Small Businesses Optimistic, but Access to Cloud Will Be Key

Adding to the positive outlook, 62 percent of entrepreneurs are prioritizing customer growth, with 33 percent planning to invest in technology.

small business and social media

Three out of four small-business owners in the United States are optimistic about growth in 2015, according to an online survey of 500 small-business owners conducted by accounting software specialist Xero.

Adding to the positive outlook, 62 percent of the respondents are prioritizing customer growth, with 33 percent planning to invest in technology. Despite their hopes for growth, however, 80 percent of small-business owners said they have little need for new hires this year.

Additionally, Xero executives expressed concerns about small businesses' cloud adoption. They said access to cloud software tailored for small businesses will be crucial, yet many small business owners remain unaware of cloud services.

"The biggest challenge to small businesses is just having the knowledge of the capabilities of cloud-based technology and how it can extend and simplify their business," Amy Vetter, Xero's global vice president of education and enablement, told eWEEK. "In fact, one of the data points that we uncovered indicated that 18 percent of small-business owners didn't even know what the cloud was."

Cloud-based technology helps "streamline functions like accounting and payroll, decreasing the need to hire additional staff that would normally run those areas," Vetter said. "Also, a lot of the paperwork that's usually done after hours while people are out in the field can now be done in real time, which means more effective use of time and just better accuracy overall."

Small businesses should do research and consider the benefits of cloud-based technology, some of which include access to real-time data, collaboration, 24/7 universal access, and mobility, she said.

"If those aspects are important to your business, it's definitely something to look into," Vetter said. "I think it's also important to not try to duplicate work in the cloud, rather, think about how technology can make current business processes more efficient."

The study found differences across age groups. An overwhelming 90 percent of the Millennials (18 to 34year-olds) surveyed are optimistic about growth in the coming year, compared with 74 percent of total respondents. The study showed that 55 percent of Millennials said that at least a quarter of their business is run in the cloud, compared with just 23.5 percent of all respondents.

A little under half (45 percent) of Millennials are seeking better work/life balance, compared with 31.5 percent of total respondents. According to the study, 30 percent of Millennials take no vacation in a year, compared with 17.1 percent of all small-business owners who participated in the survey.

Additionally, a majority of Millennials (80 percent) use Facebook for their business, compared with 40.4 percent of total respondents.

"Small businesses are much more empowered these days to conduct different operational activities like marketing, research and promotion through social media," Vetter said. "It's amazing because no matter the size of the business or the budget, they're able to scale these activities at little to no cost."