Money doesn't buy hapiness for Kiwi business owners

09 Oct 2014

Finding work/life balance a ‘rollercoaster ride’

The majority of New Zealand’s operators are happy with their work/life balance, but many will experience ups and downs over the course of their business life, according to the latest research from MYOB.

Over half (53%) of SME operators reported they were satisfied with their work/life balance, while just over a quarter (26%) said they were dissatisfied in the latest MYOB Business Monitor survey of over 1,000 business owners and operators from around the country, conducted by Colmar Brunton.  

MYOB New Zealand Sales Manager – Business Division Scott Gardiner says it’s great to see local business owners able to balance work commitments, while still finding time to enjoy life.

“However, the survey did highlight that business life is a rollercoaster ride with plenty of ups and downs – not just for business owners starting out, but through many stages of their development,” says Scott Gardiner.

“Work/life balance is an important measure for business. The primary drive for the majority of our SME business operators isn’t revenue growth or expansion. Most get into business to pursue a passion or create something they enjoy – so achieving work/life balance is a key part of their success.

“At the same time, even the most ambitious business owner needs to find some way to enjoy other aspects of life in order to build up the reserves of energy and creativity you need to run a successful business.”

Older and wiser

According to the survey, the youngest and the oldest of our business operators are happiest with their work/life balance. Those who have started out in business early – the Gen Y operators (aged 18 – 29) are fairly happy with their lot, with 53% expressing satisfaction and 21% dissatisfied. Least content are the Gen X operators (30 – 49) of whom 48% are satisfied and 27% dissatisfied, followed by the Baby Boomers (50 – 64) with 52% satisfied and 27% dissatisfied.

The key to happiness, however, appears to be found after retirement age. The Traditionalists (65+) have the best understanding of how to achieve the ideal work/life balance, with 69% showing satisfaction and 20% reporting they are dissatisfied.

The age of a business also highlights the ups and downs of work/life balance. Understandably operators of start up businesses (under two years) find it the hardest to balance work and life, with just 41% saying they are satisfied and 29% dissatisfied. Between two and five years appears to be the ideal period for achieving the right balance, with 59% satisfied and 21% dissatisfied.

As a business passes five years, operators are again struggling to balance their commitments (49% satisfied, 33% dissatisfied), but satisfaction increases once businesses reach the highly established stage (10 years +), with 57% of operators of older businesses saying they are satisfied with their work/life balance and 24% dissatisfied.

Small is better, and money doesn’t buy happiness

“Although we might picture a sole trader as having to do everything in the business, and therefore finding little time to have a life, it seems the more staff an SME takes on, the more pressure the operator faces,” says Scott Gardiner.

Sole traders (0 employees) report the best work/life balance, with 55% satisfied and 24% dissatisfied. Micro business operators (1 – 5 employees) are more likely to be unhappy with the balance they can achieve (31%), while just over half (51%) are happy. For operators of Small Businesses (6 – 19 employees) work/life balance is particularly hard to find, with satisfaction levels low (39% satisfied, 27% dissatisfied).

SME operators also appear to be trading off higher earnings for other areas of their life, according to the research. Satisfaction is highest amongst operators earning between $40,000 and $74,000 (59%), followed by those with revenue between $75,000 and $199,000 (53%). Higher earning businesses with between $200,000 and $999,000 annual revenue make it harder for the operator to enjoy a satisfying work/life balance (47%), while operators of businesses earning between $1 - $5 million are least likely to find time to enjoy life (39% satisfaction).

Better life outside the big cities

While their big city colleagues may earn more, business operators outside the main centres enjoy a significantly better quality of life. Only Manawatu / Wanganui bucks the trend, with operators reporting the country’s worst work/life balance. By contrast neighbouring Hawkes Bay, on the East Coast, boasts the country’s best balance for SME operators.

Wellington – with the least revenue growth of the main centres – is the best city in the country for achieving the ideal balance, while Christchurch business operators report the lowest levels of satisfaction as the city’s rebuild puts massive growth pressure on the region.

Hawkes Bay 58% 22%
Waikato 51% 18%
Otago/Southland 56% 22%
Bay of Plenty 57% 26%
Northland 54% 23%
Wellington 55% 29%
Auckland 51% 29%
Christchurch 45% 23%
Manawatu/Wanganui 43% 37%

By industry, business operators in the business, property and professional sector (56% satisfied, 23% dissatisfied) and the finance and insurance business (53% satisfied and 21% dissatisfied) are happiest with their work/life balance. Those in the logistics industry (47% satisfied, 38% dissatisfied) are significantly less happy than other sectors, followed by those working long hours in retail and hospitality (44% satisfied, 29% dissatisfied).

Mr Gardiner says if business owners are struggling to find time to enjoy life outside work, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help.

“Often it’s just a case of finding ways of doing things more efficiently, identifying the things you don’t personally need to take on, and using systems – like accounting software – to take care of the time consuming tasks.”

For MYOB product information, research results, business tips, discussions, client service and more visit the MYOB website, or its blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube sites.


For further comment or other information please contact:

Sarah Putt, MYOB NZ Public Affairs Manager

P: 09 925 3515 / M: 029 777 0256/ E:

Gerard Blank,The Agency Communications Limited Director

P: 03 341 5841 / M: 0275 243 629 / E:

About MYOB

Established in 1991, MYOB is New Zealand’s leading accounting software provider. It makes life easier for approx. 1.2 million businesses across New Zealand and Australia, by simplifying accounting, payroll, tax, practice management, CRM, websites, job costing, inventory, mobile payments and more. MYOB also provides ongoing support via many client service channels including a network of over 40,000 accountants, bookkeepers and other consultants. It is committed to ongoing innovation, particularly in cloud computing solutions, and now spends NZ$35+ million annually on research and development. For more information, visit

About the MYOB Business Monitor

The MYOB Business Monitor is a national survey of 1,000+ New Zealand small and medium business owners and managers, from sole traders to mid-sized companies, representing the major industry sectors. It has run since 2009, commissioned to independent market research firm Colmar Brunton. This most recent survey ran in July/August 2014. The Monitor researches business performance and attitudes in areas such as profitability, cash flow, pipeline, technology usage and the government. The weighting of respondents by both geographical location and sector is based on overall market proportions as established by Statistics New Zealand and is drawn from an independent survey group, which includes both MYOB clients and non-clients.