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SME owners losing sleep over business

SME owners are sacrificing their wellbeing for the sake of their business, according to research by Opus Energy

Just over three in four (76%) SME owners are losing sleep over their business, with the main reasons cited company finances and costs (35%), work/life balance (27%) and attracting customers (24%).

The strains of running a business are also putting pressures on the home lives of SME owners, with four in five (79%) making personal sacrifices for the sake of their business over the past 12 months. Thirty-six per cent have sacrificed personal time, 31% have reduced their holidays and another 29% have gone without pay.

Twenty-three per cent of SME owners said they worked even when on holiday, with a further 14% saying they don’t take any holidays at all.

Millennials were much more likely to make personal sacrifices for the sake of their business (94%) than their older counterparts (73% for both 45- to 54-year-olds and 55- to 64-year-olds), with women more likely to do so than men (85% and 76% respectively). As a result of these pressures 38% regret starting their business.

Despite the top reasons for starting their own business centring around control – for example working for themselves (56%), controlling their future earnings (30%) or controlling their workload/time (29%) – SME owners struggle to maintain a healthy work/life balance, the research found. It found that SME owners are working significant amounts of overtime, with a third (33%) working six days a week and a quarter (23%) working seven days a week.

Nikki Flanders, COO of Opus Energy, said that the results were unsurprising and set a worrying precedent for the economy.

“Every business leader needs to make a significant investment to make their business successful, and this investment is amplified for small businesses. The time, money or emotional investment needed to start a business and make it profitable is often all-consuming,” she said.

"Considering the difficult trading conditions businesses of all sizes have experienced recently, it’s not surprising that SMEs have needed to make particularly hard sacrifices over the past 12 months. However, the fact that small business owners are jeopardising their wellbeing consistently is a worrying sign. We rely on them to drive the economy, so if they’re struggling we all will.”

The research was undertaken by research consultancy Vitreous World in July 2018, surveying 505 SME owners throughout the UK.