As the co-founder of BizPlanIt, I have spent much of my career helping entrepreneurs and small business owners develop business plans for “what’s next” in their business. The one thing that has always amazed me about our clients, and entrepreneurs in general, is their endless of supply of enthusiasm for what they are doing and their boundless optimism for the future.

The last couple of years have tested the skills, creativity and resolve of every one of us, including our ability to remain enthusiastic and optimistic in the face of overwhelming negativity, which seemed to peek its head out from around every corner. While many small business owners are still struggling, and many worry that the worst may not yet be over, it does appear that optimism in our entrepreneurial nation may be returning.

According to the American Express OPEN® Small Business Monitor, a semi-annual survey of business owners which was released in September 2009, more than half (55%) of entrepreneurs have an optimistic outlook on near-term business prospects, up from 45% in March 2009. The survey also disclosed that one quarter (26%) reported expanding opportunities for their business, up from 15% from a year ago. However, all the news in the American Express survey was not as positive, as a majority of the business owners in the survey plan to remain conservative and avoid taking large risks.

Whatever negativity may remain, each day we are speaking and meeting with a wave of entrepreneurs and small business owners that are ready to build a business plan for their future. They are slowly seeing customers return and their cash flows improve; emboldening them to look to the future, envisioning how they are going to seize the opportunities in front of them, as well as considering those ideas for taking their business in an entirely new or unimagined direction. They are taking the time, and making the effort, to put down on paper the ideas and thoughts that will help them build a better, stronger business, one that reignites their enthusiasm and reaffirms their optimism for the future.

For more information on the American Express OPEN® Small Business Monitor, visit: http://home3.americanexpress.com/corp/pc/2009/sbm.asp