Starting a business comes from a desire to offer a product or service that solves a problem for large number of people. Supportive business functions are a surprise to most people. You probably didn’t open your business doors to send emails, track expenses and file taxes.
Years ago, the only solution was hiring experts or performing all of those tasks yourself, manually.
As you look at your business, what tasks remain unfinished
because you have never setup automation?
WHAT IS AUTOMATION?
Manufacturing products has always involved processes that operated under the direction of a series of machines that performed specific tasks. One machine will create a component and pass that part to the next machine. The assembly line puts together the parts into a physical product that is sold to customers.
In every type of business, there are “backoffice” processes that must be completed to manage funds, supplies and customer relationships.
You might be spending most of your days performing the functions that used to require manual intervention.
I still remember my Mom’s nightly discipline of updating the handwritten accounting books that tracked every business transaction in both businesses my parents owned.
Today, automation enables the bookkeeping software to accept transactions directly from the bank over the Internet. The time that business owners save can be redirected to revenue generation.
Countless business processes can be automated with the right tools. Entire business management systems have been created perform the entire back-office function.
In your business, you might wonder why you would spend so much time setting up automation when each task “only takes a few minutes each day.”
Lack of time to perform the sales and marketing efforts is the primary reason that businesses cease to exist.
No one can handle all of the tasks without automation.
ADVANTAGES OF AUTOMATION
Just like that factory churning out products, you have a business objective that does not include performing redundant tasks all day long. Even if you hire a bookkeeper, you will want to know so much more about your business to validate the books.
Automation can provide information at your fingertips without having to spend your day at the computer.
You will be surprised how many of your business challenges will disappear when you automate the back-office functions.
Consider these measurable advantages that come from automation.
In the 21st century, you have access to some of the most amazing automation tools you can imagine. You might have started with a couple of systems that send your emails, and you created a series that is most likely out of date.
How many different systems are you paying for each month, but you have to move your information from one system to the next to complete the work tasks?
There are a couple of great automation tools that will handle your entire business and ensure that your work is completed for all of your clients and customers.
Without completing every step, you are missing out on money that people owe you.
You might not know how many details have been dropped because you are attempting to handle tasks without a system that can monitor everything.
Imagine finding thousands of dollars in unpaid receivables that would remain hidden without careful automation.
Your legal documents must be updated to protect you from loss.
Where do you store the signed versions?
Shouldn’t those important documents be stored
in the same place as the rest of your business details?
Whenever I see people ask about bookkeeping services, I have to chuckle. Are you aware of how well this task can be automated?
As a business owner, your role is more of investigator when you need to know if something is accurate. Just because there is money in the checking account and you have a report, do you know how to verify if all the money that is supposed to be there is actually there?
Smart business owners have connections with vendors so they can call and verify bills that have been paid. You might wonder if this is necessary. So many smaller firms have been closed because one person decided to help themselves to funds.
Never assume that you know all that is happening without being directly involved in the checks and balances.
Automation enables you to control the information that you will use to validate every process without manual intervention in every detail.
Managing your business is so much easier when you implement an automated business process that you can monitor at regular points each month.
Automation resembles a machine that repeats the tasks perfectly every time.
I often hear people talk about countless business tasks that just overwhelm every working hour. Repetitive tasks must be automated to allow you to do what you love.
Automation works for you after the system is setup to trigger certain actions based on sales, time or payments.
You might wonder how you would ever find time to design and build the business system that would support your current operation.
Honestly, that is where I come in. . .
BARRIERS TO AUTOMATION
Setting up automation processes is easier than you might think. Maybe you do not think in terms of business processes.
A business process is just a series of steps that you take to complete work duties. You have so many choices when you want to see the work completed without doing everything yourself.
Start With What You Know
Whenever we need to learn something new, fear of the unknown can freeze us into refusing to take action. Believe it or not, you can set up automation with less effort that you assume.
Take out a sheet of paper and begin with the end in mind.
If you are setting up a series of emails, you would draw a box and write ‘build customer relationships’ at the far right side of your page.
Work backwards toward today, and write what has to happen to create an email series and send emails at the most appropriate times.
Here are a few steps to show you what I mean — these are in reverse order:
10 — SEND emails to customers 3 times each week
9 — EDIT email text to include links to website
8 — COPY email text into autoresponder – email system
7 — SETUP email list for prospects – and another list of customers
6 — CHOOSE the best autoresponder to send emails
5 — WRITE email text in text editor – refine wording
4 — OUTLINE email series – what do I want to say?
3 — DECIDE what I want to tell my customers and prospects?
2 — HOW could an email series improve future sales from current customers?
1 — WHY would I want to gather email addresses from every potential customer?
You have not even touched the computer yet, and you already have a business process defined.
As you can see, the steps are fairly obvious.
All of your work duties can be broken into a series of steps and then many of the processes can be automated using software and system integrations.
Think In Business Terms
Your area of expertise has specific terminology that triggers your actions throughout your business day. You might not even realize how you respond when you hear certain words.
Throughout your business, there are tasks that must be completed each day to track your time, money and workload.
Without consideration for ‘how’ you would automate each one, create the same type of task list or diagram for the processes that consume your time each day.
At this point, do not worry about ‘how’ you could ever create an automated solution for the work that takes your time.
Draw Pictures and Illustrations
Somewhere along the line, we were told that we had to be the world’s greatest artists if we wanted to draw.
I am officially telling you that your scribbles are just perfect for your diagrams.
Nothing has to be perfect – just finished.
Give yourself permission to grab some paper out of your printer tray and draw anything that comes to mind. Use a series of boxes or circles that represent the steps you take.
Your mind can identify the steps if you get busy working and leave those blank pages where you can revisit your drawings at regular intervals while you are taking care of your business.
You have permission to “color outside the lines.”
Getting Started with Automation
As you discover processes that could be automated, you will find that you have a number of simple diagrams that describe a few steps that complete a unit of work.
Those simple processes can be performed by various systems that you might already utilize to some degree.
Automation can be powerful when you connect a series of simple processes and use system integration to manage your business data. The Internet automates countless tasks in secure ways that will prevent hacking.
Test Your Automation
One of the final details is ‘testing’ the data flow by imitating the action you want your prospects to take from the very beginning.
Maybe you are collecting email addresses through a form on your website. To test your form, you would enter your name and email in that same form to see if your email list is updated.
Then – you would track that ‘test customer’ through the entire series of processes across every system to be certain that the tasks are completed correctly.
This might sound daunting at first, but you will become accustomed to checking every process and integration to be sure that every automated step works perfectly.
You might be surprised to discover that automation is very similar to the human body. Regular checkups ensure proper function without costly surprises.
Recently – I was working in a system and noticed a domain that should have been removed, so I quickly removed it.
Three days later, I noticed that my first website was down.
Guess what! Yep – I had broken my own website – and failed to follow my own advice.
You can cause issues if you assume that everything worked perfectly.
Take a few minutes each week to check your automation setup. You will NEVER regret paying attention to the details inside your business.
“There’s a lot of automation that can happen
that isn’t a replacement of humans but of
mind-numbing behavior.” ~ Stewart Butterfield