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Management teams a barrier to growth

By Dan Teuton
8 March 2018

Business advisory and chartered accountancy firm Haines Watts has released the latest in its on-going study into the issues affecting UK SMEs and their owners.

The latest study explores the struggle business owners face to unify senior teams effectively behind the complexities of their own business strategies and reveals that the price of failing to do so is a lack of co-ordination, siloed teams and unfulfilled growth ambitions.

Barry Potter, partner, explained: “More than one in three (33%) business owners in the South East fear that their management team will cause them to hit a growth ceiling. Their concerns are legitimate – almost half (47%) of local management teams have never helped grow a business prior to the one they now work in.”

Business owners and the teams that support them have to work hard to put the planning and communication in place that can overcome the challenge of experience and unleash their businesses’ growth potential. According to research conducted among 500 UK SMEs by top 15 chartered accountants Haines Watts, there are several obstacles to overcome:

Poor planning

Nearly nine in 10 of South East business owners (89%) are only able to spend between 1-10% of their working week planning for the future. In contrast, business owners who are able to step back and focus predominantly on planning are more than twice as likely to run fast-growth businesses (annual growth greater than 15%). Despite that, these strategic leaders only constitute 9% of business owners nationally.

On the other hand, SMEs with low growth (less than 5%) are less likely to have a full strategic plan and are more likely to describe their business plan as nothing more than a financial forecast for the bank – true for more than half (53%) of low-growth SMEs in the UK.

Failure to communicate

Despite almost half of business owners lacking trust in their management teams, the teams themselves don’t realise that trust isn’t there. Four fifths (88%) of South East senior managers believe they fully understand the business owner’s goals and similar numbers (85%) hold the often false belief they would be trusted to run the business even in the owner’s absence.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, more than half of South East business owners (51%) find themselves hiding their concerns from their teams because they are worried about showing vulnerability.

Lack of support

Even among business owners across the whole country who have a full formal management team, only just over half (60%) believe that they have the full support of that team. But only just under a quarter of senior managers in the South East (23%) are actively aware that they have a divergent vision of the business’s future to the owner.

The perceived lack of support is so stark that two out of every five (44%) SME owners in the South East believe that their business couldn’t survive more than a single week without them at the helm.

Jane Wills, partner, summarises the situation:  “For SMEs, which are often considered the engine room of the UK economy, the impact of this trend can be damning. Responsibility falls on business owners to provide senior managers with a unifying vision for the future of the business, and the freedom to deliver it.”

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