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What can Mark Zuckerberg wearing the same T-shirt everyday teach you about managing your cashflow better?

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Have you ever wondered why Steve Jobs wore jeans and a black turtleneck or why Mark Zuckerberg wears a grey t-shirt and black hoodie every day? It’s a practise they adopt to combat decision fatigue, and allow them to focus their energies on their business.

Zuckerberg recently posted an image on his Facebook page captioned, “First day back after paternity leave. What should I wear? — feeling undecided.”

During a Facebook Q&A event in November 2014, when asked why he wore a grey short every day, Zuckerberg explained, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community, and there’s actually a bunch of psychology theory that even making small decisions around what you wear or what you eat for breakfast or things like that, they kind of make you tired and consume your energy.”

Every day, small business owners are burdened with numerous decisions, and with every decision a huge range of choices is possible. The outcome of these decisions ultimately paves the way for the business’s success, so it’s important business owners consistently make choices that move the business in the right direction.

Through implementing automation where possible, ‘decision fatigue’ can be minimised, and time and energies can be re-focused on the more complex decisions required.

What tools can help you reduce ‘decision fatigue’?

Take, for example, one important function of the business: cash flow management. Many tasks associated with this process can be replaced by automation – from debtor chasing and allocation of late fee charges, to cash flow forecasting and payment processing. All these activities can be set up to automatically process within defined parameters.

Financial information can be easily kept up to date with the assistance of automated and plugged in bank feeds, through the use of open Application Programming Interface (API) technology. This can be applied to a suite of solutions, extending the cloud business platform’s capabilities, and enabling the flow of data.

The best of class accounting programs also include informative dashboards and graphs that then make it easy for business owners to quickly access this financial data and use it for informed decision-making.

Online debtor-tracking solutions access the accounts receivable data from within the business owner’s online accounting program and automatically send out email reminders – encouraging on-time payment.

Late Fee Manager

One such solution, Late Fee Manager, has the additional option of adding pre-set service, interest and/or late fee charges. These charges are automatically calculated and applied to the original invoice balance, and the email reminders continue chasing the original invoice value plus the additional charges.

Office Administrator at Smarter Bookkeeping Kacie Rogers says now that they are using Late Fee Manager, ‘95 per cent of invoices are paid’. They’ve also earned additional revenue from the fees, and noticed clients proactively communicate with them about when payment will be made – rather than the other way around. Once late fee charges are built into the business’s terms and conditions, the ability to apply charges is both legal and commercially fair.

Float

Creative Director Brent Quincy Buchanan has used the cash flow forecasting tool Float since he founded The Grindhouse. He says, ‘Float is a great visual tool to see how our cash flow is tracking at any given point in the month. It’s also an amazing tool for inputting future expenses and seeing how that is going to affect cash flow. For us, we might have a tax bill coming in, so we input it into Float and see what sort of gap we are going to have to make up. That makes it a great sales motivator.

The other benefit is getting a read on what our expenses are each month. Analysing the monthly spend on certain items will affect spending decisions for future months. I might notice we’re spending too much money on travel or computer equipment, for example, so I’ll start to look at ways to minimise it. Also, Float now looks our chart of accounts from Xero. So it’s very easy to understand.’

TransferMate

Another tool for managing cash and minimising expenses is TransferMate, an online platform that enables the business to book international currency payments.

‘TransferMate helps improve our cash flow by offering superior rates to the retail offerings of the banks, as well as in most cases reducing the bank fees significantly,’ says Peter Greenhalgh, Director of Finance and Administration, Trojan Security Australia. So phoning around, checking rates and the double handling of processing an international currency payment is replaced by a few clicks within the accounting solution.

A new breed of geeks calling themselves cloud integrators are scoping business’s existing workflow practices and recommending cloud based business platforms.

Once automation is operational, management is freed up to focus on more complex decisions like forecasting if there’s enough money in the business to pay salaries and invest in business assets; in other words, management can spend time working on the business, rather than in the business.

Heather Smith FCCA, CPA is a Xero Advisor and Trainer, produces the Cloud Stories podcast, authored Xero for Dummies, and facilitates various Mastermind groups centred on cloud business platforms.

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