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Pulse Survey

Starting a Business

Starting a Business

This is a high-level summary of key findings from our Lessons Learned from Launching a Business Small Business Pulse Survey. This survey concentrated on what businesses owners would have done differently in launching their business if they knew then what they know now. 544 business owners took the survey.

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.

Key Findings
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%)
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