Everyone knows how immensely challenging the past two years have been for Australian businesses. But as we start the new year, many owners are thinking about what 2022 will look like and what they can do to set themselves up for success (all the more so considering things have gotten off to a rocky start).
During our recent webinar in collaboration with Xero, SmartCompany editor Eloise Keating sat down with three experts — Matthew Prouse, head of industry APAC at Xero, Aly Garrett, founder of All In Advisory, and Matthew Sek, director, commercial and product strategy at Airwallex — to get insights on how small businesses can master digital tools and trends for a productive 2022.
Here are the key takeaways.
Acquire the right tools to support healthy cash flow
After two years of disruption caused by extended business shutdowns and border closures, it’s no wonder so many owners are looking for ways to get on top of their cash goals — in both the short and long term.
What will the election mean to you?
Sign up to our free newsletter, including this weekend’s coverage of the election.
“Cash is still king,” Aly Garrett says. “Even if you’re not in growth, cash flow is still incredibly important, and it’s something that many small businesses in Australia really struggle with. So while it’s great to make profits, you still need to convert that to cash so you can pay your bills and take care of your debts.”
While Garrett says that many business owners have used government grants and schemes effectively, others may be struggling with deferred debts after rent-free or interest-free periods have ended — and now they are playing catch-up.
“The most important thing is to speak to a trusted advisor who can help give you a better understanding of your cash flow,” she says. “There are also tools like Xero which house all of your accounting data and give you a real-time look at your profitability, balance sheet and cash flow, which are very critical.
“If you are looking at growth or struggling with cash flow, I highly recommend that you utilise your trusted advisor and a business product like a cash-flow-prediction tool to help map out where cash is going to come in, and where it’s going to go.”
Improve your invoicing techniques
We can plan for a variety of outcomes, but COVID has proved that things can change very quickly in a matter of months, weeks and even days. For Matthew Prouse, he advises that business owners be proactive and make decisions now to bolster against whatever may come this year.
eInvoicing, for example, is a new government initiative to improve digitisation, he says. It’s designed to make the whole invoicing and billing process easier and more efficient. Many governments — national, state and local — have even made the promise to their small business suppliers that they will pay them in five days when they’re sent an invoice via eInvoicing.
Rather than relying on paper or email, which can create roadblocks to cash flow, business owners can send an invoice to a customer or government client through eInvoicing. It’s automatically sent from their accounting system into the buyer’s accounting software, reducing data entry to facilitate much faster payments, he adds.
Prouse says that for any small business whose customers are predominantly other businesses, registering for the eInvoicing network is a must.
“It’s designed to save time,” he adds. “It’s a critical initiative to drive some of that small business performance.”
Generate better engagement to retain top talent
Another major adjustment most businesses have had to make is the shift to remote and hybrid work. While collaboration technologies like video conferencing have been adopted across workplaces to help keep staff engaged, Matthew Sek says business owners need to do even more in 2022.
“How do you drive better collaboration across team members as a key focus area for next year? People start thinking about their next role when they feel disengaged from the business, when they start deviating from the business purpose, or when they lose that sense of belonging with their colleagues.”
Sek says that could be for a physical business or one that has fully embraced remote work, where it’s even harder to build a sense of belonging. The good news is there are lots of tools on the market for this very purpose.
“At Airwallex we use a very simple tool that, every two weeks, sets up a coffee catch-up either in person or virtually with someone else in the business,” Sek says. “It’s often easy to say, ‘Hey, let’s do a coffee catch-up.’ It’s a different case altogether to have a tool that actually schedules and locks in the meeting invite, helping people have meaningful conversations over a cup of coffee.”
It might not seem like much, but if a simple app can help your business retain its top talent and even become a workplace of choice for jobseekers, that team cohesion will serve to support your business through whatever challenges this year brings.
Want to learn more about how you can use technology and clear strategies to boost your business? Watch the webinar, How to grow your business in 2022: Digital tools and trends, in full and on-demand to get even deeper insights from our expert panellists.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 3 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners.