Growth Does Not Equal Success for Most Small Businesses

Nearly 90 percent of surveyed small business owners have no desire to build a large business with more than 50 employees

(Chandler, Ariz. – Aug 5, 2016)—Infusionsoft partnered with Emergent Research to better understand how small business owners define success, the challenges they face, and how they overcome those challenges. The “Defining and Achieving Small Business Success” report showed the majority surveyed have zero aspirations to build a large business, and often find non-financial measures of success to be equally as important as financial goals – and typically more important.

“This report reaffirms what we’ve known all along, that people start small businesses for many different reasons aside from ‘getting rich’ or growing the next billion-dollar startup,” said Clate Mask, CEO and co-founder of Infusionsoft. “They seek work flexibility, freedom and control, being their own boss and having the ability to do what they enjoy while having a positive impact on their employees, customers and community.”

Most small business owners in the report feel the time and effort required to build a big business would conflict with their personal definition of success and, because of this, aren’t driven to build large empires. In fact, only 12 percent of those surveyed said they have a desire to build a business with more than 50 employees. While growth is an important part of most small businesses’ definition of success, it’s the non-financial goals that continue to drive them.

Experiencing Challenges with Growth

Growth in moderation is part of most small business owners’ definition of success. However, many face challenges at various stages of growth. This includes going from a solopreneur to hiring a first employee, from managing a team to bringing on a supervisor and from replacing tried and true processes with more advanced technology solutions. The research identified the top three challenges that are often a hindrance for growth at all levels:

  1. Finding time to get everything done
  2. Attracting and retaining qualified employees
  3. Generating leads and turning them into customers

For example, small business owners who want to move from being solopreneurs to hiring their first employee find this to be a challenging and intimidating process, mostly due to concerns around finding the right person for the job. The shift is unnerving because they go from worrying only about themselves to being responsible for managing an employee and meeting payroll on a regular basis.

Overcoming Challenges

Two ways small business owners overcome challenges and achieve success are through technology and coaching. Survey participants talked about how technology enables faster and more efficient ways for communicating with both employees and customers, which improves productivity and customer satisfaction. Technology such as automation and analytics tools were also discussed, as it allows owners to further streamline processes, reduce overhead and improve customer responsiveness. Almost all small business owners reported that automation allowed them to “do more with less” and was a significant competitive advantage relative to their less-automated competition.

The second finding in the report is that small business owners paid for professional coaching in order to overcome complex challenges due to rapid changes in technology. Coaching ultimately leads them to saving more time and operating more efficiently as they can learn from someone who walked the path before them and amassed the breadth of experience to guide them.

“Perhaps the most interesting finding from this report is that nearly everyone interviewed took advantage of coaches or paid knowledge-building services, especially those making the transition from 4-10 employees to 11-25,” said Steve King, Emergent Research. “It is great to see regardless of what stage a small business is at, they aren’t afraid to ask for help to improve themselves and their business.”

You can check out the full report and its findings here:


For the “Defining and Achieving Small Business Success” report, Emergent Research added to findings from a prior Infusionsoft survey of small business owners designed to identify five common stages of business growth. The Infusionsoft Stage Survey had 402 U.S. respondents from businesses with 2-25 employees. In addition to that survey, 26 in-depth interviews were conducted with new small business owners/executives who self-identified as running successful small businesses. Eighteen of these businesses are based in the U.S., three in Canada and five in the U.K. Six of these businesses are Infusionsoft customers.


Emergent Research is a cross-disciplinary strategic research and consulting group focused on the most dynamic sector of the global economy - small businesses. We identify emerging social, business, technology and economic trends impacting small business formation and operations and provide our clients insights and analysis to drive business and marketplace strategy.