American Express survey highlights small business optimism for early 2011

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Accountants, marketing professionals and social media experts stand the best chances of finding jobs at small businesses sometime in the next six months, according to a new survey commissioned by American Express. The semi-annual American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor reports that more than a third of small business owners expected to hire new employees in the next few months. That figure represents the most optimistic outlook on the state of Main Street since the credit card issuer's fall 2008 survey.

Growth and marketing upstage survival mode

Encouraging news was that small business owners reported spending more time thinking about growth than survival. However, two-thirds of respondents said that pressing cash flow concerns could derail their plans. Three out of ten business owners said that they've experienced trouble trying to access small business capital (such as new business credit card accounts) in the last six months.

One in six small business owners reported taking more aggressive steps to increase their revenues. This subset of respondents was taking a more active approach to online marketing, embracing social media while making plans to add new products and services to their lineups. Nearly all of the small business owners surveyed considered innovation and new ideas crucial to their companies' continued success.

Help wanted: bookkeeping, social media

When small business owners were asked open-ended questions about the kinds of positions they would prefer to add to their teams, most respondents said they would consider bringing some typical freelance roles in-house. Fourteen percent of survey participants said they would hire a full-time bookkeeper, while 9 percent said they'd seek help from a social media expert.

Paperwork still caused the most frustration among small business owners, at a rate almost double that of technology and employee discipline. Retirement plans were also of concern, with one-third of respondents telling American Express that they had grown very worried about their ability to step away from their businesses after reaching age 65.

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