Survey: Quality Of Life Scores Highest For Florida Entrepreneurs
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Decent roads and a nearby airport are important, but good fishing and a short commute to work are among things entrepreneurs rate highly when choosing a place to grow a business, according to a new University of Florida study.
That may be why within Florida, the less-developed Panhandle region was tops in quality of life and three of the four other categories used in the study to compare the state’s regions, said Joseph McCann, director of UF’s Office of Executive Education, which coordinated the study for the Warrington College of Business Administration and the Fisher School of Accounting.
But statewide, McCann said, Florida needs to improve several other factors that contribute to the entrepreneurial business climate, most notably providing the financial support entrepreneurs need to get their projects off the ground.
McCann sent questionnaires to owners of businesses among the Florida 100, an annual list compiled by UF of the state’s fastest-growing privately held companies. Seventy-nine responded of the 100 responded. The Florida 100 represents 12 industries and collectively generated 1999 total annual revenues of more than $968 million
To arrive at a rating for the state overall, McCann used the business owners’ ratings of their regions on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 being the highest. They were asked to evaluate entrepreneurial climate; physical and intellectual infrastructure; quality of life; and accessibility, quality and cost of available services.
The respondents gave quality of life the highest overall mean, with a score of 3.92. Within that category, leisure opportunities got the biggest nod, with a mean score of 4.41. Other quality-of-life issues included a positive, supportive climate for families; clean ecology; reasonable cost of living; and affordable housing close to work.
Northwest Florida led in entrepreneurial climate; quality of life; intellectual infrastructure; and quality, cost and accessibility of external services, the study shows. Central Florida came in first in physical infrastructure, but the Panhandle came in second.
“Obviously there are fewer only nine companies of the Florida 100 companies in this less populated region when compared to Central Florida,” McCann said. “But the ones there like it for several reasons. In general, the central part of Florida stretching from Tampa/St. Pete on the west to the Melbourne area on the east was most consistently ranked well and held the majority of the Florida 100 companies.”
However, the study shows entrepreneurs gave the state, on average, a lower score for its “entrepreneurial climate” — 2.66. Issues within that category include pace of new business creation, low labor costs, availability of skilled workers and access to affordable start-up or seed capital.
Charlie Uhrig, managing director in corporate finance for Raymond James & Associates in St. Petersburg, said the low ranking for entrepreneurial climate — particularly affordable seed capital — may be a function of which industry entrepreneurs are in.
Most venture capitalists, he said, are putting their money in information technology, telecommunications or health care. The Florida 100 represents a broader ranger of industries, he said, “so it stands to reason why they would be concerned about this more than a group of survey respondents who are in the hot’ areas.”
McCann agreed. “Florida has made great gains in providing access to capital for technology-intensive companies, but access remains more difficult for many service-sector companies.” he said.
Overall mean scores for the other categories were: intellectual infrastructure — 3.12; physical infrastructure — 3.0; and accessibility, quality and cost of external services — 2.74.
“I’d say the overall mean scores are lower than I would have expected,” McCann said. “There’s a lot of work to do on several items that were not perceived well, and the overall scores were dragged down by these very few specific items.”
The survey also queried entrepreneurs about the lessons they’ve learned.
To the question, “To what do I credit our success?” most said their own personal qualities were the deciding factor. That was followed by having supportive family and friends, good employees, a solid product or service, operational effectiveness and access to money and advice.
Asked “What are our biggest business challenges?” the largest share said placing bets on key people, followed by finding and training good workers, managing rapid growth, financial management, competition and leadership.
Finally, asked what their biggest mistakes were, most entrepreneurs said the most common was putting the wrong people in the wrong jobs. That was followed by not investing adequately in development, starting with too little capital and starting with the wrong concept or service.
Copies of the survey results are available by calling Executive Education at (352) 392-8660 or by e-mailing the office at firstname.lastname@example.org. The survey results also may be viewed on the World Wide Web at www.ufexec.ufl.edu.
- Steve Orlando
- Joseph McCann