Small business owners are losing sleep over money worries

Written by: Rachel Miller

Date: 26 September 2023

A sole trader is struggling to sleep as she worries about business finances

Almost a third of small business decision-makers are struggling to sleep because of concerns about the challenges they are facing, according to new research.

A survey of small firms, conducted by Direct Line business insurance, has found that the current economic climate is affecting the health and wellbeing of small business owners and managers.

Losing sleep as a result of business challenges is affecting 29% of SME decision-makers. The issue is particularly prevalent amongst small (10-49 employees) and micro (1-9 employees) businesses, with 40% of small and 37% of micro-business managers losing sleep.

In addition, 22% of SME decision-makers say they are suffering from ill health because of the business pressures they are under. This rises to 27% amongst micro firms and 30% amongst small businesses. Over half (54%) of those polled say they are working longer hours compared to previous years.

Other key issues raised by recipients include:

  • Gaining new customers: overall, 29% say this is harder at present, rising to 35% for sole traders and 34% for micro-business owners.
  • Generating enough revenue: over a quarter (27%) cite this as a concern. A worrying 38% of sole traders say making enough revenue is problematic.
  • Rising operating costs: a quarter of business decision-makers say rising prices is causing difficulties.
  • Securing new finance for their business: this is a concern for 45% of the SMEs polled, while staying on top of existing loan repayments is front of mind for 38%.

"Running a small or medium-sized enterprise can be challenging at the best of time, but this is being exacerbated by the current environment, particularly amongst small and micro-businesses. It is concerning to see the impact on mental health and that so many SME decision-makers are losing sleep as they lie awake worrying about their business operations." Alison Traboulsi, product manager at Direct Line business insurance.

Direct Line provides access to a Stress Counselling Helpline for policyholders, their employees and their families. The helpline is available 24/7 and provides SMEs with access to emotional support as well as referrals to counsellors, self-help groups and professional services.

The biggest business challenges

Also this week, a survey of leaders in 1,000 UK SMEs by takepayments has identified the biggest concerns for business owners. When asked "what is the number one challenge your business faced in 2023?", the results show that money is the biggest issue of all, with 46% citing financial issues - up from 9% in 2022. The business owners were also asked about their projected business performance:

  • 20% expect their companies to struggle in the next 12 months, double the rate in 2022 (10%);
  • 24% expected their companies to grow in the next 12 months, down from 32% in 2022.
  • 5% of firms expect to close in 2023, down from 10% last year;
  • 4% of business owners expect to sell their business in 2023, down from 12%.

Jodie Wilkinson, head of strategic partnerships at takepayments, said: "The high inflation we've experienced over the last twelve months is putting pressure on business leaders to both keep consumer-facing prices competitive, while also addressing salary demands and increasing supplier rates. Rising costs can put pressure on businesses' margins, making it crucial for them to optimise pricing strategies and explore cost-cutting measures to maintain profitability."

Written by Rachel Miller.

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