More than one in three (35 per cent) business owners in the UK fear that their management team will cause them to hit a growth ceiling. Their concerns are legitimate – over half (53 per cent) of 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

More than four fifths of business owners (84 per cent) are only able to spend between 1-10 per cent 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 per cent). Despite that, these strategic leaders only constitute 9 per cent of UK business owners.

On the other hand, SMEs with low growth (less than 5 per cent) 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 per cent) of low-growth SMEs.

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 (83 per cent) of senior managers believe they fully understand the business owner’s goals and even greater numbers (87 per cent) 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 business owners (52 per cent) find themselves hiding their concerns from their teams because they are worried about showing vulnerability.

Lack of support

 Even among business owners that have a full formal management team, only just over half (60 per cent) believe that they have the full support of that team. At the same time almost one in five senior managers (17 per cent) 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 close to half (42 per cent) of UK SME owners believe that their business couldn’t survive more than a single week without them at the helm.

Darren Holdway, regional managing partner at Haines Watts comments:

 “Because many management teams aren’t unified behind a strategic business-wide plan, and because they often don’t possess the complete trust of the business owner, the knowledge essential to the future success of the business is locked up in the heads of just one or two people.

“This leaves management teams siloed, uninformed and restricted from stepping up. As a result owners have to think operationally and so have less time to plan and think strategically which in turn prevents them from reaching their own growth ambitions.

“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.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.