84 Percent of Small Businesses Rely on a Manual Process

84 Percent of Small Businesses Rely on a Manual Process

A handwritten message to your loyal customers — nice touch!

A handwritten invoice scribbled on a piece of paper — not so much.

But handwritten invoices are just one of many critical financial processes many small businesses are still doing manually.

Still Using a Manual Process

According to new data from Wakefield Research and Concur, 84 percent of small businesses rely on some kind of manual process every day.

At a time when automated systems are typically free and readily available, it’s a shocking figure.

Let’s go through a time warp — back to the 20th Century — to see what old school technologies are still in use today.


Apps like Excel are still good for some small businesses and some professions. The average small business owner, who isn’t dedicated to accounting, isn’t one of them.

Still, 69 percent of small businesses use spreadsheets to plan their budgets and track their spending.

Rather than Excel, full-service accounting apps are widely available. They’re often ideal for small businesses where bookkeeping is put on the back burner.

These apps go another step further than ordinary spreadsheets. Many are equipped to provide real-time, easy-to-read financial info that makes decision making easier and smarter. They make the most of the data you enter.

Filing Cabinets

There was a time when everything was printed on paper. These papers were organized into manila folders and labeled. Bigger accounts got an accordion style folder.

These folders were stored — often alphabetically — in what’s known as a filing cabinet. They’re stacks of sliding drawers that often lock.

You could judge how big a business was — or how much paperwork it required — by the amount of filing cabinets a business had.

They’re not going away, though. Sixty percent of small businesses still keep their important files in a filing cabinet.

Ledger Book and Graph Paper

This same data found that 49 percent of small businesses use a “handwritten record to track, manage and analyze spend.”

If computer spreadsheets are still in fashion among small businesses, presumably the handwritten data is still collected in ledger books.

And that data analyzed on paper might be drawn out on graph paper. How else would you draw an accurate bar chart? The latest graphic design software, perhaps ?

If It’s Not Broke — No, It’s Broke

A stubborn small business owner clinging to these “technologies” will argue they haven’t failed to date.

Chances are, they’re wrong.

This reliance on handwritten data is, at the very least, causing unnecessary delays.

The Wakefield Research and Concur data showed that 42 percent of small businesses surveyed have errors in matching invoices to clients.

Another 42 percent say they’ve experienced errors reconciling invoices.

Delays Cost Money

Delays are a problem and they’re costly.  Among businesses surveyed, 47 percent say they’ve experienced delays in processing vendor orders.

Forty-one percent say they’ve incurred late fees on payments that were lost in their handwritten mess.

Image: Small Business Trends

Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and has been a member of the team for 16 years. A professional journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional media and online media, he attended Waynesburg University and is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He has held roles of reporter, editor and publisher, having founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press.