David McDonell, Chief Executive of Grant Thornton International

Grant Thornton

Grant Thornton International is one of the world's leading organisations of independently owned and managed accounting and consulting firms providing assurance, tax and specialist advice to independent businesses and their owners. Member firms operate in 109 countries in around 540 offices worldwide.

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Sharp growth in stress levels
among world’s entrepreneurs

A report by Grant Thornton International

Business owners in cities all over the world are much more stressed than just one year ago. Top of the stress table are business owners in Taiwan where a staggering 69 per cent said their stress levels had increased in just one year. They were followed by entrepreneurs in Hong Kong (54%), Turkey (54%), Mexico (54%), India (53%), the Philippines (53%), Japan (51%), Russia (51%) and South Africa (50%) where half or more of those questioned said their stress levels had gone up.

These are some of the results of Grant Thornton's 2005 International Business Owners Survey (IBOS). Research with more than 6,000 business owners in 24 countries shows that stress levels had rocketed by more than a third. The fieldwork was carried out during Autumn 2004.

Business owners in every country reported stress levels up in 2004. However, those least affected were in Sweden, where 23% of business owners claimed their stress levels had gone up, the Netherlands (25%) and Canada (26%). Business owners in Mexico (30%) are most likely to seek medical advice for stress while those in Sweden (4%) are least likely.

Andrew Godfrey, Head of International & European Services, Grant Thornton told City Mayors that wherever people were doing business in the world, they were feeling the strain much more this year. “Business owners can feel stressed by success as much as by failure," he added.

Grant Thornton International has plotted the stress results against the growth in turnover experienced by these companies over the last three years. The results show five clear categories, where the degree of stress is caused for quite different reasons:

The High Growth, High Stress Increase countries are those whose businesses and economies have been booming. They have experienced higher than average increases in stress levels, but it is caused by positive trends and their ability to keep up. This group includes business owners in India, South Africa and Russia, all fast-expanding, 'emerging' economies. Some 53 per cent of business owners in this category feel increased competition contributes to their stress and 48 per cent are stressed by increased customer expectations.

The Low Growth, High Stress Increase countries are a quite different group. Their increase in turnover has been slower than average and their economies have been struggling. These stressed business owners typically come from East Asia including Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Singapore, but can also be found in Mexico and Turkey. Key contributors to their stress levels are increased competition (61%), concern about the economy (53%) and pressure on cash flow and profits (46%).

Business owners in the High Growth, Low Stress Increase category have the best of both worlds. Their performance has boomed over the last three years, but they seem to know how to cope with the success without becoming too stressed by it. These business owners can be found in the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Here it is pressure on cash flow and profits and more demanding customer expectations (37%) which make them stressed.

A small number of countries have experienced low growth over recent years but do not let themselves get too stressed by it. These Low Growth, Low Stress Increase businesses are in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Sweden and take a pragmatic approach to life. Top of their stress factors are regulation and red tape (41%).

Finally, there is a middle group of business owners who have been doing pretty well, and are moderately stressed. These Average Growth, Average Stress Increase countries are all in Europe and do not face the same levels of increase in stress as countries where growth has been dramatically high or very, very low. This category includes France, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Spain and the United Kingdom. The main contributor to their stress levels is regulation and red tape (40%).

Despite the business differences, however, two things unite business owners all over the world as contributors to their stress levels. A third of respondents in every category claim they are stressed by not having enough leisure time and not having enough time to spend with friends and family.

The Grant Thornton International Business Owners Survey (IBOS) was carried out among over 6,300 owners of medium sized businesses from 24 countries during Autumn 2004. IBOS began in 2002 and builds on the European Business Survey (EBS) which Grant Thornton ran from 1993 to 2001. The research was conducted by Experian Business Strategies Limited and Wirthlin Worldwide. This research was conducted prior to the earthquake and tsunami in Asia.

Business owners in Frankfurt, Germany, don't let themselves get too stressed by slow economic growth

Most stressed out countries
Percentage increase in stress levels in selected countries

Hong Kong
South Africa
New Zealand