If your business is like many of your peers, your team may be pushed to their limit in terms of time and energy. Most small businesses are doing more and more with less and less—which might not be the best long-term strategy for running a successful business. That being said, they’ve gotten you this far and are essential to your business’ success. However, it’s likely a strategy for taking the next growth steps is uncertain without hiring more employees. The answer may be pretty simple: invest in automation. With the right tools and technology, your team can accomplish more and use their time more efficiently.
Instead of spending two days a month updating your books and signing checks, use a service that does it for you. With a payroll service, such as Deluxe, your employees will receive their direct deposit on time with no mistakes. You also don’t have to worry about calculating taxes or keeping up with labor laws because their payroll specialists do it for you automatically. The financial industry also has strict regulations on security, so you don’t have to worry about sensitive information being leaked or getting hacked. Not only will you save precious time that can be better spent elsewhere in your company, but your employees won’t have to worry about their paycheck and being able to pay their bills that month. Payroll is one place where you can seamlessly invest in automation.
There has been a longstanding war against email because it is a huge time suck for businesses. Many organizations have tried to get rid of email altogether, and tools like Slack have sought to replace it. Yet, email is still thriving and is an important part of your business. Instead of wasting time crafting new messages for every task, take some time upfront to create templates and canned responses (this can be a particularly valuable tactic for sales and customer service). For example, if you send out a happy birthday email to your customers, use the same template every time. Create groups or lists of recipients to receive your newsletter, new deals and updates on your products or services. Invest in automation with email marketing with tools like Mailchimp (or one of the many other tools available) to welcome new subscribers, engage customers who have abandoned their online shopping cart and follow up with returning customers. You may not be able to get away with email altogether (and some circumstances require you to craft a brand new message), but save time where you can with automated email templates and responses.
Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and every new social media platform that gains popularity, your computer and phone probably never stop buzzing. If you want to keep up with your competitors and the digital age, you can’t ignore social media, even if it feels like a fad. Just like email marketing, you can spend some time upfront to prepare your social media platforms for the day, week or month depending on your level of engagement.
Automation tools like Hootsuite and Buffer help you schedule social media posts in advance so you don’t have to remember to tweet when you’re at an event or post that beautiful picture of your new product in the middle of your meeting. You can schedule your posts around events, product launches, news articles, trending topics, sales, new promotions and anything else that’s relevant to your business or industry well ahead of time. You also can see your social media strategy for every platform in one place to make sure it’s consistent without being too repetitive. If nothing else, by if you invest in automation with these tools, it will save you some brain space and anxiety during the workday.
Another task that takes up a lot of time and labor is bookkeeping. If you’re still using spreadsheets and checkbooks to log all of your expenses and figure out your taxes at the end of the year, there are things you can do to invest in automation. Programs like Quickbooks, Freshbooks and Outright help you to store receipts, keep track of mileage, log your expenses, create reports and automate your taxes. You don’t have to stop what you’re doing to input every little expense or set a ton of reminders to pay your bills when these programs can keep track of your finances automatically. Plus, anything that will keep you organized going into tax season will be a major relief for your accountant.
One of the most important tasks you can automate is cloud backup storage. You can’t leave your important business files, spreadsheets, presentations and data vulnerable to physical or cyber disasters. If your office suffers a fire or earthquake, you need to be able to keep your business up and running from a remote location. Or, if your computer crashes or gets attacked by a virus, you need to be able to access your information from another device. The cloud provides your business with security no matter what strikes your office, so you can’t forget to keep it updated. You can set many of your cloud settings to update whenever it detects a new file or after a certain amount of time. Don’t leave this vital task to your memory and a short amount of time because you never know when an accident can happen.
You Don’t Need to Spend a Lot to Invest in Automation
You don’t need to spend a lot of money on artificial intelligence and virtual subscriptions to invest in automation. Focus on the areas that are taking up a lot of time and labor, and then prioritize automation solutions that fit within your budget.