What You Need to Know About Small Business Automation

12/19/2016 01:27 pm ET Updated Dec 20, 2017

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It was early in my business when I realized I was repeatedly performing the same tasks. Frankly, it felt a bit like a scene from the 1993 movie classic, "Groundhog Day."

Small business automation was not yet coined as a "thing."  Yet, there was already a craving in the business community for a better way to handle redundant tasks -- without paying someone to do the same work over and over and over.

So, my brilliant team and I gathered our collective brains to come up with potential solutions. Hence, the Client Café was born.

The Client Café became a private portal that stored routine documents. Rather than digging through numerous computer folders and clogging up my clients' inbox with worksheets and assessments, the Client Café became the main resource center, saving us countless hours.

Presto! It was the first automation at Synnovatia. (We were so ahead of our time!)

Two Many Tasks -- Too Little Time

The fingerprints of a small business entrepreneur are on everything. They're on bookkeeping, project management, marketing, human resources, operations, invoicing, customer service, payroll, etc., etc. You get the picture.

Ask any business owner the one thing they want more of and, without hesitation, they respond, "time" -- which is quickly followed by "help."

Conceding that hiring staff to handle repetitive tasks may not be financially feasible, a practical solution to free up time is to streamline wherever and whatever we can. It's the only way to keep our heads above water.

All Aboard the Small Business Automation Train

In order to multiply and magnify your efforts (without adding staff or hours) automation of various business functions is key.

Before plunging head first into small business automation, put your well-earned money where your automation ought to be with a few strategic considerations:

  • Where do tedious and/or redundant tasks occur repeatedly?

This may include unsubscribing from promotional emails, social media posting, marketing emails, reconciliation of bank accounts and credit cards.

  • What tasks eat up your time?
  • This may include managing your day via post-it notes, communication, scheduling meetings, email, project management, banking, managing vendor relations, or overseeing staff.

  • What activities require multiple touches to complete?
  • Here's an example that routinely occurs when collaborating on a document. Can you count the number of steps? How much time you would regain if this process was automated.

    A document is sent via email.  Access inbox where you are met with a flurry of distracting emails. Locate the desired email with the document. Download the document. Read the document. Make edits and suggestions. Save the document. Access inbox. Click on new message. Add recipient email. Craft subject line. Type response. Click on "paperclip" to open document folder. Search through folders. Locate document. Select to attach. Click send.

    • What areas of business can be automated?

    Business functions to consider for automation are operations, sales and marketing, customer service/relationship, accounting and finance, human resource management, production, research and development, and administration.

  • What tasks are being done that are a complete waste of time yet needs to be done?
  • These are the tasks or activities that elicit heavy sighs and eye rolls.

    Options for Automation

    Now that you have a better sense of where automation may free you from the dull and tedious, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

    To help narrow the possibilities, these are some of the automation tools happily implemented by our clients and/or us.

    • CRM - Hubspot, Zoho, Insightly
    • Project Management - Redbooth, Trello
    • Payroll/Accounting - Quickbooks, Freshbooks
    • Social media management - Hootsuite, Buffer, Socialoomph
    • Email management - Mailchimp, Constant Contact
    • Scheduling - Doodle, Boomerang Calendar, Calendly
    • Task management - Active Inbox HQ
    • Marketing - Hubspot
    • Customer support - Zendesk

    Additional automation tools to consider are anything Google (calendar, email, docs, etc.), Dropbox, Zapier, and IFTTT.

    Once you've researched our recommendations, ask your colleagues about their small business automation applications. There are hundreds of other software options, tools, and apps designed to make your business run more smoothly -- and get back the hours for the activities that you enjoy most.

    Trust me, this is just that start of your love affair with automation. Before long, you'll wonder how you ever did business without it.

    What You Need to Know About Small Business Automation first appeared on Synnovatia's small business growth blog.

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