In today’s world, busy work is a serious time sink that can distract you from the objectives of your small business. Automation can assist you in saving a few minutes here and there, or it can takeover some processes entirely. A 2006 article from Inc. Magazine estimated that lost productivity was costing businesses in excess of $544 billion each year, hinting that overwhelmed or bored workers were seeking distraction, but those trends were declining at the time.
Today, we find that working fewer hours actually makes you more productive, especially if you’re able to focus on the important tasks. The resources and time that automation saves can be better spent getting you closer to the goals of your business. If you are considering beginning a business, or you’re knee-deep in your first year, it’s crucial that you automate some or all of these processes if you want to manage your business without stressing out over the small stuff.
Automating Customer Service
Most individuals starting out deal with customers over email, which is a great system for one person dealing with a handful of clients. The moment you employ others to assist in these efforts, you’ll quickly find that one inbox is highly inefficient. It’s better to utilize a ticketing system instead, so you can delegate work to the employees best equipped to handle it.
Help desks also provide a central space, or desktop, where you can view all of your customer service challenges in one spot. This is helpful when you’re trying to audit your business to see where you might improve your efforts or streamline costs.
Business involves many forms to do basically anything. Most of these forms have, thankfully, been moved to the Web, which means you can automate much of that busy work. Automated form fillers populate text fields with the information you provide, and they also provide you with password storage. Soon, shipping forms, login fields and registration forms will be painlessly finished in a few clicks.
Be warned that automating forms does take some time to start, as you will need to teach whatever application you decide to use what data it needs for which fields. Once it’s up and running, there is no greater way to shave minutes from a busy schedule.
Invoices can be a challenge for small and mid-sized businesses, but getting paid is a requirement. The handling of forms is what takes the most time, so automated invoice processing offers a great value for those building their clientele. Especially if you’re working with contractors outside of your home country, as processing different currencies can be especially frustrating.
Automating also reduces errors in the invoicing itself, and in your tax paperwork. One of the easiest ways to rack up fees from the IRS is being late with your payroll taxes. Automation will help eliminate that problem entirely.
Automating Data Preservation
Another major challenge faced by most companies is how to store and preserve data digitally. One example is an email database. Customers who want updates or special offers would give a business owner an email address. When businesses automate backups, especially if they send that data to the cloud, they tend to have greater security and control over that data. Backups stay current because the owner controls the frequency of the backup, and there is nothing to worry about if the business relocates or suffers a server crash.
In fact, applications like Google Apps have this functionality baked into the products on offer. Take advantage of this automated process and save your data.
Automating Your Priorities
Email, calendars and meetings can be huge time sinks but they have to get done somehow. If you learn how to tag your emails, you can save yourself minutes sorting items and prioritizing tasks. Calendars have greater functionality today than ever before, able to sync with other programs, so you can book appointments through email or through mobile applications. The less you leave to yourself to worry about, the less chance you have of missing some important gathering. Automating your schedule helps you prioritize and attack.