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Work-life balance biggest hurdle for scaleup business leaders

March 5, 2019

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A new survey from executive peer-group mentoring organisation Vistage has identified work-life balance as by some distance the biggest challenge facing scaleup business leaders in the UK. 


Defined as a business with an average annualised return of at least 20% in the last three years - and with a minimum of 10 employees at the start of the period - scaleup businesses are seen as key to the success of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy.


Of the 2,800 respondents who took part in the Twitter poll, Vistage found a whopping 46% believe juggling a healthy home life with the demands of work is the biggest challenge owners of fast-growing businesses face. Access to talent came in a distant second with 22% of the vote, while sustaining momentum ranked third.


Commenting on the findings, Vistage International General Manager Geoff Lawrence said: “As a startup business owner, leaders are often cast in the role of ‘chief everything officer.’ Everyone reports to you, everything lands on your desk, and you have a hand in almost every decision. That’s fine when you only have a few staff to deal with, but as the business scales, it becomes impossible to be everywhere all the time. You have to learn to step back, let go and focus on ensuring you have the right people in place to share the burden. Not everyone can handle that transition and very few can do it alone.”


The findings echo results of similar research conducted by Vistage as part of its quarterly SME Confidence Index, where 40% of business leaders admitted the demands of work have been a cause of stress in their personal lives.


And while a quarter of business leaders say they’ve sought outside help to strike a better balance between their work and personal life, many more are choosing to suffer on in silence while their health and relationships suffer. 


Geoff continues, “Running your own business is hard work, but if it’s taking precedence over your health and well-being, chances are that something has gone badly wrong in the way your business is structured. Elon Musk and others like him might have made the idea of the 100-hour work week fashionable, but that level of intensity just isn’t sustainable.


“If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, then seek out members of your peer group and get their perspective. Many will have encountered exactly the issues you’re facing, and will be able to offer advice on how to strike a good balance. It’s an old cliché that it’s lonely at the top. It doesn’t have to be.”


According to a recent report published by the Scale-Up Institute, seven out of ten scaleups say leadership development will be “vital” or “very important” to the continued growth of their business. Respondents singled out access to local peer-to-peer networks, effective leadership development programmes and mentorship from people who know what it is like to grow a business as essential.


Vistage, which provides executive peer group mentoring to over 1,600 UK business leaders, is one of just a handful or organisations to earn an official endorsement by the ScaleUp Institute in its annual review of the national scaleup businesses.

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