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In my line of work – starting people up in business – one of the most common questions I am asked is “Do you think I have what it takes to start a business?”

As I generally believe everyone has what it takes to start a business, I usually answer “Yes” before adding “However, it is not what I think that is important. The question is whether you think you have what it takes to start a business?”

Interestingly, the responses frequently involve a comparison with an entrepreneurial legend:

“Well, I’m no Richard Branson.”

“The Google guys were at Uni when they started. I don’t have that luxury.”

Other responses involve a comparison between the person planning to start a business and some notion of what the ‘typical’ entrepreneur looks like.

“I don’t have lots of money like those rich guys. I really cannot afford to let my new business fail.”

“I shouldn’t be taking a risk like the young guns. I’m married with kids to support.”

So what does an entreprenur look like?

Are these characterisations of entrepreneurs really correct? And how do you know if you have the same qualities or pedigree to start a business?

Recently released statistics by the highly respected Kauffman Foundation on the anatomy of entrepreneurs* helps shed some light on the subject. The US-based findings show that people who start a business:

- tend to be middle-aged, with an average age of 40

- pretty well-educated

- about 71% come from middle class backgrounds, with less than 1% coming from extremely rich or extremely poor backgrounds

- predominantly married and with children, and

- roughly 50% were interested in starting a business from an early age (though, it should be noted, 37% never even think about it until they decide to start up).

In essence, company founders look like ‘the average Joe’.

Reasons to start up a business

- about 75% have a desire to build wealth

- 64% have a desire to own their own company

- 66% said the culture of a start up business was important, and

- 60% said working for others did not interest them

Interestingly, nearly half of those surveyed launched their first company after first spending 10 years or more as an employee working for someone else.

All of which suggests the Google guys are a statistical oddity. Probably almost as rare as a 95 year old with no work experience (and no family for that matter) starting a business!

Would the Australian statistics be much different? Probably not a lot. In my experience, most people who choose to start a business are very normal people doing an amazing thing; using their skills and life experiences, investing in the future and taking control of their destiny.

So, instead of the Google Gurus, perhaps it is wiser to look for inspiration locally. From the neighbourly butcher, electrician, architect, builder, milk bar, online retail store, fashion retailer, pet groomer, hair salon, limousine car company, recruitment company, real estate agent or the thousands of other businesses that surround you and engage you in daily life.

Each and everyone is an entrepreneur in action. Look to them for inspiration and learning and then I am sure you will be better equipped to answer the question “Do I have what it takes?”

* The full report ‘Anatomy of an Entrepreneur’ can be downloaded from www.business-switch.com.au/resources

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