Battle-weary but not defeated, small business owners turn to innovation. That is a top-line summary of the mood of entrepreneurs in Western Europe and the United States as they face the continuing challenges posed by the economic climate. Since 2008, we have been surveying owners and senior managers of small businesses in the UK, the USA, the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and France. This year’s ‘DNA of an entrepreneur’ study shows that small businesses are responding to testing trading conditions with new products or increased efficiency. Key findings are displayed below and you can find the full report here

SMEs are losing sleep but not losing hope

UPDATE – 05.09.13

“Earlier this week we released the findings of our fifth DNA of an Entrepreneur report, based on responses from 3,000 small business owners across six countries – including 500 here in the UK.  Our report examines the behaviours and attitudes of small business owners in the UK, US, France, Germany, Spain and the Netherlands, and shines a light on the challenges and opportunities they face.

“What surprised me – and also many of the readers of the report – was the figure relating to the hours that small business owners told us they work each week on average.  The average across all six countries was 41.1 hours a week, while UK respondents told us they work 37.6 hours a week on average.

“These figures are a surprise as it is not what we see as a business, or what I see personally from the small business owners that I know, but it is what small business owners themselves have told us.  As a business we work with over 100,000 small businesses here in the UK, so we see first-hand how resilient, determined and hard working they are. I also personally know many small business owners who I see working long hours and, as a result of smartphones and other technology, are in effect ‘always on’.

“What we don’t know is how each of the small business owners we surveyed calculated how many hours they work each week on average; I would suspect that many based it on what I would call ‘traditional’ work activities – working on documents, meeting clients and so on – and not the countless other activities that also constitute work – networking, entertaining clients or dealing with after-hours emails and calls. Even though in the age of smartphones, the reality is that most SMEs are ‘always on’, it is great to see that the business owners do not think that what they classify as their ‘at work’ hours are increasing.

“This suggests a link to another trend from the data which is that almost all of the 500 UK small businesses we spoke to said they are spending less time each week on bureaucracy and government regulation. This can only be a good thing for innovation and the economy as a whole. Perhaps also connected is the fact that 33% said that the downturn has made them work more efficiently.

“Small businesses are widely considered the lifeblood of the UK economy and, as an insurer committed to helping them mitigate risks and thrive, it’s good to hear from the representative sample that this report provides how they are faring.  If you haven’t seen it already, a copy of the full report can be found here.”

Deepak Soni