Downbeat Entrepreneurs

Small-business owners tend to be the most relentlessly optimistic people on the planet. So, when they turn gloomy, you know times are tough. In a survey conducted for American Management Services by Boston-based Suffolk University, 81 percent of small-business owners said the country is already in a recession. And half the respondents said they think the economy will get worse before it gets better. Speaking of their own experience, 57 percent said the credit squeeze has directly affected their business. Even so, 49 percent pointed to gas/energy costs as the most pressing problem for small businesses today.

There are also people who’d like to be small-business owners but aren’t because current economic constraints have deterred them from taking the plunge. A survey of jobless managerial/executive types by Challenger, Gray & Christmas finds the percentage of such people starting their own businesses is at “its lowest level since the onset of the dot.com collapse.” The rate of unemployed managers/executives starting their own businesses fell to 4.3 percent in the second quarter of this year, from 7.2 percent in the first quarter.

The Challenger report does predict a surge in start-ups in the years ahead by older workers who leave their regular jobs buy don’t retire. In many cases, Challenger says, these entrepreneurs will benefit from contract work from their former employers as companies outsource projects rather than staffing up to handle them in-house.