Loneliness at the top holding back UK SME business success
Over 73% of business owners admit to having felt lonely whilst running their company, with a third saying that this is how they feel on a regular basis, according to new research launched today by Ultimate Finance, the independent funding partner to SMEs.
With small businesses accounting for 99.3% of all private sector businesses, this research paints a worrying picture of widespread feelings of isolation throughout the SME community. Loneliness has recently been identified as potentially fatal, with lonely people 29% more likely to suffer a strike or heart disease, two of the leading causes of death in Britain, according to a study by the University of York.
A lack of support is exacerbating the issue, with three quarters of those surveyed stating that they often don’t know who to turn to when things get tough at the top. The research also pointed to a bigger challenge for the business community, with 60% saying that there is not enough support in the UK for SMEs looking to expand.
Alongside current economic uncertainties, business owners’ concerns about meeting customers’ needs, business strategy, access to funding and maintaining a healthy cashflow are leading to a huge amount of pressure within SMEs, particularly among those striving to grow and succeed.
Steve Noble, Chief Operating Officer at Ultimate Finance commented: “It’s hugely concerning to hear how wide spread loneliness is in the business community. I talk to business owners every day, and this research backs up what I already know – that they are feeing stressed and isolated. Although these feelings can be an unavoidable reality of running a company, it’s clear that more help should be available.
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“SMEs are a hugely valuable part of UK society, not only boosting the economy but contributing an enormous amount to local communities. We need to start taking better care of our business community and supporting the leaders who are working around the clock to succeed.”
Business psychologist Robert Stewart added: “I find business leaders often take on a huge amount of responsibility and can struggle to maintain a personal and professional balance in life. It’s really positive to see research that highlights this issue and I would encourage the business community to come together in order to create a better network for SMEs experiencing these challenges.”
Business owner and founder of Vivid Drinks James Shillcock, commented: “In the first couple of years of running my own business, I was working incredibly long hours. I put a lot of pressure on myself and without a team you can quickly feel isolated. Asking for support or advice shouldn’t be seen as a sign of weakness – it’s important to keep talking to your network; employees, family and friends about how you’re feeling.
“Isolation and lack of support can stop you performing at your best, which has a knock-on effect on your employees and business. Entrepreneurs have to be proactive but there should be more support available to founders who want it.”
To support these efforts, Ultimate Finance will be creating its own information hub with guidance from health experts and insights from experienced SME owners to support those in need of help. It will also include links to further wellbeing resources including:
- The Federation of Small Business’ (FSB) Wellbeing in Small Business Hub
- Mental health charity Mind’s dedicated Workplace hub
- A new independent review of mental health and employers by Lord Dennis Stevenson and Paul Farmer, Thriving at Work: a review of mental health and employers, commissioned by the Department for Work and Pensionsand Department of Health.
For further information, please visit https://www.ultimatefinance.co.uk/business-wellbeing