If you haven’t heard, it’s the 21st Century, and technology and the internet have “levelled the playing field” in a variety of ways, and perhaps one of the most powerful of these is access to automation. Automation simplifies all areas of a business by automatically accomplishing tasks that you or an employee would otherwise have to do manually. You can probably find many examples of these tools in your inbox right now.
It wasn’t that long ago when only big corporations could truly automate business processes. Today, everyone from the new entrepreneur launching a side gig, to the owners and managers of small and medium-sized businesses can strategically automate important areas of their operations. It’s safe to say that, when repetitive processes are automated, small business owners can devote their time to the goals that really matter — like growing the business.
Let’s discover how many of these automation opportunities can be a good fit for your SME.
Pain point: Stressful and a chore.
Ask any business owner and they will tell you that payroll is simply a headache. Adding new employees to the system can sometimes take hours, on top of that, collecting and filing paper documents is a tedious task, and then — the big one — remembering to submit payroll or file tax documents is stressful and a chore.
Solution: Payroll automation software.
Finding the right payroll automation software will save you hours of valuable time. Plus, you might even be able to stop taking the paracetamol for the headaches too.
Invoicing and collections
Pain point: Time tracking is time-consuming.
Tracking and reporting the time you (or your employee) spent working on a job can take as much time as doing the job itself.
Solution: Invoicing automation software.
With this software you can create automatic recurring invoices for retainer clients, they will be sent automatically on scheduled dates, and if you accept credit card payments, clients can pay automatically and invoices will be marked as paid.
Most solutions will also come with an automatic reminder feature so that you don’t miss payments and will notify your clients of their outstanding balances.
Pain point: All work, no holiday.
Planning a trip out of town for business? This can be more stressful than it might be worth — if the deal doesn’t go through. Once you arrive at your destination, planning your itinerary might also be a pain.
Solution: Trip planning software.
Take the work out of the work trip with a solution that scans your inbox for reservations with airlines, hotels, rental cars, and events. This type of solution will build an automatic itinerary that you can reference and access from anywhere. You’ll also be able to share your travel plans or invite someone to collaborate on planning with you.
Pain point: Too many options.
Advertising jobs on multiple platforms can take time, and may not reward you with the Cambridge graduate with 5 years of experience you’re looking for. So, where do you find the best talent, and which is the best platform for when you need to hire? Ah, the golden questions.
Solution: Job posting software.
Whilst there’s no guarantee that you will find your ideal Cambridge whizz, using this solution will give you a good chance as most of them will submit your job post to over 50 different job sites, and will allow you to manage the applications you receive all in one place.
Pain point: All speed, no substance.
Training a new employee can be one of the more stressful tasks when running a business, especially if you need them up to scratch, pronto.
Solution: A documenting tool such as; Almanac.
Almanac is a tool that could be used for documenting your company’s processes in an online training manual. Next time you hire someone, invite them to the document you have prepared, track their progress through checklists, test their knowledge, and get back to business.
Great examples: Almanac — give it a try, we’re heavily relying on it ourselves!
Pain point: Overflowing filing cabinet.
Once your team starts to grow, your employee records will add up way faster than you think. By law, things like personal information, emergency contacts, salaries, start dates, and employee tax documents all need to be securely stored and easily accessible for a number of years. Meaning that the filing cabinet needs to go.
Solution: HR platform.
It’s recommended that you use an HR platform to bring all of your employee records into one digital system. Most platforms will offer each of your employees a personal profile where you can store their personal information and invite them to keep their records up-to-date.
Pain point: Is it junk, or is this one actually important?
Still manually deleting or archiving every newsletter, junk mail, voucher or offer that appears in your inbox? You’re wasting a lot of time.
Solution: Email sorting software.
This solution will collect all of your non-urgent mail and send you digests on a daily or weekly basis. This way, your inbox stays clean, and you review the junk mail once — not dozens of times per day.
One example: SaneBox
Social media marketing
Pain point: Hello!? Is anyone out there?
Do you want to be seen on social media, and have your brand in front of millions? Simply don’t have the time, energy, or resources? This is a challenge most businesses struggle with.
Solution: Post scheduling software.
No need to be chained to LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter all day long, try a scheduling solution to push your posts when, and where you want. These tools will let you build a queue of information you’d like to share, and schedule your posts for the optimal time. That way, all of your attention can go into interacting with all of your followers.
Pain point: BCC just isn’t working anymore.
Gone are the days that you could BCC a thousand contacts into one email that was vague and generic. These days clients want to — and need to — feel special, and they want to feel your brand.
Solution: Email marketing software.
If you want to send a regular newsletter to your audience, you will find an abundance of solutions that help you manage your list of contacts and build an email that looks great. It’s hard to beat in terms of features: abandoned shopping cart recovery, order notifications, follow-up emails, and access to notifications.
Pain point: Oops, I forgot — again.
Are you bad at email? Especially at following up with emails that never got a response? This can lead to plenty of lost sales, and opportunities.
Solution: Switch to Gmail.
Gmail has a feature that automatically returns unanswered emails to the top of your inbox so you can follow up. No need to install any fancy plug-ins or anything. Gmail will automatically remind you, and will even remind you to respond to emails you haven’t addressed yet.
Pain point: We can’t have a hundred pages of FAQs.
Clients may need to know how to do something, where to go for something else, and which department they need to speak with for another matter. And they want to know, now. You might direct them to your FAQs, but you simply cannot communicate every little detail about your business.
Solution: Chatbot activated.
You’ve seen them, you’ve engaged with them, now it’s time to add an automated chatbot to your arsenal. Popping up on the main page of your website, it encourages visitors to reach out to you immediately, rather than sending an email. That means you can start chatting with them right away, cultivating them as a new lead, without cluttering your inbox.
Cash flow management
Pain point: Effective cash flow management is of the utmost importance but it takes too much time, and I make costly mistakes.
Being a small business, you must consider that getting caught up in manual reporting processes will have a negative impact on your productivity and costs.
Solution: Cash flow management software.
The best cash flow management model is one that doesn’t drain your time and effort. Most tools connect your bank accounts and automatically monitor your cash flow statements, categorise your incoming and outgoing payments, monitor your budget and account balances, and reconcile your paid and committed transactions.
Automation tools close the gap between invoicing and your receipt of cash for that invoice, allowing you to track and view all aspects of bookkeeping such as payments, receipts, accounts receivable, accounts payable, loans, revenues and more. You can automate, for example, direct deposits and billing payments online can help you move cash around faster. By automating your cash flow forecasting and management, you can regularly monitor your cash flow and make smarter decisions about your business.
Great example: Airbank
Using a cash flow management tool
Try using a free cash flow management tool such as Airbank. Airbank is a unified financial management solution that marries your bank statements to generate your cash flow statements automatically. That way you don’t have to go through the messy process of waiting for your accounting statements, or transferring and categorising all your transactions yourself.
Airbank allows you to connect your bank accounts, which auto-categorises all your historic transactions. In addition, you can also initiate new payments and have them categorised for your cash flow statements from the get-go as well. Airbank then produces your direct cash flow statement for you in real-time and even lets you input your cash flow forecast numbers in the spreadsheet based on your planned billings.