Opinion

Being CEO is a top three childhood dream career few think they'll reach

6 min read

12 December 2018

Among the damage being caused by Brexit uncertainty is the reluctance to create a new business venture, says Real Business columnist Jan Cavelle.

There is an understandable hesitation when it comes to such uncharted territory. Starting a business is a scary thought at the best of times.

Some 70% of people say they are unhappy in their current jobs, while a third say they would like to start a business.

But many say they have not got the capital to do so, or can’t afford to lose the regular income the job brings. They also fear they haven’t the skill required or cite a fear of failure. 

Many part-time businesses are set up as an initial step towards full time, to ease the financial tolls and gain experience on an existing salary. But swathes of these remain part-time, too hesitant to take the final step.

Some over 45’s cite that it is too late for a career change. Far worse though is the news that 10% of 18-24-year-olds also claim it is too late.   

This is part of the research by Venture Capital Group. Given that being a company owner or CEO is now in the top three childhood dream careers, it is no wonder a third of employees are left still dreaming of starting up and dissatisfied with their lot.

A very good job has been done in making starting a company aspirational, but not yet enough in making it achievable.

I fell into various business ventures over the years accidentally. Chance meetings with partners, a wild idea over the kitchen table, and perhaps most notably, a start-up enforced by the absolute necessity of providing for children as a single mum. Necessity can make a wonderful motivator to get us over fear.

Venture Capital found that almost a third of business owners never planned to start their own company at all.

We have all seen the huge rise in silventrepreneurs, many motivated by necessity. Job loss and redundancy are the most usual cause for these accidental business ventures, and for women, there is also the need for finding flexible employment round motherhood.  

When necessity is big enough, there is less time for fear and hesitation.

Many business founders have faced issues over raising capital, ongoing funding, cash flow and lack of regular income.  We may have taken the time to nail the best part of our product or service and had issues finding the right customers. We will certainly have faced challenges of anxiety, loneliness and self-doubt.

Of course, we look back and say that it would have been easier without these issues.

There is plenty of advice around. We Grow Businesses, a Stevenage-based business consultant sees growth as the way for small businesses to ensure they are successful. They advise their clients to plan backwards for the year ahead based on financial targets broken down into bite-size steps. They stress the importance of cash flow.

CB Insights Analysis reported that 42% of businesses fail due to lack of marketing.

I meet many start-ups convinced that the sheer wonder of what they do will create sales and are shocked to find they remain undiscovered geniuses. Sales skills are still essential, especially in B2B and are getting harder and harder to find.  

A strong customer experience should now be at the heart of every business. However, many still struggle to understand that.

For all the headaches, only 1% of the business owners in the Venture Capital survey regretted their decision to start a business. Some 90% report being happier than they were when employed. Those are very telling figures. More businesses are opening than they are closing.

My own experience tells me that there are other factors not included in the statistics of why people don’t follow through on childhood dreams. 

Given that we all lacked funding, skills and so on to start with and given the high level of accidental business startups it has to be more about why individuals do or don’t take the plunge.

Desperation can indeed be a huge incentive to succeed, in the same way as a driving passion for what you do can and both counterbalance fears. Timing can have a huge effect, with personal circumstances influencing the exact time of launching. But it is also the determination, the grit and will to succeed that makes the impediments of funding or lack of skills.

Those that really, really want to badly enough in 2019, will start up and get going, whatever the challenges.