At one time, the world thought computers were going to free up time and resources, eliminating jobs and allowing business owners to spend more time doing things they love. Nearly two decades after Windows 95 changed the face of offices everywhere, we’ve learned the opposite is true. Not only do we have less free time than ever, we spend that time connected to our various electronic devices.
A recent study by Sage North America found many entrepreneurs seem frustrated with the endless stream of appointments, e-mails to answer, and various applications to keep up with. Many entrepreneurs, according to the survey, wish they had a way to link applications together in one simple interface. But while 51% of respondents wanted applications that linked together, 52% of those respondents said their current applications don’t link together. Another 21% of that group reported not having time to figure out how to link their applications together in a way that would save time in the long run.
The good news is, Sage conducted the survey to find ways to make life easier for business owners. “These results, along with the feedback that we receive directly from customers, allow us to have a better understanding of what small businesses are looking for so we can develop tools that meet the real needs of its users,” Connie Certusi, Sage North America’s vice president and general manager of small business solutions says.
While Sage works on software-based solutions, there are a few things your small business can learn from Sage’s survey to help squeeze more productivity into each day. Those include:
- Digitize your calendar. Sage’s survey found that 13% of entrepreneurs are still using paper calendars to keep track of appointments. Not only does this take longer and increase the risk of it being misplaced, but your co-workers and employees have no way to access it. By using your Outlook calendar or Google Calendar, you can sync your appointments and keep track of your schedule from any device with internet connectivity.
- Automate administrative functions. Nearly a quarter of respondents reported spending more than half their time on administrative tasks, while another 32% said they spend nearly a quarter of their time on such tasks. Consider software that can handle customer billing, cost estimating, and even inventory processes. While you may spend more on the front end, your time is money as well. Long-term, these solutions can mean more for your business’s bottom line.
- Consolidate apps. Sage reports that 66% of respondents say they use at least three different pieces of software to manage their daily operations. This is in addition to the non-electronic processes these business owners use. Investigate ways to integrate separate software or, at the very least, ways to migrate non-electronic tasks with some of your software. At least one of your software solutions likely comes with customer support. One click phone call could put you in touch with someone who can talk you through linking up software to save time.
- Utilize mobile versions of apps. If you can take some of your administrative functions on the road, you’ll be able to be productive at times when you normally wouldn’t–at the airport, in the waiting room of your doctor’s office, etc.
The key to improving processes is to ask the question, “Why?” If your reason for not automating processes is, “our manual system works fine,” as 35% of paper-based businesses responded, you might be relying on comfort. To truly progress as a small business, it’s important to always be moving forward.