The apps that can help you streamline your business in 10 key areas
How often do you find time and space to think about developing your business and customer base? Perhaps your time’s being taken up worrying about your business finances. Or are you spending too much time on business activities, such as arranging appointments and chasing debt.
For franchisees, there’s a lot to do, particularly if you’re starting a new venture. So it’s worthwhile reviewing the way you currently operate and how it can be streamlined to reduce stress and save you time and money.
Here are some apps that will help you get better organised, save time and free you up for some R&R away from work:
1. Managing receipts and invoices
There are some good apps, including AutoEntry, Expensify and Receipt Bank, that allow you to capture receipts on the go and send them directly to your accountant - much better than delivering them in a shoebox. You can even ask your suppliers to send their invoices to the app. That means less in your inbox to deal with too.
2. Bookkeeping and accounting
Do you ever get nervous about your accounts or how much tax you’ll have to pay at year end? The likes of FreeAgent, QuickBooks and Xero have transformed the way bookkeeping and accounting is done.
And if you combine this with regular bookkeeping reconciliation services, you no longer have to spend time and energy at year end worrying about the books, as you can see how your business is doing on a monthly rather than yearly basis.
3. Time management
With so much going on, it’s not uncommon to wonder what you’ve achieved during the working day. With Clockify, Toggl, Hubstaff and Time Doctor you can automatically monitor how you spend your time, so you can identify where and how to be more productive. You will be amazed how much of your time gets diverted away from important tasks. These tools also help you get organised, so you can focus on a task for 45 minutes and get things done.
4. Making appointments
Going back and forth with clients to schedule appointments, reschedule and then reschedule again can be time consuming. With Calendly, Acuity Scheduling and TimeTrade, you can avoid email and telephone tag when arranging meetings. These tools can allow people to access a version of your diary that shows them all the slots you have decided to make available for meetings.
5. Reducing travel time
Cut out the travel time and meet your prospects or staff online via a video meeting app such as Zoom, GoToWebinar or RingCentral. You can share screens, take control of their computers and even use whiteboards, just like you would do in a live meeting.
6. Reporting and forecasting
Do you know the key numbers that matter in your business? Are these presented in a useful way that helps you make informed decisions? And are you able to look forward and predict what your cash flow will look like in three months? If you’re spending a lot of time and energy on your numbers or you simply don’t know where you’re at with your finances, try Spotlight Reporting, LivePlan or ProfitSee either independently or through your accountant for free.
7. Set up direct debits
You’ve done the work and you’ve probably incurred staff and materials costs. After 30 days there’s no sign of the promised payment. Your cash flow is suffering, so you call your customer for assurances you will be paid, so you can pay your bills. It’s a stressful experience.
You can avoid all this by using a direct debit app such as GoCardless or IntegraPay, so you and your customer can agree when you can take payment. It’s easier and quicker for everyone - and certainly less stressful for you.
8. Digital documents
Your meeting with the new customer went well. You promised to send them the contract to sign. They wait for a day or two, only to receive digital contracts with instructions to print, sign, scan and email back. Or worse, to put the signed copy in the post to you. The phone rings. Your customer picks up and their attention is diverted.
Why not cut the waste and time by using online document creation and signing apps like Adobe Sign and DocuSign? Or simply send your customer a secured link to approve and enter their payment details.
9. Operations and management
There’s a long list of other great apps, depending on your industry. For instance, if you’re a retailer, restaurateur or you hold stock, apps like Vend and iZettle are worth considering. If you have a nursery, review Blossom Educational, eyLog and Procare. For other businesses, tools like Zoho CRM, Infusionsoft, Trello, Monday and Asana can save you time and help you find that creative space.
10. Seamless working
With all these apps, it’s important to ensure they integrate and talk to each other to avoid further waste and chaos. Apps like Zapier and Workato allow you to link two systems together without any coding or programming skills. A key selection criterion should be whether the app has what is called an API to enable it to link to other systems.
The list of apps I have shared here is certainly not exhaustive. However, there is a key message: use apps to reduce the number of manual processes and automate wherever you can. The aim is to make running your franchise less taxing and perhaps give you time and space to add to your portfolio.
Jonathan Amponsah is founder and CEO of The Tax Guys