Research Findings

To what extent are entrepreneurs prioritising social impact over other business factors? How are entrepreneurs investing in the business community? Who do they turn to for guidance and expertise? These are all questions our Essence of Enterprise research answers.

What we found out

Now in its third year, our Essence of Enterprise research explores the unique pathways to success charted by business owners globally. To date, we have surveyed over 10,597 entrepreneurs around the world with an average wealth of USD2.9 million, gaining unparalleled insight into their ambitions, motivations and business practices.

This year’s edition focuses on the ebb and flow of the entrepreneurial journey to shed more light on the practices that help business owners to thrive:

1. Openness to sharing experience and advice

Today’s entrepreneurs defy the notion that entrepreneurship is an isolated endeavour. Instead they acknowledge that a large part of their success relies on working collaboratively, reaching out to and connecting with others. The most successful entrepreneurs find innovative new ways to build their networks and expertise.

Our research shows that almost half of experienced entrepreneurs offer a helping hand to the next generation by acting as investors in start-up businesses. Beyond providing capital, these entrepreneurs are also engaged in providing advice and expertise. By sharing the lessons learned from their own experiences, they can help new ventures thrive and give something back to the entrepreneurial community.

Not every entrepreneur has access to an experienced entrepreneur-investor, but many recognise how instrumental help from others is. The majority of entrepreneurs seek help from mentors and this seems to have a tangible influence on their success. We find that those with access to mentors are more financially successful and also have higher confidence in achieving their business targets.

2. Aligning business models to personal values

Our research highlights that personal values fundamentally shape not only the vision entrepreneurs set for their ventures and but also day-to-day management and business operations.

One in five entrepreneurs state that their top priority as an owner is to deliver solutions to environmental and social challenges as well as addressing issues in the local community. For these “social entrepreneurs”, efforts to create a wider impact are not seen as contradictory to a profitable business model.

Such focus is reflected in the values “social entrepreneurs” embed in their business practices. Their priorities include customer satisfaction and employee retention alongside a high emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) reporting.

3. Adopting a long term vision

Entrepreneurs are passionate about their businesses but they also recognise the importance of long term planning. Many entrepreneurs intend to sell their enterprise in a timeframe of over 10 years, even so they anticipate maintaining a coaching or advisory role in their current ventures.

Just as every business venture is unique, so too is every exit plan. Entrepreneurs anticipate a multitude of roles after leaving their current ventures. These include angel investment, governance roles and creative input into new enterprises.

Entrepreneurship undeniably requires both the aptitude to deal with high uncertainty and the courage to make mistakes. However, this report shows that certain behaviours, such as the willingness to seek advice and the importance of personal values, are clear positive drivers of success.

Download the report (7.3MB, PDF)


The research findings referenced in this report are based on an online survey of 3,725 entrepreneurs which was carried out in December 2017 and January 2018. The research covers 11 markets: USA, UK, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Germany, France, Singapore, Australia, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Switzerland.

The minimum personal wealth level of the survey respondents was USD250,000 and the average wealth of the participants in this research was USD2.52 million.

All survey respondents were major shareholders and active decision-makers in privately-owned businesses.