Right now, businesses are in the thick of revving up their new 2019 plans for growth. But what are the factors and challenges impacting today’s economy that businesses should consider? Let’s look at five key areas: the economy and funding, healthcare costs, engaging employees in payroll and tax changes, scaling for growth, and harnessing the power of technology.

1. Build a strong foundation to attract funding

Using the economy’s performance toward the end of 2018 as an indicator for 2019 yields a mixed perspective. The economy grew at a 3.5 percent annual growth rate in the third quarter. On one hand, it’s a drop from the 4.2 percent growth rate in the second quarter. On the other hand, it keeps the economy on track toward the administration’s 3 percent annual growth target.

Business investment also grew by 0.8 percent in the third quarter after an 8.7 percent gain in the previous quarter. Spending on new structures fell by almost 8 percent after increasing by 14.5 percent in the previous period.

As expected, the mix of positive and negative indications brings mixed predictions for 2019. Some experts see this as a catalyst for global growth, while others say that growth will plummet over the next two years. Still, the fundamentals don’t change: Investors will still invest in businesses with strong growth track records or business offerings.

2. Leverage technology to reduce healthcare costs

Now a more prevalent option, both medium and large-sized businesses are turning to expanded telehealth options and technology successfully to reduce their overall healthcare expenses. Other employers are controlling costs by shifting more of the cost of healthcare to their employees through higher co-payments and deductibles or less attractive plans.

Some companies are working with their insurance providers to offer more choices and easier to understand healthcare options delivered through user-friendly online platforms instead of actual doctor visits. They’re also using technology to target employees with specific unhealthy behaviors, like smoking and health issues, to offer more directive services. This cuts down on trips to the hospital and contributes to an overall lowered cost of care.

3. Find enhanced self-service tools to educate and engage employees

The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced in October that starting January 1, 2019, the maximum earnings subject to the Social Security payroll tax will increase by $4,500 to $132,900—up from the $128,400 maximum for 2018.

Employees whose compensation exceeds the current $128,400 maximum will see a decrease in their net take-home pay if they don’t receive an annual raise that makes up for the increased payroll tax. Find ways to use data technology to both educate and engage employees with this and similar payroll tax activities. Data intelligence has added new layers of self-service that allows companies to better communicate payroll tax updates in an easy-to-understand way.

4. Automation and real-time data drives growth

Rapid business growth comes with profit, but also with challenges, such as the efficient use of staff, scaling business systems, and processing and using data. Review your processes and technology to uncover key wins through change. You need to do what is right not only for right now, but for the future, and building in scalability is key. Don’t get chained down by old technology and miss out on business growth because of it.

Putting in place structures and processes now can save an enormous amount of effort later. Some key areas for business leaders to focus their optimization efforts include:

  1. Automating manual processes: Make better use of your people by reducing their workload and offloading the trivial repetitive tasks, freeing up their time and creativity for tasks that continue to grow the business.
  2. Data analytics and intelligence: Ensure not only that everyone can see the data they need when they need it, but also that the data is “live,” that is, up to date. This allows a predictive approach to opportunities and problems.
  3. Improving accessibility: Make sure data is shared across departments and available to all 24/7, across all kinds of technologies.
  4. Integration: Ensure that the systems you set up today can be integrated with third-party solutions in the future, and they can easily integrate with your customer and vendor systems, too.

5. Integrate technology for agility and flexibility

With so many business solutions available, it can be difficult to decide where to invest and how to prioritize. Again, the most effective strategy when managing new technology is to employ an integrated solution because they:

  • Give businesses greater choices from best-of-breed IT solutions
  • Bring disparate databases and applications together under the same platform so you can create a single view across the business
  • Offer more flexibility to meet business goals using the most appropriate tools

All of these can save time for business leaders and their teams as they bring the right technologies into play to solve specific problems.

Start Integration with CRM and ASI

A lot of businesses begin integration with a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, because it can form the base of a highly effective software stack on top of which you can integrate both accounting and inventory management solutions. Integration breaks down the information silos across your organization, meaning that a salesperson can issue an invoice that will then save straight into the accounting system. The invoice is tracked and an alert pops up when it is paid or past due.

No matter if you’re improving your technology stack or building it from the ground up, Accounting Systems, Inc. has the solution that’s right for you. And if you don’t find it out of the box, we can develop a custom module for Sage 100 or use our direct Acumatica partnership to create the right solution. Keeping technology driving forward shouldn’t be your full-time job; it’s ours. Find out what we can do for you in 2019.