Non-university educated serial entrepreneurs shown to be more successful

A report released today by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE) and Coutts shows that a higher proportion of non-university educated respondents were running businesses with a turnover greater than £1 million (34%) than the university educated (18%). Only 42% of respondents deemed education important

The Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE) think tank has today released a report on serial entrepreneurs, in partnership with Coutts, that in part queries the importance or effectiveness of university education with regards to running multiple businesses. The report, “Beyond the First Business – the myth, risks, and rewards of being a serial entrepreneur, shows that 34% of the non-university educated respondents were running businesses with a  turnover greater than £1 million, compared to only 18% of the university educated respondents.

The report – surveying 135 entrepreneurs – also shows that the average number of businesses started by the non-university educated (3.5) was higher than those started by university educated entrepreneurs (2.7), with only 42% of respondents deeming education important.

“The fact that the non-university educated run more businesses is expected – they have had more time out of education to do so. What is interesting, however, is that the businesses they found seem to be more successful,” says Matt Smith, Director at CFE. “This suggests not only that the expertise gained through running multiple businesses is invaluable, but also that universities could be doing more to teach the right skills required for business and encourage entrepreneurialism.”

The report – which was conceived to produce an overview of the depth and extent of serial entrepreneurship in the UK, as well as equip aspiring and active serial entrepenerus with the insights to help them succeed – also surveyed one-time founders for comparison.

“To go ‘beyond the first business’ can be an entirely different challenge to being a one-time founder,” says Andrew Haigh, Executive Director of Client Propositions, Coutts & Co. “We wanted to create a report that explores the motivations, fears, and ingredients for success that surround serial entrepreneurialism. Our report delves into the role of luck, the attraction of multiple projects, and attitudes towards risk, but also indicates areas for growth: how do we encourage more female entrepreneurs? Should we remove the stigma around closures? It’s food for thought and a glimpse into Britain’s entrepreneurial mindset.”

Other key findings from the report are as follows:

  • The report shows that wealth is not a dominant motivation for either serial or one-time entrepreneurs, with “business growth” (90%), “interacting with people” (79%), and “contributing to society” (73%) all ranking higher,
  • 80% of one-time founders enjoy being immersed in running a business, but only 55% of serial entrepreneurs. Serial entrepreneurs are less likely to enjoy day-to-day business involvement, and tend to prefer a more detached portfolio approach,
  • Serial entrepreneurs are less afraid of failure, with only 13% saying they are afraid of failing, compared to 40% of one-time founders,
  • Serial entrepreneurs see luck as becoming less important as they gain business experience. While 67% of one-time founders recognised the good fortune that helped their businesses succeed, only 56% of two- to five-time founders, and 36% of six- to ten-time founders did so,
  • Serial entrepreneurs are more pessimistic about a healthy work/life balance, with 47% conceding that success requires putting business before your personal life – compared with only 36% of one-time founders,
  • In general, individuals are starting businesses at a younger age: 57% of respondents under 35 had started their first business by the age of 25, versus only 23% of those aged 35 and above,
  • Younger entrepreneurs are more impatient to exit, with 63% planning to exit their current business within the next five years, versus 46% of those 35 and over,
  • The businesses owned by female respondents tend to be smaller: 92% of respondents cited turnover as below £500k, compared to only 52% of men,
  • A fifth of one-time founders have experienced a stock market listing, compared to less than 2% of serial entrepreneurs – perhaps because they build their businesses for longer.