Your to-do list, despite your best efforts, isn’t getting any shorter. Hours of your time every day are seemingly disappearing into thin air. You’re probably asking, “how can I reduce my paperwork?” Sound familiar? If it does, you’re not alone – recent research suggests admin, and bureaucracy are the most time-consuming tasks for small business owners.
According to a report by ICM on behalf of Canon, one in every five business owners spends most of their time on administrative tasks. In addition, almost a third of UK SMB and SoHo owners believe paperwork and admin are key challenges for their businesses.
The research suggests that 30 per cent of business owners in the UK would like to spend more time on business development – as opposed to general administration and book-keeping – and 21 per cent would like to spend more time on client and customer service. With a fifth of business decision-makers actually spending most of their time on administration and paperwork, this should come as no surprise.
Running a business is not an easy process and owners are often under pressure to be more agile and do more with less. Limited funds and a small workforce can often mean that enterprise partners and owners bear the brunt of general day-to-day operations, administration and document management. But in order to be profitable, an organisation must be productive – and productivity can be difficult to achieve for business owners that are consistently being taken away from their core functions of enterprise growth and customer service in order to battle against a never-ending tide of paperwork.
Business admin or paperwork, while low on the priority list, should be approached with the same four point decision making process as more business critical decisions:
- Stop and recognise the problems and pain points
- Research and evaluate alternatives
- Purchase and implement suitable solutions
- Evaluate success and address further issues
It’s important for every business to determine their own pain points and choose the best information management solution available because what will suit one company, may not necessarily work for another. For example, the needs of a real estate agency with employees constantly in and out of the office will be very different to an HR business where staff spend the majority of their day at their desks.
The answer to administrative challenges could very well lay externally, with outsourcing being one potential solution. French business owners are the most likely (35 per cent) to outsource their IT functions, and around two-thirds of French respondents feel, as a result, that they spend about the right amount of time on IT. In comparison, UK business owners were some of the least likely to outsource their IT functions (22 per cent). SoHos and sole traders that prefer to manage their business alone need another solution.
However, an internal alternative is to implement an effective information or document management process, which can help owners to digitise, analyse and store documents and data from various channels. Investment in reliable, network-ready technology can save both time and money for small businesses needing functional solutions for their day-to-day operations whilst allowing them to work seamlessly while on the move and make the most of their valuable time.
For start-ups and small organisations without centralised IT systems, the sooner a paper document is captured and converted into an electronic file, the faster, more cost-effective, and more accurate it becomes to process. Healthcare professionals, for example, can increase overall efficiency by scanning in notes for patient files rather than transcribing them before they are saved on the system freeing up more time to spend with patients.
Flexibility and dynamic decision-making are the cornerstones of a successful enterprise and a necessary part of business development. Too often, excess admin and paperwork can stifle growing businesses by stealing time and resources away from more important revenue generating tasks, and hindering productivity. By reducing the administrative burden, small business owners can spend more time on growth opportunities.
An improved flow of information empowers business owners and their employees to spend more time focusing on the two aspects of their organisation that matter most: customer service and business growth. After all, a happy customer is a loyal customer.