The DNA of Small Business Owners

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The DNA of Small Business Owners


ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A recent independent study found that small business owners have more things in common than just owning small businesses.

Commissioned by Deluxe Corp., a provider of marketing services and business products to small businesses and financial institutions, the study surveyed more than 1,000 small business owners across the United States. The results showed that 86 percent of the respondents believe they can do anything they set their minds to, with 77 percent also stating they would rather learn from failure than never try at all.

"We already knew small business owners were risk takers and leaders," said Tim Carroll, vice president of small business engagement at St. Paul, Minn.-based Deluxe Corp. "These findings reveal how small business owners are wired and what attracts them to a less-predictable career path. 'Mapping the DNA' of [small business] owners allows Deluxe to design products and services that fit their lifestyle and enables [small business owners] to spend time on the parts of the business they are passionate about, and less time on the parts they aren't, like marketing."

The study highlighted several similar traits:

  • Heredity: Approximately three-fourths (76 percent) have a family member who owned a small business.
  • Leadership Tendencies: More than half (54 percent) want to work for themselves or not have a boss. A majority (89 percent) describe themselves as leaders, doers (78 percent) and practical (80 percent).
  • Work-Life Balance: Women are more likely than men to say that they started their businesses for flexible hours (40 percent vs. 25 percent).
  • I Can Do That: Men are more likely than women to say that they started their businesses because they believed they could do it better than their competitors (25 percent vs. 15 percent). They are also more likely to say they always knew someday they would own their own small business (37 percent vs. 18 percent).

Compared to the general population, the research also showed small business owners have further distinguishing characteristics:

  • Ability to Influence: Small business owners are more than twice as likely to be asked for their opinions about what to buy, places to visit or restaurants to try (33 percent vs. 15 percent). They are also more likely to be good at convincing others to try new products (51 percent vs. 32 percent).
  • They Do Their Homework: A majority (79 percent ) of small business owners research products thoroughly before they purchase, vs. 44 percent of the general population.
  • Demographics: Small business owners are more likely to be male (53 percent vs. 47 percent); to have a college or higher degree (73 percent vs. 37 percent); to be married (69 percent vs. 52 percent); and to be older (58.2 years old vs. 46.1 years old).

In addition, when asked "What prompted you to start your business?" the survey respondents tended to fall within one of seven distinct attitudinal clusters:

  • All Heart: They are in business for one reason only -- they want to do what they love and share it with others.
  • Encore Career: They are team players who are entering a second phase of their careers and took a risk with starting their own businesses.
  • Passionately Confident: Risk-takers who were born to be business owners, enjoy choosing their own paths and are very passionate about their life's work.
  • All in the Family: Traditional types who inherited their status as small business owners, accounting for their long tenure and larger business size.
  • My Way: Self-motivated owners who started their own businesses for the opportunity to get what they most value -- control over their schedules and hours.
  • Mastering the Niche: Visionaries who began their businesses because they saw an opportunity and wanted to capitalize on it.
  • Boss-Me-Not: Experienced business professionals who left their for-profit, corporate and usually entirely unrelated jobs for one reason -- to be their own bosses.