SMB Confidence Indicators: Why They Don't Matter

Once again, the media seems confused about SMB and entrepreneur confidence. On the one hand, small business owners feel less successful than at any time over the past decade, says Wells Fargo. On the other hand, SMB confidence has reached its highest level in four years, according to a Sage survey. So what's the reality?

Surely, SMB moods vary from region to region, and from vertical to vertical. I certainly hear from both extremes -- optimists and pessimists -- across the SMB market. But if you filter out the noise, I think the SMB mood is pretty easy to describe:

  • Group 1 - True Leaders: IT entrepreneurs who are striving to fill emerging market gaps generally feel optimistic.
  • Group 2 - The Masses: Everybody else in the room will feel good or bad based on how accounts payable, accounts receivable and Wall Street are performing on a specific day.

Go Silent to Hear the Market Opportunities

How can you shift from group 2 to group 1? 

Sometimes, finding an SMB or IT market gap requires a business-wide "time out" for your core contributors. Prime example: Amy Katz (After Nines Inc.'s CEO) and I are set to whiteboard our ideas quite extensively on Nov. 4-5. We'll emerged from that powwow with our 2015 plan crystallized, product priorities outlined and monthly milestones worth pursuing.

Will our 2015 plan change? Absolutely. It could change multiple times.

Even before we officially unveiled After Nines Inc., we explored at least two major IT media brand launches -- only to abandon the efforts because of:

  • Potentially entrenched competition
  • Lack of potential sponsorship dollars
  • Lack of content expertise. (Yes, I was clueless about a few of the markets we explored.)

Stretch Out, Then Retreat if Needed

But that's ok. You've got to get out of your comfort zone to see what's going on in the world. And you've often got to tune out mainstream media when it tries to "tell" you how to feel about your business prospects. 

Are SMBs feeling optimistic or pessimistic? Overall, I still don't know. I can only speak for After Nines Inc. -- where optimism is running high. As for the rest of the market -- I'm not really worried about what they're thinking. Nor should you.

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