The Tale of the One Second Invoice

Do you run a small business? Yes? Good, I hope business is going well. But I have two important questions for you:

  1. How many invoices did you issue last month?
  2. How long did the process of creating and sending those invoices take?

Was it 30 minutes in total? “No”, you say. “I can’t type that fast!”

An hour in total? “No!”

Maybe 2 hours in total? “No.”

4 hours in total? “Nope.”

8 hours? “No”

More? Really, you can’t be serious!

“Oh hang on,” you say “I don’t actually do this at all. Someone in the office is responsible for all of this.” Great, well done, at least you’re not wasting your own time. They are. And how much do they cost you a month in staff salary, office costs, sick, holiday and pension contributions?

Me, my business did the whole lot in well under one second. In fact if it actually took a second I’d consider it slow! Cost zero; it’s so small you can’t possibly measure it.

“It can’t possibly be that quick!” I hear you say. Yes it can, you just need to words three make it happen: automation, technology and help.

Think about an invoice for a minute. There are only three sections of an invoice that can vary: Who the invoice is for. What the invoice is for. And the value of the invoice.

Well you know who the invoice is for, because they are a recurring customer and you already have their contact details in your database, right? “No”, I hear you say. Well, why not? You know what the job was for because you’ve already got a quote or an estimate for job in your database? “No,” again, well why not, again? You know the final invoice amount as well. “No,” I hear you say. Well then go and finish the job first and then come back to this.

Now you have the final amount, you need to generate the invoice. And I do mean ‘generate’, not write or type or email or anything else. It is just a 4-step process:

  1. You just need to find the quote
  2. You need to associate a new invoice with it
  3. Enter the final amount
  4. Hit the “Issue Invoice” button

Job done, that’s it. Your invoice is now winging its way though the ether to your client’s Inbox. It is also sorted for you in your database, so you and your accountant can see it as well.

Oh, and don’t worry about them paying you late. They’ll get reminded if the invoice hasn’t been paid a few days prior to the due date, and you’ll get notified the minute they are late, so you can take action.

This is how technology saves your business both time and money. That is the power of technology.

You cannot afford to spend more than one second on generating an invoice. You don’t have the time or the money for any longer. If you’re spending longer, you’re losing money as well as wasting time. While an invoice will have value to you when it is paid, until it is paid it has zero value to both your client and you.

In fact for you it is a debt, so you’re already losing money in the short term. Why should you compound your loss by wasting hours to just generate your invoices at the end of the month?

The solution is simple - you need to invest in business automation. Be that a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution, an inventory management solution, a Human Resource Management (HRM) solution or a Facilities Management (FM) solution. Whatever solution is appropriate for your business to eliminate the repetitive, time-consuming tasks that provide zero value to your clients.

This blog post was posted in response to the blog post entitled ‘How to find time to work on the right things’ by Vanessa Hunt. The idea for both blog posts came from a conversation Vanessa and I had about why small businesses owners may not yet be aware of how technology can be a distinct advantage to their business and how we, as technology aware small businesses, could help them.