What Financial Operations Solutions Do SMBs Really Want? New Survey Sheds Some Light

We all know how challenging running a small business can be, especially in turbulent times. There’s so much to do and not enough time to do it. In addition, you have to balance taking care of business fundamentals (accounting, billing clients, payroll, paying bills, etc.) with the aspects of your business that actually generate revenue, sales, marketing, and business development. The key is to find technology that provides multiple solutions, taking more than one task off your plate, freeing you and your team up to invest more time and effort into those money-making activities.

You would think in this era of innovative technology, the owners of small and midsized businesses (SMBs) would be using these types of tools, but a new survey from Bill.com reveals that 80% of SMBs believe the solutions they’re using today to manage their financial operations don’t meet their needs.

SMBs feel ignored by tech providers

Back in the 1990s, when small businesses started flourishing in the United States, many technology providers that served enterprise-level corporations jumped at the chance to sell their solutions to these newly emerging entrepreneurial ventures. But in their rush to reach this market, they hurriedly created versions of their offerings without as many bells and whistles, thinking they would do the trick.

Unfortunately, they didn’t, because it turned out, these truncated solutions were missing the very features small businesses needed. (Believe me, I heard from many frustrated entrepreneurs back then when I was editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine, who had bought these solutions, only to be disappointed by their lack of functionality.)

Fast forward to 2021, and today’s SMBs are experiencing the same frustrations. The Bill.com survey of small business owners and decision-makers at midsized businesses (and not their customers) shows many feel “enterprise-focused technology companies are ignoring them.” In fact, 63% of the SMBs believe these large solution providers “do not offer products that fit their needs,” and 48% say they can’t afford the offered solutions anyway.

Many SMBs still doing the books manually

The real consequence of this is that SMBs end up resorting to outdated bookkeeping practices, literally “doing the books”—85% of these companies track at least some of their financial operations manually. Specifically, 57% of small business owners and 61% of midsized business decision-makers track half or more of their financial functions manually. Plus, 83% of the midsized companies currently juggle multiple financial applications to help them run their businesses.

Doing the books manually is not an effective use of time for SMBs or their employees. And in the long term, it inhibits growth.

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the 32.5 million small businesses in America (which is 99.9% of all U.S. businesses) employ 46.8% of the country’s private workforce (more than 60 million people) and account for about 44% of total U.S. economic activity (GDP).

Yet, despite that impact, SMBs say they lack an all-in-one technology solution “to help them navigate the day-to-day operational complexities of running their businesses, in addition to recent economic uncertainties and a tight labor market.”

What financial operations tech solutions do SMBs want?

Of those businesses surveyed by Bill.com, 87% say they want an all-in-one technology solution that meets their needs and provides support for their companies.

Prioritizing their needs, they specifically want upgraded solutions for:

  • Bookkeeping—48%
  • Accounts receivable—41%
  • Payroll—38%
  • Accounts payable—37%

When asked about having financial operations technology applications that seamlessly work together, 69% of the SMBs say this is either “extremely” or “very important,” and 21% say it is “somewhat important.”

The SMBs are concerned about their futures if they don’t update their financial tech operations.

  • 34% say they’d struggle to grow
  • 21% say they would fall behind their competitors
  • 20% think they’d experience delays in fulfilling orders
  • 20% expect their revenue would fall
  • 17% are concerned they’d have to hire more staff to keep up with current systems

The news isn’t all gloomy—54% of the SMBs report they’re “on a good path and making significant improvements.” And Bill.com CEO and founder René Lacerte is encouraged that “SMBs realize they need to evolve from manual to digital processes.”

Lacerte says that Bill.com, which already provides cloud-based software that simplifies, digitizes, and automates back-office financial processes, is “committed to building that go-to, mission-critical solution” to meet the financial operations needs of SMBs to help them “digitally transform and succeed.”

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