Money doesn’t buy happiness for Kiwi SMEs

"The primary drive for the majority of our SME business operators isn’t revenue growth or expansion."

The majority of New Zealand’s operators are happy with their work/life balance, but many will experience ups and downs over the course of their business life.

Over half (53%) of SME operators reported they were satisfied with their work/life balance, while just over a quarter (26%) said they were dissatisfied in the latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of over 1,000 business owners and operators from around the country, conducted by Colmar Brunton.

MYOB New Zealand Sales Manager – Business Division Scott Gardiner says it’s encouraging to see local business owners able to balance work commitments, while still finding time to enjoy life.

“However, the survey did highlight that business life is a rollercoaster ride with plenty of ups and downs – not just for business owners starting out, but through many stages of their development,” he says.

“Work/life balance is an important measure for business. The primary drive for the majority of our SME business operators isn’t revenue growth or expansion.

“Most get into business to pursue a passion or create something they enjoy – so achieving work/life balance is a key part of their success.

“At the same time, even the most ambitious business owner needs to find some way to enjoy other aspects of life in order to build up the reserves of energy and creativity you need to run a successful business.”

Older and wiser…

According to the survey, the youngest and the oldest of Kiwi business operators are happiest with their work/life balance.

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Those who have started out in business early, i.e. the Gen Y operators (aged 18 – 29), are fairly happy with their lot, with 53% expressing satisfaction and 21% dissatisfied.

Least content are the Gen X operators (30 – 49) of whom 48% are satisfied and 27% dissatisfied, followed by the Baby Boomers (50 – 64) with 52% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied.

The key to happiness, however, appears to be found after retirement age. The Traditionalists (65+) have the best understanding of how to achieve the ideal work/life balance, with 69% showing satisfaction and 20% reporting they are dissatisfied.

The age of a business also highlights the ups and downs of work/life balance. Understandably operators of start up businesses (under two years) find it the hardest to balance work and life, with just 41% saying they are satisfied and 29% dissatisfied. Between two and five years appears to be the ideal period for achieving the right balance, with 59% satisfied and 21% dissatisfied.

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As a business passes five years, operators are again struggling to balance their commitments (49% satisfied, 33% dissatisfied), but satisfaction increases once businesses reach the highly established stage (10 years +), with 57% of operators of older businesses saying they are satisfied with their work/life balance and 24% dissatisfied.

Small is better, and money doesn’t buy happiness

“Although we might picture a sole trader as having to do everything in the business, and therefore finding little time to have a life, it seems the more staff an SME takes on, the more pressure the operator faces,” Gardiner adds.

Sole traders (0 employees) report the best work/life balance, with 55% satisfied and 24% dissatisfied.

Micro business operators (1 – 5 employees) are more likely to be unhappy with the balance they can achieve (31%), while just over half (51%) are happy. For operators of Small Businesses (6 – 19 employees) work/life balance is particularly hard to find, with satisfaction levels low (39% satisfied, 27% dissatisfied).

SME operators also appear to be trading off higher earnings for other areas of their life, according to the research. Satisfaction is highest amongst operators earning between $40,000 and $74,000 (59%), followed by those with revenue between $75,000 and $199,000 (53%).

Higher earning businesses with between $200,000 and $999,000 annual revenue make it harder for the operator to enjoy a satisfying work/life balance (47%), while operators of businesses earning between $1 - $5 million are least likely to find time to enjoy life (39% satisfaction).

Better life outside the big cities

While their big city colleagues may earn more, business operators outside the main centres enjoy a significantly better quality of life. Only Manawatu / Wanganui bucks the trend, with operators reporting the country’s worst work/life balance. By contrast neighbouring Hawkes Bay, on the East Coast, boasts the country’s best balance for SME operators.

Wellington – with the least revenue growth of the main centres – is the best city in the country for achieving the ideal balance, while Christchurch business operators report the lowest levels of satisfaction as the city’s rebuild puts massive growth pressure on the region.

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