Produced by Selby & Mills in partnership with
Report Date Monday 12th
This report has been prepared with every care and in good
faith. However the interpretation arises from the sum of the candidate's choices
and preferences in answering a series of self-report inventories, and should
therefore be seen purely as indicative of certain trends in their attitudes at
No liability can be accepted by the interpreter or by Selby &
© Copyright 2003 Selby & Mills Limited and Thames Valley
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The "Entrepreneur?" questionnaire, which you recently completed, asked you
questions about yourself, your values, about things which are important to you,
and about how you work with other people.
This report is individually prepared for you personally, based on your
responses to those questions, and discusses a number of factors about you in
relation to self-employment. It is not a statement of absolute truth, but rather
a series of observations, deductions, and inferences and should be studied
carefully to see what lessons can be learned to assist you in deciding whether
or not, and how, to go ahead with your new venture. We recommend that you
discuss the results in some detail with someone (or some people) whose judgement
you value, especially where the comments appear to conflict with your own
opinion of yourself. One or two of the comments may indeed be inaccurate, but
don't let this distract you from the overall meaning of the full report.
What this report does
The main purpose of this questionnaire is to help you appraise your strengths
and analyse your weaknesses more carefully before you embark on the next stage
of your career. The report aims to assist you to build on your strengths and to
enable you to seek back-up, training, the support of others, or other services
to support those areas of your personality and skills/experience needing
attention. This applies whatever you decide to do, but especially if you are
pursuing some form of self-employed option.
The nature of Self-Employment
Note that many aspects of being a self-employed/independent consultant or
interim manager are closely equivalent to other self-employed options. However,
in some ways such self-employment can also be close to the role of a
professional employed manager in a commercial enterprise. Similar comments may
also apply to the self-employment of those considering the purchase of (or
buying a major stake in) a significant employing company as (part of) a
management buy-in or buy-out. Some of the attached comments may therefore need
to be read with caution if you are considering one of these options.
Please bear in mind that many people aspiring to self-employment have a
tendency to see themselves through rose-tinted glasses and answer this
questionnaire visualising themselves as they would like to be rather than as
they are. This is particularly so with the 'social acceptability' questions
(e.g. "Are you good with people" or "I learn from my mistakes") where there is a
high temptation to say "Yes, very like me" when the truth may be somewhat less
positive. Many find it hard to be totally objective about such issues. The
comments included in this report assume you have answered all the questions
truthfully and objectively.
Please read the complete report before you consider the implications for you
and your potential new venture. Many of the comments may apply very closely the
second time you read them!
Finally, a word of caution...
We have purposefully set the criteria for success fairly high. Our benchmarks
are set for people who can start and run very successful and profitable
enterprises - indeed, 'making millions' is taken as the interpretation of being
very successful indeed - only the top very few taking this questionnaire will
fit this profile. If you receive a 'lower than average' or 'average' result in
the next section 'Your personal profile', it does not mean that you cannot be
successful, but rather that your level of success based on the above criterion
is unlikely to be 'very high indeed'. However, many people run independent
businesses that they themselves consider to be successful e.g. where the
business provides them with employment, or meets a need such as topping up a
previous employer's pension (adequate or less than adequate), or a role which
covers the costs of a 'grown-up hobby', or indeed one which represents a very
satisfactory second income to support a main income stream earned elsewhere. We
each have different criteria for our own success and you must apply these to
your own situation. What we have done is to paint the overall canvass.
The section which comes after 'Your personal profile' is entitled 'Areas for
further consideration' and sets out some comments we believe you should find
helpful if you decide to proceed with establishing your new business.
SECTION 1 - YOUR PERSONAL PROFILE
The personal profile of the successful entrepreneur can include a wide range
of qualities, skills, and experience which in part depends on the business
sector of the venture he/she has started and method of entry for the operation.
Even where budding entrepreneurs have similar profiles, some will succeed and
others fail as fate or external circumstances play their part. Self-employment
may suit some people and be a disaster for others for reasons only discovered
long after the decision to start up the venture has been taken. However, a
careful review of your strengths and weaknesses and of this profile will
indicate your general potential for success. Remember - if you are serious about
your new venture, it's better to face some perhaps unwelcome truths now, rather
than meet them and their consequences a few months after you start.
Some key factors for success include resilience, persistence/determination,
hard work, having selling and marketing skills, showing sound judgement, having
a 'killer instinct' or 'ruthless streak', showing sufficient flexibility, being
customer aware at all times, having the ability to play hunches successfully,
with creativity and self-confidence, coupled with some previous experience in
the same business area. You certainly also need to like the work you do, as it
will form a major part of your new life.
As we mentioned above, we have set fairly high criteria for the definition of
'success' - put simply, this could be defined as 'making a lot of money'. Using
this criterion, as an overall comment on your responses to the questionnaire, we
must ask whether you feel you really are prepared to make the necessary
sacrifices to run a successful business and to question whether you have the
necessary skills and experience to do so. Compared to our role model of 'very
successful entrepreneurs', your responses show significant gaps. Might you be
better going back into employment - or do you perhaps want a part-time
non-demanding role instead which might allow you to venture slowly and carefully
into the field of self-employment? Based on your responses, it appears that
staying in, or returning to, employed status would be a better option for you
than self-employment, if it is available. For some people, the dream of
self-employment should remain just that - a dream, long maintained but never to
be pursued. There appears to be a high risk that self-employment could, in your
case (if involving a significant investment), lead to you losing everything
rather than earning your fortune.
It could also be that your criteria for success are materially different from
the 'very successful entrepreneurs' considered as role models, for example if
you are looking for a small second income or a part-time fairly undemanding
role. Carefully evaluate what you want to achieve out of the new venture and
your chances of achieving success in your terms.
If you believe that the surrounding circumstances give you no other option
but to try to start your own business, and especially if you have concerns about
doing so, review the major areas identified in the report below as requiring
attention and seek appropriate professional and other assistance to address
them, especially before investing heavily in the new venture. Plan your approach
Perhaps you could seek assistance in actually running the business by
involving a partner, making sure that he/she has at least some of the necessary
and missing skills, or has worked in or run such a business as you plan to
start. You yourself might benefit from a period as a paid employee or associate
working in a similar business for a time to gain valuable skills and experience,
and perhaps making new business contacts before starting out on your own. (Note
that taking up a franchise with business training will not necessarily provide
the missing skills to the level you need).
It is perhaps possible that you might make a success of your own business
venture measured against 'very successful entrepreneurs', but at present, based
on your responses, most of the odds seem to be stacked against you. Necessity or
new-found determination, or the ability to find a partner to provide the
necessary 'own business' impetus, or even sheer luck, may be what you need to
move you along the road to success. Alternatively, your own criteria could be
different and success against these different criteria can be possible; in
either event, care and preparation are essential.
In getting ready for your new business, the preparation of a comprehensive
business plan, whether or not anyone else is involved in your decisions, could
make a significant difference to the chances for success. Business plans are not
just for banks and do not require extensive financial analysis. More important
is a review of the key strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your
planned venture, considering the 'what if' questions and what you can do about
them (e.g. "What if sales are half what I expect?" or "What if there is too much
work for me to handle?") The most important part of the plan is the thinking
that you put into it; it is far better to consider problems and possible actions
to compensate well ahead of time. Planning is hard work, if done properly, but
invaluable for a new venture.
AREAS FOR FURTHER CONSIDERATION
Most believe that a key determinant of creating a successful business is a
fiery determination in the founder to be responsible for an independent business
and a keenness to make a lot of money. Your responses to the questions show a
lower than average determination and, whilst this does not mean you cannot be
successful in running a business to your own satisfaction, it seems unlikely
that other people will describe it as very successful, especially in financial
terms. Does your commitment measure up to your business needs?
Your new business will almost certainly require a higher level of interest
than you appear to want to commit if it is to be reasonably successful in other
people's eyes. From a personal point of view too, as you are likely to be
spending more time in the business and thinking about it (whether you like it or
not!), it would be sensible to find something which energises you, rather than
pursuing something rather half-heartedly.
Most businesses take up to three years to achieve a 'normal running rate' of
income, i.e. to become fully profitable, and many fail in the first three years.
If income is essential to you in the first year or two, the option of taking
employment while you establish a 'fighting fund' or 'war chest' before you start
your business may prove attractive. If you have achieved or put by some initial
funds to start your business, consider carefully how long these funds will last
and how you will replace them. In consultancy for example, individuals sometimes
gain an initial contract from a former employer or client but then find the
follow-up work difficult to obtain.
How will you protect your position after the initial period?
You can also make money by not spending it or by generating another income
alongside. Have you really exhausted the possibilities for reducing your
spending - or of possibly persuading other members of your family to contribute
to the overall income? If you really do want to start a business, you may have
to consider some alternatives which presently are unpalatable to reduce your
outgoings or generate other income (at least temporarily).
In considering the move to self-employment from employment, many see the
self-employed option as much more insecure, with higher risks - offset by more
excitement, reward, independence etc. In the last ten years, traditional
employment has become much less secure and you may wish to consider, and then
seek to evaluate, whether the risks and insecurity of self-employment really are
greater or are they just different from those risks met in employment. Perhaps
the key to success in this environment is to seek to anticipate problems,
measure risk, and plan for action.
Your responses to the questions about work rate appear inconsistent, but the
following may be relevant.
Experience seems to show that the work rate required in starting and running
your own business is often much higher than it is in employment. This seems
particularly so in the early years of the new venture when the entrepreneur has
to cover a multitude of tasks, not only for the base business, but all the
support services as well. Your responses indicate this increase may not be to
your liking, (unless you are already working all the hours available and cannot
work more!), so perhaps you should rethink your objectives to allow you to meet
lower targets or accept a higher work rate.
Self-employment also brings with it some added responsibilities and you may
not be able to operate completely as you wish. Customers, staff, suppliers, the
bank, etc. all make demands on your time - some of which may not have interfered
with your previous working or social life.
Plans v Action
Whilst the ability to take fast effective action is undoubtedly an asset in
running your own show, a degree of forward planning could help avoid unfortunate
outcomes - which, if they occur, you would have to resolve. This appears to be
an area you would not describe as one of your strong points. Detailed costed and
written plans running to many pages are not necessarily required (unless, for
example, you need to raise external finance or if you intend to be involved in
starting a larger, more complex business) but preparing a short review of the
facts surrounding your significant decisions and considering the alternatives or
'what if' scenarios could prove a useful exercise.
Survival planningIt is essential for the survival of your
business that you keep in mind, and guard against, the possibility of failure in
your new business. Most new businesses fail, however depressing that may sound,
and it is therefore better to consider now the causes and effects of failure.
Generally businesses fail through poor marketing and selling skills. However,
there will not be time to worry at length about it, especially once the business
is under way. You will need to plan for survival and growth, to consider your
tactics to ward off the major threats to survival, such as lack of new business,
bad debts etc. and to address problems effectively and with determination as
they arrive. Remember that if you don't tackle the problems, no-one else will
and they may come back to haunt/bite you!.
One of the less attractive aspects of a new business is that a very
substantial majority of such firms do not last the course. Depending on the area
of your choice, you could be looking at up to an 80% failure rate for new
businesses within two years mainly through poor marketing and selling. Such a
possibility should not worry you on a day-to-day basis, but a degree of forward
consideration of the key weaknesses of the business will pay dividends. Some are
obvious - lack of new business, bad debts etc. but also consider over-trading
(trying to run a business with insufficient finance) and too much demand for
Your responses suggest that delegation may not be one of your strengths. You
may feel that this is unimportant in running your own business as there may be
no staff to whom you can delegate. However, time management can be a problem in
starting a business and you will still need to delegate some tasks to paid-for
specialists such as lawyers, accountants, designers, cleaners etc. By all means
control spending on such external services as much as practicable but also
consider how best your skills should be applied. The independent consultant who
completes his own accounts and tax returns might be better employed using an
accountant and undertaking extra paid assignments and/or marketing in the time
so freed up.
One of the key attributes of the successful entrepreneur is the ability to
'sense' other people's needs, emotions etc. and to manoeuvre his/her way through
to success as a result. This is almost essential for success in managing a
smaller business, in developing markets, in achieving sales and, more
importantly, repeat sales from existing customers. You have identified this as
an area where further development of your skills may be needed.
Operating your own business may not allow you the time or luxury of giving
the importance you believe is required to being fair to your employees,
customers, suppliers and others. That is not to say that you should stray
outside the law or good commercial practice, but the saying "It's a hard world"
was coined with the self-employed in mind. Be prepared to be adequately
hard-nosed to achieve the objectives you have set yourself, even if it entails
not being totally fair to all others. Of more concern perhaps is the required
need to keep your customers happy - which may at times feel that you are being
less than fair to yourself (or your business).
When you are working for yourself, criticism is something you listen to,
consider and only reject if you are sure that it really is ill-founded.
Immediate rejection of criticism may be as flawed a policy as instantly taking
it all on board. You will often find that others have something to contribute to
your progress, if only that you may learn from their mistakes. Generally people
seem more prone to offer criticism than positive advice; consider how you can
utilise their input, rather than rejecting it out of hand. Often too, a helpful
comment from someone can sound like criticism to the recipient - check it
In operating your own business, criticism must be welcomed, for others may
have something to offer you in your venture. However, acceptance of all
criticism and adjusting your progress to take the criticism on board without
full consideration of the facts and alternatives (or even acknowledging your
feelings) may be as great a mistake as ignoring the criticism altogether. Given
your responses, be careful about accepting other people's views too readily.
Although they have something to offer, they are not responsible for running your
business. You must sift out the good from the rest. Often too, a helpful comment
from someone can sound like criticism to the recipient - check it out!
Range of skills
Initially at least you may need to consider tackling a wider range of tasks
in the business than you would wish. There may be no other employees to whom you
can delegate and whilst this must be balanced with a requirement to maximise the
profitable use of your time, in the early days it may be better for you to
spread your skills more widely than to subcontract the requirement to outside
services. Your answers indicate a lower than usual willingness to undertake a
wide range of tasks and you should review this.
Two major benefits often seen by those who are about to start their own
businesses are the time saved by the absence of meetings, and no longer needing
to persuade colleagues before taking action i.e. being able to operate quickly
on one's own. The converse is that there is no longer anyone with allied
interests with whom to 'chew the cud' on major issues or changes. If you enjoy
being able to discuss problems with others prior to taking action, or you rely
on the skills of others to some extent, you will need to consider putting these
in place for your new business - whether on an informal or formal basis. However
you will need to remember that other people will no longer have the allied
interests that your former business colleagues had.
You have identified one of your strengths as the maintenance of business
contacts. This should bode extremely well for the future of the business; just
be careful that you do not spend too much of your time having a good time with
your contacts - leaving no time to generate sales or manage the business!
SECTION 2 - SPECIFIC ISSUES
The next part of the questionnaire asked you about three specific areas which
will impact on your new business venture - money, family issues and business
skills; detailed comments on each area follow.
SECTION 2(a) - MONEY
Many new businesses fail for financial reasons, although the causes behind
these financial reasons may be nothing directly to do with money. In any new
business, more attention than usual will need to be given to the financial side
of things as the business has no reserves generated in previous years to fall
back on should problems be met. In the specific area of money, your responses
indicated the following key concerns:-
If you are seeking external finance for the business, one of the key
qualities that professional lenders or investors will seek is identifiable prior
experience. This is based on their own experience that this is essential for
success in a new venture. Your responses suggest that it could be valuable for
you to seek part-time or full-time employment with an established organisation
to gain some of this operational expertise prior to establishing your new
business (if this is possible). This comment applies even if you are not seeking
finance, as you will be making a major investment of your own time and perhaps
money into the venture; you should not ignore the experience of professional
The safest route to establish most new businesses is generally to minimise
the spend until after income is received. Having a high 'burn rate' i.e. rate of
spending, increases the chances of having insufficient cash to continue, as well
as increasing your investment in the business which must be recouped from the
profits to be generated later. Some businesses do require a high initial
investment, but in these cases you would be well advised to evaluate fully any
alternative strategies and consider how to minimise the risks.
Your answers suggest that you have not yet fully identified the risks
involved in your business venture. You should seek to identify such risks,
discuss them with others in similar business, as well as talking to your
professional advisors and any others able to offer advice, and then evaluate the
costs and implications of failure. Only then should you proceed to act on your
SECTION 2(b) - FAMILY ISSUES
In this section, the word 'family' is used to describe those close to you,
whatever the relationship. It includes people who will be affected by your
decisions, people with whom you relate regularly, and those who have concern for
Moving into self-employment can cause a number of stresses and strains to
emerge in your personal life, if only because the divisions between personal and
business life become more indistinct. Be aware that what seems obvious to you
may not be clear to your family (and vice versa) and pay particular attention to
The establishment and operation of a new business is very time consuming and
you will need the support of all of your family in your decision. Conversely,
you may be able to derive some family benefits by involving them in your
business decisions, by being able to pay them for work done, or possibly by
using 'flexitime working' to enable you, for example, to attend that school
sports day or some similar non-work event occurring in working hours. Overall,
it is likely that you will have less time for yourself and your family in your
own business than in employment.
You may have considered your options and wish to proceed to establish your
own business, accepting all that this entails in exchange for the personal and
financial benefits you believe you can foresee. It may be somewhat harder for
those close to you, who may not derive the same pleasure from the new work
environment, to accept restrictions on their spending or expectations. You have
indicated this to be an area of concern for you, which should be addressed
before you become too attached to your plans.
Some of your friends and neighbours may envy your decision to opt for
self-employment, others may see it (for example) as the result of your inability
to gain permanent employment or as a lower ranking job. For those who have held
senior positions in industry or commerce, the impact of any perceived loss of
status may, perhaps surprisingly, be shared by the partner and children.
Your responses suggest that your health is of concern to your family, who may
well be more realistic about it than you! Remember that in your own business,
there may be no-one else to 'carry the flag' when you are ill, and there will
probably be limited, if any, sickness benefit payable. Should you be taking any
other action - or should you even be considering the option of
Experience has shown that it is an undoubted advantage for those intending to
start a business if they are born into a family where this is customary. If your
family does not have this history, there is clearly little you can do now except
seek to be the first in the family who does it successfully!
SECTION 2© - SPECIFIC SKILLS
In this section of the questionnaire you were asked about specific skills
related to the running of an 'own business' rather than about the specific
skills you would need for the business idea itself. In general, the
establishment and running of an 'own business' requires a wider range of skills
than in employment; you identified the following as worthy of further
It is axiomatic that there are a number of skills essential to your business
and there are others which are desirable, but which could be either learned or
subcontracted out. Your responses to the questionnaire identified that you feel
a lack of necessary skills, which is part way towards gaining these skills by
learning, development, or subcontract/staff employment. Discuss with someone you
respect and trust how you might gain the missing skills through reading,
courses, training, assisting others in their business, or by using others in
your business etc.
Probably the key activity in any 'own business' is selling. If you cannot
sell at all, perhaps you should not consider going into business on your own as
all businesses require a selling operation. You have identified this as an area
of weakness for you and it should probably be addressed before almost anything
else. Consider attending sales training courses in your specialist area - or
indeed in any area - read widely, talk to others who need to meet customers in a
similar way. Seek to learn from other people's experience rather than waiting to
learn from your own.
Professional advisors will be needed in most self-employed situations, if
only for accounts and any legal issues (e.g. contracts). To identify someone
suitable, the best recommendation is a personal one from someone operating a
business of similar size. Try to line up your advisors before you need them
desperately, and remember that in most cases they charge for their time on an
hourly basis - so prepare well for meetings.
If you cannot identify a lawyer through your business or personal network,
you could contact the Law Society for suggestions and if you similarly cannot
locate an accountant, get in touch with the Institute of Chartered Accountants,
the Institute of Chartered Management Accountants, or the Institute of Certified
Your response to the questionnaire suggests that your computer skills are not
strong. Most businesses today can benefit from the use of computers and you
should seriously consider undertaking some training in basic skills covering
perhaps word-processing, accounts spreadsheets and databases. Clearly there are
many other options depending on your business e.g. presentation software such as
PowerPoint or contact databases such as ACT!.
In considering how to bolster the skills you already have and covering for or
reinforcing those where you are weak, think of people you know who already run
their own businesses. Talk to them about their successes and failures and seek
their advice. Many people in self-employment seem only too happy to assist
others to make the jump - the only return required being that you do the same
for someone else. There is nothing like your own real live experience to assess
your skills, but access to the experience of those you know before you jump is
You have identified one of your strengths as the generation of new business
ideas. This can be a valuable asset in overcoming problems and identifying
alternative routes to success for the business. You may be the one who keeps his
head in a crisis, when other businesses are failing due to executive panic; you
could be someone who uncovers a major opportunity instead. A risk you may need
to face is an enthusiasm to pursue the latest new idea instead of effectively
implementing earlier plans profitably. Too many new ideas can be as limiting for
the business as too few if there is no time to achieve commercial success.
Brilliant ideas poorly implemented are not nearly as successful as basic ideas
brilliantly implemented and carried through to completion.
This is the end of your report.
© Copyright 2003 Selby & Mills Limited and Thames Valley Partners