By Daniel Hunter

Almost a third of business owners (30%) do not enjoy being a leader in the current economic climate, new research has revealed.

A majority (51%) described their work/life balance as only “okay” with 35% labelling it good and 12% very good. Some 51% of business owners are working more than 50 hours a week with 4% working as many as 80 hours.

Almost a quarter (23%) said their business was currently either “treading water” or “declining slightly” with 51% more upbeat claiming they were “growing slightly” and 25% even more bullish saying their company was “growing rapidly”.

Looking ahead, only 4% of owners were “very optimistic” about the prospects for the UK economy in the next 2-3 years, while 41% were “optimistic”, 27% saw “no change”, 22% were “pessimistic” and 6% “very pessimistic”.

Three quarters (75%) ranked having a “strategic vision” as the single most important skill in running a business, with building a strong team the second most important attribute and sustaining focus the third vital skill.

Asked what they felt they were best at, 41% said strategy, 31% opted for managing people, 14% said sales, 10% marketing and just 4% financial management.

Asked who they most admired in business, a quarter (25%) said Virgin tycoon Sir Richard Branson, 8% opted for former Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy while 5% chose Sir Alan Sugar. Many other business leaders received single mentions including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the late Apple founder Steve Jobs, retail bosses Sir Stuart Rose and Justin King, golfer Jack Nicklaus and former Dragons Den star James Caan. The only women leaders to receive a mention were Dame Anita Roddick, the late founder of the Body Shop, and Chrissie Rucker, who launched The White Company.

The survey of 600 business leaders was carried out by The Leadership Team, which provides leadership development for chief executives, managing directors and directors from the region’s foremost companies.

“The survey’s findings show that many business owners are finding life tough and lonely at the top in the present economic climate and the majority see either no change or things getting worse over the next couple of years," Jerry Hopkins, founder of The Leadership Team, said.

“However, it is also clear that business owners believe that having a strong vision, being able to maintain focus in difficult conditions and building a strong team around them will be hugely important in determining just how successful they are over the coming years.”

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