Industry Views

New Year's resolutions for smart business owners

January 2, 2019

The holiday season is over and it’s time to think about how to put our best foot forward in the year ahead, both in our personal lives and at work. New Year's resolutions are famously hard to stick to, but considering the steps you could take to make your business even more successful could really pay off. So here are some resolutions we think could make the most difference to organisations in 2019:

Improve your hiring process and consider technical skills

It’s common sense to hire the best team to build your business, but how often have you been in a rush to fill a position, or hired on first impressions without properly vetting a candidate? Most of the time it works out well, but it’s better to really consider what you need from an employee in terms of attitude, their work history and skills. Google has a notoriously difficult screening process and whilst you might not have the resources to interview candidates quite as rigorously, be conscious of who is on your hiring team and the most effective questions you can ask.  

With digital disruption and other economic factors meaning that 35% of core skills will change by 2020, consider hiring new recruits with good technical knowledge, as using digital solutions will be increasingly important across all lines of business. As well as using recruiters, network in your industry and reach out to prospective candidates via LinkedIn. This can be a much quicker route to finding talent, whilst saving your business expensive agency fees. It can also allow you to more closely review an individual’s competencies and interests through articles they’ve posted or groups they’re following.

Train management to motivate employees  

Having built the right team, it’s important to keep your workforce engaged. Despite 90% of employers agreeing that having an employee engagement strategy is important, only 25% actually have one. A massive 85% of employees consider themselves to be disengaged, resulting in productivity losses amounting to $7 trillion a year!

Having a strong management team is at the heart of employee engagement, especially when you consider that 75% of employees ‘leave their bosses’ and not their jobs. Whilst managers may seem like they’re keeping the troops happy, being an effective leader is a skill that doesn’t come with years of work experience alone. Therefore, provide ongoing training to help management keep staff motivated. Consider setting up online questionnaires that allow staff to anonymously share issues, which is an effective way to resolve problems which might not come to light otherwise.

Learn from others to provide great customer experiences

As we all know, it can be incredibly frustrating to have a negative experience with a service provider, and most businesses have too many competitors to risk losing clients through poor customer service or a lack of staff training. Attention to detail is key and it’s worth looking at other industries to get a fresh perspective. Retail giants such as ASOS and Amazon often score highly for their customer service and whilst they might not be like your firm in structure, certain principles apply to all industries. This includes quick turnaround times, fuss free return policies, easy to use mobile apps and 24/7 customer support - as well as offering a ‘personal touch’ such as voucher codes on a user’s birthday or rewards for repeat custom.      

In terms of our own approach, we understand that one size doesn’t fit all. When onboarding new clients, we take the time to understand their business challenges and how our software can help them to meet their individual goals. Our customer support team is based with us, in our Dublin HQ, and we pride ourselves in delivering fast and friendly customer service. Our in-chat app is a particularly efficient way for users to reach us and our customer success team works closely with clients to verify that our software is delivering real business impact for them. We pay close attention to online ratings and the feedback we receive on social media to ensure we reply to users quickly and take their comments on board.

Keep a tight rein on expenses

For your business to be as profitable as possible, it’s important to have a good grip on cash flow. Your overall sales might be good, but your net profit will be greatly reduced by unnecessary expenses throughout the year. Your CFO or accountant should help you run a tight ship and provide you with regular reports on CapEx and OpEx and any cuts that can be made. They should be able to advise you where you can raise money or save money; such as available funding, costly manual processes, high interest bank accounts, or the right credit cards to use when travelling. Review staff expenses and set guideline on spending allowances when teams are travelling for work.

Work with a proactive accountant

Further to the above, it’s critical to have an excellent working relationship with your accountant, and to find one who is proactive in helping to maximise your growth and earnings potential. When choosing a new practice, it should be regulated by a professional industry body and have experience serving businesses similar to yours so they can help you overcome industry-specific challenges.

Accounting firms typically offer a range of services, from business planning and forecasting, to bookkeeping, payroll, tax planning, investment advice and more, so consider what services you need help with most. If you’re a VAT-registered business in the UK with a taxable turnover above £85,000, you’ll need to comply with HMRC’s Making Tax Digital (MTD) from 1st April 2019 which will require businesses to keep digital records for VAT purposes. Ask your accountant about this as soon as possible if you’re unsure of next steps for your business.   

Different firms will offer different methods of billing, either fixed rate fees, by the hour, or value-based pricing, which determines fee by the amount of ‘value’ they deliver to your business. Whatever option you choose, work out your budget and negotiate fees where possible. Aim to speak to as many candidates as possible before making your final decision. You’ll want a long lasting relationship with your accountant, so it’s important to have a good rapport with them from the start.  

Invest in automation

Businesses are spending more on IT than ever before, to work more efficiently and reduce operating costs. As part of this, automated solutions are increasingly being leveraged by business owners to support a range of processes, including:

  • Sales: It’s important to know as much as possible about your sales cycle, including where new leads come from and why certain prospects don’t convert, in order to refine outreach and get the best out of your sales teams. But it’s difficult to capture that information without the right processes or technologies in place. A customer relationship management (CRM) solution such as Salesforce, can give you these insights, by aggregating data from customer interactions to help users more effectively reach targets.
  • Scheduling and conferencing: Scheduling appointments can often take too much time and too many emails. However, there are a range of smart tools which can simplify this process, by giving recipients a menu of times to choose from and automating calendar invites into their diary. Elsewhere, automated conferencing tools help users to more easily catch up with contacts when working remotely, and give shared cost numbers so calls can be scheduled across multiple regions, without the long distance phone bills.
  • Bookkeeping data entry: Manual data entry within bookkeeping is one of the most inefficient practices to sustain, due to the sheer amount of time and expense it takes to get it right. And with automated data entry solutions widely available for this very purpose, there’s no need to spend hours typing in data from your bills and receipts anymore.   

AutoEntry is such a tool, and works by capturing and analysing details from scanned and photographed images of paper documents, and inputting this information directly into your accounting software. Simply scan, take a photo with the mobile app, or send your documents via email and AutoEntry will do the rest. Once AutoEntry has captured and entered this data, it creates a digital record of the image and attaches it to the transaction in your accounting software. Businesses will no longer need to store any paper copies, so they can declutter their office and go green.

Moving forward, keeping digital records to submit VAT returns will be an obligation for those businesses which qualify for MTD, as mentioned above. It will benefit businesses to use cloud-based accounting software and data entry solutions such as AutoEntry, to send information digitally to HMRC and comply with these new laws by the deadline.  

 

What are your New Year's resolutions? Contact us today to let us know, or to find out how to automate your bookkeeping data entry with AutoEntry.