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Slaying Bureaucracy in Your Small Business

Kurt Rathmann
Kurt Rathmann

With the right tech, you can can tame paperwork and finances and run your business.

When we think about why small businesses fail, we often speculate about a handful of reasons: mismanagement, poor sales, crippling debt. But at the root of business failure is one common element: Administrative minutiae can choke a small business owner's passion.

Initially thrilled about the idea of being their own boss and setting their own hours, almost two-thirds of small business owners end up working between 40 and 60 hours per week. That time isn't spent doing what they love, either – the most time-consuming activity for small business owners is sitting in front of their computers answering email.

That overwhelming yet tedious task is taking a toll on founders: 72% of SMB owners said that they experience high levels of business-related stress. The business ends up running the business owner when it should be the other way around.

It's time for business owners to take back control and reclaim their companies and their lives.

Below are the six biggest bureaucratic hurdles business owners face and how you, as an SMB owner, can cut through the red tape and get back to doing what you're passionate about.

1. Information is scattered everywhere.

If you can't view all of your accounting and finance information – payroll, invoices, tax information – from the same place, you're not operating efficiently. Having to log in to separate, siloed systems to enter the same information more than once proffers a dear price in cognitive overhead. It may be time to re-evaluate your enterprise setup so that your efforts become seamless.

How to slay it: Use a single, intuitive interface to manage your administrative tasks. Sometimes, using too many "helpful" systems can end up complicating administrative tasks instead of simplifying them. Seek out software that lets you enter information once and only once, allowing you to operate efficiently from within one system. That doesn't mean you have to give up the business software you love, but it does mean you need to find an interface that integrates with that software. 

2. You're stuck at your desk processing paperwork.

If receipts, tax documents, invoices and the like magnetize you to your desk, you'll spend hours sorting and filing that you could instead spend on the business you love. Why spend precious time standing at the scanner sending receipts to yourself when you can simply snap a photo on your phone?

How to slay it: Go mobile. Instead of being stuck at a desk every time you need to process paperwork, fintech solutions can allow you to do your administrative chores on the go using your smartphone. Many mobile apps allow you not only to easily upload those receipt photos into your account but to track and manage invoices and expenses. By the time you make it to the office, there may not even be much "office work" to do.

3. Logging business expenses takes hours.

Once you've uploaded your receipts and other documents, you still have to put them where they belong, which can easily suck up several hours.

How to slay it: Put your accounting on autopilot. Using artificial intelligence, smart software solutions can automatically pull information about purchases from credit card transaction histories and then automatically categorize those purchases into appropriate departments or areas that will help you when it's time to do your taxes.

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4. You track tons of data about your business but aren't sure what to do with it.

Piles of paperwork may appear to amount to nothing but busywork. When analyzed in terms of business results, however, the paperwork mess becomes a strategic ally. And it doesn't have to be time-consuming.

How to slay it: Use AI to streamline the decision-making process. By automatically accessing your company's most up-to-date financial data, intelligent software can not only offer historical analysis, but make accurate predictions about your company's future cash flow. Smart software can even take things one step further and use available information to offer fresh insights with specific suggestions on how you can better manage your business. Does your current spending deviate from your historical patterns? AI will let you know.

5. You go around in circles with an "intelligent" chatbot.

Chatbots respond quickly, but they don't always give the right answers. Sometimes applications prevent you from reaching human help. Make sure that you can circumvent the chatbot when needed so it doesn't become an infinite loop of questions and non-answers.

How to slay it: Choose tech solutions that offer easy access to artificial and human expertise. While intelligent chatbots can be an excellent way to teach you how to utilize your software, they do have limitations. Before signing a contract for any platform, make sure that if you're unable to get a satisfactory response from an automated chatbot, you have the option to reach a real human who will spend the time and resources to assist you.

6. By the time you make a decision, the information is out of date.

The slow speed of processing and analyzing paperwork often means that insights are delayed. We're at a time and place in the evolution of technology, however, when that doesn't have to be the case.

How to slay it: Run on real time. In today's fast-paced world, making business decisions based on old information is not only irrelevant but unnecessary. Seek out software that updates your finance and accounting information in real time by pulling data from changing sources like banking and credit card information. That way, the details you can see from your account reflect your true, up-to-date cash availability, helping you to make smarter choices moving forward.

With the right setup and the right technology, small business owners can use the above shortcuts to cut down on administrative tasks without making sacrifices. Ultimately, a smart approach to the day-to-day details can bring back the passion and excitement of running a small business – the same passion and excitement that inspired you to venture out on your own in the first place.

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Kurt Rathmann
Kurt Rathmann Member
Kurt Rathmann is a serial entrepreneur. In high school, he founded numerous businesses, including a 17-person landscape and architectural lighting company with 200+ clients. He attended the McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin where his experience in the Professional Accounting program developed his passion for financial technology. As a Senior Audit Professional at KPMG in Denver, Kurt became the CFO of KNS Communications Consultants. During his time in this role, he turned his attention toward financial technology innovations and cloud applications. In 2014, he launched ScaleFactor where he is currently the Founder and CEO.