UK: New Survey Explodes Myth About Business Leaders

Last Updated: 31 August 2000

The myth that leaders are young, inexperienced, and looking to make a fast buck while ploughing through venture capital handouts, has been exploded by new research from KPMG Consulting. The report, E-Business Leaders Survey 2000, shows that the average e-business leader is aged 38, and is quite willing to sacrifice corporate perks in order to start a new business in a dynamic sector. E-business leaders are less likely to have their own office or PA and are more likely to travel economy or with "no frills" airlines. They do not necessarily rebel against traditional rules of business - 88% of respondents felt casual dressing was not appropriate for important meetings and the majority of those interviewed worked extremely long hours and had little time for socialising.

"Despite the well-publicised failures of some dot.coms recently, it would be a mistake to underestimate them," said Alan Buckle, chief executive of KPMG Consulting UK. "This survey shows that leaders have huge energy, drive and understanding of how the internet is already changing business. Traditional leaders have a lot to learn from this new generation and ignore them at their peril." directors differ most noticeably from their counterparts in 'old world' businesses in a number of important areas, particularly in how they work on a day-to-day basis. Typically, internet business leaders start work later, continue until well into the evening, and often work seven days a week. Many leaders are in it for the long haul, with one in seven still expecting to be working when they are 70. When it comes to dreams, directors have their heads firmly in the clouds - the most popular alternative career for this group is a pilot, while they would ideally like to drive a fashionable Audi TT.

But the survey quashes the notion that traditional business leaders are ageing technophobes. Their average age is 46 and they use the internet both at work and at home, to gather information and make online purchases.

Key findings of the survey include:

  • Age: leaders are not all "bright young things"; their average age is 38. On the other hand, traditional leaders are not as old as might be expected - the average age of the group sampled was just 46. The majority of both groups hope to retire early (between 55 and 59), but a significant number of leaders don't plan to hand over the reins until they are over 70.
  • Working Day: the British business leader works very long hours - more than half the respondents in both groups worked more than 56 hours a week. leaders, however, are almost twice as likely as traditional directors to work more than 71 hours a week (22% compared to 12%), while a quarter work seven days a week. In addition, leaders are night owls, starting work later than their traditional counterparts, and working until late in the evening - 40% are still in the office at 8pm (as opposed to 8% of traditional leaders).
  • Education and Background: leaders are less likely to have a degree than traditional leaders (66% compared to 84%), yet they are more likely to have had a private education. Their route to the top is also somewhat different - traditional business leaders tend to have a finance background, while executives are more likely to be IT or Marketing specialists.
  • A Life More Ordinary: leaders tend to avoid the usual perks of the job - when they travel for business, they rarely fly business class, preferring instead economy or a "no frills" airline. This is likely to reflect the need of dot.coms to keep costs to a minimum. Furthermore, only 12% have their own PA, compared to half of traditional leaders, while less than two-thirds have a private office (as opposed to 82% of traditional leaders).
  • Daydreams: If directors could do any other job, their preferred option was a pilot or formula one racing driver. Traditional business leaders, meanwhile, would rather be a doctor or an author. When it comes to cars, leaders' dream motor is an Audi TT, yet their traditional counterparts would prefer a Jaguar XK8.
  • Social Life: leaders seem to have trouble finding time to relax - 34% said they rarely or never have time to socialise with colleagues and clients, and even when it comes to taking time out to read a book, almost half pick a business book (traditional leaders reach for fiction). In addition, while leaders take, on average, less than half their annual holiday entitlement, traditional leaders generally take 23 of their allotted 27 days. When they do go on holiday, they pick a beach getaway or a cruise, while traditional directors prefer activity breaks.
  • Net Use: While both groups use the Internet on a regular basis - especially for gathering information - leaders are more likely to make online purchases and bank online.
  • Clothes: While leaders are happy with casual dressing in the office, 88% of them would still prefer to don a suit when it comes to that important business meeting.
  • Heroes: Bill Gates was the most admired business leader by traditional respondents, but the favourite of the leaders was Richard Branson.

Alan Buckle commented: "Most people think that dot.coms are run by young graduates, who make loads of money in a short space of time. What's more, recent hype would have us believe that all you need to be a success is a good idea. Our research proves that this simply is not the case.

"The leaders we surveyed work hard and are extremely dedicated - they are not kids, playing at business and hoping to make a fast buck. The research shows that there really is no short cut to success in the new economy. Just like a traditional business, a Net venture will only thrive thanks to the hard work and business sense of its people. But there are critical differences in how leaders work that are increasingly likely to spread to the rest of UK plc - particularly the focus on keeping costs to a minimum and the changing work patterns that reflect the 24 x 7 culture of the internet world. "

"The content of this article is intended only to provide general guidelines related to this particular matter. For your specific circumstances, full specialist advise is recommended"

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