AXA UK research reveals the top 20 qualities of successful entrepreneurs


Authored by AXA

  • The AXA Startup Report 2023 has revealed the main personality traits SME owners feel are crucial for success 
  • Despite the economic uncertainty facing Britain, two-thirds of SME owners remain upbeat about the future of their business
  • However, inflation, increasing fuel and energy costs and the rising cost of materials rank among SME owners’ main concerns

The AXA Startup Report 2023 has revealed the main personality traits SME owners feel are crucial for success include being hard working (48%), motivated (44%) and organised (42%). Self-belief (36%) and resilience (35%) also ranked as top character traits.

The research, which surveyed 500 SME owners, is supported by the expertise of Sarah Berry, specialist career coach and consultant, who has spent years analysing the personality traits of successful entrepreneurs.

AXA’s research also highlighted a potential untapped source of opportunity for small British businesses. More than a quarter (27%) of SME owners and sole traders feel they have a million-pound business idea but don’t know how to make it a reality. 88% said their business idea is linked to the industry they currently work in – highlighting a possible source of untapped revenue and potential for the UK economy. This research comes during the application period for AXA’s Startup Angel Competition which helps small businesses achieve their full potential.

Overall, the research paints a positive picture of the UK economy from the perspective of small business owners. An overwhelming 77% of respondents felt taking the plunge to start their small business was one of the best decisions they have ever made and two-thirds (66%) remain upbeat about the future of their business despite the economic uncertainty facing Britain. These figures have remained stable since the AXA Startup Report 2022, showing that SMEs are still determined and positive despite the ongoing challenges they face.

When it comes to the issues SME owners feel will be the biggest challenges for their business over the coming 12 months, almost a third (31%) see inflation, increasing fuel and energy costs (24%) and rising cost of materials (20%) rank among the main concerns. However, the main opportunities over the coming 12 months include clients returning as the economy stabilises (21%), introducing new products or services (20%) and acquiring new domestic clients (19%).

2023 continues to present challenges for SMEs with inflation a growing concern. However, it’s encouraging to see two-thirds of those we surveyed feel upbeat about their business prospects and this has increased by almost 5% from last year. 

“SMEs prove year on year how tenacious and determined they can be, so it comes as no surprise that being hardworking and motivated are the top skills needed for success. With self-belief moving closer to the top of required skills, it’s essential that we rally around business owners and support their growth and development.

With this in mind, I'm proud to see the AXA Startup Angel Competition in its third year as we search for another six deserving businesses to support with invaluable mentorship from some of Britain's best entrepreneurs as well as 12 months of business insurance.” - Deepak Soni, Director of SME Business Insurance at AXA UK (pictured)

“Self-belief is integral to independent business success, as it is the driver for decision-making and action. People worry about making mistakes, but even if an action doesn’t turn out how you think, you can always course-correct. Workers coming from a position of a stable and well-paying job may fear risk and financial instability. If you live in complete safety and certainty, it can lead you to feel mentally and emotionally weak, and that can make the leap to starting your own business - and facing the challenges which comes with that - a real struggle.” - Sarah Berry, Career Expert

Top 20 personality traits small business owners believe are crucial for success

  1. Hard working
  2. Motivated
  3. Organised
  4. Self-belief
  5. Resilient
  6. Determination
  7. Confident
  8. Driven
  9. Good time management
  10. Open to change
  11. Passionate
  12. Focused on achieving goals
  13. Budget-conscious
  14. Multi-tasker
  15. Intelligent
  16. Willing to take risks
  17. Decisive
  18. An ability to sell
  19. Good leader
  20. Relentless


About AXA

In July 2012 the AXA Commercial Lines and Personal Intermediary businesses came together to form a new single organisation – AXA Commercial Lines and Personal Intermediary.

The business offers brokers a more integrated and consistent approach from AXA which is focussed on their needs as a business – whatever the product. AXA Commercial Lines & Personal Intermediary provides underwriting expertise, offering a range of commercial lines and personal lines products and insurance solutions to our brokers and customers.  AXA Commercial & Personal Intermediary is part of AXA Group, a worldwide leader in insurance and asset management serving 101 million clients

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