SME owners in the UK are at breaking point, new research[1] from Opus Energy reveals. Just over 3 in 4 (76 per cent) SME owners are losing sleep over their business, with company finances and costs (35 per cent), work/life balance (27 per cent) and attracting customers (24 per cent) the main reasons cited for the lack of shut eye.

The strains of running a business are also putting pressures on the home lives of SME owners, with four in five (79 per cent) making personal sacrifices for the sake of their business over the past 12 months. Over a third state they have sacrificed personal time (36 per cent), 31 per cent have reduced their holidays and another 29 per cent have gone without pay. In fact, 23 per cent of SME owners said they worked even when on holiday, with a further 14 per cent saying they don’t take any holidays at all.

Millennials were much more likely to make personal sacrifices for the sake of their business (94 per cent) than their older counterparts (73 per cent for both 45-54 and 55-64 year olds), with females more likely than males (85 per cent / 76 per cent respectively). It is hardly surprising, therefore, that over 1 in 3 (38 per cent) regret starting their business, with profitability, time and effort, and their investment being detrimental to time spent with family and friends as some of the reasons why.

Considering the top reasons for starting their own business centred around control, i.e. working for themselves (56 per cent), controlling their future earnings (30 per cent) or controlling their workload / time (29 per cent), it seems SME owners attempt to gain, or regain, control over their working life is damaging the quality of their personal life.

Nikki Flanders, COO of Opus Energy commented:

Every business leader needs to make a significant investment to make their business successful, and this investment is amplified for small businesses. The time, money or simply emotional investment needed to start a business and make it profitable is often all-consuming. Considering the difficult trading conditions businesses of all sizes have experienced recently, it’s not surprising that SMEs have needed to make particularly hard sacrifices over the past 12 months. However, the fact that small business owners are jeopardising their wellbeing consistently is a worrying sign. We rely on them to drive the economy, so if they’re struggling, we all will.”

To address the worries that keep them awake at night, SME owners are working overtime, with a third (33 per cent) working six days a week and a quarter (23 per cent) working seven days a week; unsurprising considering the sacrifices they’re making. The younger generation (18-34yr olds) are more likely to work seven days a week than any other age group.

Nikki continued:

SMEs are the key to building our economy, we need to help each other through this turbulent time. We know that starting and running a small business requires energy, not only to power the lights and equipment, but energy to work late and go above and beyond. Appreciating that we are a small part in our customers’ lives – supplying energy and services – we want to do the best we can at getting it right. So, this week we are opening a pop-up juice bar called the Kinetic Café to give us the chance to get in touch with the needs of small businesses, and ultimately improve our service and support to ensure we do as much as possible to help them on their journey.”