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Making the most of digital and cloud

Making the most of digital and cloud

Making the most of digital and cloud

Transforming into a digital business sets the best possible infrastructure for your future growth. And, as your business scales, the benefits of going digital will start to become obvious.

Running your key business processes in the cloud and using the latest digital software and apps adds to both your efficiency and your productivity. And, most importantly, digital systems are designed to scale with you as your enterprise grows and the need for resources increases.

Here are some of the big reasons for taking the plunge and diving into digital.

Automate your key manual process to increase efficiency

A scalable business has to systemise its processes and procedures. If your business model is still tied to manual processes and a system that only exists in the owner’s head, you’ll eventually come up against a capacity brick wall. Systemising and automating your processes is a fundamental step when you make the jump to digital.

Look at every internal and external step in your operations and write down how these systems work. Note down each task, who actions what and how the whole system links in with the next step in your operational chain. If there are opportunities to automate a step, automate it. Many business apps now include artificial intelligence (AI) or automation features that can chase up unpaid invoices, send automated replies to customers in live chats, or take automatic payments etc.

Work in the cloud to stay more connected

Since the start of the 2020 pandemic, the world has seen a quantum shift to remote working – and that’s only been possible because of cloud technology. Instead of working from local applications on our laptops or office-based servers, most tech-savvy businesses now use cloud-based apps that are accessible anywhere you have an internet connection.

Switching to cloud-based systems is a game-changer. You and your team are no longer tied to a physical office and can be productive from any WiFi-enabled location. That could be your home, your customer’s warehouse, your regional office or your local coffee shop.

And the benefits aren’t just limited to remote working.

With your applications and databases in the cloud, you can access customer information, sales data or financial numbers wherever you happen to be. Everything is securely backed up and available at the press of a button – that’s an invaluable benefit if you want to be flexible, connected and scalable as a business.

Create your own custom app stack

Your business systems and software no longer have to remain static and based on the office server. By combining a business and accounting platform like Xero with your own choice of business apps, you can create a truly tailored ‘app stack’.

Apps use an API (application programming interface) to connect with each other, share data and form a larger business system. This can include apps to:

  • Manage and automate your bookkeeping and accounting tasks
  • Send out e-invoices to your customers to speed up payments
  • Take automated payments and reconcile your transactions
  • Automatically chase late-paying customers and carry out credit control duties
  • Project manage your operations and provide detailed reporting
  • Manage your job utilisation and time spend on each project
  • Keep a detailed real-time inventory of your products
  • Send out marketing campaigns and social media posts to your audience
  • Interact more closely with your end customers and learn their habits

Talk to us about implementing the appropriate app stack into your business.

Record and track your business data

App integrations and a customer app stack don’t just improve your productivity. Because your apps are connected via APIs and are sharing your business data, you also have access to a wealth of data, information and reporting features.

Look in detail at your cashflow, expenses and spending to improve your cash position. Take a deep dive into your sales and marketing information to find out who your best (and most profitable) customers are.

Run projections and ‘What if…’ scenarios, based on your historical data to forecast the future path of the business. There are plenty of ways to make use of this bountiful data to help you review, understand and improve your performance as a company.

Make better-informed business decisions

A business in the pre-computer age would have had very little information on which to base its decision-making. Annual accounts, cashflow statements and some basic management information would have been available, but there was very little real-time data to refer to.

In the digital age, you can literally see every aspect of your company’s performance in real-time – and, in some cases, in the future as well. That’s a game-changer in so many ways, and something every business owner should be using to improve strategy, financial management, customer experience and business decision-making.

To summarise, a digital business:
  • Creates systems that are integrated and connected
  • Shares and records all your business data
  • Reviews, analyses and finds insights in your business information
  • Connects with your customers in more meaningful ways
  • Makes better-informed business decisions, as a result.

making the most of business data

Making the most of business data

Making the most of business data

Are you recording, measuring and analysing enough of the data being generated by your business?

With so many apps and digital solutions now available to businesses, there's a wealth of useful data to trawl through – and plenty of hidden insights for you to benefit from.

Here are 5 ways to get more insights from your business data

1. Track your business finances

Managing your business accounts used to be something you left to your finance director. But with cloud accounting now the norm, every business now has 24/7 online access to detailed information about its financial position and performance. Deeper analysis and insights are usually available at the click of a button, helping you spot the pitfalls and potential opportunities.

Your accounting platform can show you:

  • Profit & loss reports and balance sheets, with real-time data to help decision-making
  • Cashflow forecasts and projections, to help plan your future cash position
  • Budget tracking and spending reports, to stay in full control of your expenditure.
2. Review your credit score

The credit risk rating your company is given by the big credit agencies can have a huge impact on your ability to borrow. A high risk-rating will mean that banks and other lenders will be reluctant to offer you funding. And suppliers will be less open to offering you trade credit.

Some credit bureaus, like Experian, now offer ways to check your business credit score. With a better understanding of your credit data, you can take action to improve your score.

To get in control of your credit position, you should:

  • Find out your current credit score and how this is impacting on your ability to borrow
  • Check out your payment history and take action to improve performance
  • Regularly check this credit data to track improvements or drops in your score.
3. Monitor your sales and marketing data

Steady sales revenues are a must for any business that wants to grow, but how much oversight do you have over your historic and future sales data? Using a sales and marketing platform like Salesforce helps you track your sales, campaigns and customer relationships – giving you a goldmine of data to sift through and analyse:

Key data areas to analyse will include:

  • Which products and/or services are making the most sales, and why
  • Which customer demographic is the biggest spender, and why they’re advocates
  • Which campaigns are delivering the best return on investment (ROI).
4. Track your staff performance

Your people are one of the company’s most important assets. But do you really know how well your employees are performing, or how engaged they are with the goals of the business? Today’s HR software makes it easy to set core skills and capabilities and track how each team member is performing over the course of the year.

As an employer, you can:

  • Set performance and training targets, and see how your employees are tracking
  • Run satisfaction surveys and staff feedback to check in on team engagement
  • Use your data to drive improved performance and happiness in your workforce.
5. Measure your performance against targets

One of the big benefits of tracking your business data is the ability to measure your performance against a given target. Whether it’s a budget target for a new department, or a sales target for a new marketing campaign, you have the performance data at your fingertips. This helps you motivate the team, work towards a common goal and ‘gamify’ your progress as a business.

If you share these targets and performance data with your people at monthly team meetings, this transparency can work wonders for motivation. When your employees, management team and executive team are all aiming for the same goals, you’re a more effective team.

Talk to us about getting more from your data.

Transforming your company into a digital business may seem like the end of the process. But the reality is that getting in control of your data sharing, analytics and performance tracking is the genuine goal for any ambitious business in 2023.

We can help you connect up your app stack and focus on analysing the most important data for business success.

offering online payments blog

Offering online payment options

Offering online payment options

If you're a business owner, one of the best things about you can offer your customers and clients is online payment options.

With online options like these listed below, quick payments and receipt funds can be a thing from today!

  •  ACH (Automated Clearing House) services like Stripe and Paypal
  • credit and debit cards
  • direct deposit

While there are a range of online payment options available, the important thing is to choose a provider, or providers, that can integrate with your accounting software.

By doing this, you can add a super-simple payment button to your invoices, which makes it easier for customers and clients to pay you and, therefore, helps you get paid quicker.

Costs

The average fee charged by a merchant service provider is 2-4% of the transaction amount. For Direct Debit it’s usually under $2 per transaction.

Something to consider is that for online payment for invoices over a certain amount, the credit and debit fees can be quite significant. Also, it can be expensive to process transactions when there are multiple customers and clients.

Because the cost of processing online transactions can be significant it’s important to take these charges into account when considering how much you charge for your products or services.

There are a number of apps available that can help you price your products or services. Some of these apps focus on cost-plus pricing, while others use value-based pricing. Ultimately, the right app for you will depend on your specific business needs and goals.

Benefits

Businesses who offer their customers and clients the option of paying online should see a big improvement when it comes to getting paid. 

While not all of your customers and clients will use the online option, many will, which means the time it takes to get paid will reduce – improving your cash flow.

Online payments can also help strengthen your customer/client relationship as anything that makes a process easier is usually appreciated.

We can help you implement the appropriate apps to set up online payments, so feel free to get in touch

Business Development

The importance of business development

The importance of business development

Business development is one of the most important areas of focus for any ambitious business.

If you want your business to grow, that’s going to mean having a razor-sharp focus on new opportunities and strategies.

That could mean exploring new markets, or nurturing new partnerships. It might mean diversifying to create new revenue streams, or coming up with new ideas to boost your profitability.

Ultimately, good business development comes down to having good ideas – ideas that broaden your reach, sales, revenues and external relationships.

As the founder or CEO, it's important to put business development at the top of your to-do list.

Put time aside for business development

Business opportunities don’t just appear out of thin air (sadly). To come up with an opportunity for a business partnership, or to bring in a big new client, you’re going to have to do some serious work. So, it’s a good idea to put business development (BD) time aside in your diary.

By blocking out time to devote to BD, you can step away from the everyday operational tasks and get into a more creative and objective mindset.

  • Where do you want the business to be in 6 months?
  • What do you need to do to achieve this goal?
  • Are there relationships you could build to bring this plan to life? 

Asking these questions and getting a more concrete idea of the answers will form the basis for your BD plan – and that’s the route map you can then follow.

Work on your BD plan and strategy

Once you have some positive BD ideas to work with, it’s important to get your goals and your strategy down into some form of plan. As with any kind of growth initiative, your BD activity needs to be well planned, so you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve.

Give each new strategic idea a clear timeline and assign jobs, activities and roles to the relevant people in the team. Cost out each project too, and assign a budget so you can be sure that you’re getting the best return on your investment (both financially and from a time perspective).

Most importantly, though, track your progress against your BD goals. Agree on a target, set a date and measure your progress and performance against that timeline.

Build relationships with potential partners and customers

Relationships lie at the heart of your BD activity.

You might be getting to know the executive team at a possible new partner’s company. Or you may be reaching out to a new customer audience with a brand-new product.

Getting to understand what makes these people tick is so important to warming them up as a potential partner, customer or supplier.

Trust is the real key here. 

People are more likely to engage with your business when they trust you as people and as a brand. So, spending time nurturing relationships and networking with other businesspeople and targets is time well spent.

Record, track and analyse your BD performance

With your goals, targets and timelines locked in, you’re ready to start putting this BD plan into action.

But to know if you’re making headway, it’s a good idea to track your performance.

If you’re using project management software or a client relationship management (CRM) app, it’s easy to add notes, record your progress and tick off the key actions in the project. 

You can put the financial reporting tools in your accounting software to good use. Track cashflow for the project, increases in revenue and monitor your sales and marketing expenses etc.

Get ambitious with your BD ideas

No business stands still. Your aims and goals as the owner will change. Your market will evolve and new competitors will appear. Economic conditions and business opportunities will change.

To keep your business at the cutting edge, it’s vital to keep your BD focus alive and well.

Remember to:

  • Define your goals and make it clear what you want the business to achieve
  • Align your BD activity with the company’s main growth plan
  • Log your ideas and potential opportunities and add them to your BD plan
  • Warm up your targets and potential partners and keep notes on your progress
  • Track your BD performance against your targets, budgets, revenues and timelines
  • Keep revisiting your plan and flexing your BD activity to the current market.

If you want to expand your business development activity, get in touch with us. We’ll help you integrate the appropriate apps to support your business development.

automation can ease your workload

Automation can ease your business workload

Automation can ease your business workload

Small and medium-sized businesses are spending on average 120 hours a year on admin tasks, according to recent research into productivity at UK SMBs.

If your people are spending 120 hours wading through tedious and unproductive admin, that’s bad for the business and for your overall efficiency. Fortunately, technology and software automation can go a long way towards automating the low-level admin tasks.

Better productivity through automation

Automation is an important way to ease your business workload, with a host of different business apps and cloud solutions offering ways to automate your admin.

With ‘smart business tools’ increasing in number and choice, software is utilising automation algorithms, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and cognitive solutions to help remove the mundane admin tasks from your workflows.

Core processes that will benefit from automation include:

Automated bookkeeping

Just take a photo of your receipts, expenses and invoices and ‘optical character recognition’ (OCR) technology will digitise the output and pull it through into your accounts software. No data entry, no human error and no lost receipts! We can do the rest to ensure your records are accurate.

Automated credit control 

Chasing up debts and late-paying customers takes time. Automated credit control apps track your debtor numbers and automatically sends out customised chaser emails as soon as an invoice is late. This reduces your credit control time, speeds up cash collection and cuts your aged debtor figure.

Automated payment collection

The easier it is to pay you, the faster your customers will pay. Automated card payments and cloud-based Direct Debit solutions allow you to automatically take payment from a customer as soon as an invoice is due. Some solutions will even automate the invoice matching and bank reconciliation process.

Automated reporting and forecasting 

The better your reporting and business intelligence, the easier it is to make informed decisions about your company strategy. Accounting platforms and fintech tools now offer automatic, real-time reporting and forecasting, giving you access to the important numbers and metrics, fast.

Automated digital marketing

Digital marketing is key to raising your brand’s profile. Marketing platforms offer important time-saving ways to schedule and post social media content, or email automation that sends a pre-programmed cadence of emails to specific target audiences within your wider customer base.

Talk to us about embracing the power of automation

If your admin is starting to hold you back, come and talk to us about how automation can pick up some of the heavy lifting as well as giving you the metrics you need for decision making. We can review you business processes and identify the automation opportunities, helping you choose the best apps to drive your business efficiently.

Contact us to discuss your automation opportunities. 

Does your business have a disaster recovery plan?


Does your business have a disaster recovery plan? 

It’s important to have a watertight plan for overcoming any potential natural disasters

With extreme weather events on the rise and climate change becoming an increasing threat, it's never been more important for your business to have a disaster recovery plan in place.

Weather is becoming more severe, more unpredictable and more destructive over time. With shops and offices in some locations getting flooded out, shaken by earthquakes or threatened by wildfires, you need to know that your company can:

  1. Survive an extreme weather threat
  2. Set up the business in a secondary location, if the need arises

Your disaster recovery plan (DRP) is your detailed plan for how to achieve this, and is an important element of your company’s wider business continuity strategy.

The increased threat of extreme weather conditions

When you’ve invested considerable time, effort and money in setting up a business, the last thing you want is an unpredictable threat wiping out this investment.

However, if your company runs from bricks-and-mortar premises, there’s always the potential for extreme weather to have an impact on your operational capabilities. The recent severe flooding in Europe has wreaked havoc in many small towns, wiping out high streets and dumping tonnes of filthy river water into business premises, shops and homes alike.

As a business owner, the question you have to ask yourself is

‘What would I do if this happened to my business?’

Getting your business back up and running

When you sit down to complete a standard SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis, it’s unlikely that you’ll previously have included extreme weather as a major element in your list of threats. But the times are changing, and the potential for disaster has to move up your agenda as a matter of urgency.

To keep your business prepared and ready, you should ask yourself a few specific questions.

These will include:

Do you have a disaster recovery plan? 

Does the business have any kind of disaster recovery plan (DRP) in place at present?

You may well have a business continuity strategy of some sort, but do you have a specific plan if fire, flood, earthquakes or other natural forces directly threaten your business premises? If not, you need to create one.

How does your plan align with your business continuity strategy? 

Business continuity is all about ensuring that your company can remain operational and trading. So your DRP should be a significant part of this continuity strategy.

Being wiped out by a flood may have once seemed like a Hollywood disaster movie scenario. Now it’s an event that’s all too possible – and something you need to have prepared for.

Is anyone in charge in the event of a disaster? 

Leadership and clear advice during a time of disaster are essential. So, in the event of an extreme weather event affecting your premises, who will be in charge? Is this the CEO or MDs job? The COO? Or maybe this will be a secondary role for another employee, who has been trained up and knows how to lead the response.

Make sure you know who to contact and their role.

Are your systems and databases in the cloud? 

In today's digital world, many companies will have based their IT and communications infrastructure around cloud technology.

Being a cloud-based business is incredibly valuable in the event of a disaster, allowing you to engage a ‘disaster recovery as a service’ (DraaS) process that gets all your business systems up and running from cloud backups and off-site servers.

Talk to us about cloud based apps and platforms for your business.

Can you team work remotely? 

Another benefit of being cloud-based is that employees can work remotely from any location.

So, if your office is flooded out, your team can log in from home and can continue to work. If you’re still relying on desktop applications via an office-based server and network, this just isn’t possible.

Offering remote working isn’t just good for your staff, it could be a business critical decision.

Do you have access to any alternative workspaces? 

Depending on the business property you own, you may have access to alternative offices or workspaces.

When one location is affected by extreme weather, would an alternative location be able to take on your displaced staff and continue working? Look at how feasible it is to have a plan for moving teams to alternative locations. And, if possible, making as much use of remote working as possible.

No-one believes they will be the victim of a disaster...until it happens to them.

No-one can fully predict how extreme weather and natural disasters will come to affect the planet over the coming years and decades. But the risk of a freak event impacting your business is growing.

Its worth putting some time aside now to think about the practicalities of setting up a disaster recovery plan.

Streamline your business administration with digital record keeping

Streamline your business administration with digital record keeping

Streamline your business administration with digital record keeping

Good record keeping is the mainstay of accounts management. It assists you to both meet your compliance obligations and provide verification for all your business transactions.

The Government requires that relevant records exist to support all business transactions – purchases, sales, payroll, and other business matters such as loans or foreign currency dealings. It is a business owner’s responsibility to maintain and store accurate records for all financial transactions.

Did you know that you are allowed to store all business records digitally? This is both more efficient and sustainable than having to keep years’ worth of paper records at your office.

The most important thing to take care of if you are moving to electronic record keeping is the security of your information.

Using cloud accounting platforms, such as Xero, with add-on apps and systematic electronic record keeping makes it so much easier to run your business. 

This is because you will not waste time trying to find documents when you need them; whether that’s for yourself, your bookkeeper or your tax agent.

Most government departments allow business records to be either in paper or digital format. The legal requirements for record keeping are the same, regardless of format.

All records must be:

  • True and correct
  • Unaltered once stored
  • In English and legible
  • Stored in a secure system, whether physical or digital
  • Easily accessible if required
  • Held securely for the statutory five to seven years, depending on the type of record.

For best protection, store records both locally on your business computers and secure external online storage. This makes the records easily accessible from anywhere at any time.

Always take care of who has what level of access to your documents and manage user access accordingly.

If you need help understanding which apps will work with your business systems, we'd love to hear from you.

What value can automation bring to your business

What value can automation bring to your business?

What value can automation bring to your business?

Automation has the capacity to revolutionise your efficiency and productivity. But how many of the automation features that are available to you are actually being used?

Could you be getting more value by building automated processes into your operational framework?

Removing the manual workload to streamline your processes

There’s a very simple mantra when it comes to making the most of automation

If there’s a manual task in your business that’s taking up time, automate it now!

The more time you and your team spend on low-level administration, data-entry and form-filling, the less time you have available for actually running your business.

With your software tools maximised, your automated processes can be chugging along in the background, doing the heavy lifting and freeing up your time to focus on client service, sales and strategy etc.

So, which elements of your everyday operations could you be automating? And which apps and software solutions can help you to achieve your automation goals?

Here are some areas where automation and smart systems can really help to add value

Automated bookkeeping and digitisation of paperwork

Apps like Dext (formerly Receipt Bank) offer you the opportunity to automate your bookkeeping and record-keeping. These solutions let you snap a photo of a receipt or invoice, digitise the contents and then automatically create an expense claim or bill in your accounting system. There’s no keying in and the whole process is synced with your choice of cloud accounting platform.

Automated employee expenses

Apps like DiviPay give you automated control over your employee expenses. Using either virtual or physical credit cards, your staff can pay for expenses and payments are then automatically synced with your main accounting platform.

That means no late expenses claims, no need for petty cash and no wasted time keying in the receipts. All employee expenses can be tracked, measured and paid, with the whole expenses process automated from start to finish.

Automated payment collection from your customers

With payment gateways like Stripe and GoCardless you can automate your cash collection. By using a modern payment gateway, you make it easier for clients to pay their bills. 

But you also automate the actual cash collection and bank reconciliation process too. Money can be instantly paid to your main business account and all the transactional data pulled across to your accounting platform. That means less admin, and faster payments too.


Automated marketing and social media posts

Digital marketing is key to finding customers and growing your business. You can automate a large chunk of your marketing work. These solutions let you create automated emails, target specific customer audiences and track your return on investment (ROI) in forensic detail.

Talk to us about understanding the different App options to help you automate your business.

The benefits of offering online payments

The benefits of offering online payments

Did you know the easier it is for people to pay you, the faster you will get paid?

So, how easy do you make it for your customers to pay you?

One of the best things about the digital world is the ability to pay online. And businesses that offer online payments get paid faster.

If your customers can make an instant online payment, they’re likely to pay you more quickly – and they’ll appreciate the simplicity too.

What are online payments

In simple terms, online payments are the methods you offer so your customers can pay you on-line.

Different online payment methods include services like Stripe or Paypal (known as an Automated Clearing House or ACH), credit and debit cards, online wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and recurring payments through direct debit (either from a credit/debit card or bank account).

The right set of payment methods not only offers your customers payment flexibility and convenience, they also reduce the chance of fraud.

It’s important, however, that you choose a provider that can integrate with your accounting software.

Talk to us about integrating the appropriate online payment method, for example, Stripe or Go Cardless, into your business.

What are the costs of online payments

Most online payment service providers won’t charge any set-up fees. However, they will charge transaction fees.

Transaction fees usually range from 2-4% of the payment amount for credit cards. Direct debit transactions are usually a fixed amount - often under $2 per transaction.

On large-ticket items or services, some businesses don’t like to offer online payments. This is because the fees can add up. However, if you include these fees in your profit calculations and offer online payments for these large-ticket items, that point of difference may be the difference between making the sale or not.

What are the benefits of online payments

At the end of the day, businesses that set up online payments get paid faster.

Offering online payments can be a point of difference for your business (especially if you have big-ticket items or services).

Online payments allows you to reach more customers globally.

Offering the right mix of payment options can increase the chances of a purchase.

If you want to add online payments to your business offering, talk to us about integrating the appropriate online payment method into your business.