75% of SME owners change business direction in some way, reveals iwoca

Sharon Pocock, Founder of Kinder Pocock

Small business lender, iwoca, has surveyed SME owners across the country to reveal that starting a business and setting goals may not always go the way business owners expect. 

What were the findings of iwoca’s survey?

iwoca’s survey revealed that 75% of SME owners said the direction of their business had changed in some way since their original plan. Moreover, when reflecting on their original business plans, 17% of SME owners decided to change the direction of their business. 

Since this full change in direction, 67% of these SME owners surveyed now have an annual turnover of £500,000+, and 18% have an annual turnover of over £1 million. Changing the business plan is not the only way in which business owners said things didn’t go as expected

60% of SME owners failed to achieve short term goals

The survey reveals that over two-fifths (44%) of SME owners who said they needed extra time to complete their initial goals took on average 7-12 months longer to do so: 

Extra time needed by SME owners to complete initial short-term goals

Percentage of respondents who agreed with this statement

Up to 6 months


7 – 12 months


13 – 18 months


19 months – 2 years


3 – 5 years


More than 5 years


The survey also reveals that long-term goals often (in 50% of cases) took at least 13 more months than expected to achieve. In order to combat this, 17% of business owners reduced their short-term goals in order to achieve them within their initial time frame and budget. Furthermore, 22% said they had to increase their budget in order to achieve their goals. 

SME owners face loss of sleep and a lack of work-life balance 

iwoca’s survey also highlights the mental and physical challenges SME owners can face when starting a business. The most common being “loss of sleep”, which affected one in six:

Mental and physical challenges faced when starting their own business

Percentage of respondents who agreed with this statement

Loss of sleep


Non-existent work-life balance


Feeling more stressed


Mental health and wellbeing affected


Physical health and wellbeing affected


What were the stakeholders’ thoughts on the study?

Sharon Pocock, founder of Kinder Pocock: “Focus in business is very essential, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everything will go exactly how you set out as part of your original strategy. As Accountants, our job is to help this process and make sure the business owners we work with continue to evolve and maintain focus whilst remembering why they started in the first place. Make sure the business is working for you, not you working for the business.” 

iwoca spoke to life coach and therapist, Danny Greeves, about the importance of realistic goal setting: “Setting achievable goals is vital to staying focused on achieving your dreams.”

“When we set a realistic goal and achieve it, our brain gives burst of the feel-good chemical dopamine. However, when we set an unrealistic goal, we begin to believe that we cannot do what we set out to do, this increases self-doubt and leads to the self-image shrinking.”

To view the full research, which includes examples of successful companies for inspiration, please visit iwoca. In order to support business owners with their mental health, iwoca has partnered with online therapy platform, Spill, to offer free therapy sessions to owners who feel they would benefit from the support. SME owners can register for their sessions here