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Half of small business owners rely on their spouse

More than half of small trade businesses rely on their partners to help run the business, research by Direct Line for Business (DL4B) has found.

Focusing on small tradespeople, it found that spouses and partners are called in to help on average for two days a week, with nearly a third (31 per cent) of these being unpaid. As many as one in four are called in to work three or more days a week.

Direct Line said that many smaller businesses were turning to voluntary support from their partners to avoid high legal, secretarial or IT support fees.

Of the 51 per cent of owners or key decision makers surveyed who rely on help from their partners, the majority called on them to support their business paperwork.

A further one in five (19 per cent) employ their partner as a receptionist, one in seven use them to help with legal and accounting services, while a further eight per cent look to their partners to carry out sales and marketing functions and generate opportunities.

According to the research, small businesses owners and their partners have increasingly aided each other over the past four and a half years - since the beginning of the first UK recession. This comes despite two in three (65 per cent) of those supporting their trading partner having other employment elsewhere.

One in four (26 per cent) were found to be working full time and two in five (39 per cent) were working part time at another business.

The results came from a survey of tradesmen and small businesses employing fewer than five people with an annual turnover of around £124,000.

Jazz Gakhal, Head of Direct Line for Business said: "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."

He also warned that businesses should ensure they have suitable back-up in place if their partners were unable to continue to help.