Being an entrepreneur is often a lone journey. You set the course and bring everyone else along. But getting some outside perspective can help keep things fresh as you challenge unstated assumptions.

Given that it's National Small Business Week, it seemed apropos to look at a survey that Harris Poll ran for the University of Phoenix. Responding were 1,006 business owners nationally in addition to 105 business owners in each of the following areas: New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, and Dallas-Ft. Worth.

The quick version is that most business owners enjoy what they do and are glad they did it, even with the challenges that go along. Most feel that additional training would be helpful (not surprising that a largely online educational company would ask that). Digital marketing strategies are popular.

Here are some of the more specific results:

  • Seventy-eight percent of men and 72 percent of women responding considered their businesses a full-time occupation. Business owners who had five or more employees (92 percent) were more inclined to call it full-time. The number was 72 percent for those with fewer than five employees.
  • The average business owner has been one for 15 years. The median duration was 11 years and 59 percent had been owners for 10 years.
  • More than two-thirds (67 percent) of owners are primarily motivated by being their own boss. Some other reasons included more flexible work schedules (42 percent), to take pride in something they created (41 percent), to go after greater financial success (41 percent), and to take on a new challenge (34 percent).
  • Women, at 45 percent, were heavily influenced by a flexible work schedule, compared to 38 percent of men. At 44 percent, men were more focused on finance success than women (36 percent).
  • Ninety-four percent had held a job prior to becoming an entrepreneur.
  • Thirty percent of respondents were inspired to go into business by a family member and 22 percent by a business owner in their community.
  • The most commonly mentioned challenges when starting out were attracting and retaining customers (44 percent), marketing (32 percent), knowing how to price goods and services (29 percent), getting funding (24 percent), differentiating themselves from competition (18 percent), developing a business plan (17 percent), working with difficult customers (15 percent), and hiring qualified employees (15 percent).
  • There were some good surprises as well, like the enjoyment of owning a business (37 percent) and how much personal satisfaction they felt (35 percent).
  • Here are some of the skills that people said they lacked: marketing/advertising (28 percent), legal issues (25 percent), sales (22 percent), creating a business plan (22 percent), managing finances (20 percent), and using social media (19 percent).
  • The biggest challenges in general included attracting and retaining clients (38 percent), remaining financially solvent (32 percent), expanding the business (22 percent), working with difficult customers (18 percent), and differentiating themselves from the competition (16 percent).
  • Thirteen percent had previously owned a business that had failed, while 39 percent said their current businesses had come somewhat close to failing and 11 percent they had come very close.
  • Fourteen percent said their businesses were in excellent health, 49 percent said good, 32 percent said fair, and 5 percent said poor.
Published on: May 7, 2015