Let’s face it when running a small to medium business, you need whatever you can to give you an edge. Whether that means finding more affordable suppliers or even making things simpler for yourself and your staff, anything can give you an advantage. That’s where automation comes in. By automating your SMB processes, you can save money, save time, and bring your business to new heights.
Automation often requires an investment of some kind. In most cases, it’s purchasing software and spending on training and onboarding. However, the benefits can be tremendous. You can save yourself time by not having to handle day-to-day processes that can be done by software.
You can also save money. Your time, and that of your staff, is valuable, for one thing. Plus, automation can save you in many ways, such as avoiding late fees, costly errors, and missed opportunities. Here’s how you can improve your SMB processes with automation.
Examine Your Workflows
One of the most important things to do when trying to improve your work processes is by figuring out which ones are most in need of automation. This can also be tricky. It might seem that all of your workflows could use automation, but there are probably certain ones that will save you the most time and money.
Examine all of your work processes and identify which ones are the least efficient. This could be anything, from marketing to payroll to product development. If there are some that seem particularly inefficient, then you can tab them as being potentially automated.
Identify the Most Appropriate for Automation
After getting a handle on your work processes and which ones may be inefficient, you then need to drill down and figure out which ones are most appropriate for automation. The easiest are the ones that involve very little critical thinking.
Most often these are repetitive tasks or ones that can be done using formulas and algorithms. These invoicing, payrolls, accounts receivable, hiring, accounts payable, and much more. Here are some examples:
Payroll: Payroll processing software like APS makes ensuring your employees get the right pay easier than ever. Much of the work involves inputting data such as hours worked, but software can handle that automatically for you. This is not only faster but reduces human errors that can be costly to you and affect employee morale.
Hiring: While you might want to have the final say on who you hire for certain positions, that doesn’t mean you need to wade through countless candidates to get to that point. Hiring solutions like Seek out will filter through anyone who applies for your positions, leaving you to pick through only the best of the best. It will also automatically schedule interviews and follow-ups, so you don’t need to spend time making phone calls and figuring out schedules.
Accounts Payable: Accounts payable software like Yooz will quickly take you from receiving an invoice through authorizing the payment and entering the data in your accounting software. It will help prevent late payment fees and fraud, as well.
Get Yourself and Your Staff Ready
Once you’ve identified what you want to automate, you need to prepare your staff for what’s to come. Make sure to communicate with them why you are making changes, and what they can expect going forward. Even though automation should make their lives simpler, there will be an investment of time upfront. Training and getting used to the new processes can take time. You should expect this for yourself as well.
This means that while you are onboarding, you need to make accommodations for your productivity. You will not just be training on new software and processes, but you will be developing new best practices going forward.
An important aspect of your communication strategy with your staff will be helping them through change. Nobody likes change, and they may not understand why you are altering their day-to-day tasks. Without a view of the overall operation, they might not have identified the inefficiencies.
You should reassure them that the changes are not based on their performance, but on processes that are now outdated and can be handled automatically. Always highlight how your automated solutions will help make their jobs easier so that they are enthusiastic about the change. If you don’t have buy-in from your staff, then the process changes will be awkward and stilted, and may not have the impact you expect and need.
Once you’ve done your research and purchased the right product, it’s time for implementation. For some solutions, this could require several months before you have completely onboarded a software. It might mean a lot of training of several team members, plus a trial and effort phase as you get used to it.
This phase involves melding the new solution around your processes so that it’s as efficient and effective as possible. If you are onboarding a database system, for example, you may need to generate new values and fields to get the information you need when you run reports. For a time tracking system, you may need to implement a sign-in and sign-out procedure to make it work its best.
Automation is a powerful way for a small to medium business to compete. It has never been more possible than to go toe-to-toe with large corporations. The reason for this is technology. Automation allows for small businesses to be more efficient with their time and investments.
Plus, automation can make sure that you never miss a prospect contact, and can follow up on them with perfect timing every time. However, simply automating a process will not make the changes you need. You must do it correctly to be as effective as possible. By following these tips, you can do just that and find your small to medium business is reaching heights you hadn’t dreamed of.