Day-to-day worries mount for small business owners


The working week for Britain's small business entrepreneurs may have grown by almost 10 per cent in the past three years, but the desire to be their own boss shows no sign of deterring people from wanting to go it alone.

According to the latest RBS Living Business Survey, the average working week for SME entrepreneurs has reached 55.4 hours, with more than half (56 per cent) now working more than 50 hours per week, up from 43 per cent in 2002.

Almost one in three (28 per cent) work more than 61 hours per week - up from 10 per cent in 2002 - and more than one in seven (15 per cent) work more than 70 hours.

"Our survey confirms the prime motivator for Britain's entrepreneurs is being their own boss, and the clear sense of fulfilment this brings," said RBS' Steve Richards.

"However, it also highlights the potential issue of long working hours and increased worry caused by the day to day running of a business."

In addition to these long working hours, small business owners spend on average 17 hours per week away from work thinking or worrying about their business, with one in five fretting for an additional 40 hours or more per week about their venture.

This was particularly true for those small business owners with more employees. Time spent worrying for those with 5-10 employees was up 49 per cent from 11.8 hours in 2002 to 17.6 hours per week in 2005. Those with 11+ employees recorded a 63 per cent increase from 12.4 hours in 2002 to 20.2 hours per week in 2005.

Overall, however, late payment of invoices emerged as the biggest source of stress to owners of small businesses, cited by almost a quarter (24 per cent) of respondents. Only 13 per cent cited this as an issue in 2002, although in both years this was the number one cause of stress.

Next came customer related matters at 17 per cent (previously 9 per cent), red tape at 16 per cent (up from 4 per cent in 2002) and 13 per cent cited staff issues as opposed to 7 per cent in 2002.

Perhaps reflecting the impact of CAP reform on their business, red tape was regarded as the biggest source of stress by a majority (54 per cent) of owners of small businesses operating in the agriculture sector.

Elsewhere, owners of businesses with 11 or more employees were more likely to be stressed by staff problems (31 per cent).

But despite the obvious impact on the personal lives of entrepreneurs, they are united on what are the key motivating factors for choosing this way of life, with the desire to be their own boss remaining the single biggest motivating factor, cited by almost four out of 10 (38 per cent).