Study: U.S. Entrepreneurs More Optimistic on Taking Risks

July 23, 2008

Despite a weakened economic market, a new study from Hiscox shows that 46 percent of American small business owners still feel that they can make more as entrepreneurs than the traditional corporate world. The Hiscox study, “DNA of an Entrepreneur,” surveyed small business owners on entrepreneurship and risk, and sheds some light on the characteristics that make up a successful entrepreneur, particularly in the current business climate.

“Today’s landscape is ever changing, entrepreneurs are often exposed to higher and more complex levels of risk,” said Ed Donnelly, Hiscox USA president. “But it doesn’t require a maverick, risk-seeking personality to be a successful business owner; it needs dedication, perseverance and ambition.”

In a trans-Atlantic study, which included 200 U.S.-based entrepreneurs, attitudes to risk often run the gamut. But in all cases, today’s small business owner is adept at managing risk and understands that it is part of today’s global economy.

Defining the American Dream
U.S. small business owners have strong views on what defines their success as entrepreneurs. Nearly half give themselves fixed financial targets and measure success according to their ability to meet these targets. Similarly, expansion was seen as another sign of success by 44 percent of the U.S. entrepreneurs who responded to the survey. However, when compared with their counterparts in the United Kingdom, U.S. small business owners place more value on how they are perceived, with nearly one third (29 percent) admitting that public and peer validation was a sign of success.

Relentless Despite Market Conditions
The slowed economy makes it a challenging environment for any business. From entering emerging markets to managing cyber threats, many companies have become more vulnerable than ever – especially small and family-owned companies as the downward economy hits them hardest. Yet more than half of respondents surveyed said that they decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship within the last year, even in the current market conditions. “This further underscores their attitude towards risk” emphasized Donnelly.

— Only 1 percent of small business owners cited that cash flow and the downward economy as their biggest fears when deciding to start a business.

— 33 percent of entrepreneurs accept that in general, running a business is a gamble.

The Land of Opportunity
Despite market concerns, the study also reveals that the spirit of entrepreneurialism that defines America is alive and well. When compared with their counterparts in the U.K., U.S. entrepreneurs felt that the education system encourages the idealism and dreams which many view as essential to entrepreneurship (61 percent in the U.S. vs. 21 percent in the U.K.). Coupled with this, U.S. small business owners feel much less restricted by government red tape with 68 percent saying that government bureaucracy is not a major barrier to setting up a small business, compared with only 46 percent in the U.K.

Optimistic Expansion Outlook
And although a growing number of U.S. corporations are cutting back on spending and hiring, almost seven out of 10 entrepreneurs surveyed would consider expanding or taking on new staff in the current economic climate.

— Even with banking woes, 32 percent of respondents agreed that financial funding for a new business is easy to find in the U.S.

— Less than one quarter of respondents cited that they would consider seeking new ways to fund their business in the current business environment.

“Overall, their outlook is very optimistic,” added Donnelly. “People are choosing a new path of self-direction and welcoming what lies ahead.”

Source: Hiscox,

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