However, the survey also found that 57% of respondents say saving for retirement is a low priority for the coming year – proving that many business owners may still be facing considerable financial stress, Wells Fargo said in a press release.
Forty-three percent of respondents indicated they plan to expand their business operations in 2011, and of those, 56% said they intend to add employees.
Looking back at 2010, 51% of business owners with paid employees reported that they hired new employees. Forty-one percent of those business owners who added employees did so to replace another who left; and 21% were hired to support growth or expansion plans. Of the business owners who hired in 2010, 42% said they hired fewer new employees than they needed.
Business owners foresee a somewhat better employment outlook in 2011: 18% expect hiring to increase at their companies over the next 12 months, up from 13% in Q3 2010.
Other Index results show signs of optimism. Business owners surveyed in 2008 were bracing for the worst: cutting operating costs was a very high or high priority for 79%. This year, while cost cutting remains a top concern (64%), forward-looking priorities have gained ground, including being more involved in communities (43%), planning a succession strategy (42%), and increasing advertising and public relations (40%). Using social media and increasing investments in technology are also cited as high priorities by approximately a third of those surveyed.Survey results are based on telephone interviews with 604 small-business owners in all 50 states, conducted November 4-10.