I recently spoke with an entrepreneur about his information security company to see if indinero would be a good fit for handling his accounting and taxes. He was clearly feeling the pain of managing his back office on his own, but after a few minutes, I realized that these tasks were just a drop in his bucket.
We have a great product and we’re getting more and more customers,” he told me. “But running the business isn’t getting any easier. Actually, the more customers we get, the less I’m able to focus on my product and my employees.”
I can’t say that’s the first time I’ve heard a business owner say that.
These pains are all too common in businesses when they’re going through growth spurts. But luckily there are a few steps you can take to head them off at the outset. Here are five steps I discussed with him that he seemed to think were helpful, and hopefully you will too!
How You Can be Smarter About Your Business Operations
1. Ban email
Especially for small businesses, streamlining operations is about finding those time vampires that suck the day away without your realizing it. There is no bigger culprit than email. If you don’t ban it altogether, spend no more than 15 minutes per day responding to it—delete ads and spam without opening and respond only to the most urgent messages (you might be surprised by how few messages are truly urgent). At indinero, we use Slack for all internal communications, making for targeted, efficient collaboration.
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2. Offload the burden of accounting and taxes
Of all the recurring tasks that you do to run your small business accounting and taxes have to be at the top of the list. Between invoicing, paying bills, reimbursing your employees, and keeping your general ledger in order, the day-to-day accounting can become a full-time job on its own.
There are a lot of reasons why most small businesses shouldn’t do DIY taxes—your time is worth more, mistakes are expensive, you can’t benefit from expert advice. But the biggest reason is that it takes away from your expertise.
You’ll know you’ve won at business operations when you’ve automated away these tasks. Whether or not indinero is the right tax and accounting solution for your company, odds are that outsourcing accounting and taxes will give you back weeks of your time each year.
And while we’re on the subject of outsourcing…..
3. Let the experts handle HR
Paying your employees and providing solid benefits are both incredibly important! But they should never take away from your business. Without even realizing it, your small business is probably spending approximately one-third of its time doing payroll and benefits administration. And if tax payment deadlines aren’t met or filings are incorrect, it’ll take even more time (and money) to resolve those issues. Ugh!
Fortunately, companies like TriNet or Zenefits have completely streamlined HR operations for small businesses, creating friendly, easy processes for you and your workers.
4. Make meetings productive (or cancel them)
Ah, the meeting to prepare for the meeting—it’s right at the intersection of Time Waste Avenue and Soul Suck Boulevard. Even if your company avoids that level of ridiculousness, meetings have a way of multiplying like small rodents, but no where near as cute. They disrupt workflow, take up space, and frequently accomplish nothing. If streamlining your business operations means greater employee productivity, put the kibosh on meetings that don’t directly contribute to your quarterly or monthly objective.
5. Hire amazing people from the outset
My CEO, Jessica Mah, has talked about the hiring mistakes she made in the early days of indinero: too many friends, not enough expertise. If you have seats to fill, it can be tempting to hire your friends, or to rush hiring decisions. Fight this urge at all costs! Hiring the wrong person ultimately wastes so much more time and money than just waiting for the right fit.
This tweak may require more effort than the other five on this list, but avoiding turnover goes a long way toward efficient business operations. First, think about the gaps in your company? Where are you weak? Where do you need outside expertise? Find smart, creative recruiters who understand your business and vision and the positions you’re hiring for. Challenge them (and your team leads) to find the best and brightest candidates who would also be great fits for your company culture. Make them responsible for assembling great teams, not just a team.
Any small business is going to have growing pains, but making some smart operational choices early on can free up weeks of your time every year, save you money, and keep you focused on your business’s success. Your future self will thank you.
Just ask Wade Foster, Co-Founder & CEO of Zapier, how unloading his back-office burden helped him regain control of a rapidly growing company.