By Claire West

Over a third (35%) of UK small business owners spend over 45 minutes a day or nearly 4 hours a week talking to suppliers, customers, colleagues and partners who don’t tell it to them straight, according to a national survey of 2,000 small business owners released today by T-Mobile. These long winded conversations collectively cost the small business owners almost 3 million[1] working hours a week, or over £36 million[2] in line with the average hourly wage in the UK.

As a supplier to small businesses across the UK, T-Mobile commissioned the research into Straight Talking* to better understand the time pressures business owners are under and determine how they prefer to communicate in business. Eighty-six percent of small business owners said they waste time every day talking to suppliers, customers, colleagues and partners who don’t get to the point. The vast majority (91%) see themselves as Straight Talkers and have very little patience for those who do not take this approach. Almost three quarters (74%) admitted to switching off after just five minutes if they feel someone isn’t Straight Talking and one in five (19%) will not listen at all. One in ten even prefer to skip pleasantries altogether and get straight to the point in all business meetings.

Small business owners identified overuse of jargon, clichés and too much small talk as the biggest giveaways for knowing when someone isn’t Straight Talking enough. “At the end of the day”, “blue sky thinking” and “out of the box” were uncovered as some of the most hated phrases used by business people.

Alex Polizzi, Channel 5’s The Hotel Inspector, is renowned for her direct approach to discussing and tackling business issues. Commenting on the research Polizzi said: “I’ve always advocated a straight talking approach in business and T-Mobile’s research shows just how much it matters to small business owners. It has nothing to do with being rude to people and everything to do with saving time and ultimately money. No matter what the market conditions, small business owners simply don’t have the time to waste and, in tougher times, straight talking is all the more important. Suppliers to small businesses have an important role to play here.”

Martin Lyne, Director of SME Marketing at T-Mobile comments: “Thirty percent of the small businesses we polled stated half or more of their suppliers are not straight talking. As a supplier to many of these UK businesses, it’s important to us that we know how to best engage with them and this research clearly highlights the price being paid for a lack of straight talking in business. We recognise the importance of allowing them to get on with what they do best and not waste their time with jargon or complex products and services.”

The Straight Talking research was commissioned to highlight the need to take a direct approach in UK small business. To tie in with this, T-Mobile is currently running a Straight Talking Business Pitch competition on its website. Alex Polizzi will judge the competition to help identify the UK’s most straight talking small business owners. A prize of £2,000 is up for grabs for the winner and £1,000 for each of two runners up.