I’ve been an entrepreneur all my life, and I absolutely love it. Creating a business from scratch that develops products and value for customers is always a big deal. I truly get a charge of out making that happen.
Like many small business managers, I know what it means to multitask and prioritize. There are many tasks to complete and never enough hours to do them. One of the issues that used to bother me was the time it took to receive and process an order, particularly for business-to-business companies. It wasn’t uncommon for it to take upwards of 10 minutes to review a phone, fax or e-mail order, check inventory, enter it into our QuickBooks database, send it to our warehouse for shipment and fire off an invoice. The result: up to 40 hours a month—a week’s worth of time every 30 days—just to work with orders, let alone find and pitch to customers.
Herein lies the problem. For small businesses, growing sales without streamlining the order process will actually hurt the company’s prospects for long-term success. That’s because the system is not scalable, meaning the person processing orders won’t get to other productive work and operations will suffer as a result. The term “drowning in paperwork” comes to mind here, and it’s very real.
So what’s a business owner to do? One reaction is to bite the bullet and spend a significant amount of money to purchase and implement a comprehensive enterprise resource planning system—one with too high of a price tag along with far too many features and functions to solve the problem.
Thankfully, several off-the-shelf, cost effective, subscription-based order processing services exist. There are many to choose from that provide the ability to:
- Integrate with your QuickBooks program within hours or days.
- Empower sales reps and customers to quickly look up product data, images, pricing and availability without speaking directly to an individual.
- Give each client a customized order form they can complete with a few keystrokes and submit without sending a fax, e-mail or voicemail.
All of these features expedite orders with greater accuracy and practically eliminate the 10-minute time frame requirement per transaction. For about the price of a daily Starbucks espresso, companies can get back a week’s worth of time each month to focus on real productive work.
More importantly, systems like this enable small businesses to scale profitably without the ever-growing staff costs typically required just to keep up with the increased orders. As every small business owner knows, the little tasks can add up to big overhead costs and drain the bottom line. I’m sure we can come up with other small repetitive tasks to be worked on, but the often overlooked internal order process should be first on the list for small B2B business owners.
The bottom line is this: small business owners must be excellent time management specialists above all else. Finding ways to streamline repetitive tasks to free up valuable resources is essential if you want to grow your business. Sometimes, the answers lie in what would appear to be the most basic processes.