Small business owners channel an incredible amount of time and energy into their work. But no matter how much hard work you’re doing, if you don’t know how to cut down on those repetitive time-wasting tasks, it can often feel like you’re chasing your own tail.
Many owners are selling themselves short by not thinking beyond their day to day operations, and getting stuck in a cycle of reactive – rather than proactive – activity. The good news is there’s a solution. By applying some simple time-saving hacks, your business can finally stop going round in circles, and start moving forward.
The power of automation
Automating your processes and getting on top of your data might seem like just another thing on your long to-do list, but the benefits it can provide far outweigh any time spent setting up. Embracing your automation is the perfect way to keep a small business running smoothly, and stop you getting bogged down in the hundreds of individual tasks that use up a good chunk of your day.
Free up time by using accounting tools such as Xero, which allow you to take photos of receipts and reconcile accounts on the run. Many types of accounting software allow you to set automated rules that minimise your time in bank reconciliation.
Think like a detective
By regularly collating data from your business, you can make much better decisions that will help you grow and save money. Data can help you figure out how quickly stock turns over, which periods are the busiest, how much time people spend in-store, and what margins are made on different products. Your biggest competitors might have been doing it for years, but it’s never too late to start.
You may have done plenty of market research when you first started your business, but how often do you evaluate what’s working? Review your demographic and identify new opportunities through analytics or even census data. For example, you might want to focus on the Lunar New Year instead of putting most of your marketing budget behind EOFY sales.
Remember to ask where your sales are coming from, in order to learn which sales pipelines you should be focussing on. Are you a bricks-and-mortar retailer whose online sales are growing? Will you need to invest more in that channel for it to reach its potential? Once you’ve got a better answer to those questions, you can stop wasting time on the tasks that won’t help you get there.
Data can also help you understand what days and times are the busiest to ensure the right number of staff at different times. This saves you from wasting your employee’s time during quiet times, and also means you won’t be understaffed at peak times. Try measuring for not only the number of visitors, but how long they stick around. By measuring how much time your customers spend browsing in-store or on your online store, you can compare this with averages and set goals for how to improve.
Do you know how much of your revenue is a result of repeat business? Use your sales data to keep an eye on this so you can track any changes. Then as you make improvements to your customer service, create loyalty programs, or tweak how you market to existing customers, you’ll be saving both time and money.
By utilising both data and automation, small family businesses can get smart about where their time is going. Eventually, you’ll be able to say goodbye to those frustrating, lost hours and finally get on top of those tasks that will move your business forward.
Ben Kearney is the CEO of the Australian Lottery and Newsagents Association (ALNA), the peak national industry body for Australia’s newsagents and lottery agents.