How to Save $14,000 a Year at the Touch of a Screen (Really!)

Small business owners can save big by using mobile apps for administrative work, says a new survey.
Business Writers
February 15, 2012

Small businesses looking to save time and money should phone it in, suggests a new survey.

Owners using mobile apps for tedious tasks such as bookkeeping and travel save an average of 5.6 hours a week of their own time–and they estimate it saves employees an average of 11.33 hours, according to a survey by the Small Business and Entrepreneur Council. Some 300 firms with 20 employees or less were polled.

The study estimates that–based on the hours saved and the average pay of an employee–small businesses using mobile apps for administrative functions are saving $275 per week. That's an average of more than $14,000 per year.

"Hours of paper-pushing, administrative work, customer research, extra driving trips and unproductive downtime add up very quickly," Karen Kerrigan, the SBE Council's president ad CEO, said in a statement. "Mobile apps are allowing small-business owners and their employees to get more time from their day and to focus on higher value work."

Only about a third of small businesses (31 percent) are using mobile apps, though. Wider app usage among small firms could save an estimated 2.34 billion employee hours, or a whopping $60 billion, according to the study.

Generally the smaller the business, the more time (and money) saved. All one-person businesses–so, 100 percent of them–using apps agreed that they’ve saved time. Of firms with employees, 88 percent of owners with 2 to 5 employees agreed that they save time, while 65 percent with 6 to 10 workers, and 74 percent of those with 11 or more employees said the apps saved time.

Other findings: Using mobile apps helped roughly half of small businesses spend more time growing business revenues, thanks to the time they saved on admin. (Owners said increasing sales and revenue was their biggest challenge, and that any time saved in other areas would be devoted to that.) Half of those surveyed also said that using apps made their companies more competitive.

According to a September 2010 Forrester Research study, nearly half of small businesses are using smartphones, compared to well under a fifth (17 percent) of the general consumer market. Small businesses increasingly are ditching desktops and laptops for smartphones and tablets. An April 2011 SMB Mobility Adoption and Trends Report estimated that just over half of tablets bought are being used for business.

Considering this rate of adoption of smartphones and tablets, combined with the dawn of the faster-better-stronger 4G network and the enhanced devices and mobile apps that will come with it, the stage is set "or accelerated adoption of mobile apps among small businesses," observed the Small Business and Entrepreneur Council report.

Do you use mobile apps? Which have you found most effective?