Most small business owners aren’t accounting experts and are happy to use whatever tools they are familiar with to track their expected payments. This might be a messy notebook with illegible handwriting where thousands could be lost just because someone couldn’t read a number correctly. 

Many use spreadsheets, which is great for hypothetical planning but can only provide a snapshot of outstanding accounts receivable at a given moment. Maintaining control over all of the processes around collecting and recording payments quickly becomes an overwhelming task. There are many examples of a simple formula mistake leading to massive consequences – such as Reinhart and Rogoff’s, which ultimately changed policy around the world.

Hiring a dedicated resource is a luxury many solo upstarts cannot afford, so they muddle through it themselves and drain their motivation. The brainpower that should be used on growing their business is being wasted on formatting spreadsheets instead.

Many apps can help to streamline the process and reduce the headache for business owners though they may be reluctant to try. In the short term, it’s deceptively easier to stick with what you know even though better methods exist. This is why the apps you choose to help you accomplish anything in business must be simple, intuitive and integrated – otherwise, they just add to the challenge at hand.

One good example of a solution with a speciality in accounts receivable is vcita, a platform that’s been working with small businesses for over a decade and takes into account just how busy the owners are. And because vcita is a versatile business management platform that includes modules for client communications, appointment scheduling, lead nurture and document sharing, the accounts receivable functionalities are all the more useful.

When it comes to accounts receivable processes, growing small businesses need to issue invoices, collect payments, automate reminders and run reports. But these are just the basics. When everything is built to work together with your CRM, messaging engine and service booking system, the value is compounded, because there’s nothing you need to integrate yourself, and the information is all where it needs to be.

Here are three ways companies can use vcita’s platform to reduce friction in their accounts receivable processes.

Cash flow drill-downs to the individual customer level

Maintaining individual relationships once a company starts to scale can be a nightmare. Correspondence might be all over the place in emails, calls, texts, document comment threads and anywhere else. It’s hard for businesses to track the invoices they’ve sent and whether they’ve followed up. They might invent a manual process that only needs a small human mistake to ruin a client relationship.

It can lead to embarrassing situations where a client has been asked for money they say they’ve already paid but you can’t match the payment. A client might slip through the cracks where everyone thinks an invoice has been sent but no one is quite sure, and the company bleeds money silently.

Software providers like vcita make this whole process far simpler. Every transaction and interaction with every customer is displayed in one timeline thread where you can see exactly what services have been delivered, what appointments have taken place, what messages and files have been shared, whether invoices have been sent and whether corresponding payment has been received. 

It means that when companies talk to customers, they can do so from an informed point of view rather than asking questions you should already know the answer to. Some companies will love the ability to set up automatic payment reminders, so you don’t have to ever personally bother customers for money.

Segmenting data to reveal what you need to know

Many DIY spreadsheets used by small business owners are a mess. They add columns and formulas as they need them, so it becomes more and more cluttered. As specific situations change throughout the day, keeping the data updated can quickly become unwieldy. What’s more, a simple formula mistake can cause huge relationship damage. 

This makes it hard to get a good overall picture of how business is going. Business owners can’t be blamed for procrastinating decluttering until tax season arrives. Then it’s a mad scramble to make sure all the details are correct to avoid a hefty fine.

vcita makes this easy by providing beautiful displays in a way the average spreadsheet user just couldn’t do. Owners can have a dashboard where they can see payments at a glance and filter by status. They can see how much money they are awaiting at the click of a button rather than all the manual steps needed for whatever self-made system they are using.

Your dashboard is updated in real time which can be a life saver as potential problems can be identified early before they get out of control. It makes it far easier to manage the collection of money and stay afloat, and you can even export your data slices for sharing with accountants, financial advisors and other apps.

Auto-populating invoices with services rendered

Invoices are crucially important to the functioning of a small business. The later an invoice is sent, the later the money comes in and the harder it is to deal with all the expenses in the meantime. It’s an opportunity to show professionalism and create a longer-lasting relationship with a client. Something hacked up in Microsoft Word with poor formatting makes a company look amateur and makes clients take them less seriously.

Typing out an invoice by hand leaves so much room for human error and the reputational damage that follows. No one wants to receive a bill larger than they expected and it’s hard to overturn this negative feeling. When you build a new invoice draft with vcita, you can automatically pull in all of the services you’ve delivered since the previous invoice, which makes it easy to catch up on everything due.

It takes only a few clicks to create and send a monthly invoice to the client from within the app. Alternatively, you can set it up to invoice customers every time a service is booked or an appointment is scheduled, even making payment a required prerequisite to ordering these services. Customers can also choose to securely save their payment details in the system, where the merchant won’t have access to any of it, for faster subsequent payments.

This simplicity means business owners can send their Pro-forma invoices, payment requests and receipts faster rather than needing to dedicate time to go through a painful process of manually calculating the sums and formatting everything to look nice and tidy.

One of the more advanced features here is the ability to add a one-click payment button to email invoices. By making the task so easy for customers, it means there is less resistance to paying on time, leading to faster payments. You can also request payment by simply texting a link.

More time for the fun stuff

By speeding up the accounts receivable process, business owners can spend more time on what they really want to do, while tech handles the administrative-financial work. 

Business owners can have peace of mind knowing their clients will have a professional perception without all the manual labour it would otherwise take. Accounts receivable is a critical part of any business, and it’s understandable to be hesitant about using unfamiliar software. Yet solutions like vcita are battle-tested and can make all the difference.