Survey: Entrepreneurs Increasingly Motivated to Create Positive Change for Local Communities

Staff Report

Thursday, July 6th, 2023

With an estimated 582 million entrepreneurs in the world today, new research conducted by the Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) – a non-profit membership network of 18,000+ business owners across 76 countries – shows that founders of small to mid-size companies (SMEs) are more focused on driving positive change for their local communities today compared to 2013, and nearly half feel a responsibility to support the next generation of entrepreneurs.

In its survey of nearly 500 business owners from 50 countries across the globe, EO asked respondents to compare the state of entrepreneurship today vs. ten years earlier. Their top answer conveyed a sense of deepening cultural appreciation for the path of entrepreneurship, with one in four (24%) saying the entrepreneurial spirit is more widely understood and embraced today than it was in previous years. EO's findings also demonstrate optimism and an interest in positive impact. One in five (20%) entrepreneurs polled said they feel more focused on driving positive change for their local communities today than they were in 2013.  

Still, with interest rates rising, venture capital funding quickly declining, and geopolitical conflicts ongoing, the macroeconomic outlook for entrepreneurs has been anything but predictable. Just one in 10 respondents (14%) said they felt they were taken more seriously today, with many listing the following top three concerns as constants for entrepreneurs: managing cash flow (21%), economic instability (20%), and retaining top talent vs. competition (16%).

Despite these barriers, EO members surveyed reported using a range of coping strategies to manage their personal stress. More than one-third (34%) of those surveyed said they seek and rely on support from peers, such as the kind found in networks like EO. One-quarter (26%) said they turn to activities such as painting or exercising and 20% confide in their spouse or family.

"Entrepreneurship has come a long way in 10 years. It is not as lonely at the top as it used to be," said Marc Stöckli, Global Chair of the Entrepreneurs' Organization and a 14-year member of EO Zürich. "But despite the boom in people starting their own businesses, some of the same hurdles remain our persistent headwinds, especially access to capital to support scaling and growth. What has improved is the availability of meaningful support for entrepreneurs through networks that connect us with our peers and allow us to learn from each other."

With innovations from artificial intelligence racing forward this year, it may be no surprise that nearly one in five (18%) respondents said they will shift to AI and automation tools that could create less need for workers. Still, 30% said they either plan to hire more talent from international markets or focus on improving their company culture for remote employees. The competitive rewards they plan to offer employees in the next year are increased learning and development opportunities (18%), more flexible working hours (15%), and cost of living/inflation salary adjustments (13%).

The median age of EO business owners around the world is 45, and most are parents, so it may naturally follow that nearly half of survey respondents (45%) reported feeling a responsibility to actively support the next generation founders through a variety of initiatives, such as mentorships, internships, and start-up capital investment. One in three (30%) respondents said they either have mentored or will mentor aspiring entrepreneurs in the coming year, while 27% prefer to host educational talks or events on business ownership for young founders in their communities.

"Our children will need to develop the same bold and courageous mindset as successful entrepreneurs to seize the opportunities of our fast-changing world," said Joaquín Cordero, founder and CEO of Lumen and an 11-year member of EO Guatemala. "From mastering machine learning to fostering resilience in the face of challenges like climate change and supply chain disruptions, tomorrow's business leaders will need to be skilled problem solvers. It's our collective responsibility to guide them and facilitate their learning from each other, so they can thrive in the future."