It is estimated that UK small businesses spend around 120 days a year on administrative tasks, including raising invoices and recruitment. This lost time means that employees are spending less time winning clients and working to improve their products. As a result research from Sage calculates that UK small businesses lose nearly £40bn a year due to loss of productivity.
We have taken a look at the best pieces of software available which can increase your productivity and prevent such damaging losses:
1. Accounting Software
Finance is at the heart of every business so it’s crucial you understand every detail. Xero is just one of many accounting software systems designed to make viewing the company’s financial information easier.
As a cloud-based software, it allows small businesses to view its cash flow, account details and the transactions from wherever the user is, as long as they have internet connection.
By using the software, small businesses can schedule recurring invoices automatically as well as reminders, saving employees time chasing up unpaid invoices. It also features an inventory-management tool which allows small businesses to track the stock levels of items in real time.
There is also the Xero mobile app, which is available for both iOS and Android and allows the user to submit their expenses, create and send invoices, as well as creating reports.
The ‘Starter Plan’ starts at £10 per month while the ‘Standard’ and ‘Premium’ plans are £22 and £27.50 per month respectively.
2. Collaborations and Sharing
Employees can easily get lost in the masses of emails in their inbox while searching for an important document. To make life easier for everyone, it can be a good idea to invest in a central location for saving company documents. This is likely to be a Cloud based platform, such as Dropbox or Google Drive, that allow users to view documents anywhere, provided they have an internet connection.
Enter Google Drive. It’s an online storage facility that allows users to save and share files online as well as allowing multiple users to work on a document at the same time.
Google Drive has 15GB of storage for free, while the premium plans start at £1.59 per month for 100GB of storage and up to the 10TB per month plan at £79.99 per month.
3. Marketing Assistance and Scheduling
In the ever-evolving world of marketing, businesses will always want to remain ahead of the competition. In order to achieve this, a business must understand the foundations of SEO, PPC and social media and there are a range of tools that can help you here, such as Hootsuite and Google Analytics.
An alternative would be to hire a marketing agency, who could not only look after all of your social media and marketing channels but, in some instances, could also look after your website and fix web issues. Marketing can be costly and if you want to use outside help, you may like to consider a small business loan from Liberis as an alternative to a traditional bank loan.
4. Methods of Communication
Inter-company communication can be a headache for many businesses, even those with a small number of employees. So getting the right software to prevent the email inbox being clogged up is important.
Slack is a great tool for small businesses to use. It enables members of staff to communicate amongst each other via an instant-messenger style of interface.
Not only can it be used for inter-company communication, but also for communication with businesses with whom it regularly works. Clients can be invited to different conversation feeds and the software includes both voice and video calls to make discussions easier.
Best of all, the Basic package is free! It does have limitations, such as only allowing for one-to-one video calls, while the Standard (£5.25 per active user per month) and Plus packages (£9.75 per active user per month) allow for group calls, but the free version should be enough for most small businesses.
5. HR Management
The HR department is integral to the day-to-day running of a company; so when HR isn’t equipped with the right resources, even the most basic processes take longer than they should, causing paperwork to pile up.
BreatheHR is an HR tool which helps to efficiently manage the information involved in running a business. The software helps to track sickness and absences, manage holiday requests, track and approve expenses as well as managing appraisals and setting one-to-one meetings.
The pricing plans are based on the number of employees at the company and the number of HR users with access to the software. The Micro plan, which works for up to 10 employees and has one HR user, is £9 per month is the basic plan.
If you wish to include applicant tracking then the plan is an extra £5 per month for two open vacancies or £20 per month for unlimited vacancies.
6. Task Management
If you’re undertaking large projects as a business, you’ll know that these need to be delivered efficiently and on schedule as failure to do so may well result in your business suffering financial (or other) penalties. That’s why task management software, such as Trello or Asana, can be so useful to small businesses.
Asana is one of the most popular products on the market and assists businesses in managing marketing campaigns, product launches and setting/achieving company goals.
The software allows users to check the status and deadlines of projects and attach the relevant files, so information can be stored in one area.
The software also has a mobile app which enables employees to keep track of the projects while they’re out and about.
The Basic plan, which allows for up to 15 team members and includes unlimited tasks, projects and conversations, is free. The Premium version, which includes a broader range of features, is £7.99 per member per month.
That rounds up our suggestions for your small business solutions. Check them out and let us know which ones you plan on using or if there are any alternatives you prefer @SmallBizAdvWeek
Budding entrepreneurs and small business owners might not have employment law at the forefront of their minds when starting a business, but understanding some of the most basic employment laws is critical, especially if your business begins to rapidly grow and expand.
Laws differ between the UK and the Crown Dependencies (such as Jersey), meaning that, if you expand your small business internationally, you must be aware of how the different laws work in each country. When referring to various laws, be sure to check the website of the country you are operating from and adhere to the appropriate legalities.
If you know the law from the outset, you can prevent any legal action taken later down the line. The last thing you want is to end up in a tribunal for unfair dismissal or another aspect of employment law. These cases cost time and money, and can be damaging to the reputation of a company you’ve worked hard to build.
Save yourself the stress and familiarise yourself with some of the most important employment laws. However, it’s important to remember that the law is always changing. GDPR had a huge impact on companies this year and, when the final decision about Brexit is made, this will have an impact on the law as well.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most important employment laws that you need to familiarise yourself with. This is not an exhaustive list, but it can provide a starting point for the legal information you need to understand.
Recruitment and Employee Contracts
You must recruit employees fairly, which means understanding what classifies as discrimination. Any kind of discrimination during recruitment or dismissal can be brought against you in a tribunal.
When you first hire employees, contracts are critical. The contract is a document that outlines the terms and conditions of the employment. It gives both the employee and employer certain rights and obligations.
Some of the most important information regarding a role is contained within a contract, such as salary, pension, probationary period and working hours. While most contracts will follow the same format, they will be unique to each company and individual.
Understand what statutory requirements you must give employees in terms of pay, sick leave, maternity and annual leave. Minimum wage requirements should always be adhered to — details about pay can be written into the employment contract.
Take the time to read the other rights that employees have, such as health and safety, the ability to join a Trade Union and data protection.
For many small businesses, the thought of dismissing an employee is not pleasant to think about. However, knowing the law before you dismiss an employee will put you at an advantage. Understanding the law means you are less likely to face any legal action over unfair dismissal. Make sure you learn what constitutes as fair, constructive and unfair dismissal in the country you trade in.
Consider Creating an Employee Handbook
Although it’s not a legal requirement, we recommend creating an employee handbook. A handbook has multiple benefits both for the employee and employer.
The handbook should outline the mission and values of your company. This can foster a sense of belonging in employees and help them understand the business culture they are joining.
Other information you could include in a handbook are policies, procedures, health and safety requirements, management best practices and more.
Should any issues arise, the employee handbook can be used as a point of reference. An employee handbook outlining procedures can also be beneficial, should you end up facing legal action or have to attend a tribunal.
As your business grows and laws continue to change, it’s important to review your handbook and update it when necessary. If you’re an entrepreneur, hiring an HR employee or outsourcing your HR will help you deal with employment-related issues while you manage the business. If you need guidance on creating your handbook or you’re dealing with any employment issues, consult an employment law expert.
Chris Austin is the head of employment law at Parslows Jersey. Chris regularly represents clients before the Courts and Tribunals of the Island of Jersey.