To start a new business is often to follow a passion but the sudden reality can be that passion must take a back seat when the realities of running a business hit home. One of the challenges that occurs is business admin – and what soon follows is the need to reduce admin to remain productive.
According to a report we carried out on business admin and how it affects firms, we found smaller businesses in the UK estimate they spend 71 days undertaking administration tasks. That’s more than 14 working weeks, or around three months.
However, UK businesses might pity their US counterparts who, according to the same report, estimate they spend 266 days per year on admin. In the US, a working year is considered to typically contain 260 days, so somehow those businesses are spending more than an actual working year on admin tasks.
We’ve created a handy visual guide that summarises our findings and shows the administrative tasks that burden small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK.
What’s the solution to reduce admin and have more time to work on growing your business? Regardless of their size, most successful businesses use two different yet effective solutions.
The first is to outsource and the second is to make use of cloud computing, which might be said to be the most important computing revolution after the desktop computing revolution in the 1980s and the internet revolution of the 1990s.
The thought of implementing these within your business might fill you with dread but the truth is neither needs to be a headache. Here’s some tips on how to get started.
To reduce admin, try outsourcing
It might sound glib but a simple way to reduce your admin headache is to have somebody else do the work – and this is the fundamental principle behind outsourcing. Although the word has become synonymous with certain kinds of functions, such as IT, just about any function of a business can be outsourced.
Here are the first steps you should take when considering outsourcing.
Spend a little time making sure you understand and can encapsulate in writing what task(s) you want to outsource – and how much of that task you’d like to outsource, as well as the degree of automation you’d like to hand off.
For example, a growing business might want to outsource its human resources management but you might decide you still want weekly activity reports and may still want to retain control over running the payroll. You might want to outsource your accounting to a bookkeeper but still retain control over a degree of your sales expenditure accounting.
It’s extremely likely you’ll need to transfer your existing data and knowledge to the outsourcing third party. There’s really no way of getting around this so you’ll need to budget time upfront to do so.
If outsourcing bookkeeping, for example, you might need to set aside time to get your accounts into order, plus a little extra time to take your accountant or bookkeeper through them for ease of understanding.
Don’t forget that for large outsourcing jobs, you might need to have a lawyer prepare contracts in advance, something that can be a hidden cost that needs to be added in when budgeting.
Locate, research and hire
There are a number of options for finding people or third parties to whom you can outsource but this can present obvious dangers when utilising people or companies who you haven’t worked with before, or who are overseas so potentially outside easy legal redress (outsourcing overseas is known as offshoring).
To avoid issues, you might ask for recommendations from your peers, or even ask the firm or individual you’re considering using if they have any references you can see, or previous clients you can contact for references.
Moving to the cloud
Most of us have already accepted cloud computing into our lives, even if we aren’t entirely aware of it. After all, social media sites such as Facebook and email services such as Gmail are all flag-bearers for the cloud revolution.
And embracing cloud computing within your business is really no different. You can use the same equipment, which is to say the mobile phone in your pocket or the tablet in your bag that you use to watch movies and play games.
If your business has embraced cloud computing, here’s some advice for moving forward with it.
Give it time
Most of us actually put a lot of time and effort into getting good at using cloud services in our personal lives. After all, services such as Facebook might have seemed confusing at first yet somehow we all overcame those hurdles and turned into social media pros within no time at all.
Well, the same is true of cloud apps and services for businesses.
Most cloud services will aim to make the process of business admin as easy and as enjoyable as possible but you’ll still have to put in effort to make the most of the experience. This will involve making time to get good at using the cloud app and also finding a way to build it into your life and everyday experiences.
For an accounting app, for example, you might want to get used to checking your financial dashboard every lunchtime to ensure any outstanding invoices are being taken care of.
Sharing is caring
Nearly all cloud services and apps are built with sharing and collaboration in mind. To return to the example of an accounting cloud service mentioned above, you might choose to hook your cloud accounting software into your accountant’s cloud solution so they can also see your data.
This will make it extremely easy for them to take care of your taxes and you might find your bills falling as a result. Alternatively, if you have employees, you might choose to give them access to your cloud computing solution too.
Put simply, the old days of “one computer, one software package” have gone but it can be hard to lose that mentality and difficult to remember to truly embrace the freedom that cloud computing offers.
Don’t be afraid to experiment
New technology often brings surprising new ways of working and it’s best to try and avoid cynicism or reticence in order to just enjoy the experience. In short, always be prepared to experiment and let yourself go with the flow of new technology.
Using a smart watch, for example, means you can view information and vital notifications from your cloud services and apps without even having to lift a gadget out of your pocket or boot up your computer. All you need to is glance at your wrist. This feels strange at first but can rapidly turn into a big time-saver.
Similarly, we’re at a stage now in the cloud and mobile computing revolution where you no longer need a desktop or laptop PC. Many people find it possible to do all their tasks using a tablet or a mobile phone.
And without the need for a desktop PC, you also have no need for a desk to put it on – and therefore you might not even have any need for an office in which to put your computer. You can work wherever you happen to be.
Again, it’s all about having a mentality where you’re prepared to embrace the often radical potential offered by new technology.
How are you dealing with the challenge to reduce admin that comes with running a business? Let us know in the comments below.
Reduce admin and boost productivity
Trying to build your business but admin is getting in the way? Get your free guide and read it for advice on managing your time and using tech to reduce your admin.