Small business owners are constantly faced with challenges and barriers in their journey to success. Some of the most common issues small businesses face can be traced back to one thing: money. Lack of it, inability to find it, or not having it at the right moment can all cause a business to fail.
As a solo business owner, if you fail, you fail alone. If you’ve got employees, though, you have responsibilities. That sense of responsibility is so strong that 53 percent of small business owners have paid themselves late in order to make payroll for their employees, according to a study commissioned by Intuit Canada. Further, 25 percent have moved money from other areas of the business to fuel payroll, potentially hindering business growth down the line. It’s no wonder, then, that 45 percent of small business owners say payroll is what keeps them up at night. In particular, the cash flow side of payroll, with 58 percent admitting they struggle with cash flow problems.
At QuickBooks Connect, Intuit’s conference for small business owners and accountants, the solutions to small business owners’ problems came in two forms: new tech and human connections.
This small business is powered by people
Business growth, especially for brick-and-mortar small businesses like cafés or boutiques, is built on human relationships. Jayson Gaignard, founder of invite-only conference Mastermind, spoke to this in his talk How to Grow, Nurture, and Amplify Business Relationships. His message to the audience was that true growth comes from the people you know, not just the technological efficiencies your business gains.
“Banks could take my car and my other assets, but not my relationships.”
Sharing his own story of how his first business toppled, leaving him in debt, he explained to the audience that the only reason he could get back on his feet to scale his current business was due to the people he knew.
“Banks could take my car and my other assets, but not my relationships,” said Gaignard.
He then shared his three “Cs” of relationship building: always be collecting new ways to meet people, curate your relationships for impact and authenticity, and capture new details about people so you can deepen your relationship.
The theme of relationships continued throughout the conference, with multiple speakers discussing how important connections are to business growth. It’s all part of Intuit’s push to increase the survival rate gof small businesses, which currently sits at an unencouraging 50 percent failure rate by five years.
Melika Hope, Intuit QuickBooks’ Canadian Head of Product, told BetaKit that Intuit’s biggest opportunity to help small businesses survive comes from listening to customers. The company has several methods of garnering customer feedback, all focused on building employee empathy towards customers.
“It’s really putting yourself in the customer’s shoes and understanding exactly what it is that they’re experiencing and what impact there is on their business,” said Hope.
Put some AI in your cash flow
Understanding the customer problem is imperative to ensuring the growth and success of small businesses, but if it’s not prepared for that growth, business owners can’t take advantage of the opportunities. According to QuickBooks’ research, 43 percent of small business owners who plan to hire feel unprepared for their business. The culprit? Cash flow.
One small break in cash flow can drown a small business. If a client is late with a payment, that could mean not meeting payroll or other expense obligations. In the case of not meeting payroll, employees could leave or take legal action. For other expenses, there are likely late fees and compounding costs. Either situation puts the business owner in an even worse position than before.
Even companies that plan for cash flow gaps still face challenges. You may have a handle on cash flow for the business as-is but hiring an additional employee (and every other expense that comes with it) might tip you over the edge.
At Connect, Intuit announced a QuickBooks feature to help make those concerns disappear: Cash Flow Planner. Coming soon, the planning tool uses AI and predictive analytics to show small business owners what their cash flow should look like, up to 90 days out. The feature predicts recurring expenses and income while allowing owners to customize for any known additional expenses or income. Cash Flow Planner then alerts business owners of any upcoming cash crunches or lets them see if upcoming cash flow will sustain the growth they are chasing.
The company also announced several other AI-powered product updates, including the Business Performance Overview feature, which also uses AI to automatically pull out key metrics for a business and display them in a visually-driven dashboard.