The impact of directors’ fatigue – and how to banish it

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

By Peter Harris, below, Chief Operating Officer, Pipedrive

‘Director’s fatigue’ is a loose term but believed to be a factor in the high number of UK LTD businesses going bust right now. Last year saw the highest number of closures since the depths of the financial crisis in 2009, according to the latest official figures for England and Wales.

Why? Following the pandemic, geopolitical upheavals, supply and labour shocks, and inflation, business owners have battled through many challenges. Business consultants have begun labelling the feeling that many directors are reporting as a type of fatigue. Those affected can’t raise their past enthusiasm to manage the troubles of their leadership role and a company in this situation. An above average number have or are thinking of retiring, moving on, selling or closing up.

Business owners still in the race will certainly face further novel challenges this year and must consider their resiliency if they are to keep going. But this resilience doesn’t have to come solely from within. Some of the detrimental aspects of directors’ fatigue affecting the job, such as the quality of business decision-making, managing stakeholder relationships, and driving financial performance, can all be supported with more modern processes and technologies. Government data shows that the average age of a company last spring was 8.6 years – a very long time in business, society, and technology. The support networks of services and solutions that business owners have access to in 2024 are wildly different to those of the past. Modernisation brings benefits in director, employee, and customer experience.

Get help, make working life less stressful

Right now, AI solutions are rapidly expanding into business and consumer use, though AI has a long history behind the scenes in deep enterprise technology applications. Whilst there are some alarming headlines about AI risks, many use cases are well tested and safe. Not all AI is like GenAI, where vendors struggle to contain its hallucinations and enhance its accuracy. Much as is more limited, applying rules to sort, process, and speed business activity, from cybersecurity solutions spotting threats to CRMs reminding marketers to follow-up with leads.

The key benefits for business owners lie in saving time, and value creation, particularly for small businesses where every moment and penny means so much.

A very whistlestop overview of key AI and automation benefits in practice includes…

  • Faster administration management, like booking meetings or email marketing
  • Faster information research and fact verification
  • An assistive guardrail sharing regulatory advice for business decision-making
  • Instant translations
  • Support writing computer code

Within my own business, our AI task force harnesses the potential of AI to drive innovation, efficiency and accelerate growth within and throughout our business.

All in all, the right technologies will support company directors and employees at all levels with some of the parts of the job that are challenging, time consuming, and generally less enjoyable. For leaders, this can mean getting the right information instantly, rather than waiting for analysis and reporting, and then being able to pivot strategy rapidly, getting the business on board with instant communications.

Perhaps more so in a small business where its staff are its lifeblood, tools must be adopted with care and respect for the humans that generate the business value. In fact, many teams as well as business owners may find a new lease on life with modernisation, as the more tedious and time-consuming tasks aren’t immediate growth drivers are abstracted away by automation. The result? A more joyful working experience and a sense of empowerment.

A new renaissance for business

I believe that we’re rapidly moving into a new renaissance. One where working will become a more delightful experience. The things that most of us are employed to do often make up only some of the tasks we must perform, as ‘work about work’ builds up around the growth-driving responsibilities. Rebalancing the working day from leaders to the rest of the workforce means bringing back more time to be spent strategically on new business, improvements, and optimisation.

It’s quite possible that this will support better mental health outcomes for all involved, as people are given more agency, autonomy, and thoughtful work to replace rote and dull actions that machines can do accurately and quickly.

Business leaders affected by directors’ fatigue may also wish to transform their role. Delegating more may remove stress, as well as empowering and beneficially challenging ambitious staff looking to grow professionally. It’s also a big message of trust, deepening relationships, leading to higher performing teams.

All in all, increasing the digital resiliency and sophistication of the business is far from a mere technical choice. It’s a very human one. The right tools, particularly when effective and safe AI is brought in, can create a much healthier work environment and culture that values well-being, open communication, and higher performance. It’s not too ambitious to imagine a business with the right support enabling teams to drive more revenue and take more time out to live their lives, with better rest and recovery enabling them to be their best selves at work.

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024