Most small business owners have the same top complaint….. I don’t have any time!

It’s easy to fill your time with non-value added tasks.  Such as aimlessly tweeting, counting your inventory three times a week, manually keying invoices, and using an old-fashioned cash register instead of a point of sale system.

The problem is that you can’t just easily jump into running more efficient systems until you really understand your business and how it works.  You need to understand the business of your business.  You need to understand how data flows, who your customers are and what your overall objectives are.

Depending on your business model and objectives, some small business owners may find that the systems they build from the beginning are actually their competitive advantage because it makes them get things done quicker than their competition.

Typically, you should at least consider and plan for improvements to your business systems before you even open your business. Your business plan should include a section on how you intend to operate your business and that should include any technology, tools, processes or resources that can help give you a competitive advantage.

The reality of the situation is that most business owners that are just starting out are not going to have the capital to invest in higher-end systems. They also won’t have the volume of sales or transactions to justify the cost until they ramp up their business. Keeping in mind that you will eventually have the sales, ability and need to justify these systems, try to keep your initial systems as simple and straightforward as possible. I highly recommend tracking as much as possible either in Excel spreadsheets or in a free tool that allows you to export all your data to .csv. This will ensure that you are easily able to convert your data to a more sophisticated system once the time comes.

What are some signs that you could greatly benefit from improved processes or business systems?

Most business owners will just know when the right time is. No one knows your business better than you. Five key indicators that can show you should consider improving your operations:

1. Your business is in growth mode. Things are going well, you have some extra money to invest back into the business. You want to keep growing and know that in order to do so, you’ll need to be able to better analyze your data to make decisions. This means you need a better way to track it and report on it.

2. Your staff (or yourself) are maxed out and can’t keep up with the demand of your customers. Improving your processes can free up more time, build employee morale and streamline operations.

3. You aren’t using any technology! Are you still using paper and pencil to track any of your data?! Eeek!  There are some great simple tools available that will make your life so much easier and save you so much more time.  Perhaps you’re only doing a few things manually… if so, they should really only be a short term solution or absolutely necessary.  If manually processes account for more than 10% of your overall systems, then you need to systemize quickly or you will fall behind your competitors!

4. You have more than 10 employees.  That number can very between organizations.  But basically, if your staff is growing and you aren’t able to track and report on their details to maintain government compliance, you need to look at a better solution. Any company with more than 10 employees can easily benefit from having an HR and Payroll system to manage their employees.|In most cases, you can still benefit from a system if you have only one employee!

5. You are reading this article.  Whatever drew you to this article is likely a very good reason for looking into better systems.  Even if you are already using technology, there is always room for improvement.  You should conduct regular system audits annually to ensure that your systems still support your current business processes.  Sometimes our business changes, but we don’t update our systems to work efficiently with the new processes.  Taking regular inventory of our systems and technology can be a great competitive advantage!