In this article, Jordan Watson, FileMaker developer at We Know Data, highlights the importance of utilising the appropriate technology and strategy to effectively grow a business, from a home setup into a leading SMB.
When starting a business, growth can often be quick and sporadic. Often this can cause up-and-coming entrepreneurs to be unsure of how to manage their organisation: do they introduce business wide digitisation? Do they attempt to automate all their services? Or do they entrust the services of a pad and pen? The questions are numerous, and the wrong choice could ultimately end up decreasing productivity and causing stress down the line. Understanding how a company’s needs transition as it grows, and the part that technology can play will help alleviate many of these problems, leading your company down the road to small enterprise nirvana.
The notebook enterprise
When just starting out, a business does not need complex and automated methods to monitor its processes, as a lot of the information is very digestible. Many fledgling startups don’t have a lot to keep track of over simple overheads such as rent and bills, and a few pieces of customer information such as order history, invoicing etc. The upkeep of this fairly limited pool of information is more integrated into the entrepreneur’s life, and certainly does not require the processing power of a complex enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution designed for larger organisations.
In these early stages, finances, stock and the general upkeep of the business need not be complicated. Once, businesses would be able to manage their finances from a notebook – though in today’s digital world this is not as advisable. Keeping the ‘business basics’ organised however, providing they are monitored by only one person, can now often be done simply on a single word processed document or spread sheet. While this does allow easy monitoring of the company fundamentals, it’s a dangerous game to play in the long-term, especially if the business has growth aspirations – as there is no scope for scalability.
Finding your processing feet
As a business starts to take off, an entrepreneur needs to maintain control of their organisation – and this means the unscalable docs and spread sheets that may have sufficed for the first few weeks need to be thrown out. A more structured approach to monitoring finances, stock and staff needs to be employed.
Before any attempt to digitise a business is made, a strict set of processes must be integrated into the day-to-day running of the company. If an organisation is unable to establish a strong set of procedures, the transition to a digital and ideally automated business will be far more difficult. The first step to setting up these processes is creating a good routine.
For example, collating all receipts for the previous month on the same date will not only allow a business to keep track of its costs regularly, but also creates a wider, more productive structure from which to manage the organisation. Ensuring that tasks such as regular stock taking, client liaison and bookkeeping are consistently achieved no matter which member of staff is doing them. This will provide a strong foundation for the company to grow from, and also ensure everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet.
So, once you’ve got the right processes in place, this is the point where the company needs to consider digitising some of its workflows, and transitioning any pre-existing physical information to a digital format. It seems like a simple matter, locating a software solution to help you run your business, but the decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, and can be far more influential to a company than first thought.
An entrepreneur needs to find the Goldilocks spot for their business. Choose a piece of software that is, for example, exclusively for companies with up to 30 staff then the company will struggle once it outgrows the solution; equally, tasking a software developer to digitise the entire organisation can complicate, rather than optimise, procedures. Locating a custom app, that also gives the business room for growth can be a difficult situation.
As tough as it may sound, a business needs to choose its battles. Instead of attempting to completely digitise the company overnight, locating the areas that are struggling to keep up with the company’s growth and optimising them is a far more effective strategy. What should be the major priority when making this transition is finding a solution that can be quickly implemented and adapt quickly to the company’s needs.
Automating the Process
So, down the line, a business may find itself with a raft of high profile clients, top quality stock and numerous digital processes, but no entrepreneur can ever rest on their laurels. The processes that were started in the early days, and then digitised, now need to evolve to suit the future. If they have chosen wisely with an easily upgradable platform, this shouldn’t be a heavy lift. With an increased customer base comes an increased amount of pressure to correctly, and swiftly catalogue information. Details can no longer ‘wait’ to be manually input into a database. Information needs to be automatically updated, in real time – to remove any discrepancies that may occur if the process isn’t instantaneous. Fail to do this, and those high-profile customers may soon fall by the wayside.
Growing a business to being technologically integrated, then evolving certain processes further can be difficult and not always immediate. Knowing when, how, and what to digitise within an organisation can be a complex process. Therefore, engaging with a third-party such as a software developer, who can not only provide the tools, but also expertise and consultancy on best practice – can be very beneficial. After all, it never hurts to call in the experts from time to time!