South Africa’s small and medium business owners are struggling to innovate and keep up to date with administration due to competing business priorities and a lack of appropriately skilled employees, according to a new global survey by Sage.

Nearly a third (32%) of small business owners around the world and 35% in South Africa have neglected the development of a new business idea. The problem stems from a lack of time, despite small business owners working over 40 hours a week (as shown in the Sage global research revealed last week).

Some attribute their long hours to the unavailability of appropriately skilled employees. South African entrepreneurs are finding this particularly tough, with 57% saying that improved skills amongst the workforce would help release that necessary time.

General office administration was ranked as the most common area of neglect among South African entrepreneurs, with 49% reporting they didn’t have time to do it properly. Customer contact, networking, staff entertainment and socials, and winning new customers are also on the priority list.

But admin isn’t the only thing to suffer as a result of time-poor entrepreneurs. In South Africa, nearly half (49%) of respondents report losing customers, a client or a new business opportunity at least once because they were too stretched to service the business.

Anton van Heerden - President of Sage International quoted 2However, small business owners are open to solutions to help them devote more time to innovation. As well as improving skills amongst employees, South African business owners highlighted better administrative processes (35%), additional employees (31%) and technology (29%) as useful in releasing more time.

Stephen Kelly, CEO of Sage comments: “Small businesses around the world are the true heroes of the global economy and we need to support them in helping them find the time to develop and grow. When so many businesses create a dream business from a great idea, it’s heart-breaking to see business owners forced to let that innovation fall by the wayside. We know how hard they work, and we want to help entrepreneurs carve out some time to keep their innovative spark alive.”

“The paradox in South Africa is that our entrepreneurs are struggling to find time for both forward-looking innovation and day-to-day administration. Entrepreneurs crave control, which means they are often reluctant to delegate administrative tasks that keep them busy but deliver little value to their business,” says Anton van Heerden, Executive Vice-President and Managing Director: Sage South & Southern Africa.

“They need to use technology that gives them the confidence to relinquish control of the menial so they can focus on the meaningful. Given the tools and time, South African small businesses have the energy, imagination and hunger to change the world.”

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