40 Percent of Employees Want to Start Their Own Business


Clock-watchers are tired of punching their proverbial time cards — especially those who just entered the workforce. They either hate their boss or want to be their own boss — or perhaps a little bit of both.

Some 39 percent of employees hope to own their own business, according to a new survey released by the University of Phoenix Business School, down from 41 percent last year. And the younger they are, the more they want it. More than half of workers in their 20s who don’t own a business hope to do so in the future, while 50 percent of workers in their 30s and 35 percent in their 40s want to start their own business. However, only one-quarter of workers in their 50s and 17 percent of workers age 60 or older who do not currently own a business want to do so in the future.

Many people find that they’re limited in terms of further opportunity at their company, says Michael Bevis, director of academic affairs at the University of Phoenix Business School. “Some people at a senior level aren’t motivated to stick around for 10 or 15 years.” Going out on one’s own, he adds, can be considerably riskier than being someone else’s employee. About half of all new small businesses survive five years or more and only about one-third of them survive 10 years or more, according to the Small Business Association.

Even in the face of such high failure rates, it’s not surprising so many people want to start their own business, says John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas. “Entrepreneurism really is part of our country’s DNA,” he says. There’s been an increase in the number of jobless executives who go it alone: 5.5 percent of job-seekers started a business in the first half of 2014 up from 4.1 percent a year earlier, Challenger found. “That may slip a bit as more jobs are being created in the traditional job market,” he says.

Of course, many would-be entrepreneurs don’t follow through. In the Phoenix survey, when working adults who said they wanted to start a business were asked why they hadn’t done it yet, 67 percent cited a lack of adequate finances. One-third said they needed more education or training and didn’t know enough about running a business; 30 percent said they have not found the right idea or concept; 22 percent simply said they don’t have the time; and 17 percent say they need to develop leadership skills.

Although millennials were the most likely to say they wanted to start their own business, some studies suggest that very few actually take the leap, says Dan Schawbel, author of “Promote Yourself: The New Rules for Career Success” and founder of Millennial Branding, a management and consulting firm. Schawbel is currently working on a report that concludes that most millennials actually want to work at big companies. “They were hit so badly by the economy that they are now looking for job security,” he says.

Others say entrepreneurial spirit may more about personality type than age. “There are people who are primarily interested in their own independence and choose graduate degrees on that basis,” says Anthony Carnavale, director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. “STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — and business [degrees] give you lots of opportunity to be financially autonomous and start your own business. Most people want a degree of autonomy.”

Quentin Fottrell is a personal finance reporter for MarketWatch based in New York. You can follow him on Twitter @quantanamo. This article originally appeared on MarketWatch.com and is reprinted by permission from Marketwatch.com, ©2014 Dow Jones & Co. Inc. All rights reserved. 

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