UK’s entrepreneurs still optimistic about growth, but say loneliness is a big issue

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New research into the ambitions of Britain’s smallest firms in a biennial survey has uncovered an optimistic bunch in terms of their business performance (which is a very different story to the opinions expressed by larger companies via FSB and IoD) – but that loneliness is a big issue for these individuals, undeterred by the current political upheaval.

The Small Business Barometer, a biennial snapshot undertaken by small business support network Enterprise Nation, found growth expectations were impressive, and only slightly lower than the last poll in 2017.

The research, which surveys 500+ small company founders and self-employed individuals, found 72% still said they expected their business to grow, compared to 77% in 2017. An impressive 65% said they were planning to boost profits by introducing new products or services.

While 77% were still working from home, almost three quarters were working at it full time, with just under a quarter running a side hustle while holding down a day job. Of those running a side hustle, 40% said they hoped to be working on the business full time in the next 12 months. Only six% said they were only doing it to make extra cash.

But there was an acceptance that working for yourself can be a lonely game. An interesting 50% admitted to feeling lonely some of the time and another third said they felt lonely often. When you drill down into the detail, loneliness was at broadly the same level for those that worked full-time from home and those that mixed it up with working in co-working spaces, or had their own office.

“Yet again, we see the resilience of the UK’s entrepreneurs, and despite the political turmoil it seems they are just getting on with what they are good at – business. But with more than three-quarters working solo and self-funding their business, it’s clear entrepreneurship doesn’t come without its mental challenges.”
– Emma Jones, founder, Enterprise Nation

Stress comes in peaks and troughs. And while almost half (49%) of full-time workers say they feel stressed often, this actually falls when it comes to those running a side hustle (32%).

A third said they relied on family and friends for advice and support, another third said they were a member of a business membership organisation and a fifth said they had a mentor. But a quarter admitted they had no one to turn to for advice.

The majority of the firms polled (62%) said they were the business’ only full-time employee and 71% said they used their own website to sell their product or service.

Exporting is healthy, with a third saying they exported to the EU and beyond, with a slightly higher 39% expecting to export over the next six months.

When asked how their firm had performed, 48% said it was in line with expectations, 18% said it had performed better but more than a third (33%) said it had performed worse. Of those that reported a better performance than expected, 75% said it was down to new clients or business, 32% said it was because they had added new products or services or invested in marketing.

The firms polled were typically limited companies (58%) with 35 per cent sole traders. They had mostly been trading from between 0 and four years, with a third (27%) trading between six months and two years.

6 Responses

  1. I have never had anyone to turn to for any advice over the years, and have purely relied on gut feeling over the years.
    I have took a step back over the last year as there is more to life than business and it has been a good very good decision I have basically taken a full time e-commerce biz and turned it into a side hustle again, as much as I enjoy what I do I think taking a bit of time out away from it has been good, personal life is great now where before I spent all day in front of computer in my office and I was becoming isolated.
    The likes of eBay and Amazon are dead to me but I have been able to really move stock and play on “alternatives” which make so much more money simply because am not so reliant on the income…you can experiment more.

    I have built a nice warchest up again with selling less for more and getting away from the race to the bottom penny chasing game which become fruitless.
    Time does become an issue doing it how I am right now as there is not enough hours in the day TBH

    Business is tough and I am one of the ones who do not believe the Uk is a great place for small business right now (corporate greed rules) it does not stop you from trying it is just deciding the next move right now, and I wish they would get on and sort out Brexit so I can plan what to do with my new warchest.

  2. Yes i totally agree with loneliness. You don’t realise how many little convos you used to have until you have no one to talk to… The courier and postman become like angels that visit to be chat and news of the outside world.
    However, there are upsides…. you only ever argue with yourself and you no exactly what the ‘other side’ is thinking! You can do things your way and plan in a way that suits you. The business becomes very adapted to you, but obviously demands can stop it becoming too nice.
    To a certain extent you control your own work times, but you also have to accept that sometimes the business over rules your desire for an early finish.
    So many upsides…. so many downsides. It is not for the faint hearted or those without self discipline. When you are self employed you never really leave work!
    I have always have this streak in me and found it hard to work to others ways, especially when a better way was obvious, but the company ‘one size fits all’ approach was in force. So for me it has been good. I was lucky and had worked in some pretty big businesses at management level so had a good idea of how things worked. Not long after starting my business i made friends with a new wholesaler with lots of experience and contacts in the trade and we have grown our businesses together so i often get to go in on deals with him and get access to lots of key info.
    My best advice to anyone who is starting off alone is always set aside a day for YOU. Even if just once a month, you must not loose sight of life outside of work. If you do you will soon see your business suffer.
    Get to relevent trade shows and make friends with suppliers and people in the trade. Put a face to the name for them. They proberly have hundreds of customers who they have no idea about personally… don’t be one of them, be a face, be a real person, be a friend. These people will be your life blood.
    If you get a bad review online… reply to it. Be polite, defend your self if needed – but stick to facts. If you messed up, appologise in your reply. We all mess up now and again and people like to see honest traders admitting if them were at fault. Just don’t make a habit of it!
    Finally… don’t try and run before you can walk, be a jack of all trades, go after the ‘big boys’ etc. These are fast track ways to failure. Think ahead, be smart and make sure you are looking at your results often. You want to know what you are good at and what you aren’t… then you need to ask why?!
    Believe in yourself… if you don’t, why should others?

  3. a cure for loneliness………I resurrected my imaginary friend from childhood. Now I always have someone to argue with and I always win!

  4. From my personal experience of selling online, fulltime 6 days per week for the last 10 years, you need to give yourself an afternoon off now and then and go and do something you enjoy, preferably with other people that make you smile. No point working for yourself 6 days a week if you don’t have any perks now and then. All about getting a balance. Harder to do in the first few years granted, but even if it’s going out in the park and reading a book at lunchtime, you need to get your head out of the business regularly. It’ll pay dividends in the long run as you’ll be happier at work and have more energy and focus when you are putting in the hours. Good luck all!

  5. If you have kids your never alone. That’s half the other side of the problem !



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