Many small business owners feel they have “nobody to confide in”, study reveals

As a result, 44 per cent of the 500 SME owners polled feel they're unable to do the best possible job for both them and their staff.


Two in three don’t think they can talk to friends or family about the stress they feel – because they don’t want to worry them.


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While 48 per cent find it hard to know who they can talk to about their business troubles.


The cost-of-living crisis (45 per cent), finding new customers (37 per cent) and inflation (35 per cent) are among the things which stress out SME owners.


Claudio Gienal, chief executive officer for AXA UK and Ireland, which commissioned the research, said: “It can be a very lonely place being an SME owner, which is why it is so important to ensure you can confide in someone who can relate to how you feel.


"Especially for those who have built much of their business alone, it can feel very strange opening up about what is going on in your workplace. 


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“But for many, taking those first steps and talking through what you are concerned about goes a long way to lifting that burden – it can offer a new perspective on what’s going on, as well as a renewed sense of clarity to the situation.


"When it comes to looking for support, there are many avenues business owners can take; for example, having robust insurance can help to take a weight off the mind.”

Accessible management for all

However, it is a different picture when communicating with members of staff, as 34 per cent of those with employees on the payroll are very open with them about potential issues the business could encounter.


While a further 38 per cent will reveal a selected amount of information relating to the problems which they could face.


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When it comes to their staff wellbeing, 55 per cent said they genuinely care about their staff – and 44 per cent are striving to create a positive work culture.


In fact, 40 per cent take an active interest to strengthen the relationship between them and their staff, while 36 per cent believe it is important for staff retention.


While two-thirds will check in on their team's wellbeing up to three times on a weekly basis.


As well as this, 66 per cent also said they believe small businesses are better at reacting to the concerns of their staff.


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This is because they are considered to be more in tune with their employees (63 per cent), have fewer formal processes in place (50 per cent), and management is more accessible (49 per cent).


And as a result, 65 per cent of those polled, via OnePoll, feel confident managing people who are struggling with their mental health.

Welcoming rest into the routine

The research comes in the same week that six small to medium business owners won AXA’s Startup Angel Competition, aimed at celebrating some of the country’s next generation of entrepreneurs.


Muihood, a skincare brand rooted in traditional Chinese medicine, and Team Repair, a sustainable subscription service which teaches children science and technology, each won £25,000 and mentorship from some of Britain's best business owners, as well as 12 months of business insurance.


Four other businesses won digital advertising campaigns.


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Charlotte Yau, founder and owner of Muihood, a skincare brand rooted in Chinese medicine, said: “Since launching my own brand over two years ago, I've learned that putting my health and wellbeing first is crucial for maintaining happiness and perspective.


“Running a business is a marathon, and sprinting can only get you so far until you feel the effects mentally and physically.


“Looking after your mental health will help you gain perspective on what really matters and also give you the energy to keep going and not feel resentful in the job.


"If you never allow yourself to rest, hard work will always feel like punishment.


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“Being the boss is really hard and will consume a lot of your headspace, so having a healthy disconnect to pause and reflect on the bigger picture is so important.”

Significant support leads to success


Claudio Gienal, CEO for AXA UK and Ireland, added: “To thrive in business, it is so important to have open and honest relationships – and it is fantastic to learn many are doing their utmost to harness positivity in their workplace.


“Many SME owners really recognise the importance of wellbeing and are doing everything in their power to create a space where members of staff feel comfortable talking about their concerns.


“Yet, they mustn’t forget to also look after themselves as well, particularly if they are going through tough times.


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"We want to give our customers the confidence to thrive, so we’re pleased to see so many businesses feeling optimistic about what lies ahead .


“As we look to a positive future for SME owners, I’m delighted to congratulate the winners of AXA’s Startup Angel Competition, who will each receive significant support to help their innovative business succeed.”

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