By Daniel Hunter

Despite the current economic climate, UK small business owners are happy in their jobs and optimistic about the future. According to the latest American Express Small Business Barometer, 93 per cent of UK small businesses say they are either ‘very’ or ‘quite’ happy.

They cite ‘being master of my own destiny’ (70 per cent), ‘doing something I like or believe in’ (66 per cent) and ‘reaping the financial benefits of my own efforts’ (42 per cent) as the main motivators of job satisfaction.

Of course, running a small business isn’t all a bed of roses. When asked about their personal aspirations for the coming six months, two in five (40 per cent) want to reduce their stress levels and a third (33 per cent) hope to carve out more time for holidays.

This quest for a better work/life balance reflects the fact that 46 per cent have gone without time off in the past 12 months because of business commitments and a similar number (47 per cent) are working longer hours. Attracting new customers (83 per cent) and retaining existing ones (66 per cent) remain the top business priorities for the next six months.

“It is encouraging that despite the ongoing challenging economic environment, small business owners say they are happy at work. They know they have tough challenges ahead but appear to be gritting their teeth and focusing on the positives," Stacey Sterbenz, Director for American Express Small Business Services UK, said.

Commenting on their performance to May of this year, the majority (64 per cent) of UK small businesses indicate their company results are in line with expectations, with 19 per cent of those interviewed saying their business performed better than expected. More than a third (40 per cent) reported growth for the first five months of 2013, while business remained flat for 43 per cent.

Looking ahead, the picture is more upbeat with over half (56 per cent) of small businesses forecasting growth for the remainder of the year, with only 12 per cent expecting business to contract.

When it comes to managing business finances, nearly three quarters (71 per cent) say they manage their cash flow carefully on a day-to-day basis, with 54 per cent using a business credit or charge card and 52 per cent a personal credit or charge card to pay for their expenses. Customers paying late is singled out as an added pressure on cash flow by 29 per cent of small businesses.

“As managing cash flow remains such a focus for many small businesses, those using their personal credit cards to pay for business expenses should consider taking out a separate business card," Stacey Sterbenz concluded.

"As well as giving access to additional spending and helping them build the credit profile of their business, it can make processing expenses and managing accounts more straightforward.”

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