Business

Automate Your Business 7 Ways in 7 Days

Whether you are a head of a startup or a SME (Small/Medium Enterprise), automation is your friend. Think of automation like this...

Ana Rios - Copywriter

Sep 16, 2019

Whether you are a head of a startup or a SME (Small/Medium Enterprise), automation is your friend. Think of automation like this: You have a machine doing all the monotonous, repetitive tasks that do not require human resources or special attention, and on the plus side they don’t waste 20 minutes gossiping by the coffee machine (yes, I am talking about you, Brenda).

This article is not here to incentivize you to let go of all of your employees, but rather shed light on the ways you can customize your business and allocate your resources better. Lucky for you, there is an abundance of high-tech solutions on the market today. Unlucky for you, just because there is an opportunity to automate a process, does not mean that you actually should. Having said that, I’m here to help you get started. Automate your business in just 1 week by implementing just one point of this list every day.

First of all, bookmark this page!

Day 1: Identify Repetition

First things first, you need to know what you want to automate in order to automate (duh). I recommend sitting down with your team (or teams) and discuss the processes that they consider monotonous, repetitive, or low effort tasks. Once you have a list of pain points, search for possible ways to optimize these processes, detect whether that process should be automated, optimized, or if it is just a bad habit within the organization. In the latter case,that process should no longer be part of the organization.

When looking for automating a process or a task, select the solution that can perform the task just as well or better. For example, email automation is a must-have at this point. For example, you can automatically send out invitations or reminders to others. You just have to choose which email sample and when you want your email to be sent out. It’s as easy as that. If you are not already doing it, then I’m encouraging you to get on the bandwagon! Through automatic emails, you can generate leads, provide exceptional customer service, and maintain customer retention better than ever.

Here are some examples and ideas:

  • Payroll and invoicing happen frequently

  • Meetings probably happen a lot in your organization

  • Scheduling appointments over email can be so much back and forth

  • Project management, briefing and keeping track of hours and tasks

  • Set up periodic recurring reminders so that you don’t miss important things

  • Creating, editing and proof reading legal templates happens frequently enough

  • Social media management is a huge one

  • Blogging is also a big task, not just for one person, but for a few people

  • Design to development hand-off

  • Code reviews and git management

  • Customer support and chat bots

You should now have a list of personal and team repetitive tasks.

Day 2: Work On Your Business

Starting a business can be quite demanding. The long hours, the late nights, but I’m not here to give you the “Vietnam flashbacks”. But it is very important for you to start extracting yourself from the daily operations to work on your business, not in it. Know how much your time is worth and work on tasks accordingly. The rest of those tasks should be passed down and be monitored for effectiveness. This way you will have more time to focus on your growth.

For day 2, I would suggest you pull yourself from some tasks and instead learn some of the basics of automation tools. Learn some of the automation features for all of the operating systems you use. Just knowing their existence will help you in the long run.

Here are some cool tools for you to peruse, both these services hook into most modern messaging, storage, project management and email services.

https://ifttt.com/ https://zapier.com/

Bonus Tip

Put a sticky note by your table that says “Automation Check”. So that before you do any task, you Google if it can be done better.

You should just walk away today feeling a little better knowing you learned some new tips and tricks. Let your brain stew on the specific implementations you will work on the next few days.

Day 3: Work Smarter Not Harder

This point goes hand in hand with the previous point: contribute less time to the tasks that are easy to do, and focus on the tasks that requires YOU. The idea is to gradually replace yourself with others, machines or people. One solution is to invest in more human resources, and train them to do certain tasks as much, if not, better than you. Another solution is to invest in automation, which can also replace you in certain areas.

For today, I highly recommend that you do specific research into all the existing tools you and your team use. Just find out if the tools you already use can be made even better. I don’t need to tell you about Trello Power Ups, Slack Apps and Bots or Asana Integrations.

By the end of today, you should have implemented some of the above things you researched.

Day 4: Automate Your Office

Office management undoubtedly requires daily attention and planning to produce a positive return on investment. Fortunately, there are many great tools on the market you can use for effective management. A good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system should do the trick, which is packed with automation functions. But you can also use other platforms to manage your team and the daily tasks through Slack, Skype, etc. The goal here is to manage people without having to move from your chair. Both effective and convenient.

For today, I would make sure that all your team members are using the right tools in the right way. Here are some things you can do to improve them as well:

  • Check that they are using the right tools for their operating system

  • Check that they are organized and using shortcuts

  • Check that they are using good extensions for their browsers

  • Check that their IDE or working software has the right plugins

If an employee wants something paid, I say give ’em what they want! It’s a small price to pay.

In making sure your team is better and well equipped, you are taking more off your shoulder and in essence making your entire company run automatically.

Day 5: Automate Your Payroll Process

We are busy covering all the processes within any organization that causes us unnecessary headaches, so it’s only fitting to include the payroll process. Here, I’m talking about paying the unnecessary transaction fees when transferring money, not the act of paying your employees (that’s a totally different article). I recommend providing your employees with a personalized payroll card on which they receive and access their funds without additional costs. Not only is it saving everyone money, but it also improves your brand image. Think about it, you embed your company in their lives every time they use their cards, which in the long-run results in a better company-employee relationship and creates a sense of belonging. #appliedpsychology

But another aspect of payroll that’s time consuming can be tracking and verifying employee hours and tasks.

https://www.getharvest.com/

Harvest is a time tracking tool that has a lot of additional features that are worth learning and utilizing.

Sometimes automation can be in building a simple workflow that everyone agrees on. For example, exporting invoices and receipts to a secure shared cloud folder. Additionally you can set up alerts for every time someone adds or updates to that folder so that you can respond.

We use Zapier to zap Google Drive and Slack for this use case!

Day 6: Automate Your Inventory

Among many things, your inventory has little room for errors. It requires management on a daily basis and is a source of many headaches. But the fact of the matter is that you need products leaving your inventory, otherwise you’re not making money. Break down every process that goes into inventory, and automate what you can. You will not only increase the overall transparency in your orders, but automation can also provide you information of your inventory that you can use to your advantage.

For today, I recommend that you organize your documents and files. Make sure that everyone has access to the things that they will need to get their job done. Also make sure that no one has access to things they shouldn’t.

Additionally, make sure you have set up automatic backing up of your computer. I always think I won’t need it, and I skip it and I lose data. Bad things will happen and always at the worst time. So make sure that’s set up. While you’re at it. Send a reminder to everyone to back up their systems too. I just saved you countless hours of future headache, you’re welcome.

https://media.giphy.com/media/l0Hlwv3WgJu63RT1u/giphy.gif

Day 7: AI and Machine Learning

You want to know something? Ask Google for answers. You want to do something? Ask Google for help. We are at that point where it is possible for you to use Google with your business metrics into data points. These data points then can be applied to an artificial intelligence engine to optimize things such as digital marketing spending or pricing. Google Cloud has built-in tools for automation and you’ll automatically get the latest advancements as Google regularly updates it. But regardless of what platform you use, in our time it is crucial for every business to get familiar with artificial intelligence and machine learning to gain competitive advantage.

https://www.trylately.com/

Here is a pretty cool platform that lets you inject some AI into your social media management. They use IBM’s Watson to analyze a body of text and grab sexy quotes from it, so that you can share it to your social media.

It integrates into the big social media pages and lets you create a pipeline of posts that it will automatically post to your channels at the best times.

Final thoughts

The key to success with automation is through patience. The smaller your business is, the more human attention is required, and therefore it cannot be automated in a day. You first have to take the time to ensure everything in your business is going smoothly before it can be automated. As your company is developing, so will the approaches you will take in dealing with things.

Ask yourself when constructing your workflow “how can I alter this task to make it less time consuming and equally efficient”? Just make sure that whatever area you are automating will not affect your customers experience. Automation will help you differentiate from your competitors and give you that extra edge on the market.

You’ve come up with all of your business’ pain points and managed to find a few solutions through a quick Google search, but it still isn’t enough. If you find that the solutions available aren’t specific enough or up to your standard, don’t get frustrated, you just found a market opportunity. It might be time to develop your own solution.

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