Faster, Leaner, Smarter: An Introduction to Business Automation
Small business owners will know the grind of the daily tasks that fill up your day and your headspace. While you zoom in on your to-do list, you can’t zoom out to see the bigger picture. While you are not seeing this bigger picture you are missing the opportunities that arise from making your business better, more efficient and more in line with the vision and goals you set for yourself when you first started. You also miss the opportunities for the work-life balance you imagined when you first started – like more time to spend with your kids.
When you first imagine running your own small business, you didn’t see yourself doing admin tasks at 11pm, but you know you still need to do them – if you don’t, you won’t get paid, or meet your legal obligations. The very technology you’ve employed to make your life easier has started to feel like a hungry beast you need to feed with your time and energy constantly. While you’re wasting time on the menial admin tasks, you’re no longer operating efficiently. It shouldn’t be like that – and doesn’t need to be!
This is where business automation comes in. The fact that you’re reading this blog means you know there’s a better solution out there somewhere. Freeing up your time and letting the machines talk to each other more efficiently is what it’s all about. It’s about your technology working smarter, not you working harder.
What is Business Automation?
Essentially, automation is the process of streamlining your workflow so that everything is done, either in part or completely, by a computer, instead of having to rely on a human being (i.e. you!)
There are many benefits of business automation. Foremost and most importantly is that you will have more time as you automate the tasks that have been filling your day. But also, when the admin tasks of your business are automated, the processes are done faster and more efficiently. And there are fewer errors, too.
Automation doesn’t just save your time. If you have employees that are paid to do these tasks, automation gives your people time to focus on more dollar-productive activities, such as enhancing the customer experience or selling your products or services!
Where to Start?
There are three simple steps to take when it comes to business automation. The first and most simple is to step up the way that you utilise the features of your existing software. For example, Acuity Scheduling or Calendly have features that can automate follow up emails or booking processes, while business rules in Xero can be used to speed up your reconciliation process.
The next step is to maximise integration between your technology systems. For example, ActiveCampaign offers native deep data integration with a number of popular e-commerce platforms, including WooCommerce, Shopify and big commerce, allowing you to use e-commerce data in marketing automation. There are also apps with the Google Suite that integrate natively, such as the ability to insert a live chart from Google Sheets into a Google Doc which can update dynamically at the click of a button. With a bit of tech savviness, your technology platforms can work together and cut you out of the loop!
The other basic first step to business automation is to use another piece of technology to allow your other technologies to work together better. For example, third-party integration tools like Zapier or IFTTT allow you to connect thousands of web-based applications, services, or IoT devices. This can mean things like the submission of an online form on your website can automatically populate a record in your CRM, or even trigger off an email sequence. Or logging SMSs to a Google Sheet can give you the customer records you need to service the client in a smarter way. This method allows you to automate entire business processes, using the right set of applications.
Less grind, more time and better business: business automation sounds quite good, doesn’t it?