SME bosses burn the midnight oil

Britain's bosses are being forced to work pretty hard to stay afloat - and without huge rewards...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

New research out today from the IoD shows that the top dogs in the UK’s SME community are working harder than ever, as they try to steer their companies through the downturn. More than two-thirds are working at least a 46-hour week, while 26% are working more than 55 hours. Both in small and medium-sized companies, directors say that they’re putting in more hours this year than they did in 2007. They’re also taking less holiday – a mere 13% said they’d taken 30 days off this year.

Given that the average UK employee works a 37-hour week, it’s clear that most bosses are really putting the hours in at the moment. This is ‘a measure of the drive and commitment of directors in this country,’ according to the IoD’s Miles Templeman, who added: ‘Many directors are doing 48% more work each week than the average full-time UK employee. As the downturn bites we can expect to see directors working even harder to keep their businesses afloat.’

And they can’t be doing it purely for the money. The IoD found that MDs at small companies got a below-inflation pay rise of 3.5% last year, and are now earning an average of £65,000 a year. By our calculations, that means someone doing a 60-hour week is on about £20 a hour - so they'd be better off being a plumber or a car mechanic. Or, as the IoD points out, a GP – although after the huge pay rises doctors have been awarded under the present government, pretty much everyone earns less than GPs these days...

But if they think that’s bad, some non-execs are getting an even worse deal: apparently 31% are working entirely for free – despite the fact, Templeman points out, that they ‘share the same legally-defined duties and potential liabilities as full-time directors’. All the risks and none of the rewards, in other words. And more to the point, it doesn't say much for their commercial acumen if they're giving away their services for free.

Of course it’s quite likely that all these bosses’ jobs are going to get a lot harder in the coming year – as the wide-ranging job cuts this week have proved, even the behemoths of UK plc are being forced to trim costs in order to keep their heads above water. And it’s going to be even harder to find new business. The Federation of Small Businesses reckons its members’ best bet is to try and do more marketing over the internet – its latest research found that 43% of respondents have been able to boost sales by advertising their services online, improving their website and linking to suppliers.

And best of all, you can do all this stuff while you’re burning the midnight oil – unlike the rest of the working world, the internet never sleeps...

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