Have you noticed over the past few years that when you ask someone how they are, the standard response is “busy.” Busy seems to be our new normal state of being. Most people are okay with short bursts of busy, but when busy is our usual state it grinds us down to a tired, depleted state of being overwhelmed where we feel that life is running out of control.
When I started my business three years ago, I consciously set out to design my business around the concept of simplicity. I know from a health and wellbeing perspective that I don’t cope with being in a constant state of busy (and I am yet to meet anyone who truly does), so it was imperative that I set up a business that was going to serve me, so simple it had to be.
Many of the benefits of simplifying your business are related to time savings and efficiency gains. Making a task easy to replicate and therefore easy to delegate or reducing errors and therefore time correcting them or dealing with their fall out, are just two such examples. But I have found that there are so many more benefits to simplification than just time saving, my top five are:
- Improving our client experience by making interactions with us easy and paper free.
- Empowering team members by having clear processes, providing them with more autonomy.
- Reducing the time taken from the time we are given the go ahead to do a job to the time the money is in our bank account with the help of same cool apps that streamlines our client experience.
- Flexibility for both myself and my team through running a paperless office and using cloud-based technology. We have the option to work from home, which is ideal for those days that would otherwise require leave to be taken. I can also run my business from anywhere in the world, having a reliable empowered team and full access to client files. I have been lucky enough to test this on two occasions (with more planned).
- Building a more valuable business.
So, how do you go about simplifying your business? You start with identifying what can be simplified and that is anything that is repetitive. For example:
- Entering customer details into more than one system (including on correspondence)
- Certain emails and letters
- Data entry
- Invoicing & customer payments
- Debtor management
- Paying bills
- Team rostering
- Workflow management
- Client relationship management
I am sure you will be able to think of more examples that apply to your own business.
After identifying what can be simplified comes how. Some solutions are quick and cost effective to implement and others not so much. Which solutions to opt-in for can also depend upon the size of your business and where your business is at in its life-cycle. For example, a business that is starting-up with no employees is not going to need a sophisticated job management system, because initially there just aren’t going to be that many jobs to manage. A spreadsheet may be all that is needed, if anything. However, as the as time goes on and the business grows a job management system that can be accessed by multiple users at one time and allows for tracking is going to become necessary.
Automation using software or apps is the obvious place to when we are thinking about simplification, but there are some less costly and time-consuming options before heading straight to the next piece of tech, being:
- Create email templates for any common email subjects (creating canned responses in Gmail is easy and has saved me countless hours in typing emails advising that documents are ready for approval).
- Create letter templates for common letters (I have mine set up with merge fields that link to my client management software so that I don’t even have to enter address details).
- Create checklists and forms.
- Document processes so that others can perform tasks without your input.
- Learn to use all of the functionality of your existing software and apps. For example, if you are using Xero, do you know how to:
- Create inventory items so that the same service doesn’t need to be typed each time you prepare and invoice
- Set-up auto reminders for outstanding invoices
- Set-up payment services such as Paypal or Stripe so customers can pay via credit card from a hyperlink in your invoice which has been emailed
- Select multiple invoices to be paid in a single bank transaction
- Create memorisations for common transactions. If done properly this can reduce your manual processing by 80-90%!!
- Link or integrate all software/apps that you already use. This stops multiple data entry across multiple platforms and allows for data sharing so that if an address, for example, is updated in one system it flows through to the others.
I wish I could say that it is all rainbows and unicorns when it comes to simplifying a business, but it is not without some hard work, detours and disasters. This is what I have learned:
- Every piece of software or app that I have implemented has required time (some a little and some a lot) to set-up the back end before they can be used effectively.
- Turning on an integration can have unexpected consequences. I have just completed an integration for a lawyer which resulted in a duplication of ALL bank account deposits in Xero. This is not an issue if you know what to look for and you are familiar with how to correct duplicate entries. You need to check your data and correct or get help to correct any unexpected transactions.
- If you set-up an email or letter template, any typo’s in the template are replicated until the typo is identified. I have a policy that any typo’s are immediately rectified rather than just fixing it each time in the affected piece of correspondence. Five minutes spent in correcting the template is more time effective than remembering to make the change each time, and spending 30 seconds making the change each time you prepare a email or letter from the template
- You need to carve out time from your day-to day activities to invest in projects that are going to simplify your business, the benefits way exceed the costs.
The biggest lesson that I have learned, above all others, is that you need to be willing to learn new things and have some level of determination to work stuff out (or at least as for help from those in the know). These are the things that are at the very centre of change management. I acknowledge this can be extremely difficult, particularly if you have team members or business partners that don’t like change, but to stay relevant in our rapidly changing world change is an essential part of operating a modern business.
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Disclaimer: This is general information only and is not advice of any sort. No warranty or representation is provided by Accounting Heart Pty Ltd as to the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information contained in this summary Readers of this summary should not act or refrain from acting in reliance upon any information contained herein and must always obtain appropriate taxation and / or other advice as may be appropriate having regard to their particular circumstances.