Running a small business is no easy task, as you already know. It’s all to easy to become time strapped because you have to wear so many hats. A recent study shows that the average employee in general works between 30-40 hours a week, small business owners work 52. The good news is that now it’s possible to automate some of the more mundane tasks with specialized software, which will allow you to take back some of your precious time or if your like most small business owners i know, allow you to get more things done.
Below are several core areas where automation can help the most
Let’s face it, no small business owner likes doing payroll and accounting unless that is your core business. Making payroll is a lot more than just cutting checks to your employees every week or two. You need to file the correct payroll forms with the IRS, calculate the right amount of taxes. Keep up with vacations, overtime, sick leave, health care, 401(k) and more. Buy using the services of an online payroll service you can eliminate the risk of mistakes and save you valuable time to boot. Today’s online services can handle all these tasks for you and more and the typical cost range from $20 – $80 per month.
My latest automation discovery, FileThis Fetch, has given me accounting freedom by retrieving my bank account, utility, and even Amazon statements and importing them automatically into my Evernote account. You can’t imagine how much I dread searching for my statements, exporting them, and then importing them into Evernote for safekeeping. Better yet, you can’t imagine the energy I waste psyching myself up to do this monthly.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
In my business I’ve been able to automate most of my marketing and customer relationship tasks using the right software and processes. I personally use Zoho CRM and I love it. With it I’m able to automate almost all of my marketing tasks that I used to do manually. I’ve been able to integrate it with my website so when someone fills out a form requesting more information or download a white paper that information goes straight into Zoho.
Using their campaign system I was able to eliminate the need to respond to each request manually and I am now able to set up a systematic process where every request is completely automated including the follow up tasks that I need to do and when I need to do it. No more tasks falling thru the cracks for me.
It’s important for small-business owners to stay on top of their accounts receivable, and one of the best ways to do that is to invoice early and often. But filling out and sending an invoice every time a customer makes a purchase can consume a lot of time. That is, unless you automate the process. Automated invoicing features, such as the one included in QuickBooks, allow you to create customized invoices, keep track of which accounts are paid and which ones are overdue, schedule invoices for reoccurring accounts, and quickly convert estimates to invoices. Automating this process will save you energy and ensure that your invoices go out on time, which will keep the cash flowing in your business.
Now wouldn’t it be great if there was one system that could accomplish everything we needed to do? The reality is that no one system can do everything for our business. With so many different systems how do you keep them all synced? Fortunately there are many applications and tools on the market designed just for that purpose.
Automation Tools & Applications
Here are some automator apps that are designed for just that purpose, to help sync your systems together even if you don’t know anything about programming.
One of my favorite applications for connecting together my systems is Zapier. Using Zapier you can create Zaps which are automations created using triggers and actions. Zapier integrates with over 50 popular applications such as Gmail, Evernote, MailChimp, Zoho, Dropbox, Facebook, WordPress, Quickbooks, LinkedIn and tons more.
What is Zapier?
How does it work? It’s pretty slick. Imagine having the ability save website form entries to a spreadsheet or automatically saving attachments to your dropbox. How about create tasks and To-dos from new emails. The possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination.
Here are some others that are at the top of my list FileThisFetch; IFTTT, which lets you create custom automator actions; and CardMunch, the LinkedIn mobile app that lets you take pictures of business cards to import contacts, and sends a LinkedIn request to them (seriously!).
Spend a week getting automated
Take some time and think about, then write down the things that you do daily, monthly, and even annually. If your time can be better spent doing something else, search for an automation solution. Condition yourself to have this mentality of automation, and instead of whining when it’s time to do something again, think: what solution can I find to do this for me? I would suggest you then spend time with either Zapier or IFTTT (If this then that) applications to see what is possible.
I hope that this helps you become one step closer to enjoying your job again, gives you more time to spend with your friends and family, or helps you accomplish more in your day then you thought possible.