Running your own business is awesome, right? There are not many other lifestyles that afford the opportunity to enjoy the kind of life you’ve always dreamed of, on your own terms. Time, money, flexibility… the chance to have it all.
But the reality is often very different: overwork, constant cashflow pressure, endless hours of lonely admin and even broken relationships. How is this happening at a time when technology advances are meant to be making our lives easier?
Just like the PC and mobile revolutions before it, the Cloud Age promised business owners greater productivity, efficiency and success. But for many, that’s not the reality that’s playing out.
The cloud itself is not the revolution
So, knowingly or not, you’ve moved some business processes into the cloud, which means that you’re now doing things like uploading your receipts into accounting software, creating mailing lists for newsletters, onboarding new employees, and so on. But guess what… you’re not actually great at a lot of this stuff, and it’s taking up valuable time. Since when were you meant to be an expert at bookkeeping, accounting, marketing, payroll, human resources, and all the rest?
Here’s the rub: even though you’re working in the cloud, you’re no further ahead. Instead, your to-do list of non-core tasks just got longer.
So the real revolution is not the cloud. It’s not even apps. It’s the opportunity to offload non-core tasks to outsourced specialists. Real people who will interpret your data and act on it using good old-fashioned common sense.
This blend of technology and humanity is the real revolution that will save you hours each week, increase your cashflow and help you get back to what you love.
Apps and APIs are only part of the solution
Plugging apps into your business can give you better insights, make you more mobile and more productive through automation and easy-to-use interfaces. Thanks to apps, a lot of tasks can be done faster and with less angst. However, apps just don’t cut it when the task at-hand requires the personal touch of creativity, empathy and insight.
Some say that AI will fill the gap, allowing you to achieve far better outcomes – with no people required. This is where the debate heats up: the experts are divided on whether AI will deliver the advances it claims. It falls short on some very basic human traits. When even the CEO of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence acknowledges: “Even little kids have [common sense], but no deep learning program does”, you know AI can’t fully deliver.
In tweaking the Facebook algorithm, Mark Zuckerberg essentially admitted that digital technology is negatively impacting human interaction. What chance then do other businesses have when they depend on building relationships with clients?
In the future, the best services will blend technology and humanity, not just Artificial Intelligence pretending to be human.
Outsourced specialists are the future for SMEs
Adding a human element will define the next generation of apps and services. You’re probably seeing it in the apps you already use.
Tech companies are starting to realise that layering real humans on top of their tech is achieving better results; for example, Apple and Spotify use real people to curate many of their most popular playlists.
On the flipside, traditional service companies are building apps in order to serve their customers better. And of course Uber combined apps and humans from the get-go in what’s been coined a full stack business.
But back to you, the stressed-out business owner. You don’t necessarily want more apps, you just want solutions. Well, the good news is the convergence of technology and services is creating real solutions for SMEs to outsource non-core tasks. Some of the best outsourcing services for SMEs are already blending advanced technology and human specialists. Here are some examples:
This evolution makes good sense because we all know that even with the best technology at your fingertips you can still screw up when you’re not inherently qualified to do the job at hand, whether it’s payroll, bookkeeping or receivables.
Let’s take bank reconciliation for example. Xero made some waves by making it super easy – even fun – via their accounting app. But log into a Facebook group for bookkeepers and read their laments about business owners doing bank reconciliation themselves: they might be ‘having fun’ but many are making a total mess of it.
Enter the specialist. A cloud-savvy bookkeeper can configure your apps so your bank reconciliation is 10x faster and more accurate. Some will even do the entire job for you, saving you time today and down the track, as your data will be in much better shape when it comes to completing your year-end accounts.
Your external specialists can even communicate to you via your apps. They’re directly connected to your business and your data via the cloud. They’re likely also using smart analytics tools powered by Machine Learning and AI, so their insight, advice and ability to help is infinitely improved.
Another benefit of this model is that it’s simple to plug in and unplug specialists depending on what your business needs. It’s less risky and less expensive than hiring in-house, and easier to cut loose the poor performers (sometimes with just a click). But more on that in a later post.
How to get started
Make a list of the tasks you’d rather not be doing right now. What do you hate doing? What tasks are you doing badly? What kind of people would you hire right now if you could? These could include:
- Tax filing
- Accounts receivable
- Accounts payable
- Employee performance
- Legal advice
- Health and safety
- Scheduling meetings
As you do this, also think about how you’ll spend your extra time. Maybe it will be with your family, but it could also be working on more strategic activities that will motivate your team, increase sales or make your operation run more efficiently.
Thanks for reading. You can join the discussion on LinkedIn.