Although U.S. small business owners are optimistic about their businesses, with 69 percent rating the financial health of their own business as "good," "very good" or "excellent" (up from 64 percent in 2011), they aren't feeling as rosy about the state of the overall economy. In fact, nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of small business owners believe the U.S. economy is still in recession, according to the third annual U.S. Bank Small Business Survey of more than 3,000 small business owners with sales under $10 million.

"Economic uncertainty" was the biggest concern for small business owners in the survey. By contrast, their own sales are less of a worry, with just 12 percent saying sales are a challenge for them. Nearly one-third of businesses say sales have increased since last year. Among businesses with at least $1 million in annual sales, the outlook was especially positive: Forty percent have seen an increase in sales compared to 2011, 58 percent expect revenue to grow next year, and 34 percent say they expect to hire in the next 12 months.

Why It Matters to Your Business: While the results of this study might seem contrarian to some, they make plenty of sense to me. Small business owners are experiencing firsthand that things actually are getting better (at least a bit), but there’s so much negativity about the iffy state of the economy, they assume other people aren’t doing as well as they are. Business owners who've lasted through the Great Recession have learned enough to keep their companies going -- and growing -- even as the recovery is moving at a snail’s pace.