Automate Growth in Your Business
Implementing automation in your business processes can benefit a lot for your business in terms of productivity and efficiency. Automation is highly encouraged especially on tasks that are done on a repetitive cycle, on tasks that aid in marketing campaigns, improve on customer satisfaction and the like.
However, before you go into automation there are many things to consider, such as which tools are really necessary, as well as the budget for these new tools and software. There has to be a balance on the long term benefits versus the money spent on technology solutions. It is really important to study the feasibility of incorporating automation into the business, so that growth can be a reality.
Here are a few insights you’ll hear in today’s show…
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Welcome to today's episode of the Financial and Lifestyle Freedom Podcast. Today I'm going to show you how to automate the growth of your business so you can focus on what's important, making money and serving your clients. So let's get on with it.
Hey there, my name is Annette Ferguson, I am CEO of Annette and Co, a UK based accounting firm. I am a chartered accountant, certified Profit First professional and small business growth strategist, which ultimately means I support business owners to take home lots more money from their business for them and their families to enjoy. And today we are speaking about automation.
What is automation and how can it help your business grow?
So first off, we need to understand what automation is and how it can help your business grow. While automation in a small business environment refers to the use of technology to automate repetitive routine and time consuming tasks and processes, this can include things like data entry, customer services, scheduling and some financial management.
Automation can be implemented through the use of software, applications or specialized tools and equipment. Some examples of automation might be things like a CRM, customer relationship management software to automate sales and marketing, it may also include things like scheduling software for appointment scheduling. And automation can also include using manufacturing robots and machines if you're in a production environment.
In what ways can automation help small businesses grow and become more efficient?
So automation can help small businesses grow in several ways. Firstly, increased efficiency and productivity. Automation can automate repetitive tasks and processes, freeing up teams to focus on higher value tasks. This can of course lead to efficiency and productivity, which can help the business grow and help the bottom line. Also cost savings.
Automation can reduce the need for a team and increase efficiencies resulting in cost savings for the business. It can also result in improved customer service. It can provide faster response times in some cases, perhaps more accurate information and sometimes, believe it or not, a more personalized service. And this can lead to increased customer satisfaction and retention and scalability.
Automation can make it easier for small businesses to scale its operations as it grows. Automated processes can be replicated and expanded, allowing a business to handle increased demand and workload without increasing staff and better data analysis. Automation can help small businesses by providing real time data analysis, which can help you make better decisions.
Automated data analysis can also help you identify trends and patterns, which can help make predictions about future business performance and improve compliance and reducing errors. It can help you stay compliant with regulations, perhaps improve the accuracy of workflows and reduce the likelihood of errors. And finally, automation can help support better decision making.
Automation can help you make better decisions by providing real time data analysis, which can help you identify trends and patterns and make predictions about the future. So overall automation can help you improve your operations, reduce your costs, and improve customer service, all of which can also help drive growth.
How do we introduce automation in our business and what are the steps we can do to integrate automation in our business processes?
But if we're going to introduce automation for any of these things, the first thing we need to do is identify which processes in our business can actually be automated. So here's how we go about that.
First of all, we need to understand our business's processes.
Understand the processes that are currently in place in your business, including how they are performed, who performs them on what inputs and outputs are involved. Then once you've done that, you need to identify the repetitive tasks.
Look for tasks that are repetitive, routine or time consuming like data entry scheduling or customer service. And these are often good candidates for automation. Next, you need to analyze process performance, analyze the performance for each process, including how long it takes to complete, how accurate it is, and how much it costs. Here in doing this, you can identify where improvements can be made.
Next look for technology solutions.
Looking for technology solutions that can automate the identified tasks such as software applications or specialist tools and equipment. And next, identify potential gains. Identify the gains that you can achieve through automation, like increased efficiencies, cost savings or improved customer service.
Then consider the impact on your team or workforce. Consider the impact of automation on the people that work for you, including how it will affect their roles and responsibilities and employees and if there might be a need for retraining, and then prioritize the process. Prioritize the processes that are identified as candidates for automation based on potential gains and impact on the workforce.
It's also important to note that automation may not always be the best solution for all processes. And sometimes it might be better to improve the process instead of automating it. It's important to weigh the costs and benefits of automation against alternative solutions before committing to it. But once you have committed to automating an area of your business, then you'll need to choose the right tools for automating the business processes.
What are the factors to consider when choosing the right tools for automation?
There are several factors to consider when choosing the right tools for automating processes. Some of these include firstly, identifying the processes that need to be automated, like we've already spoken about. But you also need to assess the current infrastructure, determining what technology and systems are currently in place, and ensuring any new tools might seamlessly integrate with them.
You also, of course, need to determine your budget, deciding on the budget for automation tools, and finding a solution that fits in with that, making sure that you've run these new tools through your profit plan so that you can understand if you can afford them. Evaluating the features and capabilities of different tools is important. And you need to determine of course, which have the best features and capabilities to fit your business. And then also consider the scalability.
Choosing tools that can grow and adapt with your business as it expands, can be useful. But really, do be careful because there can be a way up here between getting a tool that is way too big for your business at this point in time, and probably, therefore, spending way too much on it. So make sure that you consider that carefully. And then testing and demoing. You can often take advantage of free trials and demos to test out tools before you make a final decision.
And ask for feedback from employees that might be using the tool or anyone else in your business to make sure that they are going to be user friendly, efficient, and of course fit for purpose as well.
Some examples of automation software and applications that can be used and what are the specific areas in your business that these tools can help with?
So some examples of automation tools include things like CRM software, customer relationship management, which can manage client information, communications, some can manage scheduling and automated follow up tasks. You can get marketing automation software, which can help with email campaigns, social media posts, and other marketing tasks.
You can get project management software like Trello, Asana, Monday.com. These can help manage and track projects, assign tasks and help with collaboration between team members. You can get scheduling software like Calendly, Acuity, which can automate appointment scheduling and confirmations, as well. They can also help remind people that appointments are coming up, put things in their diaries, which can be really handy.
You can get video conferencing software, of course, tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, which can automate virtual coaching and consulting sessions, making it easier to connect with clients. And potentially time tracking software, things like Toggl or Harvest that can automate time tracking, making it much easier when it comes to billing. I
t's important to know that the right automation tool will depend on the specific needs of your business. And you should be careful to evaluate the features and capabilities on that basis. And once you've done that, it will then be the step to implement the chosen tools and setups that are required.
What are the steps to implement automation in your business workflows?
Once you've chosen the tools you want, there are several steps you can take to implement them and set up the required workflows. First of all, of course, you need to create a plan. Developing a plan for how the automation tools will be implemented, including timelines, responsibilities, and milestones.
Who in your business is going to be responsible for getting this in place, and who is going to be responsible for each of the milestones. You're also going to of course have to train your employees to use the new tools, including any new processes and procedures that you want to put into place.
We'll speak about that and go into more depth on that shortly. Integrate with your existing systems, ensure that your new tools are integrating with your existing systems and software, so that things are not butting up against each other, and then test and evaluate.
Test the new tools and workflows to ensure they are functioning properly and make any necessary adjustments. And then you'll have to implement the rollout. Implementing the rollout to all your team, so that everything is going to work well with them. And that leads us on to training your employees on how to use tools and workflows.
In what ways can you train your employees once you've chosen the new tools for your business?
So there are several ways to train your employees on how to use these new tools and workflows that you're introducing. First of all, there is hands-on-training where people can practice with the new tools in a controlled environment. You might look at online tutorials where employees can learn at their own pace, or webinars or virtual training that can be conducted.
You might also get people to study user guides or manuals, you might have on the job training, as well. It's important to note that different employees might have different learning styles. So you can use a variety of training options to accommodate everyone's needs, as you introduce this new system into your business.
Why is it important to monitor the performance of the chosen automation software? (...What are the steps to monitor the performance of a software?
And then of course, it's important to monitor performance and make necessary adjustments. We can't assume that when we put a system in process that is new into our business, that all of a sudden everything will work beautifully, and everything will be wonderful and everyone will know what they're doing, and everything will go smoothly, because let's face it, that's not always the case.
So monitoring the performance of an automation solution and making the necessary adjustments can be done through the following steps.
1. Established KPIs key performance indicators.
identify what those are, so that you can use and measure the effectiveness of your solution. They might include things like productivity, cost savings, and customer satisfaction.
2. Track performance.
Collect and track data on the performance of the solution you've implemented.
3. Analyze the performance data.
4. Identify any issues that might create.
Creating errors or bottlenecks and make sure you prioritize them in terms of importancy and urgency.
5. Make adjustments as necessary.
You might have to change processes or reconfigure steps perhaps, or add new components to the solution.
6. Test and evaluate.
Make sure that you understand the impact of changes on performance.
Report the results of monitoring and adjustments to those relevant people, whether that is senior team members or employees, but understand the performance.
8. Continuously monitor and update and make tweaks as necessary.
It's important that the monitoring and adjustment process should be ongoing and not just limited to a specific time period.
So automating your business might sound like a lot of work in some situations, but in other situations, it can be significantly quicker and easier. Sometimes automation might just be as simple as connecting two bits of software together using Zapier.
So don't also overlook these simple automation solutions that might just be around the corner for your business. That can make things a lot easier, as well as the more complex automation solutions that may exist and might require more time and bigger rollouts. But automating your business in many ways can help you work less and make more money.
So if you've got value from today's episode, please do make sure you subscribe in whichever podcast player you happen to be listening in, today. It would also mean a huge amount to me if you are able to leave a review again in whichever player you are listening in. Reviews are the way that other incredible business owners find us and are able to benefit from the podcast. So it would mean a massive amount to me if you are able to leave one for us. Thank you so much for tuning in today. Until next time.