Survey - The concerns of the small business



By Dr Lynda Shaw

Cognitive neuroscientist Dr Lynda Shaw recently conducted a survey to analyse the concerns and issues facing small businesses today. The findings of the survey included:-

  • 41% said the most challenging thing about running a small business is the marketing to get new clients
  • 54% believe they are able to adapt to rapid advances in IT and are up to date with technology as much as we need to be for our businesses
  • 65% of respondents answered that they are looking to the future by making small but progressive plans.
  • 55% of respondents have a business plan but interestingly separately 60% say they struggle to follow a business plan.
  • 43% said they strongly enjoy work.

What are the challenges with running a small business?

The survey found that 41% of respondents found marketing to get new clients the most challenging aspect of running a small business, with only 5% saying they find budgeting for the business the most difficult. 26% felt that time-management was their biggest hurdle. Whilst just over half of respondents (55%) have a business plan and 54% have a marketing plan, interestingly 60% say they are poor at actually following their business plan.

Dr Shaw commented: “We know that having a plan helps to enable business and both time and people management especially in the early years which is typically the most dangerous period for a new company. Marketing to get new clients can be difficult psychologically if you don’t enjoy sales, networking and tend to be introverted. Giving ourselves the right frame of mind, a ‘can do’ and energetic approach to getting new clients is often helpful even if we struggle with the proposition of getting out there, meeting people and sealing the deals.”

How do you control external factors outside the business?

The survey found that 65% of us are looking to the future and making small put progressive plans given the improving economic climate, 23% are prepared to take more risks and are making big plans. The survey also noted that 54% of respondents believe they do keep up to date with rapid advances in IT and technology for the success of their business.

Dr Shaw says: “In this improving economic climate it is important for small businesses to stay ahead of the game when there are rapid advances in technology which can help the business grow. New advancements and challenges also keep the brain and the business fresh. It is important to plan the business’s future with the input of all employees, ensuring they all feel a valuable asset to the business but whether we take big risks or adopt a more cautious approach often comes down to different personalities.”

Emotions in Business

Respondents were asked if they are positive and confident, anxious or neither about certain aspects of business.

  • 42% said they were positive about sales (35% anxious),
  • 47% were positive about marketing (25% anxious),
  • 35% were positive about accounting (23% anxious),
  • 77% positive about presenting (10% anxious)
  • 65% positive about social media (12% anxious)
  • 63% were positive about the future of the business (23% anxious).

Dr Shaw says: “I am surprised about how confident people are at presenting and delighted at the optimism about the future for their business. On the other hand small business owners may struggle to meet all the needs of their business but may not yet be able to afford to employ specialists. This means they can’t always play to their advantages and may have to do tasks which they neither enjoy or excel at.”

Do you make time for yourself and personal commitments?

When questioned if respondents balance their work with social and personal time well, 69% of the respondents answered ‘yes’ that they do lead a balanced work life. The survey found that 43% of us extremely enjoy our work whilst a minority of us do not enjoy it (7%). Again only a minority of us feel extremely stressed at work (6%) as a result the majority of us (78%) did not take off any days last year as a result of a stress related illness but 4% took over 14 days and 16% took 1-3 days off because of stress.

Dr Shaw responds: “It is fantastic that so many of us enjoy our work and are also getting a good work/life balance. The mind needs to relax much like a muscle, an over worked mind is less effective than one which is well rested. Our brain wave frequencies typically operate at Beta level (14-40 Hz) whilst working. This is a heightened state but is also a state of stress and anxiety. When we allow our mind to daydream and enter light meditation however, our brain frequency slows down to Alpha (7.5-14 Hz) and this is where we enter a higher state of imagination, intuition and creativity. Therefore, staring out of the window is not only refreshing it’s also more efficient in terms of productivity.”

How do we feel about retiring?

The majority of us (33%) expect to retire at over 70 years old with 30% believing they will stay working until between the ages of 64-69 reflecting the general trend we are seeing of people needing to work longer because of a lack of savings as well as the fact that we live longer. Only 4% thought they would retire before 55 years old.

Dr Shaw says: “Yes we need to work for longer for all the financial reasons we know about. But working for longer is a great thing anyway because we underestimate the importance of work for our mental health and well-being. Being in work provides structure to the day, and a purpose in life. It helps one feel valued and useful. Our careers and day to day responsibilities support so much of what our identity is, and to not have that can often leave us feeling lost. Yes we probably need to work for longer these days but most of us want to anyway. Of course, there are some who dislike what they do for a living, so I suggest that if they have the opportunity they change paths to something more emotionally rewarding.”

What do you feel is the strongest and weakest components of your business?

A vast number of respondents (84%) believe people management is their businesses strongest asset whilst approximately half of us felt we are mostly weak at keeping up to date with tax and accounting issues.

Dr Shaw commented: “If more time is given to employees then results will be seen in the growth of company because employees will be satisfied with their work. A motivated work force creates a positive environment to work in by promoting responsibility and accountability for the well-being of employees.”

The survey questioned 100 respondents.

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