Nearly two thirds (62%) of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often make difficult decision on their own, with 9% claiming they have nobody to turn to for advice, according to AXA PPP Healthcare.

Of those who do have support, 21% said they rely on their family, 19% on other directors or business partners, while 16% turn to fellow business owners through a networking organisation or their employees.

When asked about additional support, more than two in five (42%) said they would like more support in running their business while the same number wanted better access to finance. Three in ten (29%) were looking for more support from government and one in six (16%) wanted support with business planning.

Despite their desire for more assistance, two thirds (67%) of owners surveyed said they felt optimistic about the growth of their business in the next three to five years. Their confidence is well founded as, in the wider economy, turnover at businesses with fewer than 20 employees grew by 9%.

Glen Parkinson, SME business director at AXA PPP Healthcare, said: "Small businesses are the backbone of the UK economy and this survey highlights the efforts small business owners are making to boost it. Owners are positive about the future and working hard to achieve their goals but we worry that they lack the right kind of support to make the success of their business sustainable.

"Small business owners have to lead their business, drive growth and ensure essential activities are well managed. The pressure of this responsibility is leading owners to put in long hours, which is consequently impacting their home lives. This is unsustainable and can lead to illness that could potentially damage the business. We would encourage small business owners to seek the wide range of support that is out there so they can maintain business as usual."