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Kiwi business owners hampered by overtime

New research has found Kiwi small and medium business owners are working well over the average week.

Accounting and business solutions firm MYOB took a poll of over 300 small and mid-sized business owners, and found that 41% of local business operators work more than 35 hours per week, with 21% working more than 45 hours, and 4% with a working week longer than 65 hours.

A recent OECD report highlighted that just 9% of people in the OECD work ‘very long hours’, defined as more than 50 hours per week.

James Scollay, MYOB New Zealand general manager SME solutions, says the amount of time required for business owners to manage the day-to-day running of their business is also constraining their ability to develop it.

“One of the key findings of the survey was that over half, 57%, of the SME owners surveyed spent less than two hours per week on business activities that were not related to the day-to-day operation,” he says.

“That’s very little time business owners have available to focus on key development areas like business planning, training and networking.”

Only 16% of SME owners spend more than half a day per week on non-operational business activities, the survey found.

“We often talk in New Zealand about the benefits of turning our dynamic, entrepreneurial businesses into large ones, but clearly one of the key hurdles we have to overcome is finding the time for owners to focus on growth,” says Scollay.

“Online accounting software can automate many tedious tasks such as data entry, and the feedback from our SME clients is that it can save up to 10 hours a month,” he adds. “But it’s also clear that ambitious business owners would appreciate even more time to spend on growing their business.”

The survey asked business owners what they would do if they had one day of free time in the next week to spend on their business. “The most pressing tasks weighing on time-poor business owners are the administrative ones they struggle to get to, with 48% saying they would spend the day on general administration like filing and cleaning out the email inbox,” Scollay says.

For others, the gift of an extra day’s time to spend in their business would be spent on networking with new clients (22%), attending training or studying up on industry trends (19%) or developing a plan to grow their business (18%).

For small business owners, having limited time also spills over into their non-work lives, with a quarter wishing they could outsource their house cleaning, 11% their gardening and 11% their general home maintenance.

For over half of the SME owners surveyed, one of the key aspirations they have for their business over the long term would be to be able to take a day off during the working week without worrying that it would have an impact on their business.

“I think most of us lead busy lives at the moment,” says Scollay. “And I think everyone would appreciate the gift of more time to focus on the things that matter – whether it is pursuing your passion or spending more time with family and friends.

“But for New Zealand’s small business owners, being pushed for time is having a real effect on their ability to grow and develop in the way they would like,” he says.

“Finding ways to create even an extra day in the calendar on local business owners could make a real difference not only to the health of their business but the opportunities for the small business sector to reach its potential for growth – with flow-on effects for all of New Zealand.”