Automating Your Small Business’s Finance Processes: How to Get Started
With so many things on their mind, it’s no surprise that small business owners tend to put off automating their finance processes. After all, there’s always something more pressing to attend to, whether it’s growing the business, keeping up with customer demand, or simply putting out fires daily.
But the truth is, automating your small business’ finance processes can save you a lot of time and headache down the road. You may not realize it, but those daily (or weekly) finance tasks can really add up, and they’re only going to get more time-consuming as your business grows.
Yes, automating will involve a small start-up cost and a little bit of effort up front, but these initial steps will pay off ten-fold in the long run. So, if you’re ready to take the plunge, here’s how to get started automating your small business’ finance processes:
What Does Automating Business Processes Mean?
Automation simply means using technology to perform a task or series of tasks without human intervention.
For our purposes, we’ll be looking at how you can use automation to streamline your finance processes, such as invoicing, tracking expenses, and managing payroll.
The goal is to reduce the amount of time you spend on manual, repetitive tasks so that you can focus on more important things, like growing your business.
Do You Need to Automate Your Business Processes?
If your business is still small and you only have a handful of employees, you might not need to automate quite yet. manually performing tasks like invoicing and tracking expenses might not take up too much of your time.
But as your business grows and you add more employees, customers, and vendors, those manual tasks will start to take up more and more of your time.
If your business has the following characteristics, it’s probably time to start automating:
- You have more than 10 employees
- You have customers in multiple countries
- You sell products or services online
- You have a complex product or pricing structure
- You frequently deal with large amounts of data
Of course, you can also start on the path to automation even if your business doesn’t meet all of the above criteria. It just depends on how much time you want to free up in your schedule.
How to Automate Your Small Business’ Finance Processes
Now that we’ve gone over what automation is and whether or not your small business needs it, let’s take a look at how you can get started automating your finance processes.
Setting the stage
The first step is to gather all of the data that you’ll need to automate your finance processes. This will include things like customer information, vendor information, employee information, and financial transaction history. If you don’t already have this information in a digital format, now is the time to digitize it. This will make it much easier to input into your automation software later on.
Having this data on hand can help you pinpoint which processes you want to automate first. For example, if inventory planning eats up a lot of your time, you might want to start there.
Pick the right tools
Shopping for automation tools right now often feels like being a kid in a candy store. Doing your due diligence not only helps you find the best solution for your business, but it can also help you avoid getting overwhelmed by all of the choices.
To get started, make a list of your business’ requirements and pain points.
For instance, if your business has had several run-ins with vendors over late payments, you might need an accounts payable platform that includes features like automated payments and reminders.
Whatever software you choose, make sure that it integrates with your existing accounting software. This will make the transition to automation much smoother. If your company uses digital business cards, for example, don’t choose software that can’t scan and store them seamlessly.
A few more things to keep in mind as you shop around:
- Ease of use – The software you choose should be easy for you and your employees to use. Otherwise, you’ll just end up frustrated and will never actually use it.
- Pricing – Don’t forget to factor in things like subscription fees, implementation costs, and training costs when you’re considering the total cost of ownership for a piece of software.
- Customer support – Unless you have a dedicated IT team, you’ll probably need to lean on customer support from time to time. Make sure that the software you choose has good customer support options, like a knowledge base, email support, and/or phone support.
Get your team to buy in
The word “automation” makes a lot of people nervous, especially when it comes to their jobs.
When proposing automation to your team, it’s important to emphasize that the goal is to make everyone’s jobs easier, not to replace anyone. Show them how the new software will help them save time on tasks that they currently find tedious or difficult.
You should also make it clear that automation doesn’t have to happen all at once. You can start small by automating one or two processes, gradually adding more over time.
Finally, allow your team to test out the new software before it goes live. This will help them feel more comfortable with it and identify any potential problems that need to be ironed out.
Automation is more than just a buzzword for small business owners today. Far from a luxury for only the biggest businesses, automation is now within reach for companies of all sizes. Understanding your needs and matching them to the right software can help you take your business to the next level—-especially once your team is on board. From there, it’s just a matter of scaling up as your business grows!