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Small business around the world

January 13, 2012

Hiscox eDNA survey finds top reason for starting a small business worldwide – “I wanted to be my own boss”.

The Hiscox eDNA survey conducted among small business owners in late 2011 offers some great insights into the mindset of small business owners entering the new year.  We surveyed small businesses across the US, Europe and the UK for this survey, and it’s amazing how similar many of their responses were overall.  But, as readers of this series know by now, it’s the differences that give us the most to think about.  Let’s have a look at some of the combined and country-specific responses and learn a little more about the attitudes of entrepreneurs around the world.

Why did they start their own businesses?

In the “OK, that makes sense” category, the top reason for starting a business worldwide was “I wanted to be my own boss” – %59.  Of course they did, but sometimes external forces are what push people into action and actually following their dreams.  A layoff was the spur for 7% of respondents in this survey, but previous small business research by Hiscox earlier in 2011 indicated that up to 15% of people start their own businesses following a layoff.

What’s their economic outlook?

Overall, only 12% of owners surveyed believed that financing is easy to find.  There was little variation between the countries other than the response from Spain, where nearly 20% stated that small business financing was easy to find.  On the flip side, the Spanish were the most likely, 75%, to say that their customers are paying later.  This is much higher than the average of 50% across the survey.  US small businesses were the least likely to have late paying customers – 39%.  I’ll take that as a positive.

Are small businesses optimistic for the year ahead?

Just under half 47% of the respondents were optimistic for the year ahead.  This is down 10 percentage points from our February 2011 survey, a disappointing trend.  The most optimistic were the Germans at 55%, while the least were the British at 40%.  US small business owners were just below the average at 45%.  With the constant news stream about economic collapse and persistent unemployment, this is probably about what you would expect right now.

What about insurance?

If one thing is consistent in all the surveys Hiscox has conducted with small business owners, it’s that many of them don’t fully understand their insurance needs and the products best suited to their businesses.  Only 43%  stated that they were fully aware of their insurance options, and 16% said they did not know what insurance was available.  In fact, 26% said that they were not covered for potential lawsuits from customers. There’s small business insurance for that, and it’s not too expensive.  Professional liability insurance (E & O insurance)and general liability insurance are the most common for small businesses and can protect against potentially devastating lawsuits.

Finally, what stood out about the US compared to the other countries in the survey?

  • Only country with more women respondents than men
  • Reported the least successful recent performance
  • Lowest helpful ratings for legal system
  • Highest belief that national culture encourages risk taking
  • Highest belief that their education system supports dreams and ambitions
  • Most favored lunchtime activity: sandwich/working lunch at desk (Hey, that sounds familiar!)

Do these finding match up with your feelings and experiences?  What do you see differently?  Read the full DNA of an Entrepreneur report for even more data.