Four in 10 small business owners believe 2024 will be a “make or break” year for their business, according to new research.

The survey of 2,000 small business owners — half of whom work in tech or retail — revealed that 40% think this next year will be pivotal for their business.

Respondents listed the economy, the upcoming election, and declining sales as some of the reasons this year will be a “make or break” for their business, while others mentioned continuing supply chain issues and retaining good employees.

But it’s not all “doom and gloom” for small business owners: 49% said their business performed better than anticipated in 2023, while only 21% said it was worse than anticipated.

The survey also revealed that 71% are optimistic about the state of their business as we enter 2024 — but there’s a juxtaposition between the unexpected success of the past year and the perceived pivotal nature of the upcoming one.

With that, a third of respondents (32%) are worried their business won’t survive through the end of 2024.

Even if they’re not pinning all their hopes on this upcoming year, 38% are more worried about their business as they enter 2024, compared to 2023 — while only 26% are less worried.

Conducted by Slack and commissioned by OnePoll, the survey delved into small business owners’ worries and looked at what respondents are doing to alleviate them.

Top worries included inflation and economic conditions (47%), followed by the need to raise prices (32%) — and an increase in competition (24%).

Respondents are also worried about needing to update their technology without the budget to do so (16%), and feeling like the tech they use for their business is outdated (14%).

But small business owners aren’t sitting idly by as these worries mount: the survey revealed 74% of respondents are currently taking steps to help alleviate their concerns.

This includes expanding marketing efforts to bring in new customers (51%), setting money aside for emergency use (45%), and exploring new technologies to increase productivity and efficiency (43%).

A quarter (26%) of small business owners surveyed also implemented new technology in 2023 — with 41% of those implementing new productivity or collaboration technology.

For those respondents, they believe these enhancements will help them better communicate with customers (70%) and internal teams (55%), share information across their teams (54%), and reduce the number of software tools their team uses (40%).  

“The state of small businesses in 2024 reflects a clear desire to maximize efficiency with limited resources,” said Jaime DeLanghe, Senior Principal, Product Management, at Slack. “Regardless of what sector the business is in, productivity and collaboration tools can be a key driver of businesses’ growth and productivity.” 

Small business owners also worked to improve their business throughout 2023, and they ended last year with some positives.

By the end of 2023, respondents earned new customers (47%), made a profit (30%), and implemented new technologies (26%).

When asked what these new technologies were, respondents were most likely to have implemented technology for AI (50%), productivity or collaboration (41%), and communication (34%).

And 75% believe the changes and improvements made to their business in 2023 will pay off throughout 2024.

As we look ahead, 60% of small business owners expect to increase their budget this year, with 50% planning to allocate that budget toward technology and infrastructure.

Results found that 35% are excited to implement new tech or update tech for their business in 2024 — and of those, they’re planning to implement new productivity and collaboration tools (49%), as well as other software tools (53%).

“The insights from this research highlight the forward-looking aspirations of small businesses, showcasing their remarkable resilience and adaptability,” said DeLanghe. “By recognizing the evolving landscape of tools and productivity practices among these businesses, we gain a better understanding of their needs — particularly in the current economic climate — and how best to support them.”

WHAT ARE SMALL BUSINESS OWNERS WORRIED ABOUT IN 2024?

  • Inflation/economic conditions — 47%
  • Needing to raise prices — 32%
  • Rising competition — 24%
  • Needing to update my technology tools and software but not having the budget to do so — 16%
  • Feeling like the technology I use for my business is getting outdated — 14%
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