Reducing the SME administrative burden
“Remember that Time is money.”
Benjamin Franklin – Advice to a Young Tradesman, Written by an Old One.
“Time is money” is actually an older phrase than I thought! But it’s a true today as it ever was. One of the best ways to run an effective business is to keep your running costs low. But often the processes around doing business take up almost as much time (and money) and doing business itself. Admin, record keeping and infrastructure are necessities for any business and can’t be avoided. But many of them can be improved.
A recent study by Sage of small to medium enterprises revealed that the average UK SME spends an average of 71 days and £35,600 annually on admin tasks, such as paperwork, accounting and recruitment. That’s a combined economic cost of billions of pounds, with a record 5.7 million private sector businesses trading at the start of 2017.
While a lot of admin tasks are a necessity that can’t be avoided, much of the time spent on them could be spent more productively for the business. Nobody becomes an entrepreneur to spend their time issuing invoices, chasing late payments or double-checking tax returns. But that’s the reality of running a business for many entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Some small to medium businesses simply don’t know how to go about lessening their admin burden, with for others the costs in time and energy of getting automated systems up and running is too great. Inertia in the face of change is something that we all, as humans and businesspeople, need to confront. But for businesses who are struggling to make enough time to even look for ways to improve their systems, keeping doing the same thing can seemless costly than spending time investigating and adjusting to new systems. After all, time is money…
However, time well spent often does reduce costs in the long run. And as businesses, the long run is what we’re all here for.
But how do you do this? 40% of the companies surveyed said they struggled to make cost savings on their administrative workload. So what options can businesses consider?
Outsourcing to third parties
Outsourcing is a very simple concept – choose a task from your to-do list and commission someone else to work on it. The reality of outsourcing is a bit more complicated than that. But outsourcing remains an effective way to simplify your workflow, allowing you and your workforce to focus on other, more important tasks.
Step 1: Identify which tasks need to be outsourced
Ask yourself which business functions you want to outsource. A very common task area to subcontract is IT, but in reality almost any part of your workflow can be outsourced, from HR to recruitment or accounting. At this point of the process, it’s useful to decide what level of visibility you require and how much control you want to retain over the work being done.
Step 2: Prep your data
Before you hand work over to a third party, prepare your existing data by making sure it’s in a format that’s easy to understand and transferable. This might mean getting your personnel records in order before passing them on to an HR specialist, or tidying up your accounts to pass on to a bookkeeper.
Step 3: Research your options
The next step involves finding the right person, company or service for the job. This can be the most difficult part of the process because of the high amount of service providers on the market. Don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from your peers or look online.
Thanks to apps like Google Drive and iCloud, the everyday use of the cloud storage has become more and more commonplace. Applying cloud apps and services to a range of your business functions can transform the way you process administrative tasks and cut down on the manual labour, time and effort that goes into these tasks.
Step 1: Take your time
Most cloud services and apps are designed to be easy to use and to incorporate into your daily work routine. However, you’re still going to have to put in the effort to get good at using them. It’s relatively straightforward to get started – with products like Google’s G Suite being very affordable and user-friendly.
Step 2: Embrace collaboration
Cloud services and apps are also designed to encourage sharing and collaboration. As an example, cloud computing lets you connect your accounting software to your accountant’s bookkeeping solution for ease of access to data.
Step 3: Embrace new technology
The use of new technologies tends to make the adoption of cloud-based services and apps much easier, and the reward greater. Especially as desktop computers and laptops are no longer needed to perform all the necessary tasks.