Time is money. When business owners spend their time focusing on accounting or human resource issues, it’s time spent not focusing on how to improve or grow the business. Administrative tasks are essential, but can be a productivity killer, too. Follow these 10 steps to spend less time on administration and more time growing and improving your business.
1. Pay Up Front
If you consistently pay monthly subscription fees for services or regular goods, consider paying up front for a half or full year in advance. Most services will even incentivize upfront payments. It might seem like a negligible amount of time to make the monthly payment, but if you have several different ones to make, the time adds up. And while it might be a larger up-front cost initially, if you previously paid via the mail or even electronically each month, minimizing transactions can save you money.
2.Triage Your To-Do List
Prioritizing your to-do list and targeting certain tasks at the appropriate time can lead to more effective, focused time spent on administrative, creative or business-focused tasks when necessary. Many business owners find it easier to tackle creative tasks or projects requiring greater focus in the morning and leave emails, calls, meetings, interviews or administrative tasks for the afternoon. Or vice versa – it all depends on individual concentration and focus levels. Figure out which method works best for you and plan accordingly. Organize tasks by two tiers: on-fire-today urgent and easily achievable tomorrow. Try to make your to-do list as short as possible, too. If that feels impossible, keeping a “someday” list can give you a place to put ideas that don’t need to be top-of-mind but that you don’t want to lose sight of.
3.Consider Going Exclusively Electronic
For invoicing, going electronic means usually means you’ll get paid faster. Less documents means less mail, printing, and moving paper records around. Checks can take days or weeks to arrive, and that’s only after they’re written, approved, signed and sent. According to FreshBooks, electronic payments are made eight days faster than traditional payment methods. Traditional payment methods like checks can cause delays, get lost or misplaced, create more work, and lead to wasted time. Delete a layer of administrative process by going electronic. Electronic payment will probably be more convenient for your customers, too. If you have customers who pay the same recurring amount, most accounting software will allow you to automatically choose dates to create an invoice. The same goes for payments you make: using your bank’s online bill payment options will save time spent on writing checks and keeping records. Make payments faster online or pre-schedule payments in regular intervals.
4.Outsource a CFO
Chief Financial Officers don’t just look at the numbers – they consider every aspect of your business. From data security, disaster recovery, fraud and operational risk, their business is finding ways to make or keep yours profitable. Renting or outsourcing a CFO won’t be cheap, but it costs far less than hiring one full-time and could be worth it if they help focus your business. With outsourcing, you can hire a CFO to fit your exact needs, whether their services are needed once a week, once a month or more. An outsourced CFO can also add a layer of strategic skills above and beyond the tactical accounting. These skills could include succession planning, strategic forecasting, insurance and risk management. Another benefit? There’s no need for benefits. Outsourced CFOs will have low overhead expenses, so their hourly or fixed-rate charges should be lower than accounting firms.
5. Take Advantage of the Cloud
One of the fastest and most affordable (sometimes free) ways to reduce time spent on administrative processes is to shift more of your business to the cloud. Cloud computing is any platform, software, service or data-storage system hosted on the internet rather than internal servers. Cloud services are common for everything from accounting and customer relationship management to email, collaboration, project management and video conferencing. Moving services and processes to the cloud reduces the need for hard resources, saves time and also leads to far fewer IT requirements. Of course, there are risks associated with cloud services. Be sure to review what not to store on the cloud.
6. Get Organized
You’ll make much better use of your time with a clean office, uncluttered desk, and the clear mind you’ll get as a result. Organized offices and workspaces usually help employees be more productive and collaborative, which could also help cut down on administrative activities. Boosted productivity means greater profitability. From your inbox to your workspace, being organized can lead to a better business.
7. Minimize Meetings
Less is more when it comes to meetings. While meetings can be essential, here are a few ways to know whether or not your meetings are a waste of time.
• If the meeting’s purpose is to exchange information and updates, handle this instead via email or use an online shared project management tool such as Google Docs, Dropbox, Evernote or Basecamp so everyone can write and view updates.
• If there isn’t an agenda or an end time, you’re at risk of open-ended meetings and wasting time. Avoid broad goals such as “brainstorming.” Instead, be specific regarding actionable items. Once you’ve defined a clear, focused objective (and firm time limit), draft an agenda with discussion points that will help achieve your objective and distribute the agenda well in advance. • Avoid having a packed house. Efficiency and lean attendance go hand in hand, so make sure each attendee can help accomplish the meeting’s objective.
• Make sure there’s progress following the meeting. End each meeting by confirming the action items each person is responsible for; begin next time with a review of those action items and progress on each.
Rather than have a daily or weekly staff meeting, consider a simple email update or quick chat. There are lots of collaborative software options, like Slack or 15Five, which can make it easier and faster for employees to communicate without the need to schedule meetings. Having fewer meetings means more time for you and your employees to focus on work, which means more time being spent on running and growing your business. If you can minimize meetings, the ones that do occur will be more pointed, efficient and focused. Just make sure lines of communication are clear and remain open.
8. Is It Time to Combine?
Consider merging or bundling insurance or other services your business pays for. This could apply to cloud-based applications or services like accounting, invoicing, internet, phone and conferencing. True, bundling might mean you might pay a bit more, but the convenience of reviewing and renewing all of your insurance policies or provided services at once will save you time. This will be much faster than having different renewals happen at multiple times through the year.
9. Hire an Accountant
While many small business owners start out doing their own accounting, with growth comes more responsibility and more complex needs. Hiring an accountant frees up time spent on day-to-day accounting and administrative tasks, and lets you focus on your business. A professional accountant will also keep up with ever-changing tax laws and available deductions, which is nearly a job by itself. (Check out the Tire Review January 2017 issue, page 24, for tips on how to find the right accountant for your business.) Having the knowledge and expertise of a professional accountant on your side will save time and money. Make sure the one you choose understands your business, your goals, how you operate, and that they’re familiar with your local tax laws and accounting software.
10. Hire an Assistant
Knowing when and how to delegate is important to running a business. If you’re always swamped and your business is growing, perhaps it’s time to consider an assistant. Whether it’s on a contractual, part-time, or full-time basis, hiring an assistant to help you with daily administrative tasks can save valuable time, leaving you more time and energy to focus on your customers, your employees and growing your business. Particularly if you’re planning for expansion or a period of growth or transition, the benefit of having an assistant can easily exceed the cost of hiring help. Assistants can help with everything from human resources tasks, note-taking, research, fielding/making client calls, scheduling, data entry, and more. If you’re not ready to invest in a full- or part-time employee, engaging a virtual assistant can help, even if only for a few tasks. Be sure to check with community colleges or trade schools in your area to see if there might be an opportunity to help a new graduate gain valuable workplace experience or complete a work term requirement for an administrative assistant program. They’ll benefit from the experience, and you’ll benefit with a lower cost of labor.
This content was provided by the National Federation of Independent Business. For more information, visit NFIB.com.