Small business owners pushed to breaking point over stress

UK business owners are struggling for motivation in the face of financial stress, lost time with their families and their own emotional and physical health.

A third (35 per cent) of company owners completely lose motivation to continue running their business due to stress at least once a year, according to a new study by Haines Watts.

The research has identified the main issues that are pushing business owners to breaking point, and the factors that re-motivate them when they lose the will to keep going.

Financial worries are the main source of stress for business owners. Running a business is also taking a significant toll on business owners’ health and personal relationships.

However, when it all becomes too much, business owners agree that the power of family trumps all in providing the drive to keep going.

There are also significant regional differences in the findings. London and South East business owners are the most likely to lose motivation at least once a year (45 per cent), while North East (27 per cent) and North West (24 per cent) business owners are the least likely to experience this sapping of motivation.

Money matters

More than half of business owners (53 per cent) identified financial worries as a source of stress and a drain on their motivation, followed by peaks and troughs in the volume of work (43 per cent) and responsibility to staff (42 per cent).

However, psychological research, which assesses the implicit responses of business owners, reveals that money can also be a powerful positive influence whether or not we admit it, scoring strong positive agreement (64 out of 100) that it is the biggest motivating factor. This rises to 85 out of 100 for the over 50s.

Michael Davidson, regional managing partner at Haines Watts, comments, ‘Our research shows that money is one of the most common reasons why business owners find themselves in a spiral of stress, which can dampen their motivation. Part of this stems from business owners attempting to tackle financial difficulties, such as cash flow problems, growing pains and over-expansion, as they arise rather than planning for them in advance.

‘But it doesn’t have to be this way. Business owners need to create time to step back and plan for the future. This often starts with short, medium and long term business planning and then building a strong management team to help deliver the plan and keep the wheels turning.’

Paying the price

Business owners are working long hours to keep their enterprises going, adding to this undulating stress. A mere 4 per cent say their work-life balance is tipped towards life, while almost two thirds (59 per cent) say it goes the other way.

Psychological research suggests the majority of business owners admit they sometimes ‘wish they were doing something else’ (71 out of 100). This love-hate relationship with their job is damaging the health and wellbeing of UK business owners and their personal relationships.

The study also found that running a business is even more detrimental to mental health (70 out of 100) than it is to physical health (60 out of 100), and that business owners find their position ’emotionally exhausting’ (73 out of 100), rising to 81 out of 100 for men.

Around a third of business owners reveal that their relationships with their partner (38 per cent) and children (30 per cent) have also suffered as a result of running a company.

Rekindling the love

When it comes to rekindling business owner’s love for running their company, the power of family trumps everything else.

More than half (52 per cent) of UK business owners say their family re-motivates them, while 40 per cent cite their responsibility to their employees as a key re-motivating factor, and 39 per cent say remembering why they started the business in the first place gives them the drive to go on.

Davidson adds, ‘No amount of money is worth the cost of being pushed to breaking point, and yet business owners often don’t know where to turn for help. Family is a key motivator for those pushed to the brink, but it’s also crucial for business owners to build a wider network that extends beyond family.

‘Being able to discuss concerns and share advice with like-minded people can be a real life saver for business owners overshadowed by complex challenges and who, as a result, lack the will to go on.’

Further reading on motivation and stress

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

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