Take control of your future by improving small business processes

27th April 2021

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Only 4% of businesses measure and manage their processes, which means most organisations have no idea how efficient they really are.

The efficiency of your business is a vital part of achieving the life you want. Unless you commit to optimising your back room processes, you simply can’t take control of your future.

Staying on top of your processes is easily the least attractive part of running your own business, but as our list below shows the positive impact can be dramatic. 

How improving your small business processes puts you in control:

1. Take control of your profits

Redundant or overly-demanding business processes can cost you time, effort and money – identifying these drains on your profits should be every business leader’s priority.

But there’s more than just a direct financial impact. Inconsistent processes, informal workarounds or haphazard working methods can negatively affect your product, your services and your customer’s entire experience.

So it’s easy to see why optimising your small business processes can help you control your profit margin – it eliminates waste, identifies inefficiencies and makes sure everyone gets the biggest bang for their buck.

What to do now?

  • Schedule a regular review of your team’s working practice, and your own, with a focus on identifying potential duplication of work, redundant activities or tasks which monopolise significant resources

2. Take control of your time

Accounts, customer databases, email marketing, payment chasing – it’s amazing how many operations are now able to be fully automated. Payment is especially impactful when driven by cardless interactions.

Individually, some of the jobs you could get a computer to do don’t seem worthwhile. After all, it’s easy to run up a quote or an invoice and email it, right?

But it’s key to take the overall picture. If it takes 20 minutes to create an invoice and there are 20 invoices sent out from across your teams every week, you could create almost an entire working day just by automating that one single process.

Plus the benefit will be felt by your staff, who will spend less of their time performing the same repetitive function and can focus more energy on doing the work that really matters.

What to do now?

  • Survey all your people and draw up a list of the top 5 repetitive tasks across the business – calculate the hours spent on this work to give you a rough budget for any possible automation  

3. Take control of your data

82% of employees say productivity suffers because of poor information management – this is things like misrecorded processes, a failure to maintain up to date records, or a lack of templates for routine documentation.

At its most simple, poor information management means not asking people who leave to write down the passwords that only they know (or the location of files they managed).

Each of these mistakes can create obstacles for your staff and your business. These things can take significant time to resolve and may even have negative consequences for your organisation’s reputation.

If, for example, your bookkeeping is performed electronically through a solution like Xero, all the information is there at your fingertips. You can check tax bills, affordability for investments and make grant or loan applications into a far easier process.

What to do now?

4. Take control of your options

Bootstrapping a start-up is acceptable, and even expected – in the early years it would be unreasonable to judge a business on whether it has the perfect processes.

But now that your business is established there will be expectations from clients, service providers and investors. If they see a successful, stable business on the outside they want to discover a solid, sustainable business on the inside.

For example, in the next few years it will be very difficult for any business to find an accountant willing to work with them unless all the accounts are taken care of digitally. 

If you know your small business processes are fit for purpose, you know that you’ve done everything possible to ensure you can seize the next opportunity.

What to do now?

  • Draw up an overview of all the business processes you’ve had in place since starting or stepping up the business, and thoroughly examine if they can be optimised, replaced or cut out entirely

5. Take control of your customer experience

Before you’ve spoken to a potential customer (or even know they exist) they will have made a wealth of judgements about your business.

What does your website say about you? What image do your social media accounts portray? What sort of comments are people making about you in reviews?

There are many aspects you can control, and by regularly reviewing your small business processes you can avoid looking behind the times, inactive or unresponsive to your audience.

In addition, when you have the right processes you can push decisions as close to the customer as possible. This means your staff don’t need you to get involved with day-to-day tasks, and your customers will feel positive about the trust you place in your people.

What to do now?

  • Talk to your customer-facing staff and ask them for the three decisions they wish they could make without referring to senior staff – at least one of these will be something you can make possible

6. Take control of staff turnover

Frustrated people leave. It’s as simple as that. Bottlenecks, repetitive tasks, redundant protocols, all these obstacles can stop your teams from achieving their full potential.

Meanwhile, people are just waiting in hope that someone will ask them how to improve the roles they do every single day – after all, they’re the people who know what the problems are.

There’s no reason why small business processes can’t serve your long term objectives and create a happy, rewarding work environment for your staff.

But remember: Don’t charge blindly ahead and foist a solution upon a team until you’ve fully understood what they need and how you can make a real positive difference. 

What to do now?

  • Ask your leadership team to include ‘check in’ questions in their regular 121 meetings with teams, to identify areas where optimisation or streamlining could have a beneficial impact
  • Bonus tip: If they’re not already performing consistent 121s with their people, that’s something that needs immediate attention!

7. Take control of your software

It should be easy to anticipate updates to software or the need for renewing a licence, but these simple commitments often cause avoidable headaches for many businesses.

Elsewhere, basic compatibility issues (like moving files from a Mac to a PC) can create unforeseen delays. Or a lack of widespread training can put too much strain on individual members of staff.

In house IT support might not be possible for smaller businesses, but keeping your processes up to date requires no technical knowledge – you just have to keep organised.

An easier solution might be to sync several operations into one platform. For example, purchasing a CRM that also includes an email marketing function.

In fact it’s rare that any new piece of software will be perfectly compatible with each of your existing processes, so it’s often more productive to ‘upgrade’ several of your procedures at once with a catch-all solution.

What to do now?

  • Identify a member of senior staff to operate a calendar which records license expiry dates and other regular IT commitments – don’t ask frontline staff to do this as it’ll be perceived as a less valuable task

8. Take control of your outsourcing

External expertise can seem expensive, but when compared to the lifetime cost of training or recruiting the savings are often significant.

Take Search Engine Optimisation. This is a specialist task, and keeping it in house would require not just training or recruitment but also a commitment to increased management and evaluation. If you’ve no idea what that entails then outsourcing your SEO might look overpriced. 

However, if you can accurately forecast training and recruitment costs, understand your current management load and can even evaluate the return on investment (ROI) that increasing your website traffic would achieve, you may discover that the external price is very reasonable.

But that knowledge is simply not possible unless you’ve kept your small business processes (and your knowledge of them) up to date.

What to do now?

  • As a first step, review the average cost of recruitment at your organisation – from advertising a position, interviewing time, onboarding and training all through to desk space requirements, in order to understand the real cost of going ‘in house’

9. Take control of compliance

The drama of GDPR would not have been a problem if businesses had already been keeping on top of compliance. In fact, anticipating compliance is often the key.

For example, we already know that from April 2022 it will become mandatory for businesses to fulfil their tax obligations digitally, but you can bet there will be a crazed rush for compliance in March 2022.

It’s understandable, because we’re all busy keeping our businesses going. But it highlights how important it is to keep even simple processes like bookkeeping up to date and suitable for modern demands.

Other compliance issues can come from informal workarounds, where staff create their own solution to an irritation or a problem – the worst impact often being that this means there are no records of what actually was done, creating problems that can quickly escalate.  

What to do now?

  • The first thing you should do is get yourself ready for April 2022 – a good way is to find an accountant who won’t work with you unless you go digital, but who will embrace and support your efforts to make the business digitally compliant 

10. Take control of development

The most successful businesses are ‘learning organisations’ – environments where people are supported and encouraged to develop their own skills and then put them to work.

But developing your staff will prove very challenging if your small business processes are unsuitable for the size or scale of organisation you have become.

Without a dedicated HR department, for example, recruitment duties are often given to senior staff who get overwhelmed by paperwork. Training, meanwhile, can easily become a headache of its own.

However, modern platforms such as a ‘People Hub’ or Learning Management System can bring together your recruitment, onboarding, training and even performance management processes into one place – all without the need for a single piece of paper.

What to do now?

  • The most effective way to develop your people is to ask them what they need – so survey your teams to find out the support that would most benefit them, rather than investing heavily in training that isn’t suited to the requirements.

How can we help you take control of your future?

At RDG Accounting we provide expert business coach and mentoring services to a variety of businesses, from start-ups to sole traders or limited companies.

By analysing and understanding your current business model, processes and systems, we help to evolve the way you work so your business gives you the lifestyle you want.

A reliable, professional chartered certified accountant is essential to both managing and understanding the health of your business.

We can help with:

  • Company accounts
  • Business Start-up
  • Bookkeeping services
  • Tax returns
  • VAT
  • Sole trader accounts
  • Payroll
  • Cashflow planning
  • Management accounts

If you run a small business and would like to benefit from some one-to-one advice to begin taking control of your future, please book a call.

Alternatively, if you’d like to get started sooner you can call us on 0333 200 0714.

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