Modern businesses require modern solutions to help them function at optimum levels. But modern solutions can often cost large amounts of cash that smaller businesses and entrepreneurs simply don’t have.
Automation sounds like one of those high-cost solutions that only the big guys can afford. But the truth is, even small businesses with limited budgets can fit automating tasks into their budget.
While 25 per cent of small businesses are already using automation to help their business grow, a staggering 57 per cent of businesses haven’t yet reaped the benefits of automation. But you don’t have to be one of the 57 per cent. There are automation solutions out there that are within your budget and easy enough for you to get set up.
How does workflow automation work?
Simply put, workflow automation uses a rules-based approach to automate otherwise manual work, specifically where tasks are uniform and repetitive. Even something as simple as shipping software utilizes automation.
Chances are, you’re probably already using some form of automation in your business, but don’t realize it. For example, if you use email marketing automation software to send a confirmation email to those who sign up to your mailing list, you’re already automating part of your workflow.
Likewise, if you’re using a system that tags those same people on your mailing list based on whether they open an email, or you’re using a scheduling system to post on social media, you’re already building your own marketing automation platform.
These small changes to your workflow help eliminate manual work and improve your overall productivity. This way, you can work smarter, not necessarily harder. It’s one step closer to running a successful small business.
Why automation is important
It’s becoming increasingly important to automate your business. Automation tools are becoming less expensive but still pack a mean punch. It can help you eliminate menial time-consuming tasks without having to hire some help, and can make your business function in a more organized and productive manner.
Let’s say you want to grow your small one-person shop into a full-fledged business, at some point you’ll need to integrate automation in order to spend time on critical tasks and less time executing. It’s not as complex or scary as it may sound. But it can help you grow in leaps and bounds while still staying within your budget.
Automation fits into almost any aspect of your business, from your marketing to your financial tasks. It’s versatile, usually easy to set up, and can positively affect your workflow and operations.
Benefits of automation
Automation allows you to work smarter not harder, ensures that everyday tasks get done even when you don’t have the time, and makes your life as an entrepreneur easier. If you’re considering adding automation to your small business, here are eight benefits you could experience:
Increase your productivity
Most businesses start down on the automation path because they’re looking to boost productivity, and it can absolutely do that. Automation is great for getting those tedious, repetitive tasks off your plate so you can free up more time to focus on what’s important.
It’s important to note that automation technologies are not good for everything. If your task requires a high amount of customization every time you do it, it’s probably not the right tool for the job. But if it’s the kind of task that can be done by copying and pasting, checking boxes, or another task that’s repetitive and predictable, automation can probably save you a ton of time.
Reduce overall operation costs
If you’re growing a small business, chances are at some point, you’ll end up with more work than you can handle on your own.
Many businesses already spend a lot of money outsourcing—even for small businesses with limited budgets, 71 per cent of that budget often ends up going towards staffing costs. Although your business might not be there yet.
It’s true that outsourcing can be a great tool if you have the budget for it. But there’s an often overlooked solution for getting work off your plate while keeping your costs low—automation. The McKinsey report even states that 5 per cent of jobs can be fully replaced by automation.
If you’re a small business owner and automation simply isn’t on the table right now because you can’t afford the extra cost, automation software can make a big impact. It can handle small, simple tasks without you having to hire an assistant.
Streamline your communication
It’s easy to drop the ball on something when you have a series of manual tasks that require human intervention to get information from one system to another. The simple fact is that there are a lot of systems that you may use that don’t talk to each other.
One of the major benefits of using an automation tool like Zapier, which connects systems together is that you can cut manual processes on more menial tasks like copying data from A to B. Again, this works best for simple pieces of information, but the right tool can handle more complex tasks.
Ensure high availability
Traditional businesses make money when the doors are open, which is often on a predetermined 9-to-5 type schedule. But the online world has opened up the door to 24-hour business models. In cases where that doesn’t happen, businesses can suffer.
If someone wants to order a t-shirt with a grumpy-faced pug on it at 3 a.m. but your store doesn’t process orders when there isn’t someone physically online to do it, then you’re losing money. The right tools and automation can help ensure that your business continues to operate, even when you’re not there to manually press the buttons.
It allows you to continue to make sales, have customer interactions, and do business, even when you’re taking some much-needed rest.
Weak processes slow down your business.
If there’s something broken in your process, getting on top of it could make the difference between growth and stalling. Automation software and tools can help firm up and optimize some of those business processes that are weighing you down.
Operating at the highest level possible is paramount if you want to see substantial growth in your business. So identifying the weakness in your business process and fixing it with automation has the potential to not only make jobs easier, but encourage growth.
Eliminate human error
It doesn’t matter who you are or how good you are at your job, mistakes happen.
This is especially the case if you’re a solopreneur who handles everything yourself. Even if you’re well-organized and on top of tasks, eventually the increasing workload of a growing business can take its toll. Sometimes even in an embarrassing client-facing way, like forgetting about a project or missing an important email.
Routine tasks can become a burden. Or things that you do to grow your business, like marketing, can quickly fall by the wayside due to increased client demand. But one benefit of automation software is it can help you eliminate human error while freeing up your time to continue to grow.
By taking small tasks that need to be done, templating them, and having them done automatically, you lower your risk of making mistakes. You can even use marketing automation tools to help with marketing tasks, so you can focus on your clients while still promoting yourself.
Increase reliability and accountability
Adding to the reduction of human error, automation software can help increase the reliability of tasks. This not only ensures they’re done correctly, but also when they’re supposed to be done. No waiting for someone to slog through piles of paperwork before the information gets inputted into your system.
On the same note, reducing human interaction can also increase accountability. You can use automation to add additional checks and balances to help ensure increased accountability in your workflow. This can help provide extra confidence in your overall process.
Disorganization is distracting. But not only that, it can lead to mistakes.
The problem is a lot of tasks that you need to stay on top of to keep organized and make things run smoothly are things that can often seem like small potatoes when you’re running a big business.
Luckily, these are often tasks that are repetitive in nature, which means automation software can probably take care of them. Imagine being more organized with less workload. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Challenges with automation
While automation is a nifty little helper, it’s not foot proof.
As much as sci-fi movies would have us believe that one day robots will take over the world, there are too many gaps within automation software to run your entire business with no human element (today, anyway).
The most sophisticated automation that’s widely available and affordable still has trouble with complex activities. And even when you might be able to automate those tasks, the cost of doing so in both time and money is often high. So, you really need to pick your automation tools carefully and focus on the key features that will help move forward your business without escalating the cost.
The other big challenge with automation is internal acceptance. While it often eliminates menial tasks that can help create more employee engagement, adoption can sometimes be slow.
This could be because of internal resistance, or simply the result of a steep learning curve. Whatever the reason, providing the best resources and assistance you can to your team might make the process a faster and smoother one.
The first step towards automation
It’s tempting to want to fully automate your business in one fell swoop so you can work at your maximum level of productivity and potential. But small, bite-sized pieces are the better way to go. Automate one thing at a time and make sure it works for your business before moving onto the next.
If you’re ready to get your business off the ground, and take the next step towards automation, Ownr is here to help. There are some pretty steep costs to setting up cheap incorporation, but we’re here to help you do it correctly.