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Business Automation

A common sight in the small business world is that of the overworked owner. This individual has a hand in everything, from providing front-line customer support to putting together the sales forecasts for the company. This situation results in a leader who's too caught up in the small details to effectively manage the business. At this point, you either delegate tasks to your employees or you burn out. 

While you may have already learned the lesson of task delegation, you need to go one step beyond that. Business automation streamlines processes, looks for ways to reduce the hands-on input required to accomplish tasks and helps you do a lot more with your resources. 

The Benefits of Business Automation

  • Eliminates time-consuming tasks: Repetitive duties are boring and ultimately lead to disengaged employees. Automation eliminates or reduces the time your staff needs to spend on repetitive tasks.
  • Focuses staff on core competencies: You didn't hire a sales specialist to spend most of the day entering customer records into a database. You want salespeople to go out and generate revenue for your company. Business automation empowers staff to do the job they're supposed to be doing, and not all the busy work that surrounds it. 
  • Improves consistency for your small business: Automation standardizes your processes in a way that boosts productivity and makes it consistent. The system performs these duties with the same set of steps each time, so there's no deviation.
  • Creates a scaling foundation: When you need to adapt to growth and have no automation, you typically hire new staff members. The budget may suffer from you adding new people whenever you hit a spike in customer demand. Automation helps you scale these tasks so you can adapt to the unexpected volume without missing a beat. 
  • Collects actionable insights: You can glean a lot of data through business automation software. Use objective reports to learn more about how well your business is doing and whether you need to make changes. 

What Can You Automate in Your Small Business?

Now that you know the benefits of business automation, what are the practical applications for your company? 

Marketing

Marketing automation is a convenient entry point for many businesses. MailChimp, Drip and HubSpot are a few of the many applications offering this functionality. One reason this approach is so popular is due to the moving parts in a marketing campaign. It's easy to miss follow-up opportunities when you reach out to many prospects, and a lack of response could have people going to the competition. If you don't have the budget for these tools, a small business loan can help. 

Data Entry

The amount of manual data entry that many small businesses need to do eats into productive time. The absence of a centralized database leads to repeated work and other inefficiencies in your operations. By automating this aspect of your business, you can free up hours of employee time every day. Think about all you can you when you give everyone the gift of time.

Accounting

Tracking receipts, balancing your books, and handling employee expenses and other financial matters are challenging for small businesses with no accounting department. Automation software helps you monitor incoming and outgoing money, simplifying basic accounting processes and making tax time much less stressful. 

Customer Service

Chatbots are a popular development in the Artificial Intelligence world. They use natural language processing to understand what people are saying in a chat box. Your clients can enjoy basic customer service by going on Facebook or Twitter and talking to your automated system. You free up your customer support staff, so they only need to work on the more complicated cases. 

Inventory Management

"Out of stock" is the worst three-word phrase you can hear if you run a retail business. Logistics, fulfillment and inventory management often have complicated links. If something goes wrong, you could end up with a lot of unhappy customers. Avoid missing revenue goals by automating key parts of this process. For example, if your store CRM registers that a particular item is completely sold out, or close to it, it can send a purchase order to your suppliers to start the replenishment process. 

Backups

How often do you back up your small business systems? What would happen if everything was wiped out overnight? You could end up losing the business completely. If you rely on manual processes to handle backups, you run the risk of someone forgetting to start them. It only takes a few days of missed backups during a disaster to create a painful recovery situation. Automate the most important backups, and make sure that you schedule testing time, as well. 
Delegation is the first step in succeeding as a small business owner. Automation is where you need to go next. Cloud-based technology allows you access to systems similar to what enterprises use, so you should take advantage of it. If you're worried about trying this out, talk to your marketing team. They'll probably be happy to be the first part of the business to use automation tools. Email automation often fits seamlessly into current operations and doesn't cause disruption with other teams. All it will take is one look at how efficient these tools make your people, and you'll want to automate everything possible. 

Category: Productivity

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