BUSINESS PULSE : SMALL BUSINESS IN ORANGE COUNTY : RISKY BUSINESS : Not All Entrepreneurs Fit the Standard Description

Times Staff Writer

So you think you’re an entrepreneur?

Well, if you own your own business, you most likely are, even if you don’t quite match the popular perception of the entrepreneur as a quintessential risk-taking, reward-seeking, enterprising innovator. For while someone like computer maven Steven Jobs is without question an entrepreneur, not all entrepreneurs are like Jobs.

Most, however, are small-business owners.

A study by the National Science Foundation shows that most of the innovations in American business and technology in the past 15 years have come from small businesses.

And The Times Small Business Poll shows that 64% of all Orange County small-business owners consider themselves to be risk takers, with 7% characterizing their management style as “very risk-taking.”


But even if your business has succeeded with no risk to your health or wealth, and even if you wouldn’t know an innovation from an innuendo, don’t fret.

Not all small-business owners are out to get rich or to take the world by storm.

There are the mom-and-pop proprietors who want only to have a business that enables them to pay the bills and live a comfortable life.

There are the middle managers who flee the corporate world to try their hand at calling all the shots and bearing all the risks.

There are the ambitious immigrants who start a business because they lack the necessary language and cultural skills to assimilate into the mainstream work force.

There are those lucky ones who have found in small business a way to pursue and pay for other, more consuming interests, such as skiing or sailing or collecting art or antiques.

While small-business owners come in all psychological shapes and sizes, business specialists say most of them share certain common traits.


“People who start small businesses are creative thinkers, risk takers, people who are willing to lay it on the line either because they are fed up with what they are doing or are convinced they have a good idea and can make it work,” said Terry Hill, spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business.

“They are the people with a passion for what they’re doing,” said Arthur Perrone, vice chairman of the Geneva Cos. in Newport Beach. “It often costs them several families and part of their stomach, but they have that passion.”

Appearing on this page and the next are profiles of Orange County proprietors who embody the many characteristics of small-business owners everywhere.

The Times Orange County Poll was conducted by Mark Baldassare & Associates of Irvine. For this survey, a mail questionnaire was sent March 24 to a random sample of small businesses. The survey sample was selected from the “Commercial and Industrial Directory” provided by the Orange County Chamber of Commerce. Surveys were addressed to the highest officer named for companies in Orange County with 50 or fewer employees. Before the sample was selected, branch offices and franchises were removed from the mailing list. By the close of the study on April 21, 522 surveys were returned. The distribution of responses closely reflects the company characteristics of the original mailing list and survey sample.

Risky Business

How Did You Get Started? Family Business: 10%

Hired into Firm: 19%

Bought In: 15%

Founded the Company: 56%

Your Approach?

“How would you describe your approach to management?”

Somewhat Risk-Taking: 57%

Somewhat Cautious: 31%

Very Cautious 4%

Very Risk-Taking: 7%

Source: Times Small Business Poll