Half of SME owners 'have cancelled Valentine's dates for work'

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Valentine's Day came round once again this week, offering a chance for men and women everywhere to demonstrate their love for their other half.

But this appears to be a particularly tall order for people who own small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

Indeed, a new survey by First Data has revealed 43 per cent of SME owners have been forced to cancel Valentine's Day dates because they had to work late.

This seems to be particularly common in London, with 58 per cent of those in the capital admitting they put work before their Valentine's Day celebrations.

By contrast, just 34 per cent of those in Scotland did the same - or at least admitted to it when asked by pollsters.

So what do the findings tell us about the lifestyles of SME owners in the UK?

According to Hetal Patel, marketing director at First Data, the research is a clear sign that small business owners are "rushed off their feet".

"From managing employees and inventory to serving customers and promoting the business, there’s a lot going on," she observed.

"Due to small business owners having to wear multiple hats, often they are squeezing multiple tasks into one day, working long hours and sometimes this unfortunately leads to them cancelling out of work commitments."

Interestingly, 23 per cent of SME owners polled by First Data revealed they think they know more about their business that they do about their partner.

However, Ms Patel insisted that they do not need to be stuck in the office or on the shop floor at all hours in order to give their firm the "love and attention it needs to grow".

This, she said, is because lots of technology is now available to enable small businesses to work remotely and at more convenient times.

For example, Ms Patel stated that cloud-based systems can be very appealing to growing businesses, as they allow owners and senior managers to "monitor data from afar".

This, she argued, is preferable to staying late and feeling the pressure to be physically present on-site at all times. 

"That way they don’t need to miss out on out of work activities - like dating," Ms Patel commented.

She went on to point out that nearly two-thirds of SME owners feel a lack of support when it comes to growing their business.

As a result, she believes it is very important that they know technology is available to help them manage various aspects of running a company.

Ms Patel added that by deploying IT systems to take over tasks such as annual leave management, marketing and real-time stock-taking, SME owners can use the time this frees up to "concentrate on what is important - their customers and maintaining a healthy work-life balance".

The findings of First Data's survey echo the results of a study in December by Zurich, which revealed 27 per cent of SME employers were planning to work on Christmas Eve, despite it falling on a Saturday last year.

The study also revealed that seven per cent expect to be working on Christmas Day, while 24 per cent will at least be checking or sending work emails on December 25th.

This suggests that excessive work commitments and time pressures are an issue to SME owners throughout the entire year, rather than at particular times.