Ask any entrepreneur what their top headaches are and you’ll find that admin tasks and paperwork top the list. But there are ways to minimise the pain, speed up processes and improve business performance.
For small-business owners, mundane tasks can eat up a huge part of the working week. Almost six out of ten people running smaller businesses recognise they spend too much time working “in” their enterprise rather than “on” it, National Australia Bank has found.
Here are our top tips on how SME owners can reduce their administrative burden and free up precious time.
1. Know what you’re spending your time on
Start by identifying where you’re spending your man hours. The least productive people in the workplace tend to spend more time in unnecessary meetings or put their efforts into meaningless production, a study by EY Australia shows.
Cloud-based project management software and productivity tools, such as Wrike, Teamwork Projects and Evernote, could help. These allow staff to share files, track their time, handle budgets and invoices, plus they reduce the need for face-to-face meetings.
Review your meeting cadence too to see where you could streamline – going from weekly status meetings to one a month could mean saving up to three hours a month.
2. Embrace technology
Don’t shy away from using technology as it can help make your life easier. In fact, some innovative tools are often available on free trials or short-term subscriptions. Businesses that aren’t already using tech are wasting hours, days, even weeks needlessly.
3. Share and collaborate
Why incur the cost and admin burden of maintaining a fleet of company vehicles, large premises or specialist staff? The sharing economy is growing, with more SMEs splitting the cost of services, office space, accounting, administration and human resources functions with other companies.
Smaller firms are also tapping into the gig economy to hire services or expertise with minimal hassle on an ad hoc basis. Examples include DriveMyCar, the peer-to-peer vehicle rental service, Spare Workspace, a platform that lets companies rent out unused office space short-term, or UpWork and Expert360 for hiring freelancers or consultancy services.
4. Automate payment collection
Any business knows chasing payments is a thankless task, but when Australian firms are currently owed $27.9 billion in unpaid bills, SME owners can’t afford to ignore the issue.
Accounting software can automate invoices, follow up tardy payers and liberate man hours. But if your company invoices customers regularly or takes recurring payments, automating money collection via Direct Debit could also remove a lot of admin – and uncertainty – from the payment process. Furthermore, It will improve your enterprise’s cashflow significantly.
Nudging clients to settle overdue invoices by bank transfer or card payment can take an inordinate amount of time and it’s not the most pleasant of tasks. One way of overcoming this is to get your customers to pay by Direct Debit which will result in your bills being paid automatically when they’re due, meaning no more time wasted chasing payments. Plus, if the Direct Debit payment process is allowed to integrate with a company’s billing system such as Xero, things become even quicker, as payments can be reconciled automatically, likely saving your accounts team two hours a week.
Doing away with all your admin is never going to be possible for those running a business. However, it is possible to minimise its impact. So start 2019 on the right track. Be aware of where effort is going, use tech to its best effect and ensure systems and processes are as efficient as can be. Then, use the time gained wisely to develop your enterprise.
Joseph Robins, Australia Country Lead, GoCardless