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Average business owner needs additional four hours in the day to complete admin tasks, study shows

A poll of 500 SMEs revealed 33 per cent claim there aren’t enough minutes in the day to get everything done

Lucy Brimble
Wednesday 16 August 2023 12:07 BST
Dealing with tax, managing cash flow, and supply chain issues were cited as the biggest time-consuming tasks
Dealing with tax, managing cash flow, and supply chain issues were cited as the biggest time-consuming tasks (iStock)

The average business owner needs an additional four hours in the working day to complete their admin.

A poll of 500 SMEs revealed 33 per cent claim there aren’t enough minutes in the day to get everything done – with this adding to the pressures of their everyday job.

It emerged the typical employer would love to free up 20 hours each week to complete their to-do list – but in reality, only get 90 minutes.

More than four in 10 (43 per cent) end up taking it home to complete with only 16 per cent claiming they really enjoy it.

Dealing with tax (29 per cent), managing cash flow (20 per cent), and supply chain issues (18 per cent) were cited as the biggest time-consuming tasks.

It comes as business insurance company, Superscript, partnered with an expert to reveal the pitfalls small business owners face at the start of their journey.

Kate Hardcastle, who specialises in start-ups, shared the main gripes SMEs deal with including unwanted stress, taking financial risks and making decisions nobody else wants to make.

Unrealistic expectations of running a business were cited as something to watch out for, and Kate emphasises the reward is not just in results and finances – but also how you feel.

Startups are also likely to overstretch their investment during the early days in things like equipment, staff or stock, so it’s important to keep this under control and stay sensible.

And the fear of failure is real but surrounding yourself with a ‘dream team’ of experts in all areas of the business will help release pressure and protect your company on all levels.

It emerged the typical employer would love to free up 20 hours each week to complete their to-do list – but in reality, only get 90 minutes (SWNS)

Kate said: “Running your own business with all the highs and lows that go along with being your own boss can still be one of the most rewarding journeys - hard work and long hours are undeniable, but the rewards can be multifaceted.

“Seeking external expertise and advice for business helps you focus on the areas you are passionate about and eliminate the fear and concerns of potential pitfalls.

“Setting up your own business isn’t for the faint hearted and certainly the economic climate ahead indicates there are more challenges to come but by listening to your customers, thinking outside in and looking at ways to collaborate with others is the best road to success.”

When quizzed on what they wish could be made simpler, a fifth said it would be the process of hiring staff while 14 per cent would like help with managing and buying insurance.

However, for 88 per cent polled, via OnePoll, technology has helped make doing the chore of business admin a lot easier for them.

Working long hours (24 per cent), keeping on top of paperwork (13 per cent) and chasing payments (14 per cent) were stated as the most challenging.

Despite this, 86 per cent claim that becoming a business owner is the best decision they’ve ever made.

Alongside the research, Superscript created ‘SME City’ – an addictively frustrating 80s inspired retro game where the aim is to get from start to finish without being caught out by the everyday hurdles of running your own business.

Those in the top three positions on the leaderboard will receive prizes, including up to £200 in ‘life:style’ gift vouchers - with a choice of over 125 brands - which can be won on a quarterly basis.

Mai Fenton, CMO for the business insurance company, which will announce its first winners on Friday 8th September, said: “Starting your own business is never easy and we wanted to bring this to life through this retro-inspired SME City game.

“Our research shows that while work admin can be the bane of every business owner, the majority of small business owners are positive that technology can provide a helping hand in making their business admin chores easier.

“There are indeed plenty of obstacles to overcome - some of which can be unexpected - but the results are so rewarding that it’s all worth it in the end.”

Top 10 challenging thigns about running you own business:

  1. Working long hours
  2. Sorting out tax returns
  3. Getting enough sleep
  4. Chasing payments
  5. Recruiting staff
  6. Keeping on top of paperwork e.g., insurance, legal costs, payroll
  7. Not spending time with my family
  8. Cash flow
  9. Meeting customer demands
  10. Switching off

Kate Hardcastle’s top 10 SME gripes and tips to tackle them:

1. Cashflow – Keeping close to your cashflow, understand terms of payment agreements and possibly look into rewarding clients for early payments.

2. Investment – Once you have learned to keep costs lean and low you will be able to invest with confidence in the areas that will serve the greatest reward.

3. Sales - New growth will come from testing an unknown audience before launching products and then identifying a target list of potential new customers.

4. Overworking - Having time to reflect will stop you becoming too ingrained in the minutia of the business and help you to see the bigger picture which will ultimately benefit you and the business.

5. Mental health - It is always good to find an outlet for your stress or someone to talk problems through with and even seeking out advice from other business owners can be enlightening.

6. Time management - SMEs can get bogged down in the day to day running of their business, but by taking a step back and learning to identify the areas of your business that need extra help and by practicing good time management will allow you to focus, but also be a catalyst for, growth and development.

7. Unrealistic expectations of running a business - Success in business is rarely overnight and it is a marathon not a sprint. The reward is the not just in results and finances - but also in how you feel.

8. The social impact - It is great having family and friends as your cheerleaders and biggest supporters, but they are not necessarily the best business advisors. Seeking external opinions where there will be less emotion involved in the thought process can do wonders for inspiration.

9. Lack of neutral outside advice - It is important to think ‘outside-in’ – listen to and understand the needs of your customers and this will give the business the best chance of growth with ideas and concepts you may not have previously considered.

10. Fear of failure - Surrounding your business with a ‘dream-team’ of experts in areas in which you feel least prepared or knowledgeable helps to release pressure and protect your business on legal and financial matters.

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