A person sleeping in bed. An alarm clock on the bedside table.

Are you falling asleep on the job?

Tackle your business worries

The challenges of running a business are enough to keep anyone awake at night. Boost your resilience by addressing these potential concerns.

Tackling business challenges takes boundless energy, enthusiasm and resilience, but it’s hard to stay on top of your game when you’re not getting enough sleep.

We all know that running a business can be stressful, but if your worries are keeping you up at night then it’s time to do something about it. So how do you look after the business while also looking after number one?

We’ve taken five issues that could cause business owners restless nights. Check out our suggestions for useful ways of dealing with them, so you can put your mind at ease and get a good night’s sleep.

  • Noise
    A person holding a megaphone.

    Noisy neighbours may keep many people awake but, in business terms, it’s the competition on your doorstep that can cause sleepless nights.

    Maybe a local rival always seems one step ahead? Or perhaps a larger competitor is moving onto your patch? Either way, it’s enough to disturb anyone’s sleep.

    So what can you do? Rest easy with these suggestions to boost your competitive edge.

    • Stick to your USP: Identify what makes you stand out from the rest, and don’t lose sight of it. If you don’t have a USP, get one.

      "A good way to do this is to link up with universities," says Ian Workman, Managing Director, Co-Head of SME, Barclays. "Their graduates and analysts can work with you to help identify your USP, using analytical intelligence around proven successes that could be suitable for your business. It’s a great resource that many businesses don’t realise is available."
    • Concentrate on value: Although special offers and discounts can be a useful tool, don’t feel forced into lowering your prices.

      "Higher prices can be justified – as long as they offer value to the customer," says Ian. "But price should be secondary to the experience you provide to the people you do business with. It’s another part of the value equation."

    • Think about your reach: Try to ensure a more even playing field by taking steps to reach as many customers as you can. Is your online presence easy to find and navigate? Is it as good as your competitors’?

      "You could also stay one step ahead by thinking of the future,” says Ian. “How will people want to transact? It’s really worth starting to think about all of this now."

    “Higher prices can be justified – as long as they offer value to the customer,”

    Ian Workman

    Managing Director, Co-Head of SME, Barclays

  • Over-eagerness

    Too much of the wrong thing can cause sleepless nights for anybody, and it’s no different in the business world when a thirst for success can leave you over-stretched.

    "Often it’s down to growing too fast,” says Ian. “In these cases businesses might not have the marketing, resources or operational experience behind them that they need, and things can quickly spiral out of control."

    If you’ve overdone it and the world is starting to spin, check out these three steps to begin getting your business back on track.

    • Recognise the problem: "This is the first step, and the most important," says Ian. "It’s vital to face up to things when they’re going wrong, and to have confidence in your ability to turn it around."
    • Check your finances: If the business is struggling, you may be having difficulties paying its costs. Identify your biggest outgoings, and be ruthless with cutting back where you can.

      Alongside this, see if you can renegotiate payment terms with customers and suppliers. Getting cash in more quickly, while also delaying outgoings for a period, can help give you some much-needed breathing space.

      It’s also a good idea to take a step back. Think about the changes you could make to ensure your business is sustainable, and consider whether you need any additional financing to increase stability.

    • Talk to your friends: A problem shared is a problem halved, so try to find businesses that have been through a similar struggle and tap into their knowledge. You can reach out to a number of industry bodies who can help make introductions, or use resources such as Barclays Eagle Labs where like-minded businesses and entrepreneurs might be able to help you.

    It’s vital to face up to things when they’re going wrong, and to have confidence in your ability to turn it around.

    Ian Workman

    Managing Director, Co-Head of SME, Barclays

  • Jet lag
    A display of wall clocks showing different time zones.

    Overseas travel can disrupt anybody’s sleeping pattern and, similarly, the prospect of international trading can cause many business owners to rest uneasily.

    Too often it’s simply a fear of the unknown that prevents businesses from taking up the undoubted opportunities that international markets offer. Here’s how to help banish those concerns and become more confident in taking on the world.

    • Educate yourself: One of the best ways of removing fears around international trading is to learn as much about it as you can.

      Talk to other businesses that are successfully trading abroad, or our Business Banking team, and don’t be afraid to go back to basics. Attend seminars and events that can help you to understand the essential terminology, show you how overseas trading works and take on board what you need to do.

      “Getting to know the fundamentals in this way can really open your eyes and help you decide whether you want to trade internationally or not,” says Ian.

    • Get the foundations right: Once you’ve decided to trade internationally, you can sleep easier at night if you know your business is set up to succeed.

      Some of the best performing international businesses will often have designated teams available 24/7, or always-on online support. And think about what you need for the particular markets you’re targeting. That might require translating your website, or having people with foreign language skills embedded in your business.

      “Try to make sure you have the right skillsets in your business to cater to different markets with variable needs,” says Ian. “Employ people who can help you to build international connectivity.”

    Employ people who can help you to build international connectivity.

    Ian Workman

    Managing Director, Co-Head of SME, Barclays

  • Working late hours
    A lady on the computer in the office.

    Working unsociable hours can be difficult for regular employees, and it can wreck a good night’s sleep for business owners too.

    If you’re one of those entrepreneurs that ends up crouched over a desk late into the night, check out these quick tips to help you reset your work/life balance.

    • Get the right people around you: Employ people that have the right skillsets so that you can completely put your trust in them. “Could you take a holiday and feel confident that everything will be ok?” says Ian. “If not, you may need to provide more training or think about further recruitment.”
    • Learn the art of delegation: There’s no point in having the right staff in place if you don’t make proper use of them and give them enough responsibility. Not only are you making things more difficult for yourself, those employees are more likely to become dissatisfied in their roles. “Don’t be too controlling,” says Ian. “And don’t be the only individual that knows how to do certain tasks.”

    • Boost your efficiency: It’s easy to get bogged down in endless admin, but there are lots of ways to help speed things up. Using apps is a great place to start. Not only could they accelerate time-consuming tasks, they could also help to analyse your internal data and unearth potential efficiencies across the business.

      Using a dashboard can make things even more seamless, and Barclays SmartBusiness Dashboard is a good place to start. It combines your business banking and apps all in one place, making it easier to see the information you need to run your business.

    Could you take a holiday and feel confident that everything will be ok?

    Ian Workman

    Managing Director, Co-Head of SME, Barclays

  • Stress
    A boiling kettle.

    Running a business isn’t simple and it’s easy to let things get on top of you, but there are effective ways to de-stress. Identifying your worries is the first step to finding a solution. Here’s how to help show some common anxieties who’s boss.

    • Recruitment: This is one of the biggest – if not the biggest – stress-inducers for small businesses. It’s hard to get the right people with the required skillsets – so where do you find them?

      “Work with higher education and universities to identify suitable recent graduates, get in touch with government agencies to find apprentices or contact your local Chambers of Commerce for their contacts,” says Ian. “And have a good succession plan for your key people.”

    • Fraud/Cyber attacks: Barclays’ SME Hopes and Fears Index lists both cyber attacks and fraud as major concerns for 2018, but there are steps you can take to help you feel more in control.

      “For both of these, the key to confidence is awareness,” says Ian. “We hold free regular seminars locally and on our website. Scams are changing almost weekly and you can’t rely on any previous training you may have had.”

    • Uncertainty: Businesses are often forced to operate in an uncertain environment. The way to help take it all in your stride is to have a business plan you can take confidence from.

      “Look at the operations of your business,” says Ian. “If you’ve got good planning, good management, good procedures and good cash flow, you can go a long way towards protecting yourself.”

      But putting plans in place for all eventualities is still sensible. Check out our tips on planning for business disruption for further guidance.
    • Personal wellbeing: It’s completely unrealistic to think that you can avoid all sources of stress – in fact, many people use stress as a motivator at times. With this in mind, think about how you can manage the effects that stress may have on you. Exercise, relaxation techniques and even dietary changes could all help; and don’t forget to take a break now and then.

      “Lots of the successful business owners I know have a healthy attitude to wellbeing,” says Ian. “Having downtime can be vital to maintaining your resilience in the long run.”

      It’s also important to consider the health of your staff – both for their benefit and yours. If your workforce is stressed then it can increase anxiety levels for you too.

      “Understand the triggers around mental health, and how you can manage them,” says Ian. “It could be as simple as taking your leadership team through a mental health webinar, but it might be one of the most important things you do.”

    Lots of the successful business owners I know have a healthy attitude to wellbeing

    Ian Workman

    Managing Director, Co-Head of SME, Barclays