Online tools to save you time

Especially in a small business, when employees and owners are often wearing many hats, it can be hard to keep up on everything that needs to happen while also improving efficiency.

Here’s one more idea you might want to consider: Are there financial tasks you can take online?

It can be difficult to relinquish control when you’re a small-business owner—small mistakes can have big costs and the success of your business means everything to you. However, you may want to consider the ways you could improve efficiency by unloading a few tasks, or even one, to an online system that is safe, secure and easy-to-use.

A recent study of more than 800 small business owners showed that 66 percent of respondents said they were likely to switch banks for a superior mobile offering for business accounts. While many small business owners struggle to know where to give up control, numbers show that you’ve probably at least thought about online and mobile solutions for your business.

Below are some ideas for types of tasks you may be able to take online that could have a big impact on your time. If your banker hasn’t offered these tools, make sure you ask, because you might be missing out on some time-savers.

Online business banking. One of the most basic things you can do is sign up for online banking and get help from your financial institution in creating an online account. Having real-time access to your transactions and other account services online can save you time and energy—instead of waiting for all your papers, receipts and documents to come in so you can reconcile, you can keep track using the internet from any location at any hour, day or night. Most likely, your financial institution will also allow you to do things like transfer funds, send ACH pay to employees and send money by wire transfer. Since more than half of small-business owners work more than 40 hours per week, you’re probably working when your bank is closed. With online banking you can get more done, when it works for you.

You might also consider finding out if you can grant customized account access to authorized staff, to make sure you have checks and balances within your organization.

Non-analyzed ACH and wires. Non-analyzed ACH or wires provides small-business customers who send minimal wires or process few ACHs the ability to send wires and initiate ACH items using online business banking. Once you learn how to use this service that is likely offered in your online banking, you can save time and money by paying your employees from home.

Bill pay service. Do you use a bill pay service for your personal bills? This simple service may be available for your business banking, allowing you to make payments via the internet to any checking account without writing a check. You can schedule payments you know you will have due, and have payees ready for other payments that are more variable. Then, when you need to track incoming invoices or bills, you can login and look at your payment history. If you have an online login for your business banking account, you can likely set it up directly from there.

Fraud protection for business. Some financial institutions offer fraud protections unique to business customers, since different types of or volume of transactions may require unique protections. Ask your financial institution if they offer a service that ensures that they checks they write are cashed by the correct parties or if they offer downloadable software that will help protect their computer from hackers that try to steal online banking information. These are a couple of the services I usually offer to business customers, and your financial institution might also.

Remote deposit. One way you might be able to save time is with remote deposit of checks. Look for a service at your financial institution that allows you to remotely capture checks with your mobile device. You may be charged a fee, so weigh the cost of the fee with the cost of your time and travel to deposit in a bank. You may find that the cost savings in your time is worth the cost of the associated fees. You might also consider a remote deposit product that allows you to scan checks with a small scanning device and make deposits from any location. It is likely that you can save some time and expense with some type of remote deposit service so make sure you talk to your banker about the options that could be available.

Accept online payments. One easy way to save time for small businesses, non-profits and other organizations is to accept online payments or donations directly from a customer’s bank account or with bank cards. This is ideal for organizations that do have access to or the need for an online shopping cart but want to provide the convenience of online payments or donations for their customers. This may benefit business owners and managers by improving your cash flow because of timely deposits. While you might not need a whole suite of online payment systems, even having a way to accept a smaller number of payments could save time.

While setting your business up to use online tools might take a small investment of time at first—to find out what your financial institution offers and learn to use the tools that will be valuable for you—you’ll likely save more time in the end. If you’re looking for a way to improve efficiencies in your organization, consider how you can take a few time-intensive financial tasks online.

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