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Small Businesses Are Optimistic, Unfazed by AI

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
Staff Writer

Most U.S. SMBs expect to grow by at least 25% in the coming years.

  • 3 in 4 American small business owners polled are certain AI or robots won't take their jobs.
  • Small business owners ranked flexibility at work five times higher than the potential to earn money as the most compelling benefit of owning a business.
  • Despite the current political climate in America, U.S. small business owners were the least likely demographic to cite political and societal upheaval as a concern.

Regardless of where they are or how long they've been in business, small business owners must adapt to changes. New tools can make an entrepreneur's life easier, while new regulations can hamstring previously lucrative revenue streams. Yet while our ever-shifting world can pose new challenges at any moment, a newly released survey suggests American small business owners remain optimistic about the future.

Roughly 70% of the 4,505 worldwide small businesses polled in the GoDaddy Global Entrepreneurship Survey said they expected their prospects to grow by at least 25% in the next three to five years.

Released earlier today by the major web hosting company, the survey polled small businesses with 25 or fewer employees from Australia, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the U.S during April and May of 2019.

What officials were looking for, according to Melissa Schneider, GoDaddy's vice president of global marketing operations, was any indication about how upcoming technological changes like workplace automation and political upheaval could affect small businesses and entrepreneurs.

"Globally, we are currently in an intense period of technological, political, and societal change and transformation," she said. "Small business owners and entrepreneurs are constantly adapting to change, both in their own venture and in the outside world, with limited help."

How SMBs rely on the internet

When it comes to running a business in the 21st century, one of the most important tools at an entrepreneur's disposal is the internet. With its ability to facilitate communication with billions of people around the globe, being able to showcase what your business has to offer on the web is inherently valuable if done right.

Compared to the 70% of U.S. respondents who said they expected 25% growth over the next few years, researchers found that nearly 80% of businesses that had a website felt the same way. Comparatively, only 64% of respondents without a website felt as optimistic about their business prospects in the near future.

Among businesses that had a web presence, researchers also found that revenues were 38% higher than their counterparts who lack websites. Not having a website doesn't mean a business is completely off the internet, however, as 29% of respondents who said their business didn't have a website reported relying on social media instead. Those respondents said they had accounts on Amazon, eBay, Facebook or Etsy to help them sell their wares.

Thanks to the growing availability of broadband internet, many businesses allow workers to contribute remotely. While most people would assume that younger generations would be more comfortable with working from home, researchers found that baby boomers (49%) and Gen Xers (42%) were 50% more likely than millennials (26%) to think remote work will be ubiquitous in the future.

While the internet is incredibly useful, it's not always safe. Small businesses regularly fall prey to intrusions and data breaches that gravely disrupt operations. According to the survey, only 5% of the global group of small businesses polled reported experiencing a cyberattack. When they did, however, 29% said they couldn't access their accounts, 26% reported having to shutter their shops temporarily, and 24% said it cost them monetarily.

SMBs are not afraid of AI and feel confident using technology

While most people regard the internet as a wonderful tool with few potential downsides, many fear that the advent of advanced robotics and artificial intelligence will be a global threat to job security. Yet according to the survey, 75% of the U.S. small business owners who participated in the survey said they were confident they had nothing to worry about. Among those respondents, women (76%) were slightly more confident than men (71%).

As for their technological needs, small business owners reported feeling generally capable in solving any tech problems that may crop up. Researchers found that 75% of American respondents said they could meet their technology needs by themselves, with women (80%) feeling much more confident than men (63%). That lack of confidence meant men were "nearly twice as likely to outsource [tech problems] to a company, ask a friend, or seek out a web professional or designer for their website and technology needs," researchers said.

Politics and society

Even as American politics are divided and fraught with problems that can spill into the workplace, researchers found that American small business owners were more comfortable in today's political climate than their international colleagues.

According to the survey, U.S. small business owners were the least likely (17%) to point to political and societal upheaval as a concern. In contrast, 33% of the entrepreneurs polled from other markets felt they could say the same.

Looking at the list of markets polled, it's understandable why small business owners are concerned. The United Kingdom has been in the throes of Brexit since June 2016, with no clear resolution in sight. Australia and Germany are both dealing with a surge of far-right extremists, Hong Kong protesters have been clashing with China for weeks, and Mexico continues to deal with its ongoing drug cartel problems.

Image Credit: mavo/Shutterstock
Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins
Business News Daily Staff
Andrew Martins has written more than 300 articles for business.com and Business News Daily focused on the tools and services that small businesses and entrepreneurs need to succeed. Andrew writes about office hardware such as digital copiers, multifunctional printers and wide format printers, as well as critical technology services like live chat and online fax. Andrew has a long history in publishing, having been named a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner.