80% of small business leaders struggling to find time for business management

Belief in the employment pool’s ability to deliver the required skills has reached a two year low amongst SME’s and entrepreneurs. This is having a big impact in businesses wishing to scale.

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John Morris
Published: 14 Feb 2017 Updated: 13 Jun 2022

Troubles accessing the right talent prevent owners from focusing on their business

Only one in five business leaders are spending enough time working on their business, according to our latest Enterprise Index. However, we think that individuals looking to scale their business should aim to devote a minimum of a day a week to actually working on their business strategy and actively managing their business.

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Business strategy encompasses a wide range of matters from a traditional business plan to managing staff and suppliers or seeking new opportunities as well as identifying potential pitfalls.

However, we regularly talk to entrepreneurs who have excelled within their area of expertise but can struggle to adapt to the leadership and management demands of running a business. If we want our smaller businesses to scale-up, more needs to be done to help those involved.

Assisting scale-ups

Theresa May recently broadcast the government’s Green Paper on Building our Industrial Strategy. The paper announced the development of Local Enterprise Partnerships and the implementation of a scale-up champion to lead a private and public sector task force. This follows greater investment within the Business Growth Fund and the British Business Bank.

The business community is beginning to see this as great progress, these organisations provide not only funding but also valuable advice on how to grow businesses. Many of our respondents had become increasingly concerned with the low level of backing they had from government. Under half (49%) believed that enough was being done to help them and, perhaps, we’re beginning to see Theresa May take notice.

Talent troubles

Our Enterprise Index, a quarterly barometer of owner managers and entrepreneurs, found that belief in the ability of the employment pool to deliver the required skills reached a two year low. Only 40% of respondents to our survey thought that there were enough adequately trained individuals to fulfil their business needs. This was despite the fact that over half (54%) of respondents aimed to increase their own headcount over the next three months.

Most people have grown their business because they are very good at what they do. To continue to scale they will need to attract talent for the day-to-day running of the business as well as specialist skills and expertise, where appropriate. What our respondents are finding is that there simply aren’t enough trained people in the employment pool to provide the right kind of skills to grow.

Not since the start of 2015 has there been such negativity surrounding the ability of the talent pool amongst SMEs and entrepreneurs. If there aren’t the right skills available, businesses looking to scale should consider whether there is potential in cross-skilling existing employees.

By necessity, this briefing can only provide a short overview and it is essential to seek professional advice before applying the contents of this article. This briefing does not constitute advice nor a recommendation relating to the acquisition or disposal of investments. No responsibility can be taken for any loss arising from action taken or refrained from on the basis of this publication. Details correct at time of writing.


This article was previously published on Smith & Williamson prior to the launch of Evelyn Partners.