2 in 5 SME owners miss special occasions due to workload

Over two in five small business owners admit to missing special occasions, including weddings and birthdays, due to workload, whilst one in ten even fail to attend their own birthday celebration.

Time-stretched small business owners are having to put work before special occasions, a new study reveals. The YouGov survey, commissioned by First Data Merchant Solutions, quizzed over 1,000 British small business owners and decision makers, revealing that 44% of owners have missed a personal occasion because they are too busy running the company, with more than one in ten even failing to attend their own birthday celebration.

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Nearly a fifth of small business decision makers have missed picking their children up from school, 11% have failed to attend an anniversary celebration with a partner or spouse and one in ten have had to choose running the business over attending a wedding of a friend or relative. In the most extreme cases, small business owners have even had to skip funerals and memorials of friends and family members due to workload, with one owner even sacrificing being present at the birth of his child.

These findings clash with the discovery that 44% of small business owners set up because they wanted more flexible working hours. With 39% admitting that running a business has proven to be more challenging than expected, it seems that reality doesn’t always meet expectations. After the buzz and excitement of setting up a company, more than two in five small business owners describe running a small business as ‘time consuming’ and 32% even ‘exhausting’.

Some of the top tasks that small business decision makers have found more challenging than expected include managing staff (32%) and accounting or tracking finances (25%). In fact, over a fifth (22%) of decision makers claim that their small business spends more than 10 hours per day on average on ‘behind the scenes’ admin tasks such as these.

With admin tasks proving tougher to manage than expected, small businesses run the risk of missing out on vital strategic growth activities. This issue has not gone un-noticed by SME owners – given an extra hour in the working day 27% would spend time identifying new ways to expand the business, and over one in five on marketing activities.

The time pressure facing small business owners could be linked to the difficulty many find with delegating to employees. A total of 37% admit to worrying about handing control over to employees when taking time away from the business, with more than half worrying that staff will make accidental errors in their absence. It seems that the desire ‘to be in control’ that inspired 49% to start their businesses is leaving owners tied to their businesses at great personal expense.

Raj Sond, general manager at First Data Merchant Solutions, comments, “It is a real shame to see that administrative tasks are overwhelming SMEs to the point that they are unable to focus on growing their businesses. It is quite commonplace for business owners to be reluctant to hand over the reins in their absence, but running a small business should be an exciting adventure, not a barrier to leading a normal life. Most businesses are born from a spark and a real passion for something. Unfortunately, the reality is that this enthusiasm becomes diluted by the drudgery of time-consuming administrative activities. SME owners need to replicate the power of larger retailers to simplify the running of their businesses and they should look to technologies that can help them achieve this and ensure they don’t extinguish that spark.”

Please note: All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,020 senior decision makers from SMEs (less than 250 employees), of which 520 are owners. Fieldwork was undertaken between 4th – 11th August 2014. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size.

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