By Daniel Hunter

More than half of the UK's entrepreneurs left education by the age of 18, with a quarter leaving at 16, according to research by Sage.

Sage said the research suggests that the business community is dominated by entrepreneurs who favour real-world experience over higher education.

Fifty-one per cent of the entrepreneurs surveyed quit the education system at 18, and 26% left school at 16. The study also found that almost a third (31%) of entrepreneurs had started their own business by the age of 30.

Shifting skills landscape

Although digital skills have been hot on the Government agenda in recent years, Britain’s current business leaders cite English (64%) and Maths (63%) as the most useful skills to have when it comes to running a business.

IT and Computer Sciences, often regarded as essential knowledge for modern startups, were placed a distant third (19%). Yet, when asked which subjects they would have found most beneficial in retrospect, business studies (29%) and IT and Computer Sciences (26%) came out on top, indicating the increasingly prominent role of technology in business.

Sage’s report also revealed fascinating generational gaps between entrepreneurs which reflect Britain’s changing business landscape, with 41% of respondents aged 18-34 saying they found IT and Computer science to be currently the most useful subject when running their business, compared to only 11% of respondents aged 55+.

Motivations and benefits

When asked what motivated them to start their own business, almost half (46%) cited a desire to work for themselves as the main reason, although more than one in four (28%) said a lack of employment or change in circumstance was a defining factor. Only 11% cited a desire to make more money as their main motivation.

Meanwhile, when asked what they most enjoyed about running their own business, the report revealed that entrepreneurs revel in the freedom and autonomy to make important decisions (82%) and enjoy a better work life balance after becoming self-employed (63%).

“Britain has always been a nation where entrepreneurs have been able to thrive,” said Lee Perkins, Managing Director of the Start-Up and Small Business Division at Sage.

“Although education is undoubtedly an integral factor in creating business success, this research confirms that it is still possible to follow in the footsteps of the Alan Sugars and Richard Bransons of this world to pursue your own path at a young age. Small businesses will continue to be the bedrock of our growing economy, so we should celebrate that as a success of our enduring enterprising spirit as a nation.”

Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology at University College London, said: “The psychological makeup of entrepreneurs is fascinating and they come in all shapes, sizes and personality traits. However, one thing that unifies them all is hard work and ambition, so it is not surprising that Sage’s research shows many entrepreneurs entered the world of work at a young age. This early experience will have given them an essential foundation in core skills and business acumen, paving the way to starting their own businesses.”