Get Started: Hiring plans; VC confidence

NEW YORK (AP) — SMALL BUSINESS HIRING

Nearly half of small business owners have no hiring plans in the next six months, with many saying that they are focused on cutting costs and keeping the revenue they have in this sluggish economy, according to a new survey by American Express.

Thirty-five percent of the owners surveyed said they don't need to hire, up from 24 percent last summer. One reason may be a big ramp-up in productivity — 60 percent say their workers have been more productive in the past year. Slightly less than one-third will seek new workers in 2013, down from 35 percent a year ago.

Well over half of owners surveyed say that they are stressed by the state of the economy, and more owners have stopped taking a salary or are having a spouse or family member work for free in order to manage cash flow. Others put off purchases or tap personal funds to pay bills on time. That's hurt retirement planning, with 60 percent saying they are not on track with their savings.

Just over half of owners surveyed remain optimistic about their business prospects, but only 40 percent plan to invest in their businesses in the next six months to help grow revenue. And most of that money will go toward computers, software and other technology, not new workers. A majority is targeting cost cuts and 27 percent plan to raise prices. One way businesses are cutting back to save money — eliminating health care coverage. Only 44 percent of those surveyed now offer health care to employees, down sharply from 61 percent in the fall.

The survey questioned 933 small business owners or managers of companies with fewer than 100 employees. It was conducted from late February through the middle of March.

CONFIDENCE GROWS AMONG VENTURE CAPITALISTS

People who invest in small technology businesses are getting more confident about the future for high-growth companies, according to a survey of Silicon Valley venture capitalists.

For the third quarter in a row the Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist Confidence Index climbed, rising to 3.73 on a five-point scale during the first quarter from 3.63 in the last three months of 2012. The index, compiled from a survey of 30 venture capitalists, measures how confident they feel about the environment for high-growth entrepreneurial companies in the San Francisco Bay area over the next six to 18 months. The index was compiled by Mark V. Cannice, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of San Francisco.

The survey participants cite a stabilizing economy and less political uncertainty for their increased optimism. They also note that time has passed since the disappointing performance of some social media ventures, which has eased concerns about technology companies. Initial public offerings for social media companies in the past few years fell short of expectations — shares of Facebook, for example, are still down nearly 30 percent from their first day of trading nearly a year ago.

Venture capitalists also are more optimistic because the improving market for mergers and acquisitions means more opportunities for company sales and in turn, for investors to get their money back.

SCORE SEMINARS

Business owners can get tips about putting together an advisory team and about becoming great leaders from two upcoming online seminars.

The seminars are being sponsored by SCORE, an organization that provides free counseling to business owners. The first seminar, at 1 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, will discuss ways of putting a team together — whether or not you have employees. The seminar will make the case that no entrepreneur should go it alone. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/d6vdmwq

SCORE also is holding a seminar on how to lay the foundation to become a great leader. It's scheduled for May 9 at 1 p.m. Eastern time. You can register at http://tinyurl.com/dya7skw

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