FreshBooks small business survey

Two out of three small business owners will try generative AI within the next 12 months

FreshBooks recently released results from a survey it conducted among approximately 1,000 small business owners from various industries in the United States and Canada. The subject was adoption of generative artificial intelligence (AI). A quarter of those polled said they are currently using or testing generative AI tools, such as ChatGPT, Google Bard and Microsoft Bing. FreshBooks is accounting software operated by 2ndSite Inc. primarily for small and medium-sized businesses.

FreshBooks Chief Data Officer Mara Reiff commented, “Anxiety over AI has been growing lately, with workers in certain industries expressing concerns that their jobs will be replaced. In the world of small business, it appears that owners don’t feel particularly threatened and don’t believe artificial intelligence can do their jobs just as well as they can. On the other hand, their eyes are wide open to the potential of using AI as a support to help them scale.”

According to the poll, two-thirds disagreed that AI will replace them, but 44 percent said they expect to hire fewer people in the future because of AI capabilities, with larger businesses being more likely to agree that AI will result in employing fewer people.

Two out of three business owners revealed that they intend to try generative AI for work within the next 12 months, which is an indication that most small businesses will be using it by this time next year. 

Most of those adopting generative AI are using it to generate text at this point, the survey suggests. A “slim majority” are applying it to create images or conduct business research. Most said they were using it on their business websites and social media platforms, with fewer using it for customer support and communications. 

Of small businesses who have not yet adopted generative AI, 46 percent said they were not clear on how it could benefit their business, while 32 percent said they were unsure of how to begin applying it to their business. Larger businesses commonly cited a lack of time as a barrier. Only 16 percent of those who have not adopted it said it was because they are not a “technical person.”

It is interesting to see which areas of business expect to be the most and least affected by the technology. Analytics, sales/marketing, and customer communications are expected to be the most affected, while HR, recruiting, and service delivery are expected to be the least affected in the near term. 

While most plan to use generative AI, that does not mean that owners do not have concerns. Eighty percent of owners polled said they are concerned about privacy, ethical, and intellectual property issues associated with AI. None of this appears to be stopping many from leaping into the technology, however, with 60 percent agreeing that AI will dramatically change their business within the next five years. Those with employees were more likely to believe that than those without. 

The AI landscape has become rapidly more interesting throughout 2023 so far, and the coming years are sure to bring about massive changes to businesses of all kinds. 

About This Author


Alpine Bank Staff

Alpine Bank is an independent, employee-owned organization with headquarters in Glenwood Springs and banking offices across Colorado’s Western Slope, mountains and Front Range.

More about Alpine Bank Staff

Allpoint It’s your money after all. Find a surcharge-free ATM