Half of small businesses rely on a spouse to help run their business

According to research by Direct Line for Business (“DL4B”), more than half (51 per cent) of small trade business owners and managers rely on spouses and partners to help run their company.

The research by DL4B revealed that 46 per cent of small trade business owners and key decision makers rely on their partners to carry out general business administration while one in five (19 per cent) employ their partner as a receptionist.

  • Spouses and partners work on average two days a week and 31 percent are unpaid
  • On average, spouses and partners began working at small business four and a half years ago

More than one in seven (14 per cent) trust their partners to look after legal and accounting services. A further 8 per cent of small trade business owners and key decision makers look to their partners to carry out sales, marketing and new business generation responsibilities.



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Responsibility Number of partners taking on responsibility
General business administration 48 per cent
Receptionist 19 per cent
Legal and accounting services 14 per cent
Sales, marketing and new business generation 8 per cent
PA 7 per cent
IT 2 per cent

 Source – ICM interviewed a representative sample of tradespeople on behalf of DL4B


However despite small trade business owners and key decision makers suggesting their partners work on average two days a week (with one in four working three or more days a week), nearly a third (31 per cent) do not pay their partner any money at all.

This contribution is particularly apparent as DL4B’s research showed that on average, partners have been helping each other for over four and a half years. In addition, two in three (65 per cent) people who help out in their partner’s small trade businesses have other employment elsewhere. Of these, one in four (26 per cent) work full time and two in five (39 per cent) work part time at another business.

Jazz Gakhal, Head of Direct Line for Business commented:

[quote]“Small businesses are crucial in re-energising the UK economy. It is therefore, heartening to see partners working together to help sustain these small companies despite not being fully financially compensated and in many cases not paid at all. It is clear that small trade businesses are seeking voluntary help from their partners to avoid high legal, secretarial or IT support fees but it is vital that these businesses ensure their partners are adequately covered in event of an accident.”[/quote]

The research by DL4B looked at small trade businesses employing less than five people with an average annual turnover of around £124,000.


Launched in 2007 Direct Line for Business provides a range of insurance products for the small business sector direct by phone or on-line.  Direct Line for Business general insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited, Registered office: The Wharf, Neville Street, Leeds LS1 4AZ. Registered in England and Wales no 1179980. U K Insurance Limited are authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority.

Direct Line for Business and UK Insurance limited are both part of Direct Line Insurance Group plc, which is wholly owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Customers can find out more about Direct Line for Business products or get a quote by calling 0845 301 4827 or visiting www.directline.com 




I’m Mary Cummings, a ghostwriter, collaborator and all round word doctor. I help business owners write and publish business books; I'm also passionate about helping creative freelancers find work that they love - their work sweet spot with work on their terms, projects they love and clients who are a dream to work for.

2 thoughts on “Half of small businesses rely on a spouse to help run their business

  1. This is not surprising, it is one of the main ways that a lot of small businesses manage to survive. It highlights the many hats that small business owners need to wear, and importantly the skill sets that they need (or are lacking).

    I spoke to a friend at the weekend who was talking about opening a cafe. I questioned how it would stack up with her family committments, and she said that she would get help from her family. Her mother would help in the shop – unpaid. This approach is common and necessary.

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