Celebrating all business types

The Business Barometer has been an effective tool to measure the growth outlook of UK small businesses and to assess the relative opportunities and threats faced by the whole business community.

Over the years, Novuna has covered a variety of topics, all providing value-rich data into how situational factors affect a business and revealing the variegated types of the small business community. These include:

  • Single parent owned businesses
  • Businesses run by women
  • Family-owned businesses
  • Businesses with different approaches to work (i.e., home working, hybrid working, working outdoors, or sticking to the workplace)
  • Businesses run by introverts vs extroverts

In this final chapter, we share insights on some of these various types.

Introverts vs extroverts

Are extroverts better leaders? With introverts stereotyped as quiet, cautious, and retiring wallflowers, we might expect a typical business leader to be extroverted—outgoing, loud and assertive. However, Novuna Capital’s research returned data which questions this assumption.

At the beginning of 2016, small agricultural businesses were filled with uncertainty arising from the EU referendum; only 13% were optimistic about future growth. The industry was central to the debate, and it was reported that farmers were divided in their views: some could see the benefits; others felt being separated from Europe would create trade difficulties.

When asked in 2020 about growth prospects in the next year, more than a quarter of introverts said they expected to see modest or significant expansion (28%) compared with more than a third of extroverts (37%). A steady, mindful approach was adopted in most businesses run by introverts, stating their plan was to not change their approach during lockdown and Covid-19 restrictions, but instead to continue as normal in the uncharted climate (52% introverts vs 44% extroverts).

Despite extroverts dominating sectors most severely affected by the pandemic—retail and hospitality— they were still the most optimistic in their growth outlook, and most likely to be working on new ideas (37%). Extroverts embraced change, whereas introverts looked to minimise risk. The mindset of the business owner was equally if not more influential in shaping business strategy as the sector or region in which the enterprise was based.

Working from home has presented many new challenges not previously encountered as people have adjusted to virtual meetings, lack of office socialisation, and a new, blurred sense of home vs work.

Noruna’s research revealed that introverts were better at working from home. Introverted bosses were more likely to notice a greater sense of focus and productivity across their workforce (21% vs 18% extroverts), and attribute it to the lack of small talk and greater independence afforded to their employees (21% vs 17% extroverts).

Where introverts excelled at home working, extroverts struggled. Extroverts were twice as likely to say that getting hold of their staff was an issue whilst working remotely (8% vs 14% introverts) and more likely to believe that their employees were having difficulties with this working method (19% vs 17%).

Family-owned businesses

Every town in the UK is home to long-established family businesses that are invested in local communities and pride themselves on traditional values. Novuna Business Finance polled family business owners during 2020 to explore how they were coping with the succession of lockdowns and social restrictions.

The research found that, as a response to the pandemic and general unrest from the past couple of years, family-owned businesses were more likely than the average small business to have invested time and resources into re-skilling and re-training their current staff (25% vs 20% national average). A quarter of respondents also adapted their business model to achieve growth—popular strategies included introducing new competitive pricing and promotional offers for their clients (24%) and simplifying product lines to focus on and invest in core strengths.

This research was conducted with the pandemic raging, no vaccine yet in sight, and growing concern about the nation’s mental health. Family-owned businesses responded by prioritising a happy and motivated workforce, with nearly two-thirds of family businesses prioritising health and wellbeing (57%).

When asked about the work environment and looking after staff members since the easing of lockdown, family-run small businesses also emerged as those most likely to be taking proactive measures to support the wellbeing of their employees (18%). Their main priorities were:

  • introducing flexible working hours (26%);
  • improving sick pay for those employees isolating or experiencing Covid-19 symptoms (15%);
  • organising motivational team meetings (13%);
  • initiating one-to-one pastoral calls with employees (12%).

Family businesses tend to be more traditional, more community-based, and built on relationships between people—we can see this reflected in employees’ treatment.

Single parent business owners 

When the UK economy went through an unprecedented period of uncertainty and change, the pressure on home life increased. Amongst the more than 5.7 million small businesses in the UK there is one group that has proven how adaptable they are—single parent business owners. Novuna Capital decided to launch a survey of single parent business owners to ascertain the various struggles and obstacles they face.

Single parents were among the most forward-thinking when it came to ensuring their staff were able to achieve a sensible work-life balance. Despite being the group most likely to struggle with ensuring a work-life balance for themselves, with single parents working longer hours than other business owners (37 hours compared with 35 hours national average), they were twice as likely to offer flexible working to their employees (29% vs 15%), with one in six offering part-time and job share contracts (18% vs 12% average).

They also tend to inspire loyalty by focussing on things that make a difference to employees’ lives outside work, including offering additional holidays (31%), socialising with their employees (27%), and remembering employees’ birthdays (24%).

While single parent business owners were successful at growing their businesses against the odds, this did not come without personal sacrifice. Although, as a group they are masters at ensuring their families are happy and healthy, they are also guilty of over-working. Two in five single parent business owners (40%) say they always work on a bank holiday, whilst a further 48% say they have worked on the bank holiday on occasion. This was higher than the national average (33%), and almost twice as high as the average female business owner (25%).

Concluding remarks

“These three audience profiles underline how thin the line can be between work and home for a small business owner. Often, research is targeted at a sector, turnover, or region only. The results don’t always tell you how small business owners think, what motivates them, what they worry about, and why. The three profile groups summarised here start the process of understanding business owners as human beings. There are many more typologies and groupings to study and understand and, after two years of Covid-19, the psychological, home life, and cultural influences that shape small business outlook should not be ignored.”

Jo Morris, Head of Marketing & Insight, Novuna Business Finance


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1140 Senior Decision Makers in Small Businesses. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all Senior Decision Makers in Small Businesses.

You can download the full Business Barometer Report 2022 here.