Small business owners are experiencing more success than they were three years ago and are more confident of being able to retire on their own terms, but some lack an exit plan, according to a new study of small business operations.

Small business owners who work with a financial advisor report greater confidence in their ability to retire than those who do not have an advisor, says the study by Guardian Insurance and Annuity Company.

The Small Business Owners Retirement Readiness study compares small business owners’ feelings about their businesses and retirement prospects with responses taken by Guardian in a similar survey in 2011.

The survey shows 52 percent of SBOs feel they are either very or fairly well prepared for retirement, and 56 percent have a clear vision of how they will spend their time once they retire, compared to 50 percent for both in 2011. The survey included 1,487 small business owners ages 25–74. The for-profit businesses have two to 99 employees and at least $500,000 in revenues.

The SBOs saw an average 30 percent jump in employment, a 32 percent increase in revenues and a 35 percent growth in investable assets over the last year, according to the survey. One-third of those surveyed plan to expand their businesses in the next one to two years.

More SBOs feel they can retire early (39 percent versus 31 percent in 2011), says Guardian. Having their own business is the best way to obtain the wealth they want, the SBOs say, and 40 percent say they would never work for anyone else.

Although 35 percent of respondents are counting on the sale of their business to be financially prepared for retirement, compared to 30 percent in 2011, only 17 percent have identified potential buyers for their businesses, the survey shows.

Women small business owners have slightly different attitudes towards their finances than men, according to the survey. Women are more likely to not feel prepared for retirement and are more likely to want an advisor who pushes them towards their goals.

“Women SBOs can do more to prepare for retirement and feel as confident as their male counterparts. A retirement savings plan is an essential tool for any small business owner’s financial security. Yet it needs to be put into motion many years before retirement,” says Douglas Dubitsky, vice president of Guardian Retirement Solutions. “Financial professionals play a critical role in educating and guiding participants and can help all SBOs optimize their retirement plans.”

Small business owners who have succession and retirement plans are more likely to be successful, have higher revenues, and feel financially secure, Guardian says.