Entrepreneurs are passionate about the growth of their companies. They wear many hats as they scale their business, from CEO and CIO to finance manager. Many in their early start-up days personally handle a huge variety of time-consuming tasks, including approving expense reports and manually issuing checks.

Preparing to Scale

 Between the third and fifth year of a business, successful entrepreneurs begin to realize that they can’t do everything. They must prioritize daily to-do lists while also focusing on innovation and other high-value contributions to grow their business. This means investing in technology that can manage time-consuming tasks they once handled themselves.

At the same time, small business owners are always focused on the numbers. Thirty-nine percent of business owners use cash to start their companies, and 62 percent of small business owners use personal funds to deal with various financial challenges. Having a bigger business means more employees, more vendors, and more day-to-day expenses, all of which must be carefully monitored – particularly from a cash perspective. This is another area where the right technology can maximize growth.

The Struggle with Manual Processes

Crazy Aaron Enterprises is an example of how technology can eliminate menial tasks and improve cash flow to support growth.

Founded in 2002 by Aaron Muderick, the company’s flagship product is Thinking Putty®, a silicon-based substance that bounces, stretches, snaps, molds, and even glows in the dark. To manufacture it and related products, Muderick employs “exceptional individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities,” to use his words.

Like many small business owners, Muderick began his company on a part-time basis and moved to full time as his customer base grew. Although he welcomed growth, it came with a price. He found himself spending more and more time and energy on operational details, notably expense management. As Muderick puts it, “For many, many years, I was the finance department. The bills came through me and all of the associated management of finance as well.”

Muderick was so busy that was dealing with tasks like expense report paperwork in the evening, long after the business day was over, rather than recharging for the next busy day, “I noticed that the stack of bills that needed to go out every month was growing, and I knew it was time to look for a more mature solution, even if we were a very immature toy company.”

Expense Management in Action

Fortunately, as Muderick learned, there are solutions for gaining visibility into expenses and reducing the time spent on managing them. Sophisticated expense management software can automate time-consuming tasks associated with expense management, invoices, and travel, while providing a clear picture of how cash is being spent.

Many entrepreneurs may shy away from these solutions, thinking they’re not ready for what they consider to be enterprise technology. Muderick would strongly disagree. His move to an expense management solution brought nothing but benefits: “It frees us up to stay focused, and that’s what every business really needs to do if they’re going to find success and growth over the long term. Focus on your mission.”

AI, Mobility Are Key

A key technology behind these solutions is artificial intelligence (AI), which powers a level of automation never before possible. For example, AI-based systems can learn how to categorize expenses, so instead of doing that work, humans only need to give it a quick review.

Another important feature is mobile access. Modern apps give employees anywhere/anytime access to the expense management system. For example, employees can submit an expense report for a business trip using their smartphone. They simply take pictures of receipts and upload them to expense reports, saving time from the manual, paper process. A full 75 percent of employees in one study said their smartphones made them more productive, and for 97 percent of users, productivity apps are the most dominant kind of app on their mobile device.

The Foundation for Success

Growth brings many challenges. When it comes to expense management, these challenges are particularly important, because it’s cash that fuels growth. Some tips for success:

  • Focus on strategic activities that add value and promote innovation.
  • Use technology to automate manual processes that eat up time and energy that could be better spent growing the business.
  • Don’t assume that sophisticated, high-powered solutions are only for giant enterprises.

Expense management solutions require some adjustments to processes, but it certainly wasn’t a problem for Muderick. He saw in his expense management system “a way that has been really well thought out that will work for our business, just like it works for a thousand other businesses.”

The lesson in this story is that high-powered technology that was once available only to global enterprises can now serve the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. Implementing this technology can make life easier on entrepreneurs and have a positive effect on their bottom line.

Article submitted by Mari-Frances Bentvelzen, SAP Concur

The post Preparing to Scale – Technology Key to Growth for Small Businesses appeared first on SmartHustle.com.


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