3 reasons SME owners struggle for time and how to avoid them


Why did you start a business?

Was it to be your own boss? Or build the life you’ve always wanted? Maybe it was because you’re crazy about what you do? Or perhaps you’re creating a legacy for your family?

Whatever your motivations, we’re guessing you didn’t start a business to work for free. But, according to a survey by Opus Energy, that’s exactly what many small business owners end up doing.

The average SME owner works 416 hours or 17.3 full days’ overtime per year. That’s nearly the same number of days as the national holiday allowance.

Now, most business owners will say those extra days are worth it because their business means the world to them. Plus, they can earn more. Both are points nobody would dispute. However, what if we told you that business owners don’t actually need to work that many days. They could be working fewer days while seeing similar (if not better) results.

It all comes down to time management. You need to plan your time and work to a schedule. You also need to know what’s worth your time and what isn’t. To show you what we mean, we’ve pulled together the top 3 reasons SME owners are time poor – and how to avoid them!

Reason #1: They don’t delegate

If you’re an SME owner-manager, taking a step back is often difficult. Your business is your life’s work and you have years, if not decades, of experience. However, this means you can easily get caught up with the small stuff and want to be involved in every project.

However, for a business to increase in size and revenue, it needs to be scalable and this means distributing responsibility. If you’re leading the business you need to do just that. Not try and build the website, develop new products and attend every site survey at the same time. It’s simply not possible to be involved in every, single decision. And trying to be will only hold you back.

Avoid this by… hiring capable employees

Learn how to delegate and hire capable employees you trust. Your company can’t progress without a strong team behind it and they need to feel valued. Besides, you shouldn’t have to second-guess or micro-manage every move they make – you’re paying them to do a job so let them do it!

Establish a thorough recruitment process with positional contracts to ensure you hire the right people for the role. Then monitor their performance with regular reviews. This way, you’ll be able to see the evidence they’re doing what’s required of them, leaving you to get on with your own role.

Reason #2: They try and do everything at once

Leading a business, you have lots of different hats to wear. You might have tasks to complete from the world of HR, finance, sales and marketing in any given day. This can leave many feeling pulled in several different directions, with too much on their plate.

You might start a task only to receive an important call. You might receive a load of invoices on the day of your monthly sales meeting. Jumping between tasks without prioritising is a huge drain on SME owners. It can feel like you never get anything done properly or give it the time it needs.

Avoid this by… planning your week

Arrange your week into sections, with manageable chunks of time set aside to concentrate on particular tasks. Schedule meetings around this and factor in time for ad hoc tasks. By concentrating on one thing at a time, you’ll get through a lot more work, more efficiently.

This strategy is called the Default Diary. We talked about why it’s such a valuable tool in our last blog, ‘Default Diary: The time management tool for SME business owners.’ Find out how to create one yourself by reading it.

Reason #3: They can’t say no

When you own a business, every single sale counts, especially if it’s a small company or you’re just starting out. But this can lead SME owners to say ‘yes’ to every request, without considering if it’s realistic, profitable or fits within the wider sales strategy.

You might ideally want to focus on higher margin sales, but your times’ going to be taken up elsewhere if you can’t say ‘no’ to the less worthwhile jobs. Learning to say ‘no’ and focusing efforts where relevant is essential. If not, you risk confusing your brand and becoming a ‘jack of all trades.’

Avoid this by… having a solid sales strategy and marketing plan

The best way to establish the sales you want is to target, win and attain customers via a solid sales process and marketing plan. Knowing who you’re targeting, what you’re selling, and why customers want to buy from you is the foundation of a successful sales record.

Having clear, documented strategies in place for both marketing and sales means you won’t get distracted and go off-piste. The right prospects will start coming to you. You’ll no longer have to rely on every random enquiry if there’s a steady stream of new leads coming in each week.

Did you recognise any of these traits in yourself? Getting the balance right as an SME owner is tough! If you’d like to talk to us further about time management, or another area of your business, get in touch on 0113 394 4559 or enquiries@nextlevelbd.co.uk and we’ll be happy to help.