Running a business is a challenge that can overwhelm any business owner – regardless of the market or how long they have been in business. Automation can cushion the blow of business operations if you know which areas can benefit from it within your company.
1. Examine and Dissect Your Personal Attachment
Before you can examine any substantial opportunities for automation, you must first examine your own personal attachment to your business operations. This is a major issue with small business owners who built their companies from scratch. During the initial launch phase of any business, the owner typically wears a vast number of hats and bears the weight of the responsibility in multiple areas.
Through the art of automation, though, your overall objective is to pass the baton to someone else (i.e. employees, contractors, etc.) or something else (i.e. online punchout catalog, cloud-based solutions, etc.) You must first make peace with the fact that it means you may have to forcefully detach yourself from these tasks and projects. Doing so will relieve you in many ways but make it much easier for you to reinvest your time, effort and resources into more profitable aspects of your business operations.
2. Focus on the Quality of Your Training Program
Most companies place the focus of their training programs on new hires and recently transferred employees. Contrary to popular opinion, though, this is not the only area where quality training is required. With the progressive changes that occur to your business and within the overall industry, it is vital to provide your employees and/or contractors with an ongoing training program.
Continuous education will help them to boost their efficiency and productivity while making sure that your entire team remains on the same page. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing the mark with your competition and could possibly disengage your longtime customers along the way. Training your existing team members will also help you to analyze the success (or failure) of the various automation tools and procedures that you implemented in the past. This insight will help you to accurately determine if any changes are necessary.
3. Complement Your Sales Cycle with a Structured Business Cycle
Most businesses have sales cycles that help them to automate the typical customer experience from start to finish. However, recent studies have highlighted the need to have a sales cycle and a business cycle. Keep in mind that the sales cycle extends from the moment a customer shows interest to the moment they make a purchase. The business cycle focuses on the marketing aspect of your business – driving traffic to your company and turning guests into customers. If you want to automate your business, you must have a well-designed business cycle that paves the way for your sales cycle to flow smoothly.
4. Use Artificial Intelligence to Lighten the Administrative Load
Another helpful automation tool is artificial intelligence. The overall concept of artificial intelligence (AI) may make you think about science-fiction movies and robot takeover. However, thanks to the digital age and cloud-based solutions, the concept of artificial intelligence engines have grown far above and beyond those cinematic boundaries. For instance, Google has a host of built-in, cloud-based solutions that focus on automation. As a bonus, these online tools are regularly updated by Google – which lightens your overall load and allows your team to maximize efficiency.
Before you dive into using various machine learning opportunities and AI engines, though, take the time to do the research. Some tools may work for your business; others may not. The last thing you want is to implement a new tool or system into your business that derails the entire operation.
5. Outsource Your Work as Necessary
Automating your business allows you to focus more on managing the workflow instead of running the workflow. You will essentially be freed up to focus on more important aspects of your business operations – such as marketing, promotions and the front-end customer experience.
To achieve this goal, you should consider outsourcing specific tasks done behind the scenes that do not need your undivided attention. For instance, you could outsource content creation, email marketing, and even social media account management. Outsourcing these tasks and delegating other assignments will lighten your overall load and boost the efficiency of your overall team. Even if you have a small business that you essentially run by yourself, you can still outsource certain tasks to remote contractors.
6. Simplify the Complicated Parts
You may have a host of complicated tasks and procedures that are holding you and your business back from reaching its maximum potential. Perhaps when you launched the business, that was the easiest way to get things done and moving in the right direction. Maybe you are an expert at certain complicated tasks, but your staff struggles with following in your footsteps.
A general rule of thumb to follow is to simply any sort of complication or difficulty that can be simplified. This may require you to analyze your standard operating procedures from scratch – starting with the most commonly used processes and protocol. You may find that there is a vast number of automation opportunities available just by simplifying the most complicated parts of your daily workflow.
7. Focus on Repetition, Automate Accordingly
There may be other areas within your business operations that can be automated in addition to the areas referenced above. The primary indicator that you should look for is repetition. What tasks do you and your team perform repeatedly? Perhaps it is an administrative task such as spreadsheet development or data entry. You may even send repeated messages and emails either through email or text. Your objective should be to find creative ways to automate these tasks to make better use of your time and increase your overall productivity.
While making these adjustments to your normal procedures, though, make sure you never jeopardize the standard customer experience. Remember, automating your business behind the scenes is supposed to help your company – not hurt it. Maintain realistic expectations and focus on protecting the quality of your workflow and customer experience.
About The Author: Samantha Wallace is a veteran tech writer and editor who has worked in several eCommerce companies. She has been covering technology online for over five years. She is the Content Advocate for Greenwingtechnology.com.