Being a small business owner is no easy feat but new research reveals the realities and long hours owner-operators spend on their business.

Research commissioned by small business lending company Prospa shows close to fifty per cent of small business owners in this country work between six and seven days each week.

Three quarters of the 250 businesses surveyed reported struggling with one or more areas of the business, most commonly finance and accounting, and 88 per cent said they experienced frustration, stress and feeling burnt out.

All but 20 per cent admitted they made sacrifices in other areas of their life to spend long hours on their business.


Business Mentors NZ chief executive Craig Garner said findings from the research did not surprise him, and the issues were ones common among businesses the non-for-profit mentoring organisation faced often.

He said founders of start-ups and small businesses tended to immerse themselves in the business and often invest too much time in the venture.

He likens being a first-time business owner to assembling flatpack furniture - easier to piece together the second or third time. He said businesses that had been operating for six months or more should not be regularly working long hours or between six and seven days a week.

Business owners, like employees, needed to have work-life balance in order for the venture to be successful, Garner said.

The research found 40 per cent of business owners experienced excessive stress, Garner said, this was the same statistic Business Mentors research had uncovered.

About 58 per cent of the businesses said they sacrificed personal time to work on the business, 57 per cent sacrificed hobbies, 38 per cent family time, 33 per cent romantic relationships and 30 per cent said sleep.

Prospa New Zealand managing director Adrienne Church said the study highlighted the high amount of time, energy and personal sacrifice small business owners made to start and run their own business.

But Garner said small businesses needed to be more productive and hire staff to ease their workloads as working excessive hours hindered productivity.


"If you can invest eight hours on your business a day that's good. If you have to set time aside on the weekends to work then that's important too but make sure you have the balance," he said.

"Most New Zealand small businesses are underfinanced, undercapitalised, they haven't planned effectively and the person running it thinks they have to do everything and possibly they don't."

A common scenario among small businesses was often they did not recognise success and therefore did not easy back on the amount of hours worked. "I've seen time and time again where people are becoming quite successful but they don't even know it - still in this habit of working too many hours, when instead they should be stepping back, recognising they are generating a reasonable income and therefore looking at adding some human resource to take some of the workload."

Craig Garner, chief executive of Business Mentors NZ. Photo / Supplied
Craig Garner, chief executive of Business Mentors NZ. Photo / Supplied

Garner said spending fewer hours on a business allowed owner-operators to think more strategically and make good decisions.

Good business owners were disciplined, set time aside for breaks and could run a successful business in eight hours a day, he said.

"If you're in a business and looking to grow and you're not planning on getting a new person on board after a year then you should be questioning your model."


A business should have created enough revenue in the first year to sustain income for an additional employee, he said.

"When people spend too much time and they don't get a reward - that's when things starts impacting badly."