Are you an entrepreneur? If you are, then you have to seriously start thinking about how to automate your small business.
With a whole range of software and other tools available to you, it’s no longer as difficult or as expensive as it once was to automate.
Also, automation will pay dividends when you decide to scale your business.
How to Automate Your Small Business
Automating your business basically means that you are using technology to eliminate human intervention for one or more business processes.
When you automate, you are freeing yourself and your employees from performing repetitive and boring administrative/routine tasks.
This way, you can focus on more important work.
Other important benefits of automation in business have been listed below.
Benefits Of Automation
Many businesses fail when it comes to meeting increased demand.
In the past, you would have to hire more workers to help you cope.
However, automated tools allow you to meet orders on a timely basis.
This will greatly improve customer satisfaction and help ensure profitability in business.
When it comes to performing routine tasks, it is natural for people to become bored and lose their concentration.
This can lead to errors that hurt the quality of the work and affect customer satisfaction.
However, by automating these processes, you can ensure that the task gets done correctly every time, with minimal errors.
Human intervention can be limited to quality control and making the necessary adjustments to ensure that all processes continue to run smoothly.
Reduced Labor Costs
When you automate, you ensure that your business runs more efficiently.
This means that you can maximize your human resources and don’t have to hire as many employees.
Freeing Up Your Time
Most small businesses are basically one-man operations or have only very minimal staff.
Hence, you spend a lot of time doing routine tasks since you can’t afford to hire additional staff to do them.
Workplace automation allows you to reallocate time that you had previously given over to so-called busywork.
With that, you can focus on tasks that will help your business grow.
Improved Performance Tracking
Automating business processes also allows you to collect data that enable you to track important business information.
This information can help you measure your business’s performance.
Thus, making you capable of effectively pinpointing areas that need improvement.
Automating your business will definitely require you to make an investment upfront.
However, not just money but the time spent training yourself and your employees to use the new tools.
Still, the savings you enjoy over time will allow you to more than make up for these up-front costs.
What Are The Things To Automate?
When considering how to effectively automate your business, the first step is to decide which of your business processes to automate.
You should choose those tasks that are time-consuming, repetitious, and can be handled by algorithms [methods] with minimal human input.
On the other hand, tasks that require problem-solving skills and creativity should not be automated.
According to a 2016 Kinsey report, the most difficult tasks to automate using available technology are those that apply expertise to planning, creative work, and decision making.
This also includes those that involve developing and managing human resources.
Here are some tasks that you should automate.
Blog Post Publishing
You can make publishing new blog posts more convenient.
Use the scheduling option in platforms such as WordPress to schedule them in advance.
Write a batch of posts and then set them up so they’ll be released over the course of a month automatically.
Instead of having to look over your collectibles to see which are due and then emailing reminders, you can automate the process.
Before the due date, you can send a form reminder and customize the amount and customer name.
If you’re recruiting, you can write out a job description and then have it automatically sent to multiple employment websites.
Automating your payroll not only ensures greater accuracy, but it also helps you stay compliant with stricter financial regulations.
However, you should make sure that you have enough employees on your payroll to make automation worth it.
Instead of writing out checks every month, you can have automatic payments set up with your bank.
While manually encoding information from receipts works, you can scan them to have the required data exported.
Social Media Management
Automation allows you to schedule new posts to your social media accounts.
Likewise, it lets you generate reports from social media platforms to provide valuable insights on engagement and other information.
It’s even possible to use chatbots and customize responses to frequently asked questions.
There are automated tools that will allow you to coordinate meetings.
These tools achieve this by checking the availability of the people involved and informing you of the best time to schedule them.
Customer Help Inquiries
You can make responding to your customers quicker by automating the process.
For instance, whenever a customer clicks on a “contact us” link on an email, an automated follow-up request is sent to you or a designated staff member.
If you use help desk tickets, you can have these automatically generated and organized so customer care staff can know in what order to respond.
Shopping Cart Reminders
Studies have shown that the majority of online shoppers abandon shopping carts.
You can automatically send these customers reminders a few minutes later and a second one a week later.
This strategy could still help recover lost sales if the buyer simply got distracted or if they had second thoughts.
Once a customer has made a purchase from you, you can encourage repeat business by scheduling automated reminders.
For instance, you can send them a reminder that they need to restock because their supply of the product is about to run out.
You can help your sales team by clearly defining your sales process and then organizing the process using automation software.
For instance, you can use software to determine which leads should be given the most priority.
You can do this through a scoring process that ranks how they engage with your marketing.
How To Automate Your Small Business
Before you go full-scale into automation, you should first determine the effects of automation on your organization.
First, you can start by automating some smaller processes
By doing this test run, you can identify any roadblocks or other problems that may come up during the automation process.
You can then determine what the possible solutions are.
Only then should you start automating more processes that are actually critical to the running of your business.
Keep in mind that automation should be inclusive.
You should make sure that you consult key members of your organization and allow them to give their feedback.
You need to involve them from the earliest stages to further encourage their fullest involvement.
Most importantly, please don’t discourage negative feedback.
Ensure that there are no pain points that make certain staff members feel that the process has made their work lives more difficult.
The Next step would be the selection and assessment process.
You can select which automation tools to use.
There is a wide array of tools you can use, each with its own area of specialization.
There are many tools that promote themselves as being the best. But what is important is that you pick the ones that best meet the needs of your organization.
Like in terms of the types of users and their level of technical expertise, level of capability, and scalability.
Of course, you should choose tools that are not highly technical and which nonprofessionals can easily learn to use.
This will save you the expense of having to hire a consultant who can figure out how to use the software.
In addition, you should provide some training for your staff on the new tools, even if they will not be the ones who will directly use it.
They should learn to be familiar with how to use them.
They should also know the reason why the tools are being implemented and the desired outcome in adopting them.
Once you have started running the software, you should set targets to determine how successful it is at meeting your goals.
Additionally, you should set standards to measure how effective they are.
Furthermore, you should also determine what your team should do with the freed-up time.
You have to set goals so that you can track what impact the automation process has had on your business.
There is an important task that you also need to do once automated processes are up and running.
It is to establish what roles the members of your organization play.
Ensure that you enforce accountability by setting up a hierarchy that identifies who the process owner is.
Use the feedback that you get from tracking your results as a basis for refining your workflow.
You can determine how to better involve the tools into your daily routine to make your work more efficient and increase your profitability.
Automation As A Continuous Pursuit
One thing to always keep in mind is that automation is not merely a one-time thing.
It is an ongoing process that needs continuous monitoring to ensure that it continues to deliver the desired results.
If you know what data you want to measure, you can create your own key performance indicators (KPIs).
These can help you determine how well automation is enabling you to meet your business objectives.
Finally, you should build a culture of automation in your organization.
Remember that one of the desired effects of automation is to make workflows more efficient.
So, you should encourage your staff to look at business processes in your workplace.
Encourage them to consider if certain tasks should be automated to make tasks flow more smoothly.
One of the key questions you and your staff should always be asking is, are there tasks we are doing that are too repetitive?
If so, would it make these workflows more efficient if they were automated so time could be freed up to do other things?
However, when you automate, there is always the possibility that something will go wrong.
This is why you should not assume that your tools are 100% reliable.
Therefore, you should have a backup plan in case there’s a technical issue.
This backup plan must involve human intervention in the process to ensure that the task gets done correctly.
Sene is a Los Angeles-based clothing company that specializes in contemporary pieces for both sexes that are made-to-measure.
Its experience highlights how to effectively automate while still respecting their craft of custom-made clothing.
The company decided to automate as a way of scaling their business and to be able to offer its products at affordable prices.
The task that was automated was cutting out fabrics based on paper designs.
In the past, this had been a labor-intensive process.
Sene used intelligent sizing software combined with automated laser cutters to cut the fabric.
Apart from being more efficient and avoiding errors, the software is able to learn how to optimize the fabrics’ fit sizes based on previous history.
According to co-founder and CEO Ray Li, automation increased speed by a fifth and raised accuracy by 400 percent.
The company was able to enjoy both cost savings from the improved accuracy rate and labor savings from greater volume.
Sene managed to earn back its investment in the machine within a year.
In order to reduce his staff’s concerns over automation, Li kept emphasizing the company’s vision.
The vision was to create clothing for its customers that were truly personal and with accurate sizing.
People stopped worrying once they realized that they still had their jobs, only that the responsibilities had changed.
Of course, people lost their jobs on the cutting floor.
However, automation has also led to an increase in software positions.
As a result, management would need to retrain staff to handle these new responsibilities.
Li said he would continue to automate other processes.
In addition, he said he would integrate his systems with data gathered about their customers.
This was so that he could learn more about body shapes and how these connect with choices about clothing styles.
However, he maintained that Sene would never shift into a manufacturing process that was completely automated.
He pointed out that a blend of man and machine still produced the best clothing.
Tips To Ensure That Workplace Automation Goes More Smoothly
- Gradually insert automation tools into existing manual processes to make them more efficient.
One of the cheaper and quicker ways to automate is to simply make some of your workplace’s manual processes more efficient by adding some simple tools.
You can consider gradually upgrading to a fully automated process once the technology becomes refined enough to support it.
Use transformational projects as a way to initiate automation.
If you’re undertaking a modernization initiative, you can use it as an opportunity to identify inefficient processes in your workflow that could be made more efficient through automation.
Focus on small tasks that will have a large impact on your workflow.
If you’re looking for things to automate, identify these seemingly simple tasks.
For instance, you can set up an email bot that automatically sends out emails to partners.
This ensures that you avoid missed connections and make these emails less intrusive since they are sent at the most convenient time for recipients.
Avoid complicated systems.
An automated process should be easy for users to interact with.
Otherwise, it misses the point of making things more efficient.
- Focus on your core tasks and automate all the other tasks.
When you think of ways to automate, you should first consider what is most essential to your company and then automate everything else.
For instance, if you are a company that provides market research, you can focus on tasks related to that.
You can then automate routine processes such as email messaging, advertising and social media campaigns, and even customer service.
Network various software solutions to create an integrated system that can save you time.
By connecting software into a single and central platform, you can improve the quality of your work output, save time, and increase the transparency of management.
Build the most efficient team to support your automation efforts.
You could outsource certain specialized tasks such as copywriting or email marketing to small outside contractors, while in-house staff can handle other processes.
Conclusion On How To Automate In Business
To enjoy the full benefits of automation, you have to go about it in a thoughtful and methodical way.
Keep in mind that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution that is appropriate for all businesses.
So, you have to audit your business to find areas of inefficiency that can benefit from automation.
However, to ensure that you automate your business most effectively, you have to start small.
This means beginning with particular processes, tracking your results, and adjusting your systems based on the feedback that you get.
Keep in mind that every time you automate a task or process, it involves a learning curve for you and your staff.
By gradually automating tasks one at a time, you make it easier for people to come to terms with the automation tools without disrupting everyone’s work routine.
Are you still trying to decide whether to automate your business or not?
Go ahead, try it! it will be worth your while!
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