There are two types of people in this world: those whose hearts skip a beat at the thought of diving into a nice juicy pile of admin work and those who don’t. As a small business owner, there’s an excellent chance you’re firmly in the latter camp, but still forced to confront mountains of administrative tasks on a daily basis.
Let’s be clear from the outset – admin cannot simply be ignored. It has to be done. The question to tackle is, how should you be doing it and when?
Identifying The Administrative Burden
The first step in tackling the general problem of managing admin is actually identifying the work that has to be tackled. This sounds like a staggeringly obvious point but many small business owners instinctively shy away from it.
When you’re up to your neck in day-to-day operational concerns and fire-fighting, admin tasks are often tackled purely on a “what’s the crisis today?” basis. This is understandable but locks you into a depressing long-term cycle of repetitive nasty surprises.
The vast majority of administrative tasks either have an explicit (and often recurring) time attached to them or should have. Your first step towards breaking free of admin is simply having a defined list of admin tasks broken out by year, quarter, month and week.
How you sketch this out is up to you, but the key thing is that the tasks are identified and written down with specific hard dates attached.
Removing Last-minute Surprises From Your Life
By the time you’ve gotten your list of defined admin tasks sitting nicely organised in front of you, you may be tempted to simply stop there and trust that you’ll automatically consult it as and when needed. Don’t do this.
With your list of tasks and dates defined, the next step is instituting an advance reminder system that will flag upcoming tasks at an appropriate time. For example, if your payroll is due on the 5th of the month, you almost certainly want to start processing that a number of days in advance in order to avoid catastrophe.
The key thing to remember is that the due date is very rarely the start date. You need to be sure that you have automated reminders in place that prompt action on scheduled admin tasks with enough time to spare.
Perform A Cost/Benefit Analysis On A Per Task Basis
If you’re at the beginning of your entrepreneurial journey, you will inevitably be landed with a major portion of the initial business admin yourself. Once you’ve identified and scheduled admin tasks as described above, make sure you’re taking note of how long they actually take to complete.
What you’re trying to work out over time is whether each individual task is best performed by yourself (bookkeeping and accountancy, for example, are classic candidates for outsourcing) and whether the time/money trade-off in terms of hiring someone to perform a task actually adds up.
It’s crucial that you do the initial heavy lifting in terms of defining and scheduling tasks before you attempt to perform this analysis. Omit these steps and you’re essentially hoping that whoever you hire will magically organise everything for you. That’s sadly rarely the case.
Once you’ve bitten the initial organisational bullet however, you’re in a great position to break free from admin tasks gradually offload admin tasks to employees or contractors with confidence, and start focusing on higher-value tasks for your business.