SMEs too busy battling red tape to focus on business growth

Hurdles like HR compliance, health and safety demands and pension admin are stopping owners from growing their enterprise.

The average small business owner now spends over a quarter of their time battling red tape and regulations.

A survey of 500 SMEs by online printing company instantprint reveals that hurdles like HR compliance, health and safety demands and pension admin are stopping owners from growing their enterprise.

These distractions and other admin tasks eat up an average of ten hours of the working week.

One in ten business owners has less than an hour a week earmarked for business growth, while eight per cent say they struggle to find any time at all.

Employment law surrounding working hours and holiday allowance was also mentioned as a significant blight on work efficiency.

James Kinsella, co-founder of instantprint, says, ‘We all know how it feels to fight the clock. There are only so many hours in the day to get everything done and SMEs are feeling the squeeze.

‘It’s interesting to see from the research that, while factors such as admin and staff management have an impact on productivity, it is the management of our hours, minutes and seconds that have the biggest effect on the running of a successful enterprise.’

Admin is taking over

Fifty three per cent of those polled feel their minutes ebbing away under work admin and report writing, and thirty three per cent are unable to find the time they need to run their business effectively.

A third of business owners could use a hand managing their finances to save time, while 22 per cent feel that responding to customer service concerns could be streamlined.

A quarter of business owners believe they could improve the efficiency of their SME by hiring more staff, while one in ten want to automate the invoicing process to cut down on financial management.

When it comes to the balance between old and new, 35 per cent of business owners favour the priorities of their existing customers, compared to the 23 per cent who prefer to seek out new opportunities.

Just 16 per cent say that increasing turnover was the most important aspect of their business, yet over half measure the success of their business based on their gross profit.

When asked to consider their most important business asset, one in two considered a good reputation in the industry a vital component of running a successful SME.

This compares to one in ten business owners who prioritised their product, and 16 per cent who put their employees on top.

Growth remains a struggle

Forty per cent have increased their business growth by expanding their target market, while a third diversified their product or service.

One in two business owners feel most productive before 12pm, while just over a quarter operate at their best between midday and the 3pm mid-afternoon slump.

And if you have a red tape slog ahead of you, solitary confinement is the way to go. Twenty seven per cent of business owners hit their stride when working alone, compared to the seventeen per cent who operate best as part of a team.

Co-founder of instantprint, James Kinsella, who commissioned the research, adds, ‘Every business is unique, but improving time management and optimising working hours can only bring positive outcomes to the UK’s SMEs.’

Further reading on red tape

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

Related Topics

Red Tape

One reply on “SMEs too busy battling red tape to focus on business growth”

  1. Really interesting piece of research that re-affirms the belief that most SME’s are ‘time-poor’.
    But concern would be that hiring more staff may simply add to the ‘management’ pressure – whereas looking for outsourced solutions, especially in the areas of finance, HR and marketing should alleviate the pressure.
    Less than an hour a week for business growth is frightening given that most small business owners set up their business as they want to grow and find financial stability for themselves and their families!!
    Imora Marketing Academy

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