A smiling woman in a food truck hands an order to a man waiting outside. The truck has a built-in awning from which hang multiple strings of lightbulbs and colored flags. The woman in the truck wears a plaid shirt and black visor. She hands two sandwiches to the man, who has a long thick beard and wears a red plaid shirt and a backwards baseball cap.
One reason that SMB owners may find their work so fulfilling is because they've transformed their passion into their career. — Getty Images/LuckyBusiness

Many small business owners pursue entrepreneurship to lead a happier and more balanced life. For most of them, that goal is being realized: According to the 2024 Homebase Small Business Team Fulfillment Index, nine in 10 small business owners love their jobs and 65% say they’re satisfied with their work-life balance.

These business owners aren’t just boosting their own happiness, either. The majority of their employees feel the same, with 82% of hourly small business workers saying they’re happy with their jobs. A happy workforce is a more productive one, so it’s in a small business owner’s best interest to prioritize happiness at work.

Here’s why small business owners love what they do and how they can create a positive work environment that contributes to the happiness of everyone, including their employees.

[Read more: How to Be a Better Entrepreneur in 2024]

Why small business ownership is so fulfilling

There are countless reasons why someone might start their own business, but many of those motivations come down to the desire to pursue a passion and feel more fulfilled in their careers.

“The small business owners we talk to tell us that their entrepreneurial journey started when they decided to turn their passion into a career,” said Rushi Patel, Co-founder and COO of Homebase. “Bringing that passion into their day-to-day, gaining independence and control over their lives, helping build their community, and having fun doing it is a big part of the job and why they got into entrepreneurship.”

Charles Farriér, Owner of Crumble and Whisk and a Homebase customer, has found that the true “pride and joy” of owning a small business are his customers.

“Owning a local business … allows me to explore my craftsmanship with the customers, [which allows] them to take part in my world and … enjoy … our pastries and the delight that we bring to the community,” Farriér told CO—.

Teams tend to be happiest in flexible environments where people feel like they can balance those work and life commitments.

Rushi Patel, Co-founder and COO of Homebase

How to create a positive small business work environment

Small business owners who want to attract and retain employees should focus on creating an environment where everyone feels happy and fulfilled. Based on Homebase’s report, here are a few things you can do to promote happiness in your business, for yourself and your team.

Empower your team through autonomy and flexibility

More than three-quarters of employees surveyed said they feel personally invested in the success of the small business they work for. Reward this investment with autonomy in your employees’ day-to-day work. This allows your team to feel “in control” and accountable for their contributions, said Patel.

Flexibility in scheduling and working hours can also be an effective way to empower your team and boost satisfaction.

“Teams tend to be happiest in flexible environments where people feel like they can balance those work and life commitments,” said Patel, who noted that nearly 40% of hourly workers ranked flexible work as a priority factor (after competitive wages) when choosing a job.

[Read more: 10 Entrepreneurial Quotes to Keep You Motivated]

Be transparent about relevant business information

Homebase found that 47% of hourly workers want to be more involved in business decision-making processes. Transparency and access to relevant business information is key here, as knowing these “behind the scenes” details can help employees better understand what’s happening from an operational perspective.

“Letting team members access everything from shift notes to performance reports lets owners step away to handle everything else that’s on their plate,” said Patel.

Farriér puts this into practice at his business by giving his employees access to things like updates on work performance, scheduling, and tasks they need to do for the day via Homebase.

Recognize employees for their contributions (and encourage them to recognize each other, too)

Patel advised small business owners to show their team appreciation and keep them motivated by making sure they feel seen for all they do.

“Eighty-six percent of hourly workers enjoy their job more when they are recognized, but only 66% say they actually feel recognized for their efforts in the past year,” said Patel.

Employee recognition doesn’t have to break the bank, either: Some ideas for low-cost rewards for your team include public verbal or written recognition, professional development opportunities, gift cards, and company merchandise.

Above all else, make sure any workplace initiatives you implement reflect what your employees actually want.

“Talk and listen to your team members about their needs and wants for a successful work environment,” Patel said.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

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