Back To School: Get Your Business In Order During The Quiet Summer Months

As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
The summer months can be quiet for smaller businesses.  Your customers will be on holiday and you might find yourself with less to do.  Could you fill this time usefully by improving your business’s systems and processes, so that when you’re busier again in the Autumn, your business runs more smoothly and you save admin time?

Emily Coltman ACA, Chief Accountant to FreeAgent – who provide an award-winning online accounting system for small businesses and freelancers – gives her tips on how to get your business into shape and ready for the post-Summer months.
Where are your pain points?
Go through each of your business’s systems, such as how you track sales and invoice customers, how you pay bills, how you calculate commission, and so forth.  Don’t be tempted to just do this in your head, because you could miss a vital step if you do that.  Write down each step in the system as if you were creating an instruction manual for a new team member.
Where are the pain points in the systems?  For example, do you spend a lot of time re-keying the same set of data into two different places, such as two different spreadsheets?  Or does it take you a long time to write out all your cheques each week for your suppliers?
Research alternative systems
Once you know where your pain points are, you can start looking for alternative systems that might ease them.
Does it take you a long time each month to enter all your expenses into FreeAgent?  Why not try using a system such as ReceiptBank that lets you quickly photograph each receipt on your iPhone and that’s all you need to do?
Use your contact networks to find these alternative systems.  Ask your colleagues at networking events, on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
Research system integrations
Your existing system providers may well also be able to recommend solutions that integrate with theirs to help your business, such as FreeAgent’s integrations with Barclays and PayPal which let you automatically pull bank transactions into your accounting software.  Using these can save you a lot of time.
Could you outsource?
Does admin take up more of your time than it should?  Do you find yourself constantly fielding cold sales calls?
It might be time to find a virtual assistant to take this work on for you, freeing you up to do more chargeable work for your customers.  Use this quiet time to find the right virtual assistant for your business.
Improve your knowledge
Have you ever felt, while working with a client, that there are areas where your knowledge could do with brushing up?  For example, if you are a graphic designer, have you had to learn a program such as Photoshop quickly on the hoof, but don’t feel completely comfortable with it, or don’t think you’re making the best use of all it can offer?
Make sure that your knowledge is up to date and as full as possible.  You never know, you might be looking at buying extra software that you don’t need, because an existing package can do the job for you.
By following these tips you can make the best of the quiet summer time and be ready to move back up to full speed
Emily Coltman ACA is Chief Accountant to FreeAgent, who provide an award-winning online accounting system designed to meet the needs of small businesses and freelancers. Try it for free at