In the  finance and technology industries, there's a common narrative about small business that is often repeated: Small business represents a huge, underserved, and highly lucrative market. There are nearly 30 million small businesses in the U.S. and regardless of what sector you're in, that's a large pool of potential customers.

The prevailing wisdom is that these businesses run on Intuit's QuickBooks, which enables them to have organized, accurate, and timely financial information at their fingertips. As a result, the small business market should be an easy one to serve.

Unfortunately, this isn't the case. Organizations big and small have struggled to serve the small business market in an efficient and effective manner, and it's all due to what we call the 90 percent challenge.

What is the 90 Percent Challenge?

My company, BodeTree started out as one of those optimistic startups that thought serving the small business segment would be easy. We quickly realized, however that the commonly held wisdom was wrong.

Of the 30 million small businesses in the U.S., the vast majority operate in a state of utter financial chaos, let alone use an accounting system of any kind.

For most small businesses, the traditional process of organizing and managing their finances is too complex, too difficult, and too time consuming. Even accounting systems like QuickBooks require either a baseline level of accounting knowledge or a dedicated bookkeeper.

Based on our experience and the experience of our partners, my team and I estimate that only 10 percent of all small businesses have up-to-date and accurate accounting information. This means that 90 percent of small businesses are unable to produce dependable financial statements when prompted.

This is why we can't have nice things

So why does this matter? Small businesses have gotten away with the status quo of financial chaos for so long because the industries that serve them adopted bad habits.

These companies, such as banks and insurance providers, shaped their processes around the chaos of small business which resulted in highly time-consuming, generic, and manual systems. Up until recently, this approach worked.

The recent advent of new financial technologies and alternative lending platforms has transformed the way small businesses access products and services. This new class of entrepreneurs is helping to solve the 90 percent challenge in new and innovative ways--including raising the expectations of small businesses when it come to services.

The impact of this change will reverberate across the industry, changing the way small businesses operate and interact with their banks and other service providers.

The times they are a changin'

Technology is solving the 90 percent challenge by changing the way that small business owners interact with their finances across the board.

In the case of BodeTree, we allow any small business with a bank account to transform their transaction data into complete cash-basis financial statements instantly. Our model reflects a fundamental shift in financial technology towards the development of trusted partnerships between small businesses and their institutions.

Other providers like, inDinero, blend technology and human touch to create a more detailed view of a company's financial health.

I recently chatted with Jessica Mah, co-founder and CEO of inDinero, whom I've had the pleasure of knowing for some years. According to Jessica, her team has "... automated the accounting junk drawer; you know the one that has all of your financial crap and some thumb tacks and paper-clips and a broken pencil and you drop it off at your CPAs office and smile and say, 'bill me.'  Our team of virtual CFOs, backed by our own automation software makes accounting a weapon and not a pain in the neck."

Few will dispute the truth behind all of the excuses that used to prevent small businesses from organizing their finances. The only options that were available to them were expensive, time consuming, and incredibly complex.

Today, however, there are no more excuses. Whether you're a small business or an organization that serves them, the 90 percent challenge is no longer a roadblock to success, but rather a reason to adopt a new approach.

 

Published on: Apr 6, 2016