There are only 24 hours in a day, sometimes running a business feels like you’re always trying to stretch or break that simple truth. Whether it’s dealing with customers, staff, finances, resources/supplies, marketing, or your actual product, the to-do list never seems to get shorter.
But what if there was a way to reclaim some of that time for you and your employees? Although automation can’t add time to the day, it can free up time in your schedule.
Every business has nagging, repetitive jobs that ensure smooth day-to-day operations. Often these are simple admin tasks requiring little thought: tracking bills, making payroll, entering information into a spreadsheet or accounting software, backing up data, replying to the same queries, or scheduling social content. These tasks aren’t screaming out for human creativity; they’re tasks perfectly designed for automation.
What’s automation for SMBs?
Unfortunately, automation is not quite a team of robots coming in to take over all your duties. Generally, when referring to automation for SMBs it’s all about software, not hardware. Automation uses technology to perform specific tasks previously done manually.
Through software, apps, or other technologies, successful automation removes repetitive, time-consuming jobs, freeing up time for employees to work on tasks where their skills can shine.
For example, automation via accounts payable software allows SMBs to focus on evaluating financial operations, spotting potential cash flow issues and devising solutions. Simple chores related to bill payment, such as generating invoices or managing different payment methods, are performed by software, simplifying processes for everyone involved.
You may think automation is not for you. That the convenience it brings is above your budget and it’s only used by big businesses. But it’s 2022, and automation and all the benefits it offers are available to any company with the need for it, no matter its size.
Anyone who’s worked in an office knows the often tedious computer tasks they have to perform as part of their job. A study of more than 10,000 office employees across the globe found that on average more than 3 hours a day are spent on repetitive computer tasks.
Imagine what they could do in that time instead. Automation can go a long way to remove these repetitive tasks and allow staff to perform their primary role and find new ways to add value to the business.
Beyond freeing up time, automation brings a range of other benefits that can unlock your business’s unrealized potential:
- Reduced labor costs: by freeing up time, staff can be more productive and get more done. This increases the value of each employee and reduces the overall labor costs needed to run your business.
- Reduced errors: humans aren’t great at repeatedly performing the same task mistake-free, especially those suited for automation. Repetitive tasks require little thought, which makes it easy for employees’ minds to wander and errors to creep in. Software, on the other hand, is excellent at accurately performing simple repetitive tasks.
- Scalability: automation is the perfect tool for companies that are looking to scale up their operations. With greater output and less input (time, effort, resources, etc.), automation positions your business perfectly for growth.
- Engagement: there aren’t many people who truly enjoy simple, repetitive, time-consuming tasks. Automating these tasks allows employees to focus on the parts of the job they enjoy, which can boost their motivation every time they come to work.
- Decision-making: automation is great at compiling and analyzing large amounts of information. With hard data on your side, you can discover new insights and improve future decision-making.
- Efficiency: when done right, automation has the potential to transform your business, making everything more efficient.
5 useful automation use cases
All this sounds great, right? But what does automation for SMBs actually look like in real life? Below are five examples of what automation could do for you and your business.
- Lead generation
Automating how you manage and generate leads is a great way to help find new customers. This could come in many different shapes and forms; there are even specifically designed platforms automating everything related to lead management. Automation can even score potential leads based on potential value or segment contact lists for targeted marketing material.
- Customer support
Customer support is vital to maintaining a satisfied client base. But it’s also a time-consuming process that needs to spring into action as soon as a support issue arises. By replacing the first stage of customer support with automated software such as chatbots, you can streamline customer support operations by providing commonly requested information or assigning employees detailed tickets for further investigation.
All businesses have to remain financially organized and stay on top of their cash flow at all times. This means that your business’ finances should be overseen by people who know what they’re doing. But that doesn’t negate the fact that there are a lot of time-consuming tasks that can be automated. From invoicing and expense approval to paying bills and filing taxes, there’s software out there that can automate a lot of these tedious financial tasks.
- Email management
It‘s easy for email inboxes to overwhelm employees, becoming a significant time drain pulling them away from important tasks. Email management tools are a great way to sort out the noise and find what your staff needs to prioritize.
Finding future talent is fundamental for your business’ growth and success. When there are a lot of applicants applying to work for your company, how do you sort through all the resumes and LinkedIn profiles to narrow down your list of candidates? With automation, HR teams can quickly source and track potential hires, gather relevant information and even schedule interviews.
Opening the door to SMB automation
Imagine a world where you didn’t have to pick and choose what tasks to prioritize over others. Automation can take over a lot off your back, so your team can focus on what matters most. Like developing new ideas, overhauling inefficient work processes, identifying new growth opportunities, or maybe even discovering the meaning of work-life balance.
Automation is the key to unlocking your SMB’s potential. What could you do with some extra time in your schedule?
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