Overstretched Entrepreneurs Say They Can’t Find Time for Innovation

Small business owners are too busy to come up with new ideas

ATLANTA (November 30, 2015) — The world’s small and medium business owners are struggling to innovate due to competing business priorities and a lack of appropriately skilled employees, according to a new global survey by Sage.

Nearly a third (32 percent) of small business owners around the world have neglected the development of new business ideas. The problem is hitting Spanish businesses particularly hard, with 38 percent saying they have not developed new business ideas. Comparatively, only 30 percent of U.S. respondents and 26 percent of Canadian respondents say they have neglected the development of new business ideas.

The problem stems from a lack of time, despite small business owners working over 40 hours a week (as revealed in Sage global research revealed last week).

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Forty-two percent of global respondents attribute their long hours to the unavailability of appropriately skilled employees. South African entrepreneurs are finding this particularly tough, with 57 percent saying that improved skills among the workforce would help release that necessary time.

The development of new ideas was ranked as the most common area of neglect, with customer contact, staff development and bill payment also on the priority list. In a small number of countries, including the UK and Germany, entrepreneurs have said they would rather spend time on innovation than on general office administration.

The survey by Sage, the market leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems, highlights some of the major challenges facing the world’s small business owners as they strive to power the global economy.

But innovation isn’t the only thing to suffer as a result of time-poor entrepreneurs. Over a third (38 percent) of those surveyed say that time pressures result in losing customers and clients. In addition, small business owners are sacrificing valuable down-time with 33 percent of global respondents having taken five or fewer days of vacation time in the last year.

Comparatively, 49 percent of U.S. respondents and 45 percent of Canadian respondents say they have taken five or less days of vacation time in the same time period. This figure rises to 57 percent in South Africa.

However, small business owners are open to solutions to help them devote more time to innovation. As well as improving skills among employees, better administrative processes and technology were highlighted, by 51 percent of global respondents, 55 percent of U.S. respondents and 32 percent of Canadian respondents, as useful in releasing more time. Brazilians rank this much higher, with 69 percent saying this would help.

Stephen Kelly, CEO of Sage comments: "Small businesses around the world are the true heroes of the global economy and we need to support them by helping them find the time to develop and grow. When so many businesses create a dream business from a great idea, it's heartbreaking to see business owners forced to let that innovation fall by the wayside. We know how hard they work, and we want to help entrepreneurs carve out some time to keep their innovative spark alive."

The research has been launched as part of a broader campaign by Sage to recognize and celebrate the contribution small business owners make to the global economy. To help address some of the challenges found in the research, Sage is offering free digital advice sessions every day of the week commencing November 30. The advice sessions will cover a range of topics and will be hosted by Sage executives and celebrated business owners and commentators. For more information, please visit: http://www.sage.com/us/lp/holidays#business.

As part of this campaign, Sage is also calling for small business owners to let it know why they do what they do, via a short video submission. For further details, please visit Stephen Kelly’s blog.

Research methodology

The survey was conducted among 2,621 business decision makers in companies with under 100 employees in 11 countries. The interviews were conducted online by Redshift Research in November 2015 using an email invitation and an online survey.

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