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Planning for success: how to run a more efficient business

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Running a small business can be a stressful job. Owners must be ready to turn their hand to a wide range of activities to succeed, perhaps moving from human resources one minute to stock taking and financial management the next.

The everyday tasks that sometimes dominate the workload may leave little time for strategic thinking. Yet with a few simple steps, SMB owners can turn things around and create more opportunities to do what they do best: find new ways to grow and drive success. One strategy that could be particularly effective involves embracing online planning tools, which can provide the visibility that entrepreneurs need to take control of their business.

Problems and solutions

Worldpay research found that over 40% of small business owners work six or even seven-days per week just to keep their heads above water.(1)  A recent Xero study found that over 80% had experienced stress in the past six months and 17% admitted being “highly stressed”.

Some of these stresses could be tied to the large operational workload that has become a fact of life for small business owners. A global study from Sage last year found that “business builders” spent on average 120 working days per year on admin tasks. These were dominated by accounting activities such as invoicing, which comprised a large proportion of the total time spent on admin by owners of medium-sized (41%), small (46%) and micro firms (51%).(2)

There are several things small business owners can try to relieve these pressures. First, sit down and work out what tasks demand most of your time, then think about how to prioritise effectively. There may be some tasks you can hand off to a member of staff: delegation doesn’t mean losing control, it’s just a better way to free up time for what’s most important for you and your business. Even small lifestyle changes like regular exercise, a healthy diet and regular bed times can put a spring in your step, reduce stress levels and improve concentration. You can find further tips about how to look after your wellbeing on FSB’s Wellbeing resource hub.

Time to plan for success

Another tip is to find automated tools to help reduce the manual workload associated with running a business. These could range from online accounting software to business planning tools which can generate much needed insights to help grow the company. According to Worldpay figures, a third of small businesses spend no time at all analysing business data, nearly two-thirds (62%) can’t identify their top three selling items and almost half (48%) don’t know their top 10 customers or what they order.(3) A further two-fifths said they can’t generate an up-to-date financial forecast.

Small business owners still using pen and paper to manage their admin, for example, will end up spending longer on day-to-day tasks and may not get the kind of insights that could be helpful to driving growth. This is where online tools have the potential to offer real value, by automating time-consuming tasks and offering key visibility into finances. With this kind of insight, small business owners could more easily spot which parts of the business might need improvement and target key areas for growth.

A single, unified view of all historical payments, for example, can help to inform you what stock is selling well and needs replenishing, and also who is buying it and can therefore be targeted with cross-selling and up-selling marketing campaigns. Continually refreshed data allows you to view daily, weekly, monthly or seasonal sales totals and trends — no waiting around for monthly statements to roll in. The sum effect is to drive greater business agility and improved decision making.

This is where a tool like Worldpay’s My Business Dashboard could be useful: it’s an online portal providing a full breakdown of sales and settlement activity.  It offers sales insights as well as a list of daily settlements, enriched information to aid reconciliation efforts, and a handy place to receive invoices. In the UK, small businesses owners lose nearly 6% of their time to the bureaucracy burden, at a potential cost to the economy of $54bn (£41m), according to Sage.(4) Online tools aren’t a silver bullet, but they could certainly help to reduce this admin workload and run your business more efficiently.

  1. Worldpay:
  2. Sage:
  3. Worldpay:
  4. Sage:

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