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The age of the app: How small business owners can earn time

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Apps for business
The age of the app: How small business owners can earn time. (Image Source: http://marketingland.com/).

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) provide enormous value to South Africa’s economic growth and development. Their financial contribution to GDP (estimated at 52%) and job creation is crucial to help overcome the country’s staggering unemployment rate of 26.7%.

Macro benefits aside, the personal satisfaction of being your own boss is a key factor for many small business owners who strike out on their own. Starting your own business is not a simple endeavour though. Many entrepreneurs are challenged by access to finance and cash-flow management, and put in late hours to catch up on important tasks that fall behind.

According to research from Xero and World Wide Worx, 95% of SA’s small business owners work more than eight hours a day, with 42% working more than 10 hours and 16% working more than 12. Many would argue that investing time over and above the standard working day is par for the course when getting a new business off the ground. However, more attention is being paid globally to the importance of switching off from work and 27% of SA’s small business owners agree, stating that taking time off is critical to the success of their start-up.

Technology can help achieve that much sought after work-life balance by providing increased mobility, flexibility and efficiency – yet only 4% of SA’s business owners count their smartphone as an essential business tool. Mobile apps in particular have the power to completely revolutionise how you run your business – helping you gain valuable time by automating various mundane and time-consuming processes.

Avoid human error
Over a third of South Africa’s SME owners manage their finances manually with 40% relying on spreadsheets or even paper records. Given that 88% of all spreadsheets contain errors, checking, fixing and adjusting the numbers will eat into precious time that could be better spent elsewhere.
Sophisticated SME-friendly apps that integrate seamlessly with cloud accounting software are increasingly available to help your business avoid the cost – including both time and money – of human errors. How? By streamlining all your operational processes and automating expenditure functions.

The PaySpace app, a South African start-up success story itself, is a great example – it helps support your business processes by unifying payroll, HR, talent, performance, recruitment and time-tracking into a single record, providing a completely mobile user experience.

Manage your cash-flow
A positive cash-flow is vital for your business to succeed. In fact, 38% of SA’s SMEs cite cash-flow as one of their biggest business concerns. Balancing the books is incredibly important, but it’s also hugely time-consuming. Used correctly, the right online tools can actually help you scale faster, reduce your overheads and add extra hours to your day.

PayFast is great for South African businesses; it enables instant transfer of money from your customers to you. Other apps like Chaser and InvoiceSherpa manage automatic invoice reminders, recurring payments and late fees to help keep you cash-flow positive and your debtors down.

Increase productivity and profit
Small business owners often sacrifice their own annual leave out of concern for their company’s bottom-line. Smart devices and mobile apps can help you boost your business growth by maximising every working second of your day, whether you’re in the office or on the road. When targets are reached in record time and admin is automatically taken care of, you can head off on holiday with greater confidence.

Apps like Yoco, another South African start-up, process your customer payments with a mobile credit card reader. Receipt Bank turns bits of paper into real receipts and feeds the data automatically into your accounting software, and Capsule is a simple CRM tool that provides a complete picture of your customer base and integrates seamlessly with your existing system.
Small business owners are notorious for never having enough time for themselves – or for those closest to them. Xero’s Make or Break Research uncovered that successful entrepreneurs aren’t the ones who work around the clock. In fact, 58% of those surveyed said that family time is crucial to becoming an effective business owner.

Mobile apps can do so much more than book holiday accommodation or call you a taxi. They can help small business owners work smarter, not harder, earning them time – a priceless commodity that can ultimately determine the success of your small business.

By Gary Turner, MD EMEA, Xero

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