The top trends and challenges facing small businesses in 2024
November 28th, 2023, Hoang Nguyen

The top trends and challenges facing small businesses in 2024

Many American small business owners are optimistic about the coming year, despite having to adapt to historically high inflation and recover from the long-lasting economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a new YouGov Self-serve survey, we asked small business owners about the performance of their business in 2023 and what they expect is in store for them in 2024. What challenges and problems did they face over the last 11 months? Did their business see profitability, and do they expect to see growth next year? How many expect to make layoffs in the future?

Let’s highlight some of the key findings and trends among small business owners across the US to stay on top of industry trends and find out what’s most important to them.

  • Most small business owners think it’s harder to own a small business today compared to five years ago. Out of the surveyed small business owners, nearly two-thirds (65%) stated it’s somewhat harder or much harder to be small business owner in 2023. One in 10 (10%) say that it is easier to own a small business compared to a half-decade before while 22% say there has been no change.

  • Among the small business owners surveyed, roughly two in five (43%) reported growth in revenue in 2023. Half (50%) reported no revenue growth this year.

  • Even with these mixed reports of revenue gains in 2023, many business owners are confident about business growth in 2024. Half (50%) say they expect profits will grow in the coming year. One in five (20%) are pessimistic about the coming year and say they don’t expect any revenue growth. There’s also a fair amount of uncertainty among Main Street owners, with 21% unsure of what to think.

  • Among those who reported no revenue growth so far in 2023, more than a quarter (27%) believe things will look up in 2024.

  • Some of the biggest challenges small business owners faced this year include cash flow problems (33%), having to work for free (21%), and difficulty finding a lender (10%). 9% had difficulty paying their employees and 6% have had to lay off staff.

  • On the topic of staffing, 9% of small business owners expect to make layoffs in 2024. This is a 50% increase from the share who said they have had to lay off staff in 2023 (6%).

  • Looking ahead to 2024, small business owners have several business priorities on the list, including expanding or remodeling businesses (27%), investing in new technologies (23%), increasing marketing spend (19%) and expanding the number of employees they have (18%).

  • The welfare of employees will be another key area of focus in 2024, albeit to a lesser extent, with 13% of small business owners wanting to improve employees’ mental health and wellbeing and focus on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the workplace (7%).

  • AI was one of the top buzzwords in the business world in 2023 and will gain even more traction among small business owners over the coming year. More than a tenth (13%) of small business owners surveyed indicate that integrating AI tools or capabilities will be a top priority in 2024.


YouGov polled 200 US adults aged 18+ who self-identified as small business owners online between November 16 – 17, 2023. The survey was carried out through YouGov Surveys: Self-serve. Data is weighted by age, gender, education level, political affiliation, and ethnicity. Learn more about YouGov Surveys: Self-serve.