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Small business owners – work smarter, not harder

If you’re the owner of a micro-business, chances are it’s not only your passion, but your hobby and your life all rolled into one. Few would make the mistake of starting a business in a line of work that doesn’t make their heart skip a beat.


It’s no surprise then that a study by research group Penelope found that the UK’s swathe of passionate micro-business owners work a staggering 63% more than regular 9-to-5’ers – that’s an incredible 52 hours a week, compared to the national average 37 hours. Are small business owners guilty of overworking themselves? How could they work smarter, not harder?


When your work becomes your life


When you’re the captain of your ship, chances are you’ll want to be on board all the time – whether that’s responding to emails out of regular office hours, checking your social streams before lights out or being on-call throughout the weekends. Depending on your specific line of work, some of these attributes might be necessary to ensure a smooth operation. However, letting your business take over your life is a big no-no.


We’ve all heard the phrase “work-life balance” been thrown about and the importance of adhering to an even mix of business and pleasure. For some this could be making sure you spend enough time with your family, for others it could be ensuring you have one evening off a week to spend down the pub or seeing friends.


However you choose to relax and take time off of work – make sure you do it, your health can benefit. It’s already been recommended by healthcare professionals that the UK should cut down to a four day working week in order to combat stress. Professor John Ashon, President of the UK Faculty of Public Health says:


Employees struggling to cope with working too much can end up stressed or with high blood pressure or problems in their relationship, and even resort to alcohol or drugs.”


For hard-working SME owners, the prospect of a four day week seems laughable, but being aware of the long-term effects working too much can have on your health is as important as chasing that overdue invoice.


Are you really being productive?


The demands of running a small business are immense. Keeping your bookkeeping in check, chasing late payments, staff recruitment and of course, making sales. The owner of a SME will have all these things to worry about, plus more, to keep them feeling busy. But, is being busy the same as being productive?


The UK isn’t known for being the most productive workforce – in fact we trail behind Canada, US, France, Germany and Italy in terms of productivity. If you’re working additional hours and think of this as being productive, it might be time to reassess your methods so you don’t have to put in the extra overtime.


If you feel like your to-do list is taking over your life and you’re manically chasing your tail, focus on one thing at a time. Could your time management skills do with brushing up? A great way to see how you’re spending your time is to annotate how you’ve spent each hour. Soon you might see patterns of behaviour that can be eradicated – for example spending half an hour on the train playing Candy Crush instead of reading up for tomorrow’s big meeting.


Outsource


We all love to be in control, especially when it’s our own empire we’re building. Speaking from experience trying to do everything yourself won’t do you any favours and you’ll end up feeling burnt out, exhausted and quickly lose the pizazz that originally got you up in the morning.


Outsourcing certain tasks can end up saving you both time and money. Website need a redesign? Sure, you could spend hours learning how to manipulate images in WordPress and teach yourself code – but surely the time and effort doing so would be better spent in other parts of your business that you have a firm understanding of? Outsourcing work also allows you to network and build relationships with other businesses.


You may have current team members – no matter how big or small your business – that have hidden talents that could help your venture. Of course, you’d have to pay them for their troubles, but who knows, someone in your team might be a Photoshop wizard or have an additional knack for balancing the books. Empowering your team members can also lead to higher levels of employee happiness, meaning everybody wins. Business development consultant Robert Craven states that:


“Some owners are reluctant to outsource because of cost or to delegate responsibility to staff, but delegating doesn’t mean abdicating responsibility. If your staff must have the necessary knowledge and ability, it can free up more of your time.”


And as SME owners, we all know that time is precious and, perhaps more importantly, time is money.


Have you thought about hiring a personal assistant? A fresh, go-getter with a keen eye for speedy email replies, diary organisation and freeing you up to manage the business better without having to get boiled down with the day-to-day organisational aspects? The idea of a virtual assistant might be a bit too space-age for some, but this is 2016 and we live in a technological world. Software such as X.ai can be a great foot-forward for small businesses and those finding a lot of their time is email-centric.


If you’re finding you’re putting in more time at the office, you’re clearly not alone. Although the Penelope study found that 60% of SME owners actually enjoy the hard work and overtime, if you’re starting to think that you’re working too much, chances are you’re probably right. Use the winter season to take stock and reassess your working methods to get the most out of not only yourself, but your business also.

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