Nearly two thirds of SME owners lose sleep over lack of productivity

Finding staff is the number one problem affecting productivity for small businesses. Lack of cash to upgrade IT and keeping software up to date are biggest tech barriers

Nearly two thirds of small business owners are losing sleep over their company’s lack of productivity.

Sixty-five per cent of SME owners surveyed by Small Business said that their business productivity — or lack of it — keeps them awake at night.

Productivity has been dire in the UK since the financial crisis, sitting around 16pc lower than peer economies. The outlook remains grim, with a recent US study predicting that Britain will be the only advanced economy to experience falling productivity growth in 2019.

Small Business poll

Finding and retaining the right staff is the overwhelming factor holding British SMEs back. Forty per cent of small businesses say that not having the right staff is hampering growth. When asked what was the one thing they’d change to improve their company’s productivity, one respondent groaned, “Hire a few more assistants” while another said they wanted somebody to help with sales and marketing.

Small Business poll part 2

Old-fashioned processes (28.4pc), out-of-date computer systems (16.2pc) and cramped offices (15.3pc) were also cited as other factors reining SMEs in.

Lack of cash flow to expand is seen as the biggest business challenge over the next 12 months (63pc) followed by finding and retaining staff (15pc), late payment from clients (13.9pc) and out-of-date IT (8pc).

Small Business poll - Biggest Business Challenge

Again, lack of money is the biggest barrier to small British businesses upgrading IT. Not enough money was cited by 79pc of respondents, with lack of digital skills, the other (21.2pc).

Small Business poll - IT upgrades

In terms of specifically what technology would help boost British SME productivity, the majority plumed for up-to-date business software (43.6pc), with 26.6pc citing being able to work away from the office, being able to store documents in the cloud (18pc) and implementing artificial intelligence to handle repetitive tasks (11.8pc).

Small Business poll - Technology

“The one thing I’d change is having enough cash flow that myself and my partner aren’t relied on being on-shift all the time,” said one reader. “I’d like to upgrade my IT software to work more remotely and fast enough so that we can focus on in-store sales growth.”

“We need better technological solutions to enable better use of time and increase audiences,” agreed another.

One respondent said that lack of project management was the thing eating into their SME productivity. “Project management software tends to be aimed at larger companies with large projects. Being a small company undertaking smaller projects, this software is difficult to effectively utilise. Implementing an app that would allow us to track project management and time-manage staff would help decrease ‘downtime’ and increase productivity.”

Small Business poll - IT platforms

The good news is though that British entrepreneurs keep up to date with technology (53.3pc) and an overwhelming 83.7pc of respondents care about the world we live in and want to be environmentally conscious.

Small Business poll - Carbon Footprint

This article is brought to you by Dell Small Business. To find out more, click here

Further reading

How to make your office technology work for you

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Tim Adler

Tim Adler is group editor of Small Business, Growth Business and Information Age. He is a former commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph, who has written for the Financial Times, The Times and the...

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