Get your business ready for the Autumn

Get your business ready for the Autumn

The summer can be a quiet time for smaller businesses. Your customers are likely to be on holiday and you may have found yourself with less to do.  Perhaps you filled the down time by improving your business’s systems and processes, so that everything runs more smoothly when things pick back up again in the Autumn.

But if you didn’t get a chance to use this year’s summer holidays to prepare your business, don’t despair - there’s still time to get everything in order before the Christmas rush.

Emily Coltman ACA, Chief Accountant to FreeAgent.com gives her tips on how to get your business into shape and ready this Autumn.

Identify your pain points

Systematically go through each of your business’s systems - including how you track sales and invoice customers, how you calculate commission and how you pay bills. Don’t be tempted to just do this in your head, because it’s easy to skip over vital information by mistake: write down each step in the system as if you were creating an instruction manual for someone new to your business.

Where are the pain points in the systems? For example, do you spend a lot of time re-entering the same set of data into two different places, such as separate spreadsheets? Or does it take you a long time to write out all your cheques each week for your suppliers?

Search for alternatives

Once you know where your pain points are, you can start looking for alternative systems to implement that might ease them.

For example, if you spend a lot of time trying to manage your accounts on a spreadsheet, you may find that using an online accounting system like FreeAgent helps save you time. Or if you’re already using an online system but it takes you a long time each month to enter all your expenses, you could use a tool like ReceiptBank that lets you quickly photograph each receipt on your iPhone - meaning that you don’t have to manually upload the data.

And use your contact networks to find these alternative systems. Ask your colleagues at networking events, or your contacts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, to see what they’re using - and whether they would recommend that you also use these systems for your business.

Research system integrations

Your existing system providers may also be able to recommend solutions that integrate with theirs to help your business. For example, does your bank provide direct feeds into your online accounting system, like FreeAgent enjoys with Barclays? Or is your accounting software integrated with services like PayPal or GoCardless which enable you to get paid online by your clients? Using these can save you a lot of time.

Could you outsource?

Does admin take up more of your time than it should? Do you find yourself constantly fielding cold sales calls?

It might be time to find a virtual assistant to take this work on for you, freeing you up to do more chargeable work for your customers. Use this quiet time to find the right virtual assistant for your business.

Improve your knowledge

Have you ever felt, while working with a client, that there are areas where your knowledge could do with brushing up? For example, if you’re a graphic designer, have you had to learn a program such as Photoshop quickly, but don’t feel completely comfortable with it, or don’t think you’re making the best use of the services it offers?

Make sure that your knowledge is up to date and as full as possible. You never know, you might find that you’re buying extra software that you don’t need - as an existing package can do the job for you.

By following these tips you can make the best of the quiet summer time and be ready to move back up to full speed with a smoothly running engine now your clients and customers are back from their summer breaks.

Emily Coltman ACA is Chief Accountant to FreeAgent, who provides an online accounting system designed to meet the needs of small businesses and freelancers. Try it for free at www.freeagent.com.

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