Despite Challenges, Alberta Entrepreneurs Love Owning Own Business: ATB Business Beat

Calgary — Despite the daily hardships and challenges faced by Alberta’s small and medium-sized business owners (SMEs), they wouldn’t have it any other way. According to ATB Financial’s Business Beat survey, 89 per cent said that if they were given the opportunity to do it all over again, they would still choose to own their own business. Eighty per cent of those surveyed transitioned from being an employee, meaning that they got to see both sides of the coin and would still choose the path less traveled.

“I rarely run into entrepreneurs who would ever say anything like ‘I shouldn’t have done this’ or ‘I wish I had a normal life.’ Most entrepreneurs I meet are pretty proud,” said Wellington Holbrook, ATB’s Executive Vice President, Business & Agriculture. “Being an entrepreneur isn’t just something you do. It’s who you are.”

SMEs identified that, to be successful, entrepreneurs need to be hard-working visionaries with a high risk tolerance. That’s demonstrated in the fact that Albertan entrepreneurs own an average of 2.4 businesses—so far. Men seem to have a slightly larger risk appetite as they have owned an average of 2.7 businesses, whereas women have owned an average of 1.8.

Men also seem to get the entrepreneurship bug earlier than women. Twenty-six per cent of male entrepreneurs started a business between 18-24 years of age versus nine per cent of women. Meantime, 20 per cent of men started a business between 35-44 years of age versus 31 per cent of women.

Albertan SMEs were torn right down the middle about whether entrepreneurial spirit is something you are born with or can learn. Half believe the entrepreneurial spirit is learned, while 47 per cent said you are born with it. Among business owners who started their own enterprise before their 25th birthday, 60 per cent said you have to be born with the entrepreneurial spirit.

Holbrook agrees the spirit comes from within. “It’s got to be a little bit in your blood, but I think everyone’s got it. The question is do you let the entrepreneur out?” Holbrook said. “Ultimately it comes down to your tolerance for risk. If you have no tolerance for risk, you’re not going to be a successful entrepreneur.”

The need to keep moving forward and not give up is what 27 per cent of business owners stated as the most valuable lesson they’ve learned while owning a business. Other lessons include having good people and customer service skills (12 per cent) and building a good team (10 per cent).

Overall, 97 per cent of Alberta entrepreneurs are passionate about their business and 95 per cent believe it takes courage to own one.

Meanwhile, the ATB Business Index and ATB Economy Index are both rebounding after hitting lows recently. The ATB Economy Index, which measures how business owners feel about Alberta’s economy, is at 32.3, up 13.1 points from the previous survey. That’s the second-largest increase in the history of the ATB Economy Index. And the ATB Business Index, which measures business owners’ optimism in their own operations, is at 47.3, up 2.7 points from the last survey. A value less than 50 means more business owners are pessimistic than optimistic.

Small Business Owners - Business BeatThe ATB Business Beat survey is conducted four times per year to take the pulse on small and mid-sized businesses, which make up 99.9 per cent of all businesses in Alberta. To subscribe to the business beat visit

For the complete survey results, click here.