While economic uncertainty persists, there are signs that many entrepreneurs feel more confident and less stressed this fall. According to the latest findings of the American Express OPEN® Small Business Monitor, just 20 percent believe economic conditions are the biggest barrier to growth (compared to 23% in the fall of 2011), fewer have cash flow concerns (53%, versus 58% in the spring) and fewer are stressed out by the economy (59%, versus 64% in the spring). Small business owners’ top priority, is maintaining their current business and sources of revenue (32%) and as a result they have adopted a “wait and see” approach for growth plans. Only 29% of businesses surveyed have plans to hire new employees, down from 35% in the spring. However, only 16% of entrepreneurs say the economy has caused them to lay off employees versus 21% six months ago. In sharp contrast, a small cadre of “High achievers” is taking action and focusing on growth, among this group two-thirds (66%) plan to hire over the next six months. “In many ways, our research on small business sentiment mirrors economic indicators on the consumer front—confidence and optimism gauges are showing positive signs, but there is a sense that people are not willing to go all-in until after the elections,” said Susan Sobbott, president, American Express OPEN. “To help small business owners navigate this uncertain time, we decided to zero-in on the small businesses that weathered the great recession and came out firing on all cylinders—we want to know ‘what can be learned from the high achievers that will help create of more of them?’” New Index Uncovers Key Areas of Business Differentiation For the first time, the semi-annual survey, now in its eleventh year, includes a Success Index to identify commonalities across successful businesses that can provide lessons for any small business. The index profiles four groups of entrepreneurs: High achievers, strivers, sustainers and strugglers.