Typical small business owners feel almost as passionate about their workers as they do about their customers.

Market researchers at Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, have reported that finding in a summary of the results from a May Web survey of about 1,100 U.S. small business owners.

The researchers asked the survey participants to rate their agreement or disagreement with 135 statements on a scale of positive 10 to negative 10.

Participants gave “Having customers who appreciate what I do” a rating of positive 5.8, and “Keeping the customers I have from leaving” a rating of positive 5.6.

But the participants also gave their employees an importance rating of positive 5.5, and they gave “Giving my employees reasons to feel good about being part of our team” a rating of positive 4.3.

The idea of “Cutting back on employee benefits” received a rating of negative 0.1; of “Reducing the number of employees,” a negative 0.2 rating; and “Moving full-time employees to part-time schedules,” a negative 0.9 rating.

Other survey findings:

- 54% of the participants said they expect their businesses to do about as well as they’ve been doing.

- 38% of the participants said they expect to expand their businesses sometime in the next 12 to 24 months.

Owners of traditional health care businesses, financial services businesses, high-tech businesses, and dining and accommodations businesses were more optimistic when survey participants with businesses in other sectors, Guardian says.