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SME executives are no strangers to time pressures and feeling harassed. Many are forever dealing with the latest staffing crisis, putting out small fires and rising to any number of challenges that running a business brings.

Sounds familiar? Then it will come as no surprise that time-strapped SME owners work 63% more than the national average of 37 hours. And in a survey of more than 1,000 SME owners and decision-makers last year, 21% complained that there’s simply “not enough time”.

The problem is not just limited to longer working hours – the time deficit may well be affecting your entire business.

The impact of time deficit on your customers

Being short of time can affect your business from the bottom, up. Strategies get pushed to one side, customers turn to competitors offering a better service and stressed out staff run for the hills.

In the same survey, 36% of business owners admitted that they’re just “too busy with the day-to-day running of the business” to work on enhancing customer relationships. And only 45% felt they understood their customers “very well” – even though 69% are fully aware that poor service is one of the reasons a customer might go elsewhere.

Legacy IT

Lots of organisations continue working with outdated technology, with embattled IT systems often overlooked as business owners prioritise ‘more pressing issues’.

Working with legacy IT can be a huge drain on your time. Tasks that should take a short while to complete can take hours, or even days, while maintenance efforts to keep systems running are time-consuming.

It’s worth remembering that these systems are responsible for your core operational processes – the very heart of your business.

Stressed-out SMEs

For today’s business leaders, stress seems to be par for the course – yet the wellbeing of your staff is essential for growth.

In November 2015, a panel of experts talked about the biggest challenges facing SMEs this year. Richard Norris, SME director at Bupa, named stress as the biggest emerging workplace issue.

The organisation’s survey of 150 SME leaders backed this up. More than half (53%) acknowledged that stress is a problem for their business – with workforce demands being a major factor in this.

It’s no wonder that SMEs struggle to entice the top talent in today’s hyper-competitive job market.

The problem affects business outcomes long-term, resulting in burnout and a high turnaround of staff.

Time for some solutions to the time deficit…

Of course, we can’t make more minutes in the day, but we can offer some simple tips to help you manage your time better.

Hiring the right people – Staff must have the right attitude and values to help your organisation thrive. Look to the future – recruit staff that can grow with your business, bringing the skills you need today and in the years to come.

Retaining staff – It’s no mystery, happy and engaged staff make for a more productive workforce. Keep stress levels down with a more flexible workplace that understands the benefits of work-life balance.

Good communication – Involving employees in the decision-making process will keep them focused on the task at hand – and also help you retain them.

Update your IT infrastructure – If your systems are groaning under the strain, make implementing new systems your priority. The benefits include increased productivity, eliminating high maintenance costs and the ability to innovate more broadly.

Outsourcing – Whether it’s your IT function, HR or accounts, outsourcing can bring a range of advantages, not least the time it can save. For instance, a well-run IT infrastructure brings greater efficiency to businesses, freeing up resources while you let the experts tackle the technical nitty-gritty. It also means you can tap into a wealth of business experience and insight you probably wouldn’t have access to otherwise.