The best way for business leaders to determine the current small business market is by looking at recent surveys, and respondents are indicating the economy is continuing to improve on both regional and national levels.

According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, a regional survey that covers Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia reported high levels of business growth and advance in the region. In surveying more than 140 businesses, 55 percent were found to have experienced sales growth in 2013. What's more, 78 percent expected their sales to increase in the coming year.

However, lending remains an issue for many survey respondents. As many as 14 percent of those responding reported that they didn't try to apply for loans because they didn't expect to find success, and a third said credit was the most important issue affecting future growth potential.

That said, employment was on the rise, especially for positions requiring the use of technology and computers. About 36 percent of respondents added employees to their staff last year, compared to only 14 percent cutting positions. The remaining 50 percent made no changes to their workforce.

National growth
In addition, the most recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index Survey found that 2014 seems to be a year of optimism across the nation. Levels of faith toward growth in the near future are at their highest in five years. The survey, which is ranked on a level of positive versus negative numbers, rose by 21 points from October to January, rising from a positive 24 to a positive 45.

There were four major reasons for this notable growth. The primary reason was an improvement in cash flow, as 6 percent more small business owners reported seeing improved levels from October to January. Good cash flow was also reported by a majority of business owners.

Expectations to hire in this survey were also increasing. Another 6 percent of small business owners reported hopes to increase such levels. Small business owners are seeing 4 percent more predictions of increased revenue over that time, while 4 percent fewer owners hoped to have less difficulty obtaining credit than in the last quarter.

Equipment and business industry piece brought to you by Marlin Equipment Finance, leaders in equipment financing. Marlin is a nationwide provider of equipment financing solutions supporting equipment suppliers and manufacturers in the security, food services, healthcare, information technology, office technology and telecommunications sectors.