How automation helps small businesses grow

You’re a small business with fewer than 25 employees. You want to grow and the market’s ripe for it. But you’re having trouble scaling up. It’s clear your team doesn’t have the time it takes to pursue new opportunities or to develop more strategic products or services, but you’re not sure why.  

 

The problem may be in your processes. When a one-person small business takes on staff and grows its revenue, it can be tempting to stick with the processes you’ve always relied on. Processing expenses manually, for example, may work well when you’re a company of five. But the more employees you add, the more labor-intensive that process can become—and the more efficiencies you lose.  

 

Wouldn’t it be better to have all of your employees focused on the most strategic work possible?

If you have 10 or more employees, it’s time to start looking at automating expense management. When you have a limited number of people working for you, you need them working on whatever will help build your business—not just keep the lights on. But instead, according to the 2014 Forrester Global CFO Study, 80 percent of companies still rely on their employees to enter their expenses manually.  

 

Some companies think automation will lead to layoffs, but the opposite is true. We’ve found that when you automate manual processes, your staff can focus instead on the work that can’t be automated: developing strategies to drive new business, for instance, or solving complex problems that can’t be automated. Your employees benefit, too.  If your people are stuck doing rote manual tasks, you’re not doing them any favors, particularly not when they could be learning the latest tools to make completing administrative tasks as efficient as possible.  

 

Other companies think automation will be expensive. While it’s true that it’s an up-front cost, automating expense management pays off pretty quickly. Forrester reports that automating expense management more than halves the cost of every expense report transaction. According to Aberdeen Group’s 2013 study, “Managing the T&E Lifecycle: Integrating Processes, Driving Performance,” the average cost to process an expense report manually is $20.65—which drops to $12.51 with automation, a savings of 39 percent.  

 

In addition, you can gain valuable insights from the data you collect. For instance, if your employees tend to favor a certain hotel or rental car service when they travel, you can quickly find out their average spend and use that information to drive bargain pricing with that vendor.   The fact is, if you want to grow, you must be able to scale. And to do that, you need the right tools and the right mindset. Chances are, your staff can do more high-value work, and the costs to do those things are more reasonable than you think.

 

Take it from Sid Katari, CFO of Oribe Hair Care, a Concur client with 65 employees: “Everything comes down to ROI. When you use integration technology like Concur to force efficiency to your business, you free up time to reinvest in other, more productive activities.”

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