After 131 chats over coffees, wines, teas, and beers, I’ve learned a lot about the challenges businesses currently face. There have been some common ones, though, a couple that have surprised me. The number one challenge is administrative bottlenecks that are hindering operations and productivity. Below, I’ve shared the common reasons that have come up in each meeting I’ve had so far.
Small businesses typically operate with a limited workforce, time, and budget for administrative tasks. This can lead to a backlog of admin work, especially as the company grows and everyone is focused on delivering. Almost all businesses I talked to didn’t have effective processes to prioritise tasks, delegate responsibilities, or utilise technology. They also had yet to consider outsourcing certain administrative functions to free up internal resources as they had with other services.
Manual processes for administrative tasks can be time-consuming, error-prone, and inefficient. Many small businesses I talked to have outgrown their current technology/app stack and have yet to invest time in automation tools and software to streamline repetitive tasks such as data entry, expense tracking, and customer relationship management. Not doing so costs them time, rework through errors, and, ultimately, money.
Inconsistent and non-standardised procedures for administrative tasks can cause delays and confusion. A lot of small businesses didn’t have clear and standardised processes for common administrative functions. It means they lacked consistency and could not track progress and identify bottlenecks.
Using separate software for different administrative functions can lead to data fragmentation and inefficiencies. A common theme was businesses trying to streamline their admin by adopting new systems as they reached certain stages of growth. This is great if you’re mapping out how your systems work together and integrating the systems where possible. Or if you’re investigating and adopting a centralised software solution that can handle multiple administrative tasks.
For those implementing systems and processes, a lot were finding their staff weren’t utilising them correctly. This was due to insufficient training on the administrative procedures and software, which contributed to errors and delays. A quick win is training employees in easy-to-digest formats to ensure they have the necessary skills to navigate administrative tasks effectively. This should include how they use the systems, what processes they replace where applicable in the business, and any business-specific terms you’d like them to use. Not just sending out a login and expecting them to be able to navigate the new software themselves.
Not knowing what the bottlenecks actually were was also common. This was often a symptom of poor communication between different business areas or between management and staff, which can hinder identifying and resolving administrative bottlenecks. Small businesses should foster open communication channels, encouraging collaboration and sharing of insights. This will help identify bottlenecks early on and facilitate their prompt resolution.
Lastly, the lack of regular oversight and monitoring of administrative processes was common and can make it challenging to identify and address bottlenecks promptly. Small businesses should establish a system for regularly reviewing and monitoring administrative tasks, allowing for proactively identifying and resolving bottlenecks.
Administrative bottlenecks are an overlooked issue that can hinder small businesses’ productivity and efficiency. It also came up in every conversation I had – often until we discussed it in detail, the person wasn’t even aware that this was the cause of their current challenges. With a proactive approach, small businesses can optimise their administrative operations and pave the way for growth and success. Watch this space for something very exciting I’m working on for 2024!