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Divorce low, happiness high among entrepreneurs

If you are an entrepreneur who is suffering through lots of sleepless nights, whose marriage is on the rocks and who hates everything about your business, you aren't likely to be found among truly successful Utah entrepreneurs.

These are some of the conclusions of a recent survey of more than 100 of Utah's leading entrepreneurs. According to the study, Utah entrepreneurs have low divorce rates, high levels of job satisfaction and no trouble sleeping six hours or more per night.

Forty interdisciplinary BYU students who were part of a course offered to non-business majors by the Marriott School of Business conducted the research. The class, basic entrepreneur skills for the non-business major, includes students seeking degrees in disciplines as diverse as photography, exercise science, German and microbiology. They took on the role of myth-busters after reading "The E-Myth Revisited," by Michael Gerber, one of three texts required in the pass/fail class.

This eclectic band of students contacted successful entrepreneurs who were identified by the MountainWest Venture Group as the founders of the 100 fastest-growing companies in Utah. The students also surveyed the Utah Valley Entrepreneurial Forum's "25 under 5" category of business owners, which includes 25 entrepreneurs who are running highly successful companies and have been in business five years or fewer.

Some of the subjects explored in the survey concerned the importance of higher education, personal happiness levels and the value of goal-setting.

While many in the academic world feel that additional education might dampen entrepreneurial fever or passion, the research shows that 62 percent of those surveyed feel it is desirable to have at least a master's degree as preparation for a career as an entrepreneur. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed had a bachelor's degree or higher, and they received better than average grades — 88 percent had a B average or higher, while none had a GPA below 2.0 (thankfully, I wasn't among those surveyed or I would have brought the average down).

Divorce was extremely low among the respondents; 83 percent are married, with only 13 percent single, and a mere 4 percent were divorced. Those who were divorced said the business had little effect on their marriage (we didn't poll the former spouses to see if they would agree).

When asked about job satisfaction, 100 percent said they enjoy their work. In fact, 85 percent said they enjoy it very much. I don't know this, but I'd bet the percentage of those in the corporate world who enjoy their jobs isn't that high.

Eighty-five percent indicated that their faith and religion contributed to their business success, while 15 percent said there was little or no correlation. While many believe that entrepreneurs love the high profits they make because of their careers, 55 percent said the most fulfilling aspect of owning one's own business was the pleasure gained from the accomplishment of self-made goals. Only 9 percent said money was the most fulfilling part of being in business for themselves.

Twenty-one percent said they never could have imagined the level of success they have attained, while 54 percent said they were either very confident that they would be successful or had no doubt about the success of their businesses when they started.

Entrepreneurship, according to those who participated in the poll, does not mean all work and no play, nor does it necessarily mean sleepless nights. Fifty-six percent take two weeks or more annual vacation, while 9 percent take off for a month or more each year. Ninety-four percent get six hours of sleep or more each night. Eleven percent claim to get eight or more hours of sleep a night. It must be nice.

The practice of goal-setting is huge among these successful entrepreneurs, with 74 percent saying goal-setting is crucial or very important to their success and 22 percent indicating that it is important or somewhat important. Eighty percent said they review their goals regularly, while 15 percent review their goals daily.

Future columns will explore the findings of the survey related to business funding as well as the economic background of those surveyed.

Stephen W. Gibson is affiliated with the BYU Center for Entrepreneurship. He can be reached via e-mail at