Weightlifting

The majority of small business owners in the UK do not like to delegate tasks to their staff, according to new research.

With the Olympics around the corner, Opus Energy said its research suggests that there are parallels between small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners and the way elite athletes train for their sport.

Both disciplines face key challenges, in setting goals, staying ahead of the competition, and recovering from setbacks. It had found that most SME owners are ‘weightlifters’: they like to get involved in every aspect of their business. The survey indicated that small business owners fall into one of the following categories:

The weightlifter – Takes responsibility of the whole company on their shoulders. They get involved in every aspect of the business, from finding new business, to strategy, and everything else in between

The archer – Has their eye on the future vision of their company and the targets required for the quickest way to get there with the least amount of fuss. They understand that nurturing their business requires their employees to be motivated, inspired and happy in their work

The pole vaulter – Is constantly raising the bar for themselves and for their business. They are excellent delegators, preferring to focus on strategy rather than day-to-day tasks

The decathlete – Loves a challenge. Sometimes they’re not sure where work ends and home begins, but, for a decathlete, it’s worth it for the feeling of satisfaction at the end

The sprinter – Is prone to sudden bursts of energy and inspiration, which leaves them running miles ahead of their company. They’re so caught up with always moving forward that sometimes they forget to look back and see if their business is keeping up

Owning and running a small business can be all consuming – 62% of SME owners said they check their emails constantly throughout the day, whilst almost half of all respondents (47%) have worked through a weekend, due to work commitments. What’s more, 74% say that their relationships with their partner, friends or family have been affected by working long hours.

Louise Boland, managing director at Opus Energy, said: “Small business owners are often the founders of the company and it can be difficult for them to let go of certain responsibilities, even to pass them to trusted colleague. An overwhelming amount actually prefer to get on with tasks on their own, with almost half taking full responsibiity for new business development within their company. This inevitably has consequences in their personal lives, potentially causing them to burn out, and making it difficult for them to keep their personal lives, and work, separate. It is no wonder that SME owners are the backbone of our nation. Working long hours and taking responsibility for every aspect of running a business takes up a huge amount of energy.”

The research also highlighted that internal working relationships are suffering. For those who fall into the ‘archer’ category, they are so busy that they don’t have time to mix with colleagues. Archers focus their vision on the long term plan for the company, taking into account the importance of long term employee engagement. However, only 12% of SME owners said they stop to have a chat with colleagues when they get into the office. This can cause damage to office relationships, leading to a less engaged team.

When thinking about what success looked like, half of SME owners stated that the reputation of the company, and their own success as an owner, were the most important things to them. This ‘weightlifter’ attitude is evidenced in the fact that they barely take a break, with only 15% saying they pace themselves by going for a walk during the day.

Ms Boland added: “The data shows many small business owners are taking the burden of the whole business on their shoulders, constantly checking emails and finding it hard to make free time – it appears we are a nation of ‘weightlifters’. Small business owners are driven by the passion they have for their business, which is fantastic, but it can also mean they forget to take a break every now and then, and appreciate how far they have already come.”