Were you born to be an entrepreneur?

Were you born to be an entrepreneur?

Posted February 23, 2006

Britain’s entrepreneurs catch the business bug early and start earning money as young as 13 according to the RBS Living Business Survey. 84% worked to earn money while still at school, mainly via a paper round. The survey profiles key factors from their formative years to discover characteristics and drivers of the average small business owner. It shows that the average entrepreneur is more likely to be the youngest child of the family, who was very competitive at school sports and left school at 16. Minimum levels of education are no barrier to success. Interestingly, one in five has no educational qualifications and only 5% say they hold a professional qualification. Motivated by the desire to be their own boss, entrepreneurs believe their energy and determination contribute most to business success.

Sibling rivalry

The RBS Living Business Survey looked
at how nature and nurture factors create budding entrepreneurs.
Overall, founders of small businesses with one or more brothers or
sisters were slightly more likely to have been the youngest or younger
child (32%), than the oldest (29%) or a middle child (29%). However,
women owning small businesses were more likely to have been the eldest
child (37%) than male owners (27%). Both genders were equally likely to
have been an only child (9%).

A youngest child entrepreneur is
most likely to have business turnover of £250,000 to £500,000, to work
in the wholesale sector and hail from the East Midlands. Entrepreneurs
who are a middle child are most likely to be in the finance sector and
come from Yorkshire. Meanwhile, oldest child business owners are most
likely to toil in the property sector and live in Wales or London.

Start of working life

The
drive to earn money and be self-sufficient starts early within the
small business community. 84% of small business owners we surveyed had
earned extra money by working while at school. The most popular
employment source was delivering papers (35%), although one in five
worked in a shop or restaurant and 20% had worked in a family business.
Being enterprising from the start, 16% earned money by helping with
chores at home.

The RBS survey suggests those who earned money
via a paper round would seem to be among the most successful. They were
most likely to now own businesses with larger turnovers (above
£250,000) and were most likely to have eleven or more employees.

Almost
half (47%) of those who earned extra money while at school first
started working when they were 13 or 14 years of age. 22% had been 11
or 12, and 8% were 10 or younger. Despite this, one in five had not
started to earn money until they were 15 or older.

Formative entrepreneur

British
small businesses encompass all industries and sectors but the RBS
Living Business Survey queried the early talents of the entrepreneurs
behind them. Being competitive at sports was the characteristic that
owners of small businesses were most likely (46%) to have believed they
displayed whilst young. This was even truer for men (51%) than women
(30%). Only a quarter had been competitive at schoolwork, although 23%
had been a prefect or form captain. The arts proved less of a draw for
our entrepreneurs, only 15% claim to have excelled in art or music.

There
appears some correlation between early competitive spirit and later
business success. Owners of businesses with a turnover of between
£500,000 and £1m were more likely (57%) to have been competitive at
sport, than businesses with turnover of £50,000-£100,000. They were
also more likely than them to have been competitive at schoolwork and
to have been a prefect. Perhaps an early sign of their desire to be
their own boss, nearly one in three (30%) small business owners
believed they had not been particularly competitive when young and had
simply done their own thing.

Education counts?

Educational
attainment among Britain’s entrepreneurs is varied, but despite their
later successes, 45% of owners of small businesses rejected higher or
further education and left school at 15 or 16. Nearly one in five (19%)
had no educational qualifications, just over one quarter (26%) passed
GCSEs or equivalent, one in eight (12%) achieved A Levels or
equivalent, although 16% had sat City & Guilds / NVQs. Only 5% said
they had a professional qualification, while 7% had a university degree.

This
lack of traditional education does not seem to impair the achievements
of the average entrepreneur, although those with a business with
turnover of £50,000-£500,000 were somewhat more likely to have no
educational qualifications (21%) than their peers with turnover between
£500,000 and £1m (13%).

Entrepreneurial skills

Key
perhaps to success in business are the characteristics the
entrepreneurs believe are important in making themselves successful.
The RBS Living Business Survey showed that they believed energy and
determination were equally the most important characteristics to
contribute to business success. These were followed by communication,
sense of humour and vision. Ruthlessness was the least favoured
characteristic.

Women had similar views to men on the importance
of these factors, although on average they gave greater importance to
communication, sense of humour and charm than their male counterparts.
Men were more likely than women to believe that risk taking was
important.

One pearl of wisdom

The survey also
asked today’s entrepreneurs for the one piece of advice they would give
to someone thinking of starting their own business. The most popular
piece of advice was that it is most important to be determined and
committed and not give up. 19% said it was most important to do some
research and then be prepared to work hard. While 14% would advise any
start up to believe in themselves.

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