More than half (56 per cent) of Canadian small business owners (SBOs) say they are worried about managing their finances with 45 per cent of new business owners claiming cash flow unpredictability is a major cause of stress and anxiety. Still, nine out of ten (91 per cent) say they do not regret starting their own business, citing the freedom, independence and satisfaction that comes with being an SBO.

"There's no question small business owners face big hurdles," says Paul Roman, Vice President, Small Business Services, American Express Canada. "The important thing is Canadian SBOs realize they don't have to go it alone and are relying heavily on support from friends and family to overcome the stresses of entrepreneurship."  

The most recent American Express Small Business Monitor reveals that many of the challenges faced by Canadian SBOs are unexpected, in particular the impact on their personal life.

Support from friends and family

Half of those surveyed believe their family life is being negatively impacted by owning a business, nearly as many (49 per cent) find it difficult to keep up an active lifestyle and 47 per cent worry that the work required to manage operations stands in the way of opportunities like travel and education. Sixty per cent of SBOs also wish they knew more about running a business when they started.

As a key factor in overcoming the more stressful side of entrepreneurship, business owners point to the support of friend and family with 57 per cent of SBOs saying they rely on their spouse for comfort and stress relief, and just under half (44 per cent) saying they rely on their friends.

Cash flow unpredictability is a major concern

Access to credit and alternative forms of financing is the primary concern for the majority of SBOs, but especially for those who are in the early stages of building their business and aren't able to fund their ventures through bank loans.

According to the survey, 45 per cent of new business owners see cash flow unpredictability as source of fear and anxiety, and 41 per cent worry about falling short on revenue. In addition, 56 per cent of SBOs say they wish there were easier ways to secure financing and credit for their business, with 40 per cent relying on personal savings, 36 per cent relying on bank loans and 21 per cent relying on salaries from other jobs.

"It's clear that cash flow is a serious concern among business owners, but it shouldn't be a debilitating stress," says Roman. "That's why having a wide range of options and easily available credit is highly desired by SBOs as an important way to make their lives easier."

Optimism among small business owners

Despite the many challenges faced by small business owners, nearly three quarters (71 per cent) of SBOs remain optimistic about their business' future, an increase from the past two Monitors in March 2015 (68 per cent) and August 2014 (63 per cent). In addition, an overwhelming 94 per cent of SBOs believe the rewards of running their own business outweighs the risks, up 3 points since March 2015 (91 per cent) and up 4 points since August 2014 (90 per cent). SBOs also continue to focus on expansion as 36 per cent say growing their business is their single most important priority, a slight downturn since March 2015 (38 per cent) and August 2014 (37 per cent).

"In the face of an uncertain economy, it's great to see Canadian small business owners are not only optimistic about their future, they're also focused on growth," says Roman.