When you’re racing to beat a deadline, you’ll appreciate having that extra time up your sleeve from streamlining your administration processes, writes Heather Smith.
I knew this year would be a busy one. Not only did I have a lot of interstate speaking gigs booked, I was also volunteering at the Commonwealth Games. Which was fantastic, by the way. I got to see the swimming up close, and I got so close to Prince Charles I almost knocked him over.
So at the beginning of the year I started looking for new ways to streamline my business. One area I looked at closely was my bookkeeping and administration processes. And by making a few changes I managed to save around five hours a month.
Now you may not think five hours a month is very much. But when you’re racing to beat a deadline, you’ll appreciate having that extra time up your sleeve.
Here are four changes I made to my bookkeeping and administration processes to save me time. Could you make the same changes to your processes?
1. Stop the pointless money shuffling
For my business I have two bank accounts: a day-to-day account, and a high-interest earning account. Every day I’d transfer the balance of my day-to-day account to the high-interest account to make the money work harder for me.
Unfortunately, for this to have any real benefit:
- the interest rates need to be high (which they currently aren’t in Australia)
- you need to be transferring a significant amount of money (which I wasn’t).
So the time I was spending transferring the money each day wasn’t worth the paltry interest I was earning. (Ideally the bank would offer a service that automatically sweeps the balance into the higher interest account, but they don’t.)
Now I only transfer the balance across weekly, which saves me about ten minutes each week.
If you have a home loan, another option is to have an offset account, which you transfer any excess money across too. You won’t be earning any interest, but you will reduce the interest being charged on your home loan each month.
Bonus Tip: If you have more than two business bank accounts, take the time to really consider why you need two. Sometimes additional accounts are set up with the best of intentions, but they lead to extra money shuffling, bank reconciliation, errors, confusion and an acceptance that banking needs to be hard. It does not.
2. Streamline online banking
I bank with ANZ, and like most banks they let you do online banking either in a web browser or through their mobile app.
The thing is, using their mobile app is about ten times faster than using their website. (ANZ doesn’t seem to realise their ‘modern’ interface is really confusing.) On the app I can quickly and easily check my balances and transfer money. And the additional flexibility and freedom it provides means I can be much closer to my bank account, and do my banking while walking Charlie the dog.
Now I should warn you that it could take around 30 minutes to download and setup the ANZ app. And while the app is faster than their website, its interface is also a little confusing. But the app does let you customise things a little.
For example, I’ve uploaded a graphic with my business name on it so I can easily identify the cards associated with my business. I’ve also done the same for the other groupings. My son’s accounts are one colour, my daughter’s accounts are another colour, my superannuation is another colour, and so on.
By using the mobile app instead of logging into their site on my computer, I save about 30 minutes a month.
Of course, you may not be with ANZ. But if your bank has a mobile app, download it and see if it has any features that can help you simplify and speed up your banking.
Bonus Tip: When you name a bank account, add the last four digits of the account number to the end for easy identification (e.g. ‘ABC Business x1234’). It can help you crosscheck receipts and bank statements, which often include the last four digits of the account you paid from.
3. Let someone else look after the books
This might seem like a strange decision for a Chartered Accountant to make. But handing my books over to someone else gives me clarity over my accounts because I can sit back and look at the bigger picture instead of getting involved in the finer details.
Mind you, the books I hand over are extremely tidy. I use an online accounting solution integrated with the accounts payable solution ReceiptBank, so my accounts are fully reconciled, with supporting documentation attached to most transactions.
The bookkeeper reviews everything, and then deep dives and does additional work to help streamline my books. It costs me around $250 per month, but saves me around three hours a month, which means I still come out in front.
Bonus Tip: Bookkeepers who are registered BAS Agents, and savvy users of online accounting tools, are well placed to offer advice around streamlining workflows.
4. Set up automatic bill payments
I’ve set up automatic payments for pretty much every type of bill that allows it: my electricity, my phone, even my credit card balance.
Most companies will give you a discount if you set up automated payment plans. But even if they charge a transaction fee, the time you save not having to do it manually every month will still make it worthwhile. (It saves me about 30 minutes a month.)
And you never have to worry about late payments, which means no late fees—another saving.
Bonus Tip: Get bills sent to you electronically, so you can setup email rules, to auto-forward them to Receipt Bank, which reads them, and pushes the data and source document to Xero.
5. Push e-commerce sales directly into Xero
I have a small shop on my website and to keep it simple, rather than use a full-blown ecommerce solution like WooCommerce or Shopify, it’s set-up using Gravity Forms. A customer visits the website, enters their details on Gravity Forms, this triggers a Zapier “ZAP” to push the details across into my accounting solution as a Sales Invoice, with full associated contact details. The online payment, is processed by PayPal, allowing customers to pay by Credit Card. A PayPal feed can be activated within Xero, so the sale can be closed off and reconciled. So purchases occur, Sales Invoices are created, and payments are received, without any manual intervention from me! (It saves me about 30 minutes a month.)
Bonus Tip: Zapier is a tool that helps integrate lots of different solutions, streamlining and automating your workflow. I’ve set up several different Zaps in my business workflow, but I had some troubles getting this particular Zap to work for me. Zapier support are helpful, but what was required was beyond my knowledge level, so I engaged a Brisbane certified Zapier expert, to implement and quality check this Zap. Engaging an expert saved me time in the implementation, and the ongoing workflow.
As I said, these five changes I’ve made save me about five hours a month. How much time could you save by tweaking your admin and bookkeeping processes?
And if you’ve got and other tips on how to save time by tweaking your administration processes, please share them in the comments.