What keeps you up at night? Is lack of sales a problem? Are customer service issues and bad reviews causing headaches? Do you feel like it takes too much time and effort to get daily administrative tasks done?
If so, you are not alone. Small businesses all over face challenges. But it’s possible that while you may see problems all around you, you may be deluding yourself.
The real problems with your business may not be what you think they are.
Sales and Marketing Ranks High – No Surprise
In a recent BizSugar survey, sales and marketing rank as the biggest problems for small businesses.
These results are not surprising to Ivana Taylor of DIYMarketers, who developed the survey for BizSugar. She says small businesses responding to the survey — and in fact many small businesses — only think sales and marketing represent their greatest challenges. But often the problem is more complex, and has to do with what business owners spend their time on.
“Why don’t those back office items rank as bigger problems?” asked Taylor. She said the survey numbers really didn’t surprise her at first. Sales and marketing are often reflex answers. “Until a business is flush with profitable customers and cash, sales and marketing will be a top challenge.” according to Taylor.
In fact, Taylor says small businesses only struggle with sales and marketing mainly because they don’t have time to focus on them.
“Thirty percent of small businesses are deluding themselves!” she argues. She’s talking about the nearly 30% of small business people who said they work in their business instead of on it — like owners should. The following chart tells the tale.
Back Office Efficiency is the Real Issue
One of the reasons so many work in their businesses is out of necessity. “Many small business owners surveyed don’t have the luxury of a large staff to handle all these activities for them,” adds Taylor.
In fact, nearly 40% of those surveyed say they are the only ones working in their business. Another 23% say they have only 2 to 5 employees working with them.
So the message couldn’t have been clearer. Back office efficiency — while not a problem with every small business — is a problem for some. And for those business owners and entrepreneurs who selected it as a problem, it is a BIG problem because it is tearing them away from higher value add activities like generating revenue.
Sometimes owners have no choice. They must do the work because there’s no one else to handle small business operations. And back office efficiency takes a back seat to necessity.
Other owners, however, may continue doing these activities because they’ve fallen into a rut. “I think sometimes owners focus on tasky things they can do themselves — because they’ve gotten comfortable doing them,” says Taylor.
Back office activities that owners find themselves doing include invoicing, scheduling, making service calls, answering customer questions and other administrative activities.
How Automation Solves Back Office Efficiency Problems
The underlying challenge with back office efficiency is a lack of resources. That means often there’s no one to answer customer calls, schedule appointments, send invoices or make service calls but the boss.
And so major initiatives including sales and marketing campaigns simply need to wait. Of course, those are the very initiatives with the power to increase revenue and make your business grow.
Rhonda Wall, a marketing automation expert at Hey Help Me Rhonda, gives another example of repetitive activities — and how automation can help.
“If you have a service based business that normally requires a consult or phone call with a potential client, then automating the scheduling process is essential to saving you the time of tracking down potential customers, with back and forth emails or phone calls, by allowing them to automatically book a meeting with you, for a time that works best for them,” Walls says.
She notes one tool that can help with this kind of automation is Zoho Bookings (Editor’s Note: Zoho is underwriting some of the costs of Small Business Trends’ sister site, BizSugar, which conducted the survey.).
“Time is money and your time on the phone needs to be spent in actual conversations with your customer and not playing phone tag,” Wall adds.
Want to learn more about how automation can handle back office efficiency in your small business? Join the BizSugar mastermind group and discuss automation with our community of experts.