Most small business executives are frustrated with the misaligned allocation of their precious time, as they're bogged down by administrative duties. It's time for a one-stop business operating system that automates back-office tasks.
Even so, those time-consuming tasks end up taking up a substantial amount of a founder's time. In a National Federation of Independent Business study, small business owners listed accounting and other administrative tasks as one of their top three biggest time-wasters and said they spend less than 15 hours per week on actual business services.
So, if you're a barber, how can you spend less time going over the books and more time cutting hair? Or if you're a yoga studio owner, what can you do to stop stressing about payroll? The answer is simple. It's time for a universal, one-stop business operating system that makes it easy to automate back-office tasks and turn backlogs of data into usable small business insights.
Why standard operating systems are coming up short
With a standard operating system, small businesses often find that they need a long list of software add-ons in order to manage their day-to-day operations. A typical small business owner may use separate, siloed small business solutions for each administrative category. For instance, he or she may use QuickBooks for accounting, Gusto for payroll and Salesforce for customer relationship management. While each of these platforms provide valuable services, there are incredible inefficiencies which result from the fact that none of them have the ability to "talk" to each other. [Read our review of QuickBooks for more information.]
In today's world, where everything can be automated, logging into a half-dozen platforms to manually review and update each application that you use to manage your small business is indefensibly tedious and labor-intensive.
Additionally, building a tech stack from scratch to handle business operations is a gargantuan task even for the most tech-savvy Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Demanding the same from every small business owner that wants to open a coffee shop, a personal training business, or any other venture totally unrelated to tech and finance becomes an unreasonable impediment to setting up shop.
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The benefits of a one-stop shop approach
What if, instead, there was a universal business operating system that linked all of these different functions together, offering a one-stop shop with access and insight into all of your daily operations? A ready-to-go, user-friendly business operating system would eliminate the administrative frustrations of having to build a network of siloed systems from the ground up.
Business owners should only have to have one all-encompassing operating system. That's right. Just one. That system should give them all of the tools they need, right at their fingertips. Want to set up system to help you manage your business? The process should be as simple as: use this operating system, follow the instructions, do what the system prompts you to do and then go focus on doing what you do best.
With a more integrated approach, accounting operations should also be a breeze. Payroll expenses could feed straight into accounting. Business expenses could be processed, logged and categorized automatically in real time. Invoicing programs could automatically track which invoices have been paid, highlight those that are overdue for follow-up and calculate taxes accordingly.
Business owners should never under any circumstances have to enter the same piece of information more than once. With siloed systems, that happens all the time. With an intelligent operating system, it wouldn't. A single operating system would automatically populate each piece of information you enter into all relevant programs. Not only would a single linked system cut down on administrative time, but it would also ensure that all information is accurate and up-to-date.
The insights that intelligent data aggregation could provide
In addition to seamless accounting processes, perhaps the most exciting prospect of a universal business operating system would be the ability to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) insights. Using mountains of data from across multiple record-keeping categories, a universal business operating system would be able to aggregate and examine that data to offer an intelligent analysis of your small business's operations.
The end result for small business owners would be an easily readable, holistic overview of how their business is doing, along with actionable steps they can take to give themselves an advantage.
For example, AI could use prior data to accurately project future cash flow, alerting small business owners to potential upcoming shortages. That information could inform a wide range of business decisions, from whether an owner should consider taking a loan to how much they need to be charging for products or services. Equipped with the power of real-time data analysis, entrepreneurs could make smarter, more informed business decisions that enable them to take their companies to the next level.
The time you could reclaim with a universal business OS
We can already imagine the benefits of one united operating system in our personal lives. For example, whether we're Mac aficionados or avid Microsoft devotees, we expect that right out of the box, our computer will have all of the functionality it needs to empower us to do what we need to do. A business operating system should be that simple.
But, in many cases, it's not, and it causes headaches and hellish hours for small business leaders that want to succeed. A full 20% of small business owners work seven days a week, and 14% don't take any vacation days during the year. Where's the fun in being a business leader when you can't even give yourself a day off?
Between automating back-office tasks and simplifying onboarding, a proper universal operating system may just be able to change that reality. Who knows – maybe small business owners will even have time for a proper vacation.