If business owners weren’t able to automate, or at least partially automate, many day-to-day tasks then they wouldn’t have any time left to focus on doing the most important thing of all: making money. Whilst it’s possible to hire staff specialising in areas such as human resources management, administration, project management and customer relationships, these can prove to be very costly hires that will ultimately eat into your bottom line. It’s important to have members of the team that can turn their hand to these areas in addition to their day to day roles if need be, however they are all constituents of running a small business that can be automated to a large extent.
There are literally thousands of vendors, software systems and approved resellers on the market set up with the promise of making your company’s operations more efficient and cost-effective, so we’ll leave the decision making up to you. However what this feature does is try to give a broad overview of process automation with reference to several of the more well-known players in the field.
Taking the Initial Steps
The first course of action as a business owner is to assess which areas of the business can be automated and which ones will provide the most benefit from an ROI perspective. What does your business currently do that could be done more efficiently? Try to identify at least one area that could be improved upon as a starting point and then expand the process from there, prioritising repetitive tasks that currently take a long time to do manually.
And If Tools Aren’t On Your Agenda?
Batch processing is a simple way to immediately make your business more efficient without investing in additional tools. It describes the process of grouping similar activities together and doing them all at once. This works particularly well for admin tasks including social media interaction (always remember to have a plan in regards to this), responding to emails, paying bills and ordering stock, so set aside an hour or two specifically for these tasks daily (or weekly, depending on their importance) and you’ll soon find you’ve got more additional time for more pressing business matters.
Marketing Your Business
The first set of tools to discuss are ones that help promote and grow your business online. If done properly email marketing can be a powerful asset and most importantly it is one that can be highly automated. The Mail Chimp platform enables you to tailor email campaigns by target audience, timing and design. It allows you to get your messages out to large numbers of people in minutes, without sending individual emails to thousands of people.
Streamlining Admin & Office Tasks
Admin can be tedious and really slow down. A great way of saving time in this respect is to invest in something like Shoeboxed. They let you send all your receipts that you’d usually scan into your accounting software to them and they scan them all at once for you, meaning no more mind-numbing and time-consuming data entry!
In terms of sharing and storing files easily, Dropbox is probably your best bet. It has a free option that allows you to store up to 2GB worth of files and documents stored here are visible to the whole company, meaning you can collaborate on them at the same time, meaning people aren’t left waiting around to access important documents.
There is a plethora of HR software platforms on the market and if you can put absence management, annual leave booking and other elements in the hands of your staff by way of an online HR software system then all the better. Platforms such as BreatheHR allow employees to simply login online and automatically book holiday or account for sick leave, practically negating the need for you to invest in a multi-member human resources team.
Managing Customer Relationships
Customer relationship management, or CRM, ties nicely into your email marketing push and allows you to automate the collection of customer data, purchases and any other activity. Perhaps the best known software is SalesForce, allowing you to automatically label hot leads and automate the sales funnel process. It allows you to keep customers’ attention in a partially automated way, increasing their likelihood to make a purchase from you.
What business automation tools do you currently use? Let us know your favourites and how they help you free up time for the important stuff!