Business Strategy

4 ways to automate your business

How much time do your employees spend every day in tedious, manual procedures like filling out forms? Based on their salaries, how much money are you spending each week on these tedious workflows?

Now imagine if you could implement a piece of software that replaced paper forms or slow, multi-step web forms? Even if you only saved 10 employees 15 minutes per day and you were paying them $12.50 an hour, that is more than $7,800 worth of labor that could be invested elsewhere over the course of a year. As the saying goes, time is money.

If your business is relying on antiquated workflows that waste time, you’re not saving money by avoiding investing in a better solution. In fact, you’re wasting money.

How do you find and fix these problems? Automation through software.

Automation Tip #1: Look for the paper

Paper is a bad choice for several reasons. First consider storage. Paper files and forms have to be retained somewhere, and those stacks take up space. Your employees either have to carry around a stack with them daily, or they stash sheets on their desk or in filing cabinets, or you have an entire records room of boxes upon boxes with file folders.

Next consider convenience. How do you find a piece of paper you need when you need it? Unless you have a flawless organization system, there is no way to “search” paper files without physically scanning your eyes over each potential match.

Also, paper delivers no useful data to your company. You can’t run reports on information written on paper. You may have conducted millions of dollars in business, but if it’s all printed on sheets of paper, you have no way to analyze your performance.

Replacing paper processes with software (custom or out-of-the-box) brings your business into the 21st Century. Growth hinges on your ability to be informed and adapt, and paper can’t offer you that.

Automation Tip #2: Look for the mistakes

Humans make errors, and even the best workers often make at least small errors. Mistakes in business cost reputation, money, and time. Look for missed deadlines, forgotten emails, unintentionally ignored requests, people who were left out, and other simple but critical errors. You can write off mistakes as part of the cost of business, but look at it in terms of lost opportunity.

If an employee forgets to reply to an email where a potential client asked for follow up in a month or two, that lead could likely take their business elsewhere. Missing a deadline sometimes equals financial penalties or offering a discount to the client as an apology. Overlooking a client’s special request can decrease the amount of business they ultimately transact with your company.

If an employee was left off a calendar invitation or was unavailable at the time of an important meeting, the entire meeting may be cancelled at the last moment. Employees have blocked off that section of their day, potentially declined or postponed meetings with clients, or interrupted their focus on a project. Rescheduling a meeting impacts even more time, which causes ripples through all aspects of your business.

You may not even be paying attention to these mistakes. If you can’t recall anything similar, start watching closely. You may be surprised what you’ve been overlooking. Solve problems like these with simple productivity tools such as Google apps or client relationship management tools like Salesforce.

Automation Tip #3: Look for the data

Every business needs good data to drive good decisions. Knowing how much revenue you’ve generated is one thing, but do you know exactly where that revenue comes from? How do your best customers find you? What products are the best indicators of a customer completing checkout? Where in the process do would-be clients decide to take their business elsewhere? What forms of advertisement have the highest return?

If you can’t answer those questions, you need better data. Google Analytics is essential for your website and even more so if you sell products on your site. Social advertising tools such as Facebook allow you to target incredibly focused groups of people and track the effectiveness. Marketing automation tools like Hubspot allow you to track visitors and behaviors on your website to find pain points and conversion points. Brick and mortar stores can use solutions like beacons or even wifi access points to analyze foot traffic patterns to make layout decisions.

Automation Tip #4: Look for the goals

No business should ever strive for stagnancy. Due to the number of outside forces that impact a company from the general state of the economy to direct competitors to the weather, if your business isn’t growing, it’s slowly failing. Where do you see your company in a year or five years? Perhaps you hope to expand your product offerings or open a new location. Maybe your goal is to increase the number of clients you serve each month or year.

Growth of any kind involves cost. You may have to hire more employees, move to a bigger office, place larger advance product orders, or personally put in more hours. Look for ways that you can automate your growth and invest manhours into tasks that require human involvement. For example, there’s far more potential for increased sales by investing in your ecommerce solution instead of opening an additional brick and mortar store because the overhead cost is lower and the reach is wider. Providing highly skilled employees with more efficient tools is a wiser long-term investment than hiring lesser-skilled employees to help knock out the menial tasks.

Action Steps

Assess your company for weaknesses that can be fixed through software. Look for paper trails and human errors. Determine what data you need, and set your goals. This next year could be the best one your company has experienced if you make the right investments up front.

Need help finding your opportunities or implementing a solution? Let us know. We would love to help.

By Emily Hart