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Characteristics of Business Owners

Painting a portrait of the typical American enterpreneur
  • February 13 2012

Incredible drive. An entrepreneurial spirit. A desire to make a difference. A need to “be the boss.” Those might be personality traits of the stereotypical American business owner. But what are the demographic attributes?

The results of the last U.S. business census paints this profile, differentiating between businesses with employees and solo practitioners.. Among the key characteristics:

About half (51 percent) of owners of firms report that their business was their primary source of income. This is true of 69 percent of owners with employees and 43 percent of those without them.

More than three in four owners (77 percent) report that they founded their business, while 15.8 percent of owners report that they purchased their business. Another 7 percent of owners acquired their business through an inheritance, transfer of ownership or as a gift.

About six in 10 (61 percent) owners reported that their primary function was providing services and/or producing goods; 47 percent said their primary role was managing day-to-day operations of their business; and 40 percent reported financial control as their primary role.

About 63 percent of owners reported working 40 or more hours per week in their business; the same was true for 34 percent of owners of nonemployer firms.

Business owners were well-educated: 51 percent of owners of respondent firms had a college degree.

About 36 percent of owners were 55 or older, with another 30 percent between the ages of 45 and 54. On the other hand, 31.7 percent of owners of firms were between the ages of 25 and 44 and only 2.2 percent were younger than 25.

Almost 8 percent of veteran owners report they were service-disabled.

About 13 percent of the owners were foreign-born. Among selected ownership groups, 56 percent of Hispanic owners (who can be of any race) were foreign-born, as were 82 percent of Asian owners and 75 percent of owners reporting some other race, such as Brazilian, Cape Verdean, Sudanese, or multiracial.


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