively) also say government bureaucracy is a major barrier to setting up a small business in the US. That sentiment has grown significantly for women since 2011, when it was 54%.

Below, additional key findings from the report, which was based on a survey of 3,000 owners or partners in businesses with fewer than 50 employees (500 respondents, each, from the UK, US, Netherlands, Germany, France, and Spain).

Benefits of a Small Business

  • Asked to name the benefits of running a small business, respondents' most common answers were flexibility over working hours (51%), being able to influence the direction of the business (45%), greater pride in work (43%), and a greater feeling of control (43%).
  • 13% of respondents said there were no benefits to running a small business (up from 9% last year), and that they could not find work or business elsewhere.
  • Asked about general attitudes toward their business, more than half of respondents (54%) said they enjoy running their own enterprise more than being an employee. Almost one in five (19%) enjoy achieving growth in their business; earning more money was cited by only 9%.

Work Patterns

  • The report found a slight decline in the weekly hours worked by small business owners in all countries apart from the US. The average number of hours worked in a week was 41.1 hours, compared with 42.8 in last year's study.
  • Germans work the longest hours each week on average (43.7), and UK residents work the shortest at 37.6.
  • American small business owners spent the fewest number of days on vacation (an average of 10.1 days a year), while German and the British owners took the most holidays at 21.6 days and 21.4 days, respectively.

Small Business Women Embracing social media

  • The survey found that women are more likely than men to use social media in nearly all aspects of their small business operations.
  • In particular, women reported using social media tools for keeping in touch with customers (45%), as well as for communications, marketing, and public relations initiatives (41%).
  • Hiring/recruitment is the only area of operation where men are more likely to use social media than their female counterparts (18% and 7%, respectively).

About the research: The report was based on a survey of 3,000 owners or partners in businesses with fewer than 50 employees (500 respondents, each, from the UK, US, Netherlands, Germany, France, and Spain).

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What Small Business Owners Fear: Taxes, Bureaucracy, and Costs

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Ayaz Nanji is a writer, editor, and a content strategist. He is a co-founder of ICW Media and a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji