By Dianne Crampton

Small Business Pulse, a survey conducted last month by The Hartford, reveals that female small business owners feel more confident in the success of their business than their male counterparts and take a more cautious approach to business risk.

“These findings align with the measured approach we see in many of our own female customers,” said Janice Co, vice president of strategy and chief marketing officer for The Hartford’s small commercial insurance unit. “As women realize they’ve built successful businesses, they tend to sharpen their focus on protecting their accomplishments against future uncertainty. Women are a powerful force in the small business community and The Hartford is proud to serve them.”

Among small business owners, 91 percent of women say their business is successful, compared to 80 percent of men.

When asked to rate the overall level of risk they are currently taking with their business, 55 percent of female small business owners rate themselves as conservative, compared to 47 percent of males. Furthermore, 80 percent of female small business owners believe they would not have been more successful had they taken on more risk, compared to 67 percent of males.

Current Challenges

While female small business owners believe they are successful, they also acknowledge that they face some significant challenges.

Female small business owners characterize current challenges as:

    Major Barrier   Minor Barrier   Not a Barrier
Increased costs of doing business   50 percent   36 percent   14 percent
Government rules and regulations   36 percent   35 percent   28 percent
Cash flow   35 percent   33 percent   28 percent
Lack of demand and/or customers   21 percent   29 percent   46 percent
Problems hiring and retaining qualified employees   21 percent   27 percent   52 percent
Access to credit   15 percent   31 percent   50 percent

U.S. Economy and Elections

Women are not as optimistic as men in their outlook on the U.S. economy. When asked to gauge their level of optimism that the national economy will strengthen this year, only 53 percent of women say they are optimistic, compared to 64 percent of men.

The survey also indicates that women are more likely to vote with their business in mind during November’s presidential election. Eighty-nine percent of female small business owners say that a presidential candidate’s position on pro-small business policies will have an impact on their vote, compared to 79 percent of males. Further, 55 percent of women surveyed indicate it will have a major impact, compared to 45 percent of men.

The Role of Government in Helping Small Business

The survey reveals that small business owners are not unified in their opinion on which government entity is most responsible for helping small businesses. However, women clearly feel local entities (state/local government and chambers) should take the lead.

    Male   Female
Federal government   18 percent   10 percent
State government   18 percent   24 percent
Local government   13 percent   16 percent
Local chambers and associations   21 percent   25 percent
Net state/local   51 percent   66 percent
None of these   28 percent   22 percent
Don’t know   3 percent   2 percent

“Our research suggests that efforts to help small business owners should be addressed on all fronts,” Co said. “Resources are needed at every level to foster small business success, from local organizations serving as advocates on behalf of small business in the community, to policies in Washington that make taxes easy to understand.”

Nearly 30 years ago, The Hartford became the first insurer to have a business unit focused on small business. Today, The Hartford has more than one million policies nationwide, insuring small business customers in 96 percent of U.S. counties.

As a small business owner and founder of TIGERS Success Series, Hartford was the one insurer that stepped forward to provide my company with Decision and Opinions Insurance that protected my company through large growth spurts.

Small Business Pulse Methodology

The Hartford Small Business Pulse is a complementary survey to the Small Business Success Study released in November 2011. The Small Business Pulse is designed to provide real-time insight into the mindset of small business owners today. The survey was developed by The Hartford and fielded via telephone by Braun Research from February 29 – March 6, 2012. The nationally representative sample consisted of 1,004 small business owners (271 women and 733 men) of companies with fewer than 100 employees and have been in business for at least one year. The margin of error is +/-3.1 percent for the national sample, +/-4 percent for the male sample and +/-6 percent for the female sample with a 95 percent confidence level.

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