The top 10 business challenges CEOs face

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More than three-quarters of business owners are losing sleep worrying about their company - as six in 10 named 2023 as one of their most stressful years yet.

A study of 500 adults who run a firm found generating new business tops the list of the biggest challenges they face. This was followed by rising operational costs and balancing work with their personal lives, and 39 per cent are regularly working beyond normal working hours while 34 per cent are sacrificing their weekends taking work calls.

It also emerged that despite 89 per cent believing it’s important to have strong pitching and presenting skills, 59 per cent admit they feel nervous when doing so, while 55 per cent feel their business would have benefitted if they’d been taught public speaking as a child. 

James Holian, head of business banking at NatWest, which commissioned the research, said: “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. While it’s never easy running a business, with the right support, we can assist businesses in overcoming challenges and help to drive their business forward.”

The study also found 45 per cent have contended with the rising cost of living, with one in three struggling with the ever-increasing price of goods and services within their company - and the energy crisis has had an impact on 28 per cent.

Generating new business is the top challenge for CEOsGenerating new business is the top challenge for CEOs
Generating new business is the top challenge for CEOs | NatWest

But the majority (92 per cent) have taken steps to reduce their stress in the workplace - including making healthier lifestyle choices and taking short breaks throughout the day. Conducted via OnePoll, the research also revealed 77 per cent feel putting up with the stress of running a business is worth it to grow the company.

To expand their enterprise, business owners and CEOs are focusing on product diversification (27 per cent) and their digital e-commerce presence (26 per cent), while 26 per cent are also exploring how they can adapt to new and emerging technologies to aim their growth.

To support their growth, 36 per cent of business owners would consult a bank or financial advisor, while others would speak to a professional advisor or consultant (46 per cent) and an industry peer (32 per cent). Three in 10 would turn to their family, a quarter to their friends and nine per cent would even consult a stranger, such as a taxi driver or bartender.

James Holian, from NatWest, which has helped 35,000 individuals and businesses through schemes like its Entrepreneur Hub, added: “Whatever the size of your business, if you’re just starting out, already growing fast or even thinking about scaling, support could help you get there, and help you overcome those challenges, faster. This is why we have revolutionised the way we support entrepreneurs in recent years, bringing mentoring, insight and bespoke coaching to them.”

Top 10 challenges faced by business owners in 2023

  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

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