At every stage of the business life cycle, enterprises struggle with pain-points, which are challenges and obstacles that negatively impact performance.
These pain-points are usually the biggest hindrance to sales and profitability and constrain cash flow and expense management or impede customer-service delivery and reduce productivity. Some are so severe that they diminish a business’s brand and reputation or even threaten its viability.
Pain-points are usually what keep business owners and managers up at night because ultimately, they own the responsibility of finding practical and cost effective solutions.
Fortunately, there are some simple and cost effective technological solutions for the most common pain-points affecting small businesses, some of which may even drive business growth in 2023:
Cash flows are the lifeline of an enterprise. A business needs cash to pay its bills and keep the lights on. In fact, one of the most common reasons that a good business will fail is because it ran out of cash. This is why for some businesses, consistently maintaining large account receivables is an early indicator of financial distress.
The solution: Applications such as Payference, Float Cash-Flow Forecasting, Invoiced, Casual and High Radius allow users to create reliable forecasts, conduct variance analysis, prepare real-time reports, track and manage key indicators in real time, among other features. There are many others that are either free or accessible via a monthly subscription.
It should be noted that software alone will not solve the cash-flow problem. It allows you to predict whether there will be deficits and when to prevent you from being blindsided and to enable you to plan for and mitigate the major risks in real time.
The application will not create credit and payment policies for better cash management nor can it initiate cash-flow support from your financial institution to make sure the business has enough cushion at all times to pay its bills, for example.
Financial management is a monster challenge for many small business complexities involved in juggling bookkeeping, statutory and regulatory obligations, financial obligations, fiduciary responsibilities, fast-paced and rapidly changing business environment, internal and external exposure to fraud, theft, human error, and even sabotage. It can be overwhelming for the most qualified and experienced financial-management gurus, which many CEOs and managing directors are not.
The solution: The applications with great potential to ease your financial management pain-points are Head office and Top Note Pad, which are local solutions, or Quickbooks, Zoho, Xero, FreshBooks, Wave, Peach Tree, Sage ERP and Quicken, which are standardised global offerings.
The good news is that several of these applications have expansive solutions, allowing for Cloud accounting, expense management, employee benefits and payroll management, online bill payment, financial-statement preparation, project-profitability analysis, and inventory tracking. One of the most valuable features is the flexibility to create, track, and manage estimates, invoices, and expenses on the go using your smartphone or via PC Mac or tablet.
Most of these apps also support considerable user controls and flexibility to better manage risks.
While the benefits are significant, there is no single financial-management application that will alleviate all pain-points. You will likely need to use secondary and supplementary applications to get the best handle on your financial operations. Therefore, it is important that your apps can be integrated to avoid duplication of effort, data silos and clones, and to ensure efficient data management.
Another Achilles heel for many small business owners is sales, particularly in a small and highly competitive environment, where most consumers have relatively modest purchasing power. Given our local context, therefore, sales is perhaps the most demanding, stressful, and unforgiving of all the business functions.
Depending on the business model, particularly if there’s no subscription or recurring transactions, selling may be the heart of the operations, requiring a constant, aggressive push to attract new customers and to upsell to existing customers. It is usually humanly exhausting, even for specialised talent that thrives under severe pressure. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that this is one of the areas prone to employee burnout, high staff turnover, and employee dissatisfaction.
The solution: Helpful apps include Bigin by Zoho CRM, Zendesk Sell, Salesflare, Pipedrive, Hubspot, and Salesforce. These applications make life easier by condensing and automating administrative tasks, freeing up time and energy of your sales executives, so they can focus on the main goal of meeting sales objectives, satisfying customer needs, and maintaining strong positive relationships with customers.
Most of these apps either integrate with or have built in document signing to allow for ease of contracts management, execution, and tracking. Other helpful features are improved communication and workflows among team members, providing real-time data and reporting to avoid shortages, reduce returns, and minimise errors and delays. Sales applications save time and money and human resources while facilitating your business to make more sales.
For business owners who are struggling to manage pain-points other than cash-flow management, financial management, and sales, it may be helpful to explore digital solutions such as apps and software.
The key is to follow a similar approach to the one shared here, which is: identify solutions that are user friendly, easily integrate with other apps, make workflows seamless and time efficient, enable greater automation of tasks and radical advancement in data management, particularly providing key team members with real-time information to allow for better analysis and decision-making.
Yaneek Page is the programme lead for Market Entry USA, a certified trainer in entrepreneurship, and creator and executive producer of The Innovators and Let’s Make Peace TV series. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org