The most common attributes the survey discovered about business owners are:
- They launched their business from scratch.
- They invested personal savings in the business.
- Their motivation was to be their own boss.
- Their friends and family were emotionally supportive of their decision to start a business.
- They would do it all over again.
Most business owners surveyed would have:
- Invested more money in their business when starting it.
- Spent more time on strategic planning in the early stages.
- Relied on a mentor/coach when starting their business
- Formed a network of advisors earlier in the process.
- Developed a system for generating leads.
- Focused more on building their brand in the early stages.
- Applied more strategic thinking in the early stages.
- Managed their time better and delegated more to others.
- Been more aggressive in launching their business.
- Placed a greater priority on client development.
- Focused on providing a solution to a known market, rather than developing a new market.
- Split their time between focusing on the big picture as well as the details.
Profile of Survey Participants
- 69% of respondents have been in business for more than ten years.
- 26% of the respondents have annual revenue of $5 million or more. 41% have revenue between $1 million and $5 million.
- 41% of respondents have 2-9 employees, and 38% have 10-49 employees.
- The most common industry sectors are Professional Services, Manufacturing and Construction.
- Respondents came from the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand and Ireland.
- 63% launched their business from scratch, 21% bought it from a previous owner and 17% took over the family business.
- 65% of owners launched their business using personal savings. Other funding sources include business partner (10%), bank loan (9%), credit card debt (8%) and investment from friends & family (7%).
Key Lessons Learned from Launching Their Business
- The most common primary motivation for owning a business was“to be my own boss.”
- 64% of respondents have increased revenue in the past year. 82% of respondents are optimistic about increasing revenue in the upcoming year.
- Emotional support from friends and family is a common theme for surveyed business owners.93% were emotionally supportive, including 61% who were very supportive.
- In terms of investment in the business, 60% of respondents would have invested more money when launching their business compared to 40% who would have invested more time.
- 80% of respondents discovered that customer/client development is significantly more important than product/service development.
- They also discovered that solving a problem for a known market(78%) is significantly more important than developing a product/service for a new market.
- 27% of business owners wish that they had spent more time on strategic planning. Other areas that they wish they spent more time on were sales (20%) and marketing (18%).
- They wish that they had spent more money on hiring/training employees(20%), marketing (18%), sales (17%) and strategic planning (15%).
- The majority of business owners surveyed said they would have benefited most from a better coach/mentor when starting their business (24%).
- In fact,31% of owners whose businesses exceeded their financial expectations selected a better mentor/coach, compared to 19% of owners whose expectations fell short.
- Other selections include better business model (19%), better employees (18%), better personal education (15%) and better research/insights (12%).
- Areas that business owners would have pursued sooner are: create a system/plan to generate more leads (35%) and form a network of experts for advice (20%). Form a network of experts for advice was the top choice for owners whose businesses have exceeded their financial expectations.
- 32% of owners would have improved their brand development when launching their business. Other common choices include advertising/PR campaigns (20%), types of products services offered (14%) and pricing of my products/services (13%).
- The most important skill that owners recommend refining personally is strategic thinking(41%). The two other most common skills are time management(33%) and communication(18%).
- 83% of owners would recommend being more aggressive when launching a business. 24% selected much more aggressive, and 62% selected slightly more aggressive.
- Respondents were evenly split between the importance of focusing on the big picture(52%) and focusing on the details(48%), reflecting the importance of both skills.
- The words that best describes what being a business owner means personally are accomplishment(27%),opportunity(26%),independence(19%) and freedom(13%).
- 58% of respondents identified business ownership as solitary compared to 42% as sociable.
- Would they do it all again? Absolutely. 86% selected very likely or somewhat likely compared to 14% who selected very unlikely or somewhat unlikely.
Motivations for launching your business?
- 43% wanted to be my own boss. 18% launched the business because they had a great idea/plan for aproduct or service.
- Other motivations include make more money(12%),take over the family business(10%),not interested in a corporate position(10%) and unemployed/needed a career change(8%).
- The two top motivations for taking over the family business were to make the business more profitable(43%) and to give myself a better chance to succeed professionally(32%).
In which area would you have spent more time?
- Strategic Planning (27%)
- Sales (20%)
- Marketing (18%)
- Hiring/Training Employees (11%)
- Operations (10%)
- Technology/Innovation (8%)
- Finance & Accounting (6%)
In which area would you have spent more money?
- Hiring/Training Employees (20%)
- Marketing (18%)
- Sales (17%)
- Strategic Planning (15%)
- Operations (14%)
- Technology/Innovation (9%)
Overall, what area would you have benefited from most when starting your business?
- Better coach/mentor (24%)
- Better business model (19%)
- Better employees (18%)
- Better personal education/training (15%)
- Better research/insights (12%)
- Better business partners (10%)
What do you wish you had done earlier in your business?
- Create a system/plan to generate more leads (35%)
- Form a network of experts for advice (20%)
- Maintain a detailed customer database (10%)
- Evaluate consumer demand for our products/services (10%)
- Invest in measurable advertising (9%)
- Receive more skill-based training (8%)
- Receive more education (6%)
If you could have done one thing more often with your business, what would it be?
- Delegate to others (38%)
- Find time to relax (18%)
- Take risks (14%)
- Ask for help (12%)
- Learn from my mistakes (11%)
- Listen to what people were telling me (8%)