24 Jul 2014

Research reveals half of UK small business owners relish being in charge

• Half of SME owners and managers cite ‘being your own boss’ as the biggest benefit of running your own business, listing it in the top three advantages, according to the latest Quarterly Survey of Small Business in Britain by The Open University Business School
• ‘More flexible working hours’ is second (39%), whilst almost a third (29%) see it as an escape from the obstacles and office politics in larger organisations
• Despite these positive aspects, 41% of the 1,067 respondents say ‘longer working hours’ is one of the biggest drawbacks of owning your own business

Being your own boss and more flexible working hours are the biggest benefits of running your own business according to research published for the last quarter by The Open University Business School. The latest Quarterly Survey of Small Business in Britain examines the highs and lows of owning and/or managing a small or medium-sized business in Britain today from the perspective of SME owners and managers, with a specific focus on their goals, success criteria and personal values.

The survey of 1,067 SME owners and managers conducted in May and June 2014 has concluded that half say ‘being your own boss’ is the biggest benefit to running your own business whilst a further 26% say that it provides increased ‘opportunities to be more creative and/or innovative’. For 29% of those surveyed, the sector also provides an alternative to the negative aspects of life in a larger organisation, such as office politics and job insecurity. An additional 8% believe that running your own business can ‘increase status or social standing’.

Dr Richard Blundel, editor of the Quarterly Survey and senior lecturer in Enterprise Development at The Open University Business School, said:
“Despite the undoubted challenges of running your own business, our research illustrates the many advantages that people experience on this career path.

“Contrary to many popular views, ‘opportunity to gain greater wealth and/or earnings’ was only in fifth place, identified by just over one quarter of respondents as one of their ‘top three’ advantages. Perhaps surprisingly, there were marked gender differences here with twice as many of those in ‘largely or wholly male owned’ businesses choosing this as their most important advantage compared to their ‘mostly female’ counterparts.”

Other key findings on the special theme of goals, success and values are:
• Most of the respondents (61%) intend to expand their businesses in the next three years
• Transport, storage and communications businesses are most concerned about longer working hours (30% compared to the average of 18%), whilst increased work-related stress is highlighted as a concern by respondents in the construction industry (23% compared to 13% overall)
• The quarterly analysis of a number of prominent SME research studies and UK macroeconomic data indicates that these varied sources present broadly similar messages, with output and employment continuing to grow. There are also continuing signs of optimism regarding future growth prospects, with improved manufacturing activity and forecasts. All regions are exhibiting signs of growth, with signs of increasing confidence in the North of England. However, there are some concerns over exports as the value of the pound increases, and a fear of skills shortages, which may hold back future growth

Reginald ‘Reg’ Smith, who is past normal retirement age and from North London, started his Highgate company just under 30 years ago. Liquivite Vetfoods produces canned liquid pet food which is used by vets to feed and rehydrate sick and older cats and dogs. Until recently, when his son joined the business for a six-month period to develop the online marketing strategy, Reg had been the sole proprietor of the business; he said:
“I worked for an international corporation in the food industry, but was never really a corporate individual. I wanted to start my own business; to run my own show. Being self-employed offered a more flexible work-life balance.”

Owning your own business can have its drawbacks, however. Reg highlights that he is basically a one-man band, which he says can be quite isolating, especially as his customers are either online, or are UK wholesalers and international distributors. Nevertheless, for Reg it seems that the rewards of running your own business still outweigh the challenges:
“Despite the difficulties and the fact it hasn’t yet made me a millionaire, running my own business has been immensely satisfying. My son, James is now considering taking over the business, and hopes to increase our customer base and sales. I certainly don’t have any regrets and have derived great job satisfaction over the years.”

For a copy of the full report please visit

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