UK business owners refusing to delegate

A large majority of British business owners do not like to delegate tasks to their staff, research finds.

A study by Opus Energy surveyed 250 small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) owners, examining the energy they put into their businesses, and the way they run them; from the day-to-day tasks, to management of staff, to their propensity to delegate.

The study identifies five categories that business owners fall into, from the weightlifter, who takes the responsibility of the whole company on their shoulders, getting involved in every aspect of the business, to the archer, who has their eye on the future vision of their company and the targets required for the quickest way to get there with the least amount of fuss.

Owning and running a small business can be all consuming; 62 per cent of SME owners say they check their emails constantly throughout the day, while almost half of all respondents (47 per cent) have worked through a weekend, due to work commitments.

What’s more, 74 per cent say that their relationships with their partner, friends or family have been affected by working long hours.

Louise Boland, managing director at Opus Energy says that small business owners are often the founders of the company and it can be difficult for them to let go of certain responsibilities, even to pass them to a trusted colleague.

A reluctance to delegate

‘An overwhelming amount actually prefer to get on with tasks on their own, with almost half taking full responsibility for new business development within their company. This inevitably has consequences in their personal lives, potentially causing them to burn out, and making it difficult for them to keep their personal life, and work, separate.

‘It is no wonder that SME owners are the backbone of our nation. Working long hours and taking responsibility for every aspect of running a business takes up a huge amount of energy.’

The research also highlights that internal working relationships are suffering. For those who fall into the ‘archer’ category, they are so busy that they don’t have time to mix with colleagues. Archers focus their vision on the long-term plan for the company, taking into account the importance of long-term employee engagement.

However, only 12 per cent of SME owners said they stop to have a chat with colleagues when they get into the office. This can cause damage to office relationships, leading to a less engaged team.

When thinking about what success looked like, half of SME owners state that the reputation of the company, and their own success as an owner, are the most important things to them. This ‘weightlifter’ attitude is evidenced in the fact that they barely take a break, with only 15 per cent saying they pace themselves by going for a walk during the day.

Boland adds, ‘The data shows many small business owners are taking the burden of the whole business on their shoulders, constantly checking emails and finding it hard to make free time; it appears we are a nation of weightlifters!

‘Small business owners are driven by the passion they have for their business, which is fantastic, but it can also mean they forget to take a break every now and then, and appreciate how far they have already come.’

Further reading on delegation

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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