• British businesses retain a healthy appetite for growth, with two-thirds of business owners looking to grow their businesses (67%)
  • This is despite three in five British business owners finding 2023 one of their most challenging years – citing the cost-of-living crisis and energy crisis as key factors
  • 77% of business leaders agree it's worth putting in the hours now so they can continue to grow their business
  • And 92% have taken steps to reduce their stress in the workplace – including making healthier lifestyle choices and taking short breaks throughout the day


Infographic available to download here: Top 10 challenged faced by businesses infographic


Business owners have felt the pressure this year, with three in five (59%) saying they found 2023 one of their most challenging in business. As Global Entrepreneurship Week kicks off, the new research from NatWest into the experiences of British business owners reveals the key challenges faced by business leaders in the UK today.


NatWest polled 500 British business leaders to give a compelling insight into their shared experiences. The survey reveals that generating new business (37%), rising operational costs (32%) and balancing work and personal life (32%) top the list of pressure points in 2023.


The survey also reveals that many British businesses are showing a healthy appetite for growth. Two thirds of British business owners surveyed (67%) reported that they looking to grow their business, by focusing on areas including product diversification (27%), market expansion (27%), their digital presence and e-commerce (26%), and financial management (27%).


Generating new business therefore tops the list of the biggest challenges to business owners, and though 89% think it’s important to have strong pitching and presenting skills, nearly six in 10 (59%)  business leaders admit to feeling nervous when doing so in front of people in a working environment –  with over half (55%) saying their business would have benefitted if they’d been taught public speaking as a child.


The 10 Biggest Pressure Points in 2023 according to British business owners: 

  1. Generating new business
  2. Rising operational costs
  3. Balancing work and personal life
  4. Cost reduction
  5. Keeping up with technological advancements and digital trends
  6. Competition from other businesses
  7. Cash flow problems
  8. Managing mental and emotional wellbeing
  9. Hiring and retaining skilled employees
  10. Supply chain


Nearly a quarter (24%) say they also have or would like to seek support on generating new business, with other key areas business leaders are looking for advice on being rising operational costs (21%), cost reductions (19%), cash flow problems (19%) and keeping up with tech advancements and digital trends (17%).


77% of business leaders admit to regularly losing sleep in their role, over a third (39%) often find themselves working beyond normal working hours, and 34% have to take work calls on the weekend.


But despite this, almost half (49%) agree that running their own business gives them more freedom to spend their time as they like, with a further 77% stating that it's worth putting in the hours now so they can continue to grow their business.


To support their growth, over a third (36%) of business owners would consult a bank or financial advisor, alongside a professional advisor or consultant (46%) and an industry peer (32%) – with three in ten (30%) turning to their family and a quarter (25%) to their friends, though nearly one in ten (9%)  would even consult a stranger such as a taxi driver or bartender.


As the UK’s biggest bank for business, NatWest runs the largest business accelerator in the UK1 and last year helped 53,000 individuals and businesses through enterprise programmes. Whether it’s help with building your team, growing your network or upskilling, the NatWest Entrepreneur Hub is a great place to start. Tools, products and services including NatWest Accelerator, Business Builder and Local Enterprise Managers are available nationwide to support business owners in their goals and ambitions.


James Holian, Head of Business Banking at NatWest, said:

"As the UK’s biggest supporter of small businesses, we know that helping business leaders succeed, not just through traditional banking services but with full wraparound business support, is crucial if we want a strong small business sector. The results of this survey show that while it’s never easy running a business, British business leaders continue to demonstrate their positivity, resilience and determination to grow in spite of headwinds. With the right support, we can assist businesses in overcoming challenges and help to drive their business forward.

“At NatWest, we have revolutionised the way we support entrepreneurs in recent years, bringing mentoring, insight and bespoke coaching to them through the NatWest Entrepreneur Hubs. Whatever the size of your business, if you’re just starting out, already growing fast or even thinking about scaling, our support could help you get there, and help you overcome those challenges, faster.”


For more information on NatWest’s tools to support businesses, visit the NatWest Entrepreneur Hub at https://www.natwest.com/business/enterprise.html

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