The prioritisation dilemma of a small business owner when adopting
Technology and change within their business
If you’re someone who hates change, and holds tight the belief. ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’, you’re certainly not alone. Change is something that many find hard to adapt to, but in the world of business, most recognise it really is important. As someone who runs two businesses and certainly has had to adapt to change, we asked Clare, Propierge CEO and Owner of WCS Bespoke, how she manages and handles adapting to change.
Clare explained as follows:
“Last week started no differently to any other. I had a list of things that I didn’t manage to get done the week before that were all fighting for priority over the new items that had been added this week. Screaming priorities that all needed to be done “yesterday”, with no end in sight.
With Propierge and WCS Bespoke (my Holiday Property Management business), I have two companies to run with staff, admin, marketing, planning, issues, cashflow, development, client and relationship management and many more high priority things that just have to get done, right now.
As we had just closed the October month end accounts for WCS Bespoke, the workload involved across the business was very much at the forefront of my mind. We adopted ZOHO Books to manage the accounts within WCS Bespoke and integrated this with Propierge (cleaning Admin) well over 2 years ago and have achieved massive efficiencies, reduced overheads with increased accuracies and speed, resulting in improved profitability of the business. However, as this was over 2 years ago, these improvements are just seen as business as usual now for WCS Bespoke, so I was on the hunt for a solution to remove some more time-wasting admin out of our day to day roles.
Propierge has had a massive effect on my role at WCS Bespoke. Without Propierge (the software), I would not have the time to be able to focus on Propierge (the business), as I would still be tied up with all of the firefighting, duplication of work and overseeing the detail of what my team at WCS Bespoke were doing and how they were doing it. Whereas now, with Propierge keeping an eye on things for me and making sure things are done as they should be, WCS Bespoke only occupies about 20% of my day. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have never been a 9 to 5 person, so this has had a huge impact on me as an owner or two businesses.
But as Propierge grows, it is making more and more demands on my time, so any time that is spent that could be focused better, or in other directions that add more value to either business, is up for serious evaluation. In a bid to get some admin off of my desk (and on to someone else’s), I went to my “go-to” solution of my trusted contact list to see if there was anyone who could join the team to help us out.
But what on earth was I thinking? After achieving a massive reduction in overheads on the accounts from the ZOHO Books/Propierge Cleaning Admin integration, was I really about to roll back and undo the good work? I was quite happy to argue the best use of my time point with myself as a valid justification for taking on staff, but was this the only solution?
I sat down with Irene from my team at WCS Bespoke as she does the vast majority of the accounts admin, to go through the end to end process to look at where we could use technology to help improve things even more, with the objective of reducing her workload so that she could take on more of my work. The biggest drain on Irene’s time seemed to be in taking any invoices that are received from suppliers and rekeying them in to ZOHO Books, which kicks off a large amount of the automated accounts process.
We have tried ZOHO Books document scanner in the past but sadly, it was not helpful to us as it could not recognise a lot of our invoices and could not cope with the Spanish language variations, which is a bit of a problem for a company based in Spain! But this is not the only solution out there, so I got in touch with a company that I have spoken with in the past about their intelligent AI driven docuscan solution.
We had a demo and agreed a way forward and we were really excited as we had identified:
- The pain point
- A technology based solution
- A provider of the technology
But we had not identified:
- The time to play around with the demo
- The time to work through and implement the solution
Now this is where it often comes unstuck for a small business owner and I have been here before myself. I knew we had a problem that was fixable with technology and I knew I had found a solution that may not be 100% perfect, but without spending 10’s or 100’s of thousands of Euros building something myself, was a pretty good fit.
But the login for the demo site remained in my inbox, untouched.
Why? Because I have marketing plans to finalise, blogs to write, development team monthly meetings to plan for, building projects to translate, payments to make, work to sign off, the list goes on and on and on… and everything works fine as it is and I know and trust it to do the job, even if it is not efficient. And this is from a software company founder!
So, what am I going to do about it? My list of priorities and outstanding work is not going to change, if I don’t make a change.
I am well aware that any change will involve a short term additional amount of work that is going to cause some disruption in the team as we all have to settle in to a new way of working. And yes, it may not work perfectly first time and we may have to adjust a little whilst we get used to the system, which is going to require patience and perseverance.
But I just need to remind myself of what the opportunities are. After spending a couple of weekends about two and a half years ago setting up ZOHO Books properly so that it could handle the accounts process for WCS Bespoke and be ready for the Propierge Cleaning Admin integration (along with a few months of accounts runs fine tuning how this should work), this led to efficiencies of over 20K Euros per year. Not bad for a couple of weekends of hard work and a couple of accounts cycles to get the best out of the system!
In addition to this, I also had to spend a weekend inputting all of my own WCS Bespoke data in to Propierge a couple of years ago, but this additional work led to me being able to remove the amount of time that I am required to oversee my business by about 80%. Assign a value to that as appropriate and again, the return on investment (time and otherwise) is vast.
Integrating new systems and ways of working within an existing business is not easy and requires effort, sometimes up front financial investment but more importantly the ability to see the long term benefits for the short term pain. It is all too easy to put this off as other things are screaming for your attention. I know this from personal experience.
However this time, I am going to put this at the top of the list and just get it done. The sooner we do this, the sooner Irene will be freed up from retyping in data which is not the best use of her time and she can help me by taking more off of my list of priorities that are screaming for my attention!
This will involve clearing the decks, finding time which I don’t have and pushing something else further down the list of priorities temporarily. But once this is done and we have spent a few months fine tuning everything and settling in to the change and new ways of working, the benefits will no doubt be “business as usual” before we know it and I’ll be on the hunt for the next opportunity for improvement!”
Owner & Director – WCS Bespoke
Founder & CEO – Propierge