What processes can you automate in your small business to make it more efficient?

Automation, the concept of creating a software process or a machine which carries out work automatically without you having to manually process or monitor it, is increasingly being recognised as the key to success for companies across the board. It is especially important for small businesses working with fewer resources, of which time is perhaps the most precious, as every minute you save is vital time your staff can spend elsewhere!

The 2017 Small and Medium Business Trends Report found that small businesses who are automating their processes are 1.6 times more likely to experience growth than those who aren’t.

Why? Being more efficient leads to more profit and more growth for your company. Automation also reduces human error and saves you future time and energy correcting mistakes which are easily avoidable by an automated system driven by clear functions and algorithms. In addition, Cory Capoccia writes that the key to success for small businesses is to “spend more time on things that directly influence how the customer feels about the business and its offerings.

In order to do this, companies need to reduce the time spent on time-consuming processes that can be easily automated. We’ve covered some common processes that are ripe for automation in your small business and how you can take advantage to save yourself time and money.

Save time with automatic staff scheduling

Perhaps the easiest way to dramatically increase your company’s productivity is by automating staff scheduling. Putting together a staff rota takes time and energy, not to mention the constant back and forth when your employees want to swap their shifts, when they call in sick prompting last minute adjustments, or when you’re left understaffed because an employee hasn’t been made aware of changes to their rota.

Findmyshift is here to solve those problems.

  • Online employee scheduling and the built-in clock feature means that employees don’t have to waste precious time logging their hours, and you can easily compare actual hours worked to rota.

  • It allows you to manage all leave requests from a centralised point, saving countless minutes double-checking between your employees’ availabilities.

  • Automatic notifications for shift changes removes the ceaseless to-and-fro of emails requesting and confirming shift-changes and ensuring you’re not caught out unexpectedly understaffed.

  • Finally, Findmyshift allows you to contact all your employees at once, via Noticeboard or the Outbox, which cuts down on time wasted forwarding on requests for shift-cover between employees or repeating calls asking for empty shifts to be filled.

Boost your email marketing effectiveness

Automated email messages have been shown to average over 70% higher open rates and over 150% higher click-through rates than normal marketing messages. It only takes a few seconds to set an automatic sign-off for your emails, program out-of-office messages, and create templates which automation software can send-off to instantly respond to contact requests.

Something as simple as the template below can make the difference between cementing a future relationship and losing a potential client due to a slow response.

“Hi, [first name]! Thank you for getting in touch, we just want to let you know that we received your message and will be in touch shortly”

Another quick yet effective change you can make is to automate the times your emails are sent at. If you’re dealing with correspondents from around the world it will show consideration, as well as make it more likely that your message won’t get lost, if you set it to send at a sociable time for them.

Prepare social media for prime time posting

Similarly, you can be strategic with your social media posts. Find out the best times to post content—there is plenty of information available on various platforms—and then schedule your posts accordingly.

There are some free programs floating around which allow you to schedule your posts and messages, but most social media platforms have an in-built option to select ‘Schedule’ instead of ‘Publish’ when you have written the post.

Do away with manual data handling

Data entry

Automating data entry saves your employees time-consuming and monotonous work. This can be done using the automation capabilities of a database program like Microsoft Access, which removes the necessity of re-entering the same information for each record by essentially setting the value of a field based on the value contained in another.

Data analysis

Reduce human error and lesson your employees’ workload by automating processes that are triggered by data falling with certain thresholds. For example, program a reminder to order new stock that is triggered whenever your stock inventory falls below a certain value, ensuring you never run short of anything due to human oversight.

Data back-up

Loss of data, whether it be internal or external data your company has collected, can be catastrophic for small companies. Protect against a virus, system malfunction or slip of the mouse by regularly backing up your data and save yourself the time-consuming task of doing this manually (plus the risk of forgetting) with automatic data back-up.

Free cloud-based services such as Google Drive or Dropbox allow you to schedule regular data back-ups, so your data is safe even a hectic day at the office means that data back-up slips your mind.

Computerise customer engagement

The chief aim here is to generate repeat business. Whatever sort of small business you’re running, turning one-off clients and customers into regulars is a key way to ensure the continued success of your company. Automation can achieve this: instead of spending time writing yourself a reminder to spend time in the future sending a follow-up email, be proactive and automate prompts for future engagement.

Set up software to automatically send a follow-up email to a client or customer after a predetermined length of time, reminding them what else you have to offer and providing easy access with click-through links to your products or services. If you are a sales-focused company, set-up simple automations like a reminder to customers when they have left a filled shopping cart inactive for a certain amount of time.

Automation frees up employee time

Automation is not about replacing your human staff, it is about freeing up their time and resources from monotonous, unskilled tasks in order to allow them to work on issues which require creativity and intelligence.

It is this work which will allow your small business to expand its creative vision in order to grow and develop. And in addition, saving your employees from a mind-numbing shift of data-logging will mean that they, as well as your profit-margins, will thank you.

About the author

Jake Waller is a wordsmith who plies his trade here at Findmyshift. He uses his background in engineering to simplify complex topics for a variety of tech firms. When not writing for Findmyshift he blogs under a pseudonym at My Name is Skylance and has a passion for creative writing and editing, about which he's always talking on Twitter.