Being a business owner is rewarding, as it gives a higher level of flexibility, freedom, and more confidence in what you do. However, running a business requires much of your time and loads you with more responsibilities. The majority of small business owners work more than 40 hours a week, and for many, this figure is even bigger, reaching 60 hours a week. And still, lack of time remains a big concern for a significant percentage of small business owners. The shortage of time can occur owing to many reasons, including a lack of necessary skills or resources, etc.
While it can be hard to find more time, several processes can be tweaked to help business owners use the time they have more productively.
1. Improve accounting
Accounting, being a significant part of business management, is one of the biggest time-eaters for small business owners. Many of them do not have a hired accountant or bookkeeper, in fact, nearly a half (46%), according to Clutch. So at large, they have to do it themselves. Moreover, about a quarter of small businesses (25%) still record their finances on paper. There’s no need to say how time-consuming it can be. Besides, paper accounting bears a high risk of errors and data loss.
Today, many accounting solutions, such as QuickBooks or Xero, or FreshBooks, or Microsoft Dynamics GP, bring accounting to a better level for small businesses and dramatically decrease the time needed to fulfill accounting operations. Gathering all the accounting records in one place, they allow for more accurate reporting, better cash flow tracking and analysis, budgeting, preventing data loss, and many more.
2. Automate recurring finance management tasks
Paperless accounting is just a small step to the more efficient management of the financial part of a business. There are many repetitive tasks that you need to fulfill daily, weekly, or monthly, some of which can be and even should be automated.
For example, bringing your new financial records into accounting can be quite a job even if you have about a hundred transactions a month. But what if you have a couple of thousands and process them through different payment systems? Or what about sending and closing invoices to your customers? While accounting systems don’t usually provide the needed level of automation, many of them, luckily, allow for integration with third-party apps that solve this problem.
Synder, for example, synchronizes online payment systems with accounting. The integration allows for instantly recording all the transactions from payment systems in QuickBooks (or Xero), automatically categorize sales and expenses, accept online payments with credit cards, send invoices and automatically close them in accounting upon payment.
3. Bring your docs in the cloud
Did you know that nearly 40% of businesses claim to fail at document management, naming locating and sharing documents among the biggest issues? Poor document management can result in significant time loss, as looking for the necessary documents can sometimes take up to 2,5 hours a day. So for a business owner, it’s vitally important to arrange all the business paperwork into a clear and comprehensible system. Though it might require an investment of time initially, it can be a time-saver in the future.
One of the best practices here is, actually, to get rid of paper and bring the documents in the cloud. Apart from allowing for faster search for documents, cloud storage provides better security, as well as allows for easier sharing documents within a company. There are many options on the market that you can use. But you can look at Google Drive or G Suite, its extended, business version. Both allow for safely storing, searching for, and sharing documents, providing a high level of security and different levels of access to business documents.
4. Save time on passwords
Security in mind, it’s a common recommendation to create intricate passwords that contain upper and lower cases, numbers, special symbols, etc. However, how many passwords can you literally keep in your head, five, ten? I remember stumbling upon an article saying that an average business employee might have to keep track of 191 passwords. Can you imagine memorizing all of them? Neither can I.
The growing number of apps and services that people use to perform their job often makes them start using a single password for all of the services, merely to save time on recalling a needed password. Which, in turn, results in a higher risk of a security breach.
So here is where password managers can be a better option. In a nutshell, a password manager is a program that allows for storing all your credentials in one safe place online and makes logging into the online services that you’re using faster. Today, there are many options that you can choose from both free, like Bitwarden, and paid, like Dashlane. They can vary in the provided functionality, however, they do what they should – give you faster access to the apps and services that you use.
5. Leverage proposal templates
Being responsible for acquiring new clients, a small business owner inevitably faces the necessity to write and process tons of proposals. It’s an important part of business management, and writing a proposal that can reach your goal takes time.
So, instead of creating each proposal from scratch, it’s good practice to use proposal templates. Creating a template will require you to invest your time and effort. But it’s the investment that pays off 200%, as you won’t need to spend your time on the form and structure of a proposal but only tweak the message, depending on the needs of a certain prospect.
You can also use ready-made proposal templates. Many options are available on the market, and many proposal management solutions, such as HubSpot or PandaDoc, come with a variety of pre-made templates for everything from sales to marketing to business plans.
6. Control communication
An integral part of any business, communication, when not approached wisely, can bring a lot of mess into your working hours. In fact, you can end up answering endless calls, previewed and unexpected, being distracted any other minute, and unable to focus on your work.
To take communication under control, you need to introduce a practice of scheduling all your calls and appointments to a certain part of your working day, and strictly follow the rule. While you can easily make your employees aware of the time that you’re usually open to communication with them, you can’t predict what would be a convenient communication time for your clients, business prospects, potential customers, etc.
In the latter case, scheduling solutions, for example, Calendly, can be a life-saver. At large, it allows you to set up periods in which you are usually open to communication and let people choose a convenient time to talk within your planned frames.
7. Leverage video conferencing
The necessity to meet with clients, partners, suppliers, and many other people makes business owners spend their time on getting about. Today, especially in big cities, this can be counterproductive. Traffic jams, unpredicted road closures – how many meetings you can handle if it might take you a couple of hours only to get to a place?
While meeting people in person is important, it’s not always necessary. Particularly as you can reach people using video conferencing. No wonder that video conferencing is becoming a significant part of doing business today. It facilitates face-to-face communication with clients and partners, cutting the need for traveling (and cutting a great deal of traveling costs), providing more flexibility in appointing meetings, and finally, giving the possibility to handle more meetings during a day. There’s no need to say that the choice of video conferencing solutions is pretty wide and includes both free and paid variants. You’ve definitely heard about Zoom. But there are also Google Meet, UberConference, and many more.
8. Deal with email subscriptions
Emails are one of the most preferred ways of communication today. A study by Adobe showed that, on average, Americans spend up to five hours a day checking their work and personal emails. It’s a big figure, and being a business owner, you can’t afford to spend so much time just checking emails. Moreover, a larger part of these emails are all kinds of subscriptions that don’t necessarily need. To spare a couple of hours, you need to get rid of unwanted emails.
Today, many email providers, like Google, for example, are using AI to make their algorithms sort unnecessary emails out of your inbox. However, this doesn’t fully stop the flow, and all sorts of promos, newsletters, and advertising emails keep clattering your box.
Unsubscribe manually can be time-consuming, as you need to open each email and scroll down it to find an unsubscribe link. Some email providers have recently started to add the unsubscribe option next to the sender’s address. You’ll still need to open an email, but there will be no more scrolling.
Also, there are services, such as Unroll.me, for example, that allow you to bulk unsubscribe from all the unwanted emails.
9. Cut unnecessary meetings
There is nothing bad in meetings – they are an integral part of any company’s workflow. However, 67% of professionals believe that excessive meetings are distracting and make them work less efficiently. Moreover, many people view a third of any meeting as pointless.
So, there is a high probability that at least a part of the meetings that you hold during a week are redundant, and you can cancel them. Many working moments can be easily discussed with the needed people online via team collaboration apps, like Slack, with no need to gather the whole team in a meeting room.
10. Don’t forget to pause
As a business owner, you want to control every aspect of your business. But sometimes it’s more productive to make a pause, look at your tasks, and decide on which of them you can delegate to someone else. Even if those will be people hired to do their job once a month, it will likely cost you less and free you more time to fulfill things that require more of your attention.
Managing business efficiently is an art where there are no one-fit-for-all solutions. Many depend on the industry, size of a business, access to necessary resources, and more. However, there are always routine processes inside a company that a business owner can review and enhance to gain more time for business-critical tasks, such as business growth, finding new clients, etc. These ten tips are not an exhaustive list, of course, but I hope they can give you some ideas, encourage you to review how you are using your time and find the place for improvement.