Down but Not Out

With the economy struggling, entrepreneurs aren’t as upbeat as usual. But the latest Open From American Express Small Business Monitor survey of small-business owners finds they aren’t merely hunkering down. Seventy-one percent plan to “grow their business” over the next six months. Fifty-seven percent plan to hire new staff, though the number planning personnel cutbacks has risen to 41 percent from 29 percent last spring.

While plans to make capital investments are less widespread, 53 percent of owners expect to be making such outlays in the next six months (down from 60 percent a year ago). Technology is the area most likely to get these dollars, with office equipment the runner-up.

Intentions would likely be more robust were it not for worries about cash flow: 56 percent of owners report “cash-flow issues” now, vs. 46 percent a year ago. One sign of scrimping: Fewer owners offer employee health benefits now than was the case last fall (66 percent vs. 71 percent).

A final info-tidbit: Owners over age 60 are more optimistic than others, perhaps (the report suggests) because they’ve gone through past downturns and lived to tell the tale.