No business owner wants waste in their business, whether it’s in the form of dollars, productivity or time. Right now, that’s especially true.
Intuit QuickBooks research, undertaken in March 2020 in partnership with YouGov, revealed that 40 per cent of small businesses who said they have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, saw their revenue drop by half as lockdown restrictions were applied in Australia, while half cited adequate cash flow as a major concern.
As restrictions ease and we move out of lockdown, you can give your business’s recovery prospects a major leg up by automating tasks so you can do more with less. Automation isn’t just for big companies. It can also help small businesses to streamline business operations, increase efficiency, improve productivity and lower costs.
By eliminating tasks which can sap your time and energy, automation can help you run a tighter ship, improve accuracy and trim your to-do list at the same time.
Strengthen cash flow – speed up payments and keep an eye on your outgoings
Even before this crisis, our research found that 69 per cent of businesses worldwide were stressed out by cashflow issues.
The good news is that two of the best ways to improve cashflow – getting paid faster and controlling your outgoings – are easily done with the help of online tools that automate key parts of your workflow.
A couple of examples include:
- Invoicing: the invoicing feature in QuickBooks Online will fill in the customer’s name, billing address and email when the client’s name is typed into an invoice template. The template will pre-load items, based on the customer’s last order. You can also set up recurring invoices.
Not only does this mean generating invoices faster and more accurately, it also allows you to email them as soon as you’ve delivered your product or service and provide an online payment option. This accelerates how quickly you collect cash owed.
- Expense management: Getting on top of your expenses starts with having more visibility. QuickBooks Online can help you get there by allowing you to quickly scan receipts and other source documents and attach them to specific transactions or use them to create new transactions. By turning on class and location tracking you automate tracking, analysing and reporting of your business expenses.
- Receipt capture: You can now enter, attach, and track expense receipts and bills you capture with your phone or email to QuickBooks Online.
QuickBooks Online can help you email receipts to your books in seconds. Simply snap or email your receipts and QuickBooks extracts the information, matches it to a transaction and categorises it for you.
With automation on your side you’ll start to understand in more depth where your cash is going and you’ll have the right financial data to hand to make decisions on when things might need to change.
Reduce labour costs by eliminating mundane manual tasks
Beyond these cash flow specific benefits, automation can help you with a whole slate of manual or mundane tasks that can feel overwhelming, whether it’s payroll, timesheets, accounts receivable, expenses, reporting, and BAS (business activity statement). QuickBooks Online, for example, can help with all of these areas, and provide reminders for actions that might otherwise slip a busy small business owner’s mind.
Integrations with other business applications means that data entered into the system automatically carries across into others. With people often a business’s greatest cost, these small changes can add up to a big improvement.
Improve customer experience
Automation doesn’t just remove tasks that might take up a lot of time, it can also improve the experience your customers have on the other side too. An automated system such as a help centre or chatbot customer support can be used to provide 24/7 support while reducing the cost and increasing customer satisfaction. For example, a refund for an online item can take only 90 seconds when interacting with a Woolies chatbot. Achieving the same result usually takes at least five minutes of frustration on the phone.
Increase employee satisfaction while you’re at it
Nobody likes doing boring repetitive tasks, including your staff. By tapping into automation to remove repetitive, low value work like data entry that staff hate, you’re not only freeing up team members who want to get more valuable work done but you’re also going to boost their morale.
While you’re at it, automation will also improve the accuracy of business operations. Expect to reduce errors due to manual data entry by automating everything from invoicing to inventory management.
Beyond online accounting
It’s not just when it comes to managing your finances that the cloud can come to the rescue. Some other game-changing online tools include:
Slack is a tool to help teams collaborate. If you suffer from email congestion, Slack Channels are a great way to communicate outside of email, particularly when you’re working remotely.
Schedule meetings without frustrating back and forth emails or phone calls. Just integrate the app with your Google, Gmail or Outlook calendar and let users find a time that works for you both.
Zoom or Google Hangouts
Face-to-face video and screen sharing tools like Zoom or Google Hangouts can help you rise to the challenge of communicating and collaborating from afar at a time when keeping staff safe is key.
Automation reduces the amount of time that you and your employees spend performing tasks that don’t add much value to your business – exactly the type of work we don’t need people wasting time on right now.
By taking frustrating and time-consuming admin tasks off you and your team’s plate you can improve customer experience, staff experience, and data accuracy – giving yourself a helping hand on the path to your COVID-19 recovery.
 Intuit research: ‘The State of Small Business Cash Flow’. https://www.intuit.com/company/press-room/press-releases/2019/quickbooks-study-cash-flow-woes-mean-a-third-of-small-businesses-can-t-make-payroll-pay-bills/