Research Findings

What makes business owners successful? How do they build their enterprises? What are their strategic intentions? These are all questions the Essence of Enterprise report aims to answer.

What we discovered

We found that the journey of entrepreneurs is as diverse as the businesses they run. The personal motivations of entrepreneurs, as well as the social, cultural and generational contexts in which they develop their ventures, can have a significant influence on type of business owner that they become. Yet there are also many factors that unite entrepreneurs the world over.


  • Personal motivation is the major factor driving the success of entrepreneurs. What inspires them to create their enterprises is an indicator of their approach to business and likelihood of future success. Broadly, the population of entrepreneurs divides into four groups: Game Changers, Pathfinders, Trailblazers and Lifestylers.
  • Pathfinders are the largest group accounting for 40 per cent of the global population of entrepreneurs. They tend to be steady builders of businesses. Game Changers account for just 18 per cent of the population, but they are most likely to be serial entrepreneurs and to grow larger enterprises.
  • Across all profiles, 64 per cent of entrepreneurs believe it is their duty to have a positive social and economic impact on society and 74 per cent gave to good causes in the preceding year. Moreover, one third of business owners contribute to society by taking an unpaid role in the community or donating time or expertise to social causes.
  • Culture also has a significant impact on how individuals approach the challenges of entrepreneurship. Business ownership in the US, the UK, Germany and France is more typically high-frequency, with entrepreneurs starting, growing and then selling their businesses. Success is often measured in terms of the personal fortunes made in the process.
  • In Mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore and across the Middle East, success is more likely to be judged in terms of the size of the enterprise built by the entrepreneur. These business owners adopt a collaborative approach to entrepreneurship with a focus on leveraging multiple sources of advice.
  • Almost half of wealthy entrepreneurs come from a family that owned a business. These second-generation business owners have been set on the fast track to success thanks to their adoption of practical guidance and support in business building from their family. Over half of them had their first ventures funded by their families.
  • However, traditions of family enterprise have developed differently in Mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore, and the Middle East compared to the US, the UK, Germany and France. Across Asia and the Middle East, one in three second-generation entrepreneurs have joined the family business, compared to just 15 per cent of those in the US and Western Europe. Across all countries, though, this second-generation of entrepreneurs are looking to prove themselves independently either within the family business or through their own enterprise.
  • Indeed, the future of business ownership is changing as Generation Y entrepreneurs re-write the philosophy for success. Where the older generation prioritised self-reliance, the younger generation believes their success lies in their ability to leverage their network and to collaborate effectively.
  • Young entrepreneurs too are also more focused on how they can benefit the broader community. Seventy-nine percent of them have been involved in charitable giving in the last 12 months and many have already established a trust or foundation to manage their giving, or undertake social investment.